All Things Marilyn is pleased to present our next episode, which focuses on Marilyn’s final home, located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California, an exclusive suburban neighborhood in the Westside region of Los Angeles.
In this podcast, we review the story of Marilyn purchasing what would become the first and only home she’d ever own by herself at the age of 35:
We also dive into some of the persistent rumors that have surfaced over the years following her untimely death in her Brentwood house:
Joining us for this episode is noted author and historian Gary Vitacco-Robles. Gary has written two exceptional books on Marilyn: Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood Hacienda, The Story of Her Final Months, and Icon: The Life, Times, & Films of Marilyn Monroe.
Cursum Perficio is the only book ever published on Marilyn’s Fifth Helena Drive home. Gary conducted extensive research into all aspects of Marilyn’s time there, much of which we touch on in this episode.
This episode of All Things Marilyn is a “must listen,” so don’t miss it.
Pick up your copies of Gary’s books here:
Scott: Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning into another episode of All Things Marilyn. My name is Scott Fortner—Marilyn Monroe, historian, collector and owner of the Marilyn Monroe Collection.
Elisa: I'm Elisa Jordan, founder of LA Woman Tours, and I am also a Marilyn historian.
Scott: We're very excited today because we have noted author and biographer, Gary Vitacco-Robles with us, and Gary is the author of not one, but two books on Marilyn. The first one is Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s, Brentwood Hacienda, which is a must have for all Marilyn fans. The second book is Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, and this is a two-volume biography totaling around 1600 pages all about Marilyn. Welcome, Gary.
Gary: Thank you for having me, Scott and Elisa.
Scott: We're super excited to have you here. For followers and listeners who may not know about you, tell us about yourself, and how you discovered Marilyn and just what brought you to the point you're at today.
Gary: My personal interests are classic film and history and architecture. I'm a licensed mental health counselor and a national certified counselor, and I've worked in behavioral health since 1986 with people with severe and persistent mental illness. And I was trained as a trauma-informed therapist, and I worked with children and families who survived sexual abuse and also youth with sexual behavior problems.
I treated a lot of children in the foster care system who had a very similar history that Norma Jeane had. I'm currently a manager of community-based programs in the Tampa Bay area. So, I guess you'd say I'm a bit of a nerd.
Scott: That's okay.
Elisa: You're in good. You're in good company here!
Scott: You're a definitely good company. How was it that you discovered Marilyn?
Norman Mailer released Marilyn: A Biography, in 1973 I was an 8-year-old boy living in New York, and it seemed that no matter where I went, images of Marilyn Monroe followed me and haunted me. Even as a child, I was very drawn to her soulful eyes.
But I hadn't really experienced a Marilyn Monroe film. If you lived in New York in the seventies, there was the 4:30 movie after school, which were the classic films of the forties and fifties and early sixties.
But what I basically got were the Mr. Coffee commercials that Joe DiMaggio was the spokesperson for. So, when he would appear, my grandmother, she was very interested in classic films of her era, she used to tell me the story of their great love and the marriage, the divorce, his loyalty to Marilyn, the roses sent to her crypt. That was like seeds planted in me. When I was 10, my family relocated to the Florida Sun Coast. That's where Marilyn and Joe visited in 1961.
Marilyn popped up again. I was at a unisex salon. I was sitting in the waiting area with my mom and there was this life-size image of this beautiful woman. It was a mural on the wall, and she had a black top hat and I think a cane. And I was mesmerized by her. I asked my mother who that might be and she thought she looked familiar. So my mom asked stylist, “Who is this woman?” And he said, “Marilyn Monroe.” It seemed that she was just haunting me and following me. I didn't really know much about Marilyn, but I knew the narrative of the time, which was she took her own life. She was this quote unquote sex symbol and this controversy of whether her contributions as an actress matched her celebrity. That's what I seem to have remembered. And then when I was about 12 years old, I saw on television a double feature of The Prince and the Showgirl and Bus Stop. What better films to be introduced to. At that point, I experienced her, for the very first time.
At 12 years old, I thought to myself, not in these words, but, what's the controversy about—a multidimensional woman and effective actress!
And I felt this enormous empathy for her, but I did not know why. So living in New Port Richey, Florida, I went to the local library, and I got Edward Wagenknecht’s Marilyn Monroe: A Composite View. Do you remember that book?
Elisa: No, that one's not ringing a bell.
Gary: It's probably published in, I think, around 69. And it was in really anthology of articles about Marilyn, including the eulogy. So it was not very satisfying to me because it wasn't really a biography, but in hindsight it was really a great introduction that sparked my interest. And then I searched for a biography to read. Fred Lawrence Guiles’ biography—
Scott: Yeah. That's one of my favorites.
Gary: Oh, a brilliant book! So, I remember reading her story and then the nerd that I was, I took a sketchbook and I drew a cartoon of her life as it was in the book.
I still have it, it's on my Facebook group. I didn't get very far. I got interested in other things, but this was my interest of Marilyn. We lived behind a gentleman from New York by the name of Sal Arena.
And when Sal, he was a friend of my parents, and when he knew that I was interested in Marilyn Monroe, he came to me with his New York accent and said, “Gary, I knew Marilyn Monroe.” Here I had access to Marilyn, the man behind us it is a very interesting story. He had a pet shop in midtown Manhattan in the fifties.
And this pet shop was, apparently the first pet shop that offered canine vitamins. He was actually on What's My Line? in the 1950s. Who was his customer? Marilyn Monroe! He told me this great story of Marilyn coming in during a rainstorm with her kerchief and her glasses, and leaning on the counter and buying some things for the dog and asking him a lot of questions.
He introduced the concept of these canine vitamins to her, and she was very interested. And apparently, one of the benefits was mood. It increased the mood, improved the mood of the dog. She told him that she thought that her Bassett Hound was depressed.
Scott: Of course, it was Hugo.
Gary: It was Hugo. And he called him “Arthur Miller's dog.” What happened was he would deliver the products to 444 East 57th.
Not his delivery people, but he made sure he delivered. Marilyn became aware that he had a daughter. He told me that she had signed some pictures to take home to the daughter. That was my first brush with Marilyn, which was like, is that not phenomenal?
Scott: That’s one degree of separation right there. That's incredible. One thing that's really important for our listeners to know is that you both made an appearance in the Fox documentary, Scandalous: The Death of Marilyn Monroe. What was that experience like for both of you?
Elisa: Yeah, we did. I didn't tell anyone that I was going to be on. When it aired, my cousins called me and then all of a sudden my parents started getting calls from relatives all over the country. “We just saw Elisa on TV!” Every now and again, I still get that from a friend or family member. “Were you on this documentary I saw?”
Gary: And you were wonderful.
Elisa: Thank you. So were you.
Gary: And I had a strange experience because it aired in August and it was a period of several hurricanes, so it was on the schedule. So my 99 year old aunt and my parents are in their early nineties and ready to watch it, ready to be proud, and it kept getting pushed off because of hurricane coverage.
Scott: That's not annoying at all! (laughs)
Gary: No, not at all. Not at all. (laughs) But, the interesting thing about being on it is you're in a vacuum with the person who's interviewing you. I didn't know who the other panelists were, so I did not know Elisa that you were on the show with me.
Elisa: Yeah, I didn't know either. And then I was worried that they were going to edit me in such a way that I wasn't going to be happy with what I said. I was pleasantly surprised that they really dug into dismantling those conspiracies and I was grateful for that.
Gary: In the end, their conclusions seemed very sane. I was just very disappointed about them using the post-autopsy photograph twice.
Elisa: Yeah, I was too.
Gary: I had a strong reaction to that, but I, the way it concluded, I thought it was well done.
Elisa: We were talking about how you came to love Marilyn, and it's a completely different experience to write a book about her. What prompted you to start writing about her?
Gary: This goes back to me reconnecting with a friend who introduced me to Eric Woodard, who was a member of Marilyn Remembered, and he provided an introduction to Greg Schreiner. My husband and I met Greg and I think it was 1998. He shared with me his images of the interior of the house on Fifth Helena Drive that Eunice Murray likely took.
That prompted me to outline a very small book about Marilyn in her last months in her home. I was fascinated by that period, and I really wanted to tell her story within the context of her home as a way to humanize her and I guess my thesis was that one's home is a reflection of one's soul.
And the home kind of served as a metaphor for her life. Her restoration was unfinished, the way her life was unfinished. I wanted to portray the domestic side of her, which is little known to the public. I thought, through her house? That's a way I can attempt a biography in a very small way. The book is really a fan favorite.
Scott: It is.
Elisa: It's one of my favorites.
Scott: What year was it published?
Gary: The original edition was in 2000, I did an improved version by about maybe 2003. And at first, I have to admit I was embarrassed by it. I felt that it was very amateur and a valentine and it's still something, believe it or not, I still really don't talk about it much.
But I've learned to embrace it because it really resonates with the readers and it really became my dress rehearsal for what now is the Icon trilogy. So the reader response was overwhelming and I was really encouraged to. To research her and do a full-length biography, which to me was like, climbing a mountain. That was the genesis of it really.
Scott: But there is, Gary, no other book about Marilyn's Brentwood home. I don't think that there is.
Elisa: That's the only one.
Scott: Yeah, you're really the only one that has sat down and penned a story and got to the bottom of a lot of the aspects and facts around Marilyn's final home. It's always been one of my favorite books and it's one that I have turned to many times over the years.
Elisa: Going back to the house, I can't speak for everyone, but I get a sense that a lot of people get really emotional about the house on Fifth Helena. I know I do. Not only did she take her last breath there, but for me it's the one house she owned. And for those not familiar with Marilyn, she moved around quite a bit in her 36 years. She typically rented, she was in modest accommodations usually. She did keep her New York apartment, but she was now going to be bi-coastal. She decided to buy a house. She bought it when she was 35 years old.
And I just wanted to go through, if we can, what made her decide at the age of 35 to finally purchase a home and remodel it. To me, that's what makes it meaningful even more because this house seemed to mean a lot to her.
Gary: It's quite a journey. Marilyn lived this very nomadic life, and I believe that's really a manifestation of her childhood because she was in multiple placements as a child. And there was a great lack of grounding. There are a lot of chaotic life events and moving around was her blueprint at the time.
When a child has so many moves, they can develop attachment issues. There's inconsistent caregivers, there's multiple caregivers, there's trauma that takes place in multiple placements. It impacts our social and emotional development. And ultimately it can impact our relationships.
I think back to Marilyn's 1960 interview with George Belmont, and in this interview, it's very heartbreaking to me. You can hear her counting the placements on her fingers, trying to come up with a number for Mr. Belmont, and you can hear her counting and saying, “Oh, I was at that one twice, so I can't count it again.”
I think she finally comes up with 12. And when I researched Marilyn's childhood, it's probably a lot more than 12 because some placements were very brief, in her memory she captured 12 of them. That's, I think, very significant in a person's life.
Scott: I listened to that interview earlier this week. People can go to YouTube and just look up Marilyn Monroe 1960 interview and they can listen to it themselves. I posted about it on Instagram and I got comments from people saying, “I've never heard this interview before.” But you really hear her in a different way, and you can hear the anguish. She talks about stuttering as a child, and she talks about a number of things coming up with her new name. It's a great interview.
Gary: It is really one of my favorites. Even maybe more so than the Merryman interview, because in the Merryman interview, I think she was a little bit more prepared and she had an agenda because she was trying to salvage her career. She was really maligned in the press. But I think the Belmont interview, she's very spontaneously telling the story of her childhood.
It's a very comprehensive overview of her childhood and the way she perceived it. Anyhow, I think the house in Brentwood was almost like a corrective experience. She lived in New York. She preferred to be a New Yorker. I think she filed her taxes there. She had her secure relationships there.
She had renovated the farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut, with Arthur Miller, and that was a project from 1957. I don't think she completed that home until 1960, but by the time it was completed, the marriage was over.
So she retained the apartment, he retained the house. Here she is having lived most of her life in poverty during the Depression, identifying as the working class. Her mom was a single mother. Her guardian was a single woman struggling. Marilyn was not driven to materialism.
She wasn't pretentious. She wasn't attached to luxuries. She saved many things like her piano, and she lives in an orphanage, which is a dorm style where you don't always have privacy, you don't have your own room.
I think the impetus to buy the house was really a prescription by Dr. Greenson. Because when she returned to Los Angeles to complete the film commitments under her contract, she was back living at Doheny Drive. It's a luxury complex, right? But it was a small efficiency that she described as depressing.
Her existence there didn't seem very meaningful. She went into a major depressive episode there and she really required a lot of support at that point, Dr. Greenson considered hospitalizing her, but felt that would destroy her. So he encouraged her to hire Eunice Murray.
Really the house was to help ground and stabilize her. And I think of the Red Book interview with Alan Levy, where she says, “My life was like a huge super structure with, without a foundation but I'm working on the foundation.” So metaphorically, the house was her in so many ways. So I think that was her connection.
She really wanted to start this new phase of her life. She was now divorced. She wasn't able to deliver a child to term. She was very driven at that point to focus on her career. And at that point, she wanted to revive Marilyn Monroe Productions. She wanted to bring Lee Strasburg as a director to the West Coast.
She talked to Brando about producing films. She was throwing herself into her work, not in the man, not into Kennedy. Her goals at that time in her life was her work, I think she said, “To live decently I have to engage in my work.” Interestingly, when you asked me this question, Scott, you were the one who shared with me that Marilyn had really planned to buy that three-story townhouse on East 61st.
Scott: That was found in her filing cabinets, she was considering another property in New York. She saved everything. And this is why it's so fascinating. Elisa's commented on this, too, why it's so great to have access to her files because there's so much behind the woman and the legend that people just don't know about. It's all right there if you just know where to look and know where to find it and really have that interest.
Gary: And that's the true story. She left behind all the pieces. Many of the pieces that give us a very clear picture of who she was. And that's what I was trying to do with Icon, because now we had access to that information, which put things into a different context. Part of Dr. Greenson’s therapy, which was extremely controversial, he wanted to reparent her within the context of his family, with his wife and his adult children. This is very unusual, but Marilyn was a guest at his home. She attended the salons on Sundays where he had chamber music and bringing people in, mostly east coast folks with a very leftist political belief coming out of Eastern Europe. She taught them how to roast chestnuts. She gave them a chestnut roaster. She was peeling potatoes in their kitchen, washing dishes in their kitchen, had her engraved champagne glass there, would have a session in his home office and then join the family for dinner. She took one of the sons out apartment shopping. She said she wanted a house as much as like Dr. Greenson’s as possible.
Scott: This is what's really interesting about what's happening with this movement, for lack of a better word, that Marilyn had Mexican heritage because her mother was born in Mexico because her parents had moved there for work from the United States. But now there's this movement that Marilyn had Mexican heritage, and oh, she loved Mexico because look at all of this furniture in her home and all of these Mexican style decorations. But the truth is it was based on Dr. Greenson’s home.
Gary: Yes. This was Southern California architecture. This was Spanish colonial. Now I think he had a Monterey-style home, but the homes feature where the beam ceilings, the stucco wall, the hand painted tiles that were very colorful. The first photograph I saw of Dr. Greenson's kitchen, Marilyn clearly reproduced it. The blue and yellow tiles, the butcher block counters the dark cabinets. It was Hilda Greenson’s kitchen.
Scott: Right? He had tiles around his fireplace in the living room, Marilyn did the exact same in her living room. She even bought a round wooden walnut table for her dining room like Dr. Greenson had in his dining room. There are photos online and I actually posted a reel not long ago that does compare photos of Marilyn's house to Dr. Greenson's, and you can see where she got the inspiration.
Elisa: Gary, do you think there's a sense of security in doing that? That she's trying to create in her own home that security she may have felt at the Greenson home?
Gary: Absolutely. He was encouraging the home and the stability that it would provide and the structure it would provide in her life. But for her, she wanted to evoke happy memories. I don't think she had many happy childhood memories.
That warm feeling that she had there as a guest, like another adult child in the home where she was almost like an older sister to Greenson’s adult children, these warm feelings she wanted to reproduce. Clearly, she had an emotional attachment. In part of psychoanalysis, the patient is supposed to build healthy transference. And she was clearly connecting and engaging with the Greensons.
Scott: I would assume it was a sense of belonging that she hadn't felt maybe, in that way, in a family environment like that.
Gary: Absolutely. They were healthy people. They were healthy loving people who really appreciated her. And this is also the architecture of California in the twenties, which was the period of time that she was growing up. She certainly didn't like new construction. We hear that she liked the sense of a home where other families had lived. She liked the privacy and security of the walls. I think she called it a fortress.
Scott: It is a fortress. Those of us who have been there to see what it's like, these huge, thick walls. It's like a compound, and a lot is huge. Most people, I think, don't realize how far back the property goes. It's not an average size lot. It's enormous and it's tiered. I remember when I was touring it, I thought, man this just keeps going and it's tiered down, so it's really quite fascinating.
We wanna talk with you a little bit, about Joe DiMaggio and his involvement in helping Marilyn purchase the house. What can you share about that?
Gary: He was significant in her life in the last year and it seems like Marilyn had lots of investments, but she didn't have a lot of cash flow and she wanted his approval for the home. I know from Eunice Murray's account that she wanted Joe DiMaggio to see the home and bless it.
I understand that he loaned her or gave her the deposit and there's several documents related to the home. And I think even in my book, I think I have the price of the home incorrect based upon new information. I think that the Pagans wanted about $69,000 for it, and she came in at 52 5.
She wanted roof repairs, so there's a set of documents as if she were gonna purchase this for the $52.5. But then they ultimately agreed on, I think $57.5. So she used, I think, as collateral, her deferred payments from her share of Some Like it Hot for 1963, and I think he loaned her some money and she had either a 15 or a 20 year mortgage, depending upon which document you read. She made the offer in January 12th and closed maybe on February 8th. And I think the house payment was like $320.
Elisa: But that was a pretty big payment for back then. I forget how much my grandparents paid for their house, but I think their house payments were like $15 or something in the forties.
Gary: Yeah, and people made like $5,200 annually.
Scott: Yeah, it's really quite something when you think about it and the importance of her taking that step of independence and purchasing her own home on her own for the first time ever. It must have been really quite something for her. The receipts around the remodeling and the landscaping and all of these types of things that are still in the files.
I own all of her accounting documents for through August of 1962. Her actual accounting documents, and you can see all the expenses for everything that she's spending on the home. The iron grates over the windows, the red fabric for the sofa and the appliances and all of these things. She's spending a ton of money, but she went to Mexico to go shopping.
Gary: Yes, and Marilyn didn't do a renovation; she did a restoration of this home. She approached this restoration, I think, the way she approached roles and films. She was very serious and detailed, and she wanted the house to be authentically Spanish colonial.
She wanted to return to the original motif of the home. This home built in 1929 had been renovated. The kitchens and the baths had been modernized probably in mid-century. And now she wanted to take it back to the original Spanish design that was original to the house. And what better way to do that was this shopping excursion to Mexico, where she now was going to order custom-made furniture, authentic textiles, décor, paintings, hand-painted tiles for the kitchens and baths.
So she really researched not only interior design, but also shrubbery that was indigenous to Mexico. I remember reading that she called it a wall of color that she wanted to create. And some of those shrubs were delivered the day before or the day she died. And, interestingly, her assistant in all of this was Eunice Murray, who played a huge part in this renovation. This interior design Eunice Murray was emotionally connected to it as well.
Scott: Because Greenson’s bought her house.
Elisa: There's a lineage.
Gary: Yeah, she built the home that Greenson and his wife later purchased. She and her husband built it. She selected everything for what she thought was going to be her forever home with her husband—the hand-honed beams, the Mexican tiles that I think they even install themselves. I don't think they lived there very long. They divorced. Eunice Murray never really got to enjoy her dream home or the life that she hoped to have with her husband. Now she's helping Marilyn Monroe achieve what she couldn't achieve. I think there was some of her own needs that were being met. And Marilyn was about the age that her daughters were. I think she even had a daughter who was named Marilyn. She was helping her, and in some way helping herself. And, of course, she went to Mexico first. Her brother-in-law lived there. He was an ex-pat in Mexico, and she scouted everything in advance. When Marilyn came, there was some organization to this shopping excursion. And that's a very interesting story into itself. She connects with Fred Vanderbilt Field and his wife, Nieves.
And William Spratling. They help her along in what turned into caravan of multiple vehicles and presidential escorts from the president of Mexico and she's going into these little towns and meeting the artisans who will be working on her furnishings. And, of course, she has a great connection to Williams Spratling, who was a gay man who had a silver shop.
His company designed and created her wooden furnishings, many of which hadn't even been delivered. There were lots of delays in the delivery. I think Field and Nieves speaking Spanish, they were really helping Marilyn with the delays. And I think they were even guests at Marilyn's New York apartment in July of 1962.
They were in touch with her helping to coordinate this. She was very excited about this. It was a very successful trip. She made some nice connections with people in the Mexican motion picture industry. I understand she was on the set of El ángel exterminador, which is a very surreal film. And she actually was on the set of that film meeting the cast, which I think is a great story unto itself.
Scott: They must have loved that. How many times, Gary, do you think she went to Mexico? My research indicates it was three times. Once with Joe DiMaggio in1953. She went in 61 for her divorce from Arthur Miller and then in 62 for that shopping trip in February. Were there other trips?
Gary: Those are the only three that I'm aware of. And the divorce [trip] was very brief.
Scott: It was just an overnight, over the border from Texas into Juarez, Mexico.
Elisa: When Marilyn passed away, restoration was not completed. What bothers me is we know for a fact that items were being delivered after she passed away. Some authors who are trying to create drama, in my opinion, talk about Marilyn's home being disheveled or there weren't paintings on the walls, or they criticize her as though this unfinished house were a sign of mental illness, when in reality it was just an incomplete project. I was wondering if you could touch on that a little bit and then talk about what happened to those furnishings after Marilyn passed away.
Gary: I think the basic construction was completed. She moved in very early in March after the Golden Globe Awards. I think the first order of business was the kitchen and the baths, the plumbing. The tiles came later, but the kitchen and baths were done and then they were just waiting on furnishings to arrive. Sloans had installed the white wall-to-wall carpeting. All of the furniture was there with pictures on the wall. I think even her drapery cornices were installed in the living room and the bedroom. I think what maybe startles people is the condition of her bedroom.
The bedroom looked disorderly and chaotic. It looked like she didn't have a lot of surface area and the home wasn't completely furnished with very little closet space. I think she was just living in an unfinished home with just a lot of disorder in her bedroom, where she probably had to spend a lot of time because it had the surface of a bed and she might not have had a dining room table until maybe just a few weeks before.
When you do look at it, the bedroom pictures they are disturbing. There aren't pictures on the wall and it's disorderly. But I don’t know—I think if you look in a lot of people's bedrooms you might find something very similar.
Elisa: Yeah, you're going to see clothes and things because there wasn't a vanity there yet.
Gary: She had been terminated from the film and she had been ill. Her energy was going into protecting her career and her reputation, which was being maligned and announcing to the world that she was ready and able to work. This was her livelihood. That's where her energy went. And what happened to the house? It is a very sad story that it never came together in a way that she could see it completed. But I do believe she saw it completed in her mind, and sometimes if you imagine something you visualize it and it comes into play.
And I think in her mind it was completed. It's just that furniture was delayed, and that is very sad. I understand that the sofa was maybe in the guest house, still in wrapping. Greg Schreiner connected me to the Nunez family and the auction catalog. So when they purchased Marilyn's home, there was an auction at the time for some of the household items and the smaller items. When the Nunez family purchased the home, they purchased most of the contents of the home, at least the furnishings. And those, I think, were auctioned in 1997. Of course, Greg has that wonderful sofa.
Elisa: He also has the refrigerator.
Gary: The Hot Point refrigerator!
Scott: Which he found in a newspaper ad in the LA Times. Somebody posted a classified ad that said Marilyn Monroe refrigerator, and he bought it for an unbelievable amount, which I'm not sure that I have the authority to say how much he paid for it. It was not much.
Gary: I love it. It's so modern, it looks like the refrigerators of today, chrome with the freezer at the bottom. It was really stunning for 1962, and I love that one side of it was exposed and Marilyn had it painted blue to match the tile. Even the refrigerator had that level of detail. I think that's just phenomenal. I love that he has it.
Scott: One of the entries on the financial documents that I have actually lists the Hot Point refrigerator and the side being painted blue.
Elisa: I have a question that's for both of you. Because we've been talking about the financial documents and things like that; because this is the home in which Marilyn passed away, it is also the focal point of a lot of conspiracy theories. Now that we have access to her financials, I thought we could talk a little bit about one of the major conspiracy points, which we can now disprove, and that is, it was reported that Eunice Murray was doing laundry when the police arrived on August 5th, 1962, when Marilyn had been discovered.
We now know going through the documents, Marilyn appears to have purchased most of the major appliances on one day, if I'm not mistaken. Everything is there except for a washer and dryer. However, we do have receipts for a fluff and fold service, which would be a laundry service. So can we talk a little bit about how it's not really likely that Marilyn had a washer and dryer, despite the fact that she invested a whole lot of money into buying appliances and furniture?
Gary: When you look at the sales contract, when Marilyn purchased the home, the washer and dryer is not listed as an appliance. And when you look at the sales contract from the Nunez family, they documented much of what they wanted. They wanted to retain the draperies and the curtains, and I think some appliances are there.
The layout of the home, in 1962 is very different than the way the house appears today. Many of the conspiracy theorists, I think, draw conclusions based upon the current floor plan. So the house had a detached garage and guest house, and then there was a courtyard, and then there was the kitchen and the rest of the house that was in like an L shape.
So the house is very small, the kitchen was very small. There was a service area in the kitchen and a nook. There was no space in the house for a washer and dryer. I have had contact with someone who had been in the home. Now it's gonna sound like I'm not credible, but I don't wanna reveal the name of the person for their confidentiality, but the name would be very recognizable to folks interested in Monroe's life. That person told me that there was not a washer and dryer in the home. I've often wondered, was it in the garage and just not documented? That I don’t know.
Scott: Here's the thing. There are photos Eunice Murray in front of the garage with the garage door open getting into her car. There's no washer and dryer in the garage.
Gary: There's a picture of the guesthouse, and there's no washer and dryer there. I don't believe that there was a washer and dryer and I think coming out of her life in New York, she had laundry and drycleaning vendors there and she used Malone's Studio Cleaners.
The person who brings this up many years after her death is one of the three officers on the scene. And he claims that Eunice Murray was doing laundry in the house. There's no place in the house to do it. If she were doing it and it were in the garage that's a different location.
My point is, it's a police officer who makes and allegation and if he's a police officer, he is in a position to investigate what's going on. So if he sees something suspicious, he can ask her what's going on. He can look in the washer and dryer and he can figure it out himself. But he takes issue with this—but he doesn't investigate it apparently. And then he writes about it many years later.
Scott: Here's a question. There is photographic evidence of Marilyn in bed after she's passed away, and she's lying on sheets. What is this thing about Eunice Murray is washing sheets when Marilyn is photographed in bed, in a bed that's made with sheets and a comforter, and the pillows have pillowcase on them. What sheets are being washed?
Gary: I think before the internet, people could make up anything that they wanted, and they didn't know that they would somehow be access to information that would dispute it. When all of Monroe's archives went to auction, that reveals the truth, and in most cases, that doesn't happen in a person's life where you have all of their documentation available and the myriad of pictures that you can find online. So it was really easy in 1975 to say these things and who would be the wiser? But I think in the decades that have followed all of this information and access to it completely disproves so much of the conspiracy theories.
Elisa: You have done more research than anyone else, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to clear some of it up, which is why I'm going to ask the next couple of questions, because we have access to you today. And that is the plumbing. Was it on? Because one of the stories is Marilyn did not have access to water in her bathroom because the plumbing was shut off. And two, was there wiring found in the attic area or the crawl space area above the ceiling? You know that space between the roof and the ceiling? Because years later it was said the wiring from Marilyn's house being bugged was found.
It's my understanding, and you have a much better architectural background than I do, but would a person of Marilyn Monroe’s stature be left without access to water for an extended period of time? Would a plumber leave someone like Marilyn with the water turned off?
Gary: This is really ridiculous and it's really very illogical. When I think I shared in the beginning that when Marilyn moved into the home, the focus of the renovation was to make the bathrooms and the kitchen functional, so any plumbing issues were done early on.
She moved into the house in March. I understand that there was some plumbing issues around the time she went to Palm Springs that she might have had to shower at the Greensons’ because the plumbing was turned off in March. And that makes sense. Within the first month of living there, that's when the plumbers come in.
And what better time to come in and do the work when the owner is going is planning go away to Palm Springs for the weekend. From March to August is a long time. The bed and baths were completed. She was living in the house. And on Friday night, Patricia Newcomb spent the night, so the water couldn't have been turned off because there were people living in the house, and then Eunice Murray was spending the night on Saturday night.
So having three people in the home within the last 24 hours, they would need plumbing that functioned. Now, turning water on and off, there's usually a main turn switch, but if work's being done in one particular room, you can just turn the two faucets off in that location without impacting the rest of the house, and then you can turn them back on again.
Scott: So it doesn't make sense that water for the whole house would've been turned off.
Gary: No, there would've been some huge plumbing problem that would've taken place. Possibly she would've relocated if that had been going on, or there would've been some discussion about it.
Scott: Three bathrooms in the house.
Gary: Yes. That in the house there were two and in the guest house there was yet another. So it doesn't make sense. There were three people in the house within the last 24 hours, so that never made sense.
Scott: And there is a glass next to the bed.
Elisa: For those who don't know what we're talking about, some people will maintain that there was no drinking glass or receptacle next to Marilyn in bed. And if you look at an evidence photo taken by LAPD, there is very clearly a drinking glass next to Marilyn's bed on the floor because she didn't have many surfaces, like Gary said. So there was no—she had this little temporary table—but there was no proper bedside table yet. The other question was the electrical in the crawl space.
Gary: When you look at the structure of the home, there's cathedral ceilings and beams. So in many of the rooms there is no attic space.
Scott: There’s no crawl space because what you're looking at is the roof structure. You're looking at the bottom of the roof structure. There's no attic or crawl space.
Gary: And that is the reason why Marilyn made the lower offer on the home because there was some damage to the roof that needed to be repaired. And in a home like that, without the crawl space, that would've been a significant challenge. That roof needed to be repaired. Now, I'm not quite sure what the structure might have been like in the guest house or in the garage, but what I can tell you is Jim Gough is a man that I'm in contact with, his father was, James Gough, and he was an electrician at 20th Century-Fox.
And Marilyn asked him to come to the house for an assessment of the wiring. Jim Junior joined his father, and he provided a name, some names of electrical contractors that she could retain. His father did say that there was some electrical wiring that was a mess, but not necessarily in the attic. The house was at that point over 30 years old.
But the folks who made allegations about the house being wired and bugged, that has been disproven because the Los Angeles district attorney's office brought in people from the telephone company and they investigated the house to see if any of those claims were based in fact.
And what they found were just discarded, antiquated wiring—the original wiring of that house was 1929. That would've needed to be updated in the fifties or the early sixties. Some of the materials that were believed to maybe be eavesdropping devices were really just antiquated wiring from telephone wires is what they were. They weren't even electrical.
Scott: They don't even pull 'em out. They just leave them. They're not being used. It's just remnants.
Gary: And it was like a field supervisor and other folks that were brought out there to make that assessment. And the information was like second or third hand anyhow.
Scott: Gary, you and I met at Marilyn Monroe Memorial Week festivities in 2012. It's been quite some time. That was, of course, 10 years ago. And you've been in the community obviously for a very long time, as we've discussed as part of this interview today. I'm curious to know what changes have you seen over the years in the Marilyn community?
Gary: I remember the times when we were isolated before the advent of social media. We had opportunities to connect through fan clubs and newsletters that we would receive. And one of the early groups that I was associated with was Michelle Morgan’s group out of the U.K., and she actually was my writing mentor who introduced me to my current publisher.
She's been a great friend of mine and I love her dearly. And that was a way for us to be connected, but we were in isolation and I know that When I was online in the later nineties, like 97, there were chat groups that you were able to communicate with folks and get information.
And the world is very different now. I almost feel like we had a more clear image and vision of who this woman was back then. And it seems like the way the culture has now perceived and presented her, it seems like we got very close to what might have been the truth. But then we've moved far beyond what the truth is and I feel like we've pulled away from who she likely was and now we're just lost.
Scott: I agree.
That makes me feel very sad especially for the reasons that we've talked about. Scott, you've created an archive, which is extremely valuable. I'm very happy that so much of the material that Marilyn left behind is with you because you're the proper keeper of it. And you share it in your way. That is what's going to keep us focused on who this woman was and that so I have hope that's going to be the case. But with all the information that we now have that have come to auction, have come available there's really no reason for the lack of accuracy that the culture is now presenting.
Elisa: I agree.
Scott: It's almost like she's turned into something that she never was, and never wanted to be.
Gary: Never wanted to be. I really think she would be appalled by some of it.
Scott: What is one thing that you've learned about Marilyn as part of your research that you think the general public doesn't know that you would want to share?
Gary: I see her as an extremely brave and resilient woman. She experienced adverse childhood experiences. She struggled with mental illness. She came from poverty. All the set up for her life to not be successful. And somehow with very little help or intervention, she achieved greatness and was able to retain a vulnerability.
She's a woman who made it on her own. I do not see where the casting couch came into play. She knew how to network with the right people and it took her a very long time to reach her level of success. She worked hard to do that. She had to make many films from ’46 to, when you think of her ascent in ’52, that's by hard work. Otherwise, you'd make it a lot quicker. So I think she was very smart about her career. She was probably very smart to have kept her private life as private as she did.
Scott: I think she knew how to use the elements of her private life to her benefit when the time was right. For example, the calendar coming out and she just brushed it all away by saying, “What was I supposed to do? I needed to pay rent.” And everybody else was like, “Oh, that's just, what are you supposed to do?”
You gotta pay your rent. That was that I think she was brilliant. I think she was super strategic and she knew what to release, how to release it when the time was right, just very thoughtful that
Gary: She was constantly reinventing herself, and I think she was in the process of doing that right before she died. A lot of people see Monroe as her destiny was the road, the path that she was on from the beginning, that it was just this arc to death. And I've never seen it that way. I've seen her life was her trajectory was moving and she just abruptly died, when so much was in front of her. So I do not see her as tragic in that sense or destined for that. Just some events happened that led to the end of her life. Who else in the culture is so beloved so many decades later?
I say it's like a cultural, psychological, spiritual phenomenon. It's like, this universal appeal that it's the X factor that it's really difficult to define or operationalize. It's fascinating. So I just hope that we get back to that because all the misinformation about her life is remarkable, Her accurate life is remarkable.
It's certainly drama enough and there's so much to learn by it. So there's a narrative of her life that has a message and gives people hope. I think I have problems. If I had problems like her, now I don't think I would've survived it. So if she could survive it, that means I can survive it.
There were times when I was writing Icon and all of my files were on a jump drive that I didn't save, and it fried. And I thought all the book was gone. And some of it I had to recreate and then I had to send it to Seattle. And I thought, do I just give up at this point? I've started this project, do I just give up?
And I talked to myself. You cannot give up on this woman. Her message was, Don't give up.
Elisa: That's exactly how I feel about her. When I'm struggling for something or trying to achieve a goal, I always think she never gave up and she had every reason to.
Gary: I just hope that our culture takes another turn. It's all about right now, fake news and alternate facts. That's the culture where we live in, and I love her authentic story.
Scott: There's enough there. That's why I think we have such a problem with Blonde, the film. There's enough of Marilyn's true story that is so fascinating and so interesting. I said this in our episode about Blonde, I don't understand why they didn't just put all those resources into telling Marilyn's true story. It's interesting enough, as you said, and this has been a pretty bad year for Marilyn. She continues to be used. She continues to be exploited for other people's benefit.
Elisa: Gary, where can people find your books? And how can they follow you on social media?
Gary: I have Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s, Brentwood Hacienda. That's available through Amazon.com and iuniverse.com. Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, volumes one and two are available at Amazon.com and BearMannerMedia.com. And the final in the Icon trilogy will be released before the holidays. I've skirted this issue for too long. I really didn't wanna focus on Marilyn's death because my research is a celebration of her life, but I felt like I could no longer be silent. We need folks like Donald McGovern, he wrote the Murder Orthodoxies that debunks a lot of these murder conspiracy theories.
I was hoping his book would push some of the others off the shelf. I think there just needs to be a few more to replace misinformation. So I really needed to do that for myself and for Marilyn. Hopefully that will be out by Thanksgiving time.
Scott: So to clarify, Gary, there's a volume three of Icon that's coming?
Gary: It's being type set right now, and then I should have the final proof by the end of the month. And it has a lot of information from the 1982 threshold reinvestigation, which really was never made public. And it, I think if it had been made public, it would've dispelled what happened or prevented what's happened ever since. I also have a Facebook group, which is the title “Icon, the Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe.” And I do have a dramatic podcast, Marilyn: Behind the Icon at Behindtheicon.com. It's a dramatic series adapted from Icon and it also has a companion series where we discuss the backstory of the episodes.
Scott: We will share the links to your social media sites as part of this episode of All Things Marilyn.
Elisa: Gary, this has been so informative and so much fun speaking with you. I can't thank you enough for coming here. I speak for myself, but I think I speak for a lot of Marilyn fans when I say your research is just extraordinary.
Gary: You're very kind and I'm very honored to be a part of your podcast.
Scott: Gary, what's really amazing is that as long as we've known each other, this is really the first time we've ever been able to sit down and have this kind of conversation, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. So thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule, particularly as you're releasing volume three of Icon.
Gary: My great pleasure and I hope to be out in Los Angeles soon so that we can continue the conversation.
Scott: Thanks everyone for tuning in. We'd love to hear your feedback, thoughts, comments, ideas and suggestions for future episodes. You can email Elisa and me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will see you next time for All Things Marilyn.