For the Season 2 premiere of the All Things Marilyn Podcast, hosts Scott and Elisa interview Francine Gifford-Deir, biological granddaughter of Charles Stanley Gifford and Marilyn Monroe's niece. Last year, Francine provided a hair sample for a DNA test that proved definitively that Stan Gifford was Marilyn's father.
In this interview, Francine provides intimate details and stories about her family, and describes in detail what Stan Gifford was like as a person.
Learn all the facts about Marilyn's father's family in this revealing, touching, and heartwarming interview.
Scott: Hey everyone. Thanks for tuning in to season two of All Things Marilyn. This is Scott Fortner, Marilyn Monroe historian, collector, and owner of the Marilyn Monroe Collection.
Elisa: And I am Elisa Jordan, founder of LA Woman Tours, an author, and I am also a Marilyn Monroe historian.
Elisa: Here we are. Season two.
Scott: Here we are, season two. Yeah, jinx, you said it, I said it at the same time.
Elisa: Great minds think alike.
Scott: Definitely. We just want to take an opportunity to thank everyone for tuning in. We're starting off season two with a very special guest.
Elisa: Oh, my goodness.
Scott: We are super excited to have Francine with us.
Elisa: Francine is Stan Gifford's granddaughter, and Scott and I could not be more excited to present this conversation with her.
Scott: I think that this is probably the first ever blood relative of Marilyn's I've ever spoken to you.
Elisa: Absolutely, yes.
Scott: Yeah. All right. Let's turn it over to the interview because we recorded it a couple of minutes ago.
Elisa: We're still freaking out.
Scott: All right. Let's dive in, shall we?
Elisa: Let's do this.
Scott: We're very excited today here at All Things Marilyn. We have a very, very special guest. Francine Gifford Deir is with us today. Hello, Francine. How are you?
Francine: Doing great. Thank you.
Scott: Thank you so much for joining us. We've been so excited about getting a chance to speak with you and talk with you. And for our listeners who aren't familiar with the name, Francine is the biological niece of Marilyn Monroe, and this just came out recently via DNA testing. It was part of a documentary that is titled Marilyn, Her Final Secret that was produced by Francois Pomes. The entire focus of the documentary was finding out who Marilyn Monroe's biological father was. And it was done via a hair sample.
Francine: Exactly. They were going to take a hair sample. They wanted my brother and his hair sample, but unfortunately my brother was from my mother's first marriage, so that didn't work. And we lost the youngest child, Diann, my sister in 89 from Leukemia. She was wonderful. And when Francois called, that's when my brother told him that I was the only one that was a link in there.
Scott: Wow, no pressure there.
Francine: No! (laughs) Yes. So hair was really funny because I happened to run across my grandmother and my father saved everything. Neatly, but they saved everything. And one of the books we had was the baby book with my father, and in it was hair from his first haircut and there was the hair. So they did have that hair from my dad.
Scott: Wow. So before we get into the details about Marilyn: Her Final Secret and just the filming of the documentary, can you share with us what it was like growing up with the idea or the sense or the possibility that you were actually related to Marilyn Monroe? And I don't think you were alive when she was alive, is that right?
Francine: Oh, certainly I was. She passed away when I was in college.
Elisa: Oh wow.
Scott: What was it like growing up knowing that you were possibly related to her?
Francine: There was no knowing. We certainly didn't know it. My father was vehement that his father could not possibly be the father of Marilyn Monroe because he would've acknowledged the child. And it was just terrible lies and Hollywood hoopla, and he just knew his father. So it's interesting because I think my father loved his father very much.
Francine: And in turn my grandfather loved my father very dearly. In fact, that was one of the problems when he was with Gladys. And she apparently, when found out she was pregnant my grandfather did not want—because he was still married; they were separated—but he was still married and he had the two children and he did not want to lose his children. And it wouldn't take much back then to lose the right to be able to visit them. And he did not want that. So he was really fighting, so there was no way he could acknowledge that.
Elisa: That's interesting because I thought the divorce had been finalized between them.
Francine: Well his thing was that he was still married.
Scott: So you grew up while Marilyn was still alive, knowing that there was something out there, but yet all along you were under the impression it's not possible. There's no way.
Francine: I knew that the rumors were out there. My grandfather had a sister, Ethel, and her husband. They had no children. When she died, he inherited everything. Along with all the pictures and everything, and apparently when he [Ethel’s husband] died, one of the great nieces came over that were on Ethel’s husband's side and wanted a picture. Really wanted a picture, so they got a picture of my father and his father, and then next thing we know, it's on the cover of a trash magazine. One of
Elisa: Like a tabloid magazine.
Francine: Tabloid, there we go. It was a tabloid magazine, dare splash on the front was my father's picture on the couch and my father was horrified,
Elisa: Yeah, cuz he had been violated by a family member. He had been lied to.
Francine: It wasn't a family member, but yes, somebody in the family had gotten that picture again, somebody on that side.
Scott: Yeah, so they knew what they were doing and they sold it probably.
Francine: Yeah. Apparently, they were approached or they, I have no idea how that happened, but there it was splashed across there and was on the front page. And we had a very close family friend, Norma. And she didn't miss anything. Hollywood, loved everything Hollywood, read everything Hollywood. And of course, when that appeared, she was there at the house. My father was so mad, and he said it's not true. It's not true. I know that's not true. My mother thought it was true. My mother thought my grandfather looked like Marilyn.
Elisa: He kind of does. There's a resemblance.
Scott: Yeah, there's a resemblance, for sure.
Elisa: We wanted to talk a little bit about how Marilyn's hair sample was taken and we have another episode where we talk more about this, but just briefly, after Marilyn's autopsy, some hair had to be clipped from her to make the arrangements and that hair was thrown into the trash. An employee of the funeral home took the hair out of the trash and saved it. And that was because his wife was a big Marilyn Monroe fan, and he did that for her. That gentleman's name was Allan Abbott, and that hair is still in existence. So just to remove any doubt, we have that confirmed hair sample from Marilyn Monroe.
So this is indeed a DNA match. And we just wanted to ask, there was a get well card recently that actually Scott discovered going through Marilyn's files because he is working with Julian's Auctions quite a bit, going through Marilyn's things and authenticating them.
And it was a get well card from your grandfather to Marilyn during her lifetime and there was no envelope, so we don't think it was sent to her. She was hospitalized many times though. And Marilyn's half-sister on the other side, Berniece recounts in her book, Marilyn telling her, “my father came to visit me in the hospital.” And I was just wondering, do you know anything about your grandfather maybe going to visit her or having an interest in her? Did he say anything? It sounds like you may not have known if your father didn't believe the story to be true.
Francine: Exactly, because what you're looking at there is, it's like a love story. My father loved his father, believed him, stood up for him. And then my grandfather in, I'm sure in later years, would've liked to have shared it, but then again, it would have to be like, “everything I told you wasn't true.”
I suspect that he was reticent to mention it. In fact, I know he was to tell anything. Although he ended up roundabout did tell him, but didn't tell him. But, told. But I do not know about the I saw that and I saw a picture of that. And I'm not sure, I would like to think my grandfather wouldn't have misspelled Marilyn's name. And that was spelled differently there.
Scott: Yeah, I actually found that card in Marilyn Monroe personal archives. She saved everything. And there were at least two filing cabinets full of letters, telegrams cards, contracts, receipts, invoices, bills canceled, bank checks, bank statements. Marilyn saved everything. And I've been working with Julian's for quite some time now, going through the last of the archives. There's probably gonna be just one more auction full of Marilyn's personal files. And this card was in her personal files. it is a little bit interesting that the name was spelled wrong, so I hear you there for sure.
Francine: I don't know how she would've gotten a hold of it unless it had been directed to her.
Francine: I would like to spelled it correctly, perhaps,
Scott: Yeah. It could have been just a misspelling. I see people misspell Marilyn's name all the time.
Elisa: This is true.
Scott: Yeah. So I see it pretty frequently. Francine, what we've assumed is that because Marilyn said that she had met her father once he came to visit her in the hospital, we came to the conclusion that it was likely near the end of 1954 when she was in the hospital in Los Angeles. Chances are he wouldn't have gone to see her on the East Coast. She was hospitalized many times on the East Coast. She shared the story with her half-sister Berniece at a point in time when really it only could have been at a location in California where he visited her.
Elisa: She had a gynecological surgery in 54 right after she separated from Joe DiMaggio. So it had to have been one of those but we really don't know.
Scott: At this point we're just trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But it was fascinating.
Francine: Yeah, the very fact that she has it and the very fact that, as you're saying, it's with her, all her stuff.
Francine: But yeah, that was a piece that I'm not familiar with. It's a, I'd like to think it was. I'd like to, that's wonderful.
Scott: Probably mind blowing.
Elisa: I was thrilled when Scott found it because it made him all of a sudden seem more human because he was just a mystery figure and I thought, wow, he did care enough to go see her, and I thought it was nice.
Scott: It rewrote history.
Elisa: It did.
Scott: It had never been proven before that there had ever been any contact, and this was really physical documentation that verified there was some type of communication between the two of them that had been verified. It was quite the exciting find. It sold for over $20,000 at auction. It was quite the addition to someone's collection.
Francine, if we switch gears and talk a little bit more about the documentary. You shared that Francois approached your brother originally, but he was unable to participate because he wouldn't have had the DNA sample. And so you were next and as you said, the only one really at that point that could have provided the sample. Talk to us about what was it that prompted you to actually participate in the DNA testing with your hair?
Francine: The interesting part about it is that we've always been a family. So even though Tim wasn't a donor, he was part of our heritage. I made sure that Tim was involved with everything we did, and then, because we lost my sister, but she had one child, a daughter, Lisa, so I made sure that all three of us were sharing this.
Elisa: Yeah, it was a family decision.
Francine: Yeah, so it was a family thing. We all spoke about it. And Lisa was the one that said, “I say It's time to get the mystery resolved.”
Scott: Yeah, we thank you for that.
Scott: We definitely thank you for that. It's been a topic of discussion, for decades, who actually was Marilyn Monroe's father? And it was just really great to have it finally, proven
Francine: Yeah. And it was great for us.
Scott: Yeah. Can you share with us what the documentary process was like? Just what you recall from the actual filming and working with Francois.
Francine: You mean how many takes I had to do to walk to the to drop off those things? I thought, how do people make a living this way? (laughs) It's just a lot of work.
Scott: How many takes was it?
Francine: Yeah. It was about five. had to go from this table, from that angle, and yeah, it was fun in a way.
Scott: And then there comes a certain point where you're actually opening the envelope on camera. And so that was real. That was you actually opening the envelope to get the results, the test results.
Francine: Yes. That was what they were holding it and they were not telling us, but they were all excited and had the film crew. And I said, I don't think they bring the film crew unless there was some definitive proof, but they wouldn't tell us anything. But I was quite sure they weren't gonna say, oh, nope, you're not a match. You know? So We were all expecting that, even though we were, and we did the film and we were all like, wow. And he didn't feel like that was exciting enough. So that was take two. We had to be more excited. We're not a very demonstrative family in that respect, very always, keeping everything in check. So yeah, we had to so the second first time we were surprised, we were pleased, and excited.
And the second take we acted real pleased and real surprised, but we were.
Scott: Yeah. He just probably wanted a little bit more ooph there. So thank you for those questions, Francine. We're gonna I'm gonna turn it over to Elisa now. Elisa is very much a historian when it comes to family lineage, and she's got several questions that she'd like to ask just about your family and getting to know your background and your history a little bit more.
Elisa: I was going through documents and your grandfather was born in Rhode Island, but when he was very young, they moved to Los Angeles. I was wondering if you knew anything about why they moved to LA because LA was not the big city that it is now.
Francine: I would assume it would be for job opportunities, but that would be a leap. Like I said, daddy was here, he could tell you.
Elisa: I wish he was. If you know a little bit about his parents, I think their names are Fred and Elizabeth. And he had a sister named Doris, or was that Ethel?
Francine: He has a sister named Ethel, had a daughter named Doris.
Elisa: Ah, okay.
Francine: Yes. So it was the two children,
Elisa: Okay. And do you know anything about Stan's parents?
Francine: They were on granddad's side
Francine: Because they built houses. I know that granddad was involved with that in construction. That's what he worked with was working construction. I have tools. That were carpenter's tools
Francine: Yeah, I have a lot of that may have been a phase he just had at one point, but yeah.
Scott: And to clarify, these are your great-grandparents tools.
Elisa: That's interesting and that makes sense. So you're probably right about them coming to Los Angeles for job opportunities if they were in the construction business because Los Angeles was about to boom and have a big population jump and building was big at the time. So that makes sense. And I was wondering your grandmother, Lillian, so this would be your dad's mother and his aunt, they got a divorce and we don't know anything about your grandmother, so I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about her. I know they were now separated at the time Norma Jean came along, but we don't know anything about Lillian.
Francine: She's wonderful. She came back, she moved from California to Virginia. So it was really wonderful. She bought a house not far from my dad, and she would walk down. She didn't drive. She took public transportation everywhere.
Francine: So I guess in. California. She just didn't drive, but when she was in California , and we went to visit her, it was real exciting for me because it was exciting to visit granddad cuz he had a dairy farm. I'd never been around cows before, so that was exciting. And when I went to visit my grandmother she was a nurse
Elisa: Oh, okay.
Francine: She was really into holistic. She was a real strong believer in that was feeding everybody's soybeans before soy became popular.
Elisa: So she was ahead of her time.
Francine: Oh yeah. Yeah. And she was a wonderful, avid gardener, but her place was I remember just that there was so many fruit trees and you could climb all over everything climb up in the trees. It was just, I was at that age that everything was, meant to be climbed and she had goats I think about it now and think that's interesting because they had the goats and they had run a pen, real high pen, and they told me to go in there and to, take the food in to the goat. Like a dutiful child. I go in there, I don't see the goat anywhere, and I look around, don't look, see the goat, and they have a little shed type thing. And I walk over there and I put my head in. The goat was in there and the goat was startled to see me. I was startled to see the goat.
I tore out one side and the goat leaked over out the other side. Yes, my father, now he was saying you scared the goat more than he scared you. But I didn't think so. I was really, since he had the goats, so she was and like I said, when she got here in Virginia, she was constantly growing, flowers and food and yeah, she was a marvel. She was really in touch with nature.
Elisa: Along those lines, your father, as far as I can tell, grew up in Los Angeles and then moved to Virginia. What was his childhood like in la and then how did he end up in Virginia?
Francine: He grew up in LA and he joined the military there. He went into the Navy.
Elisa: Yeah. There is a picture of him online in his Navy uniform.
Francine: Yes. Oh, he was such a handsome devil. He ended up on the ship and then they stationed him cuz he was Navy stationed him in Devonshire to start with. And then he ended up in London. And London was where he met Joan Devonshire we're such a funny family. I always said growing up, three of us, it was such a boring family. Everybody else had divorced parents and we had three that stayed together. And they had three children. I didn't realize that Tim had a different father. I didn't realize that I had a different mother. Diane was the only one of us that had mom and dad together, he was in Devonshire and that's where I was conceived for a young girl. Daddy certainly paid support on, but he didn't marry her. Cuz by that time he was in London, had met and fell in love with my mother, Joan Gifford, and then they stayed there, till after the war and then came back to California to visit with his father. And we have pictures of me, and granddad and Tim and granddad and me and Tim together holding hands. So I knew it was a fake photo.
Francine: And then Daddy was stationed in Virginia and said I'll go to Virginia. They were looking for where to get stationed. And my mother was I guess when dad got back, all the girlfriends were fluttering around and daddy was checking on all his old friends and running with a pack. And my mother wisely said, Virginia would be a good place to raise kids. Let's move to Virginia. Thousands of miles away from all the girls, so they moved. That's where he ended up.
Elisa: So basically, Stan Gifford produced beautiful children.
Francine: Stan Gifford. Yes. He did. And the sister, cuz they had, he had my kids said my Doris was born first and then my dad, Charles was born. And, of course, my dad is a junior. And do you know died of it was polio, I think what it was polio was something that wouldn't kill you today. But back then, and it was, I thought originally that was meningitis, it's polio.
Elisa: When you and I were on the phone setting up this interview, you said something that has really stayed with me, and that is you mentioned how much your grandfather loved his children, and he lost two daughters. He lost Doris and then he lost Norma Jeane. And I had never put that lens on it before. I thought that was very touching that you think of it that way. And then I started to think of it that way, that he did lose Norma Jeane in a way.
Francine: Yes. It was more, more frightening and it went away because there was not a reconciliation, there was not an acknowledgement, a, so that was sad in that respect. Like I said, he got himself caught up in. Not telling the truth. Even when she became famous, I think there was a, he lived the life for so long
Elisa: Yeah, we have to put things in perspective too, about how life was in the 1920s and if she had been born now, it may not be the case that he would have to do that.
Francine: Exactly. Exactly. But back then, like I said, it wouldn't have taken much for him to have lost, and I don't think he wanted to get trapped into a marriage. I'd like to think that he certainly cared about Gladys. They certainly were seeing each other. My father was struggled when he found out that from one of the other relatives that they had gone off on the weekends. He was thinking that she worked in the same place that dad, that his father did, and that when something happened, she decided to, hit it on the boss. But I, I don't think that was the case,
Elisa: No, I don't think so either. I think it was a real relationship.
Elisa: Which is nice because that would mean Norma Jeane was born out of love.
Scott: Wow, that's fascinating and very, I think just very different from what most fans believe today.
Elisa: Yeah, it reframes it.
Scott: It does. does.
Elisa: Speaking of your grandfather working in Hollywood later in life, he moves out to the desert in Hemet, which is a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles. That's a big career change. Do you happen to know why he decided to move out to the desert and open a dairy farm? And from what I can tell, it was a very successful business.
Francine: Oh, he loved it. He was proud of that. He loved the cows, the head names and the first cow that was born. In fact, there was a Kath born while we were there, and he named it after Diane. And then I got one named after me, and then Tim got one named after him. I was not around any kind of farms. So to me it was fascinating and so far as why he made the change. He loved animals. He loved animals, he loved polo. He loved riding horses. So I do not know what opportunity opened up that he decided to go into there. I didn't know anything about the Hollywood side of him, except like after the fact at the time there. Cause he never brought it up. He never, boasted or said anything about what he did or that he knew all these, actors and actresses and they had all these signs. He never said anything, he was a very modest man
Elisa: So you all went out to visit him quite a bit.
Francine: Yes, we travel all the way across the whole driving all the way there in the desert. I have to really admire my parents. No air conditioning in the car. You know, and three little kids, he's on my side. He's touching me,
Elisa: Yeah. I've been on many of those road trips as a kid myself. I know exactly what you're talking about.
Francine: Yes. And we'd stop. And the biggest thing was when you found a place that had a swimming pool. Yay. And if it had air conditioning in a swimming pool, even better. But we would always go after the swimming pool. So it was exciting. It was fun. It was fun travel, and it was fun. It was always great to see them, great to see him, and Mary, and he was in the fact that he would talk to you. I was this little kid, right? He was talking to me, he was asking me things, I'm used to being ignored, and the adults carrying on with whatever they're gonna do.
But he'd talk to you and, cuz I think he loved children. So I know that had to have been hard to have had a daughter born and not be able to, acknowledge or see her or participate in her life, because my father certainly saw a lot of granddad. He was around. He was not an absentee father.
Scott: Francine, I have a question for you. There are these stories out there that Marilyn drove to Hemet to try to meet your grandfather, and she called him and he responded by simply saying I don't have anything to say, call my attorney or words to that effect. Have you heard those stories before?
Scott: Yeah. What are your thoughts on those? Whether it actually happened.
Francine: I remember reading one of the books and they were saying that everybody was all excited cause they knew she was coming. But that kind of is funny to me because they all knew she was coming and Granddad would've known it too. I like to think he wouldn't have done. It's not in his character. I never saw, I never heard him say, Anything out of the way or mean or the whole time, because when you, a lot of times you can tell character around people, which I didn't know at that time, but at this time I know about how they treat animals. And he loved his dogs and he was very kind and considerate, with all of us. I did not see anything. And I read his letters cause I've got his letters. And he wrote to me when I was in college and he was interested. He wrote to my sister and my brother. He was interested in our lives, wanted to participate in our lives and be part of it. Wanted to learn what we were up to. So it's hard for me to think that he would be, that callous.
But then I can see that he maybe felt like he couldn't acknowledge at that point, he'd have to tell my father, “oh, by the way, everything I told you isn’t true.” So all I can think of is that he was, like I said he did love my dad. Like he dragged dad willingly to all the different places that he was going and working and it was a lot for my father.
Scott: And if what we've put together is actually true, back to trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together around the card. He actually did go visit her, right? Family is complicated, family is just really complicated sometimes, especially decades ago with these types of issues.
Elisa: The man you're describing sounds very warm.
Francine: Oh, he was, but then we have to acknowledge the fact that he obviously did have a child, which it's possible he thought it wasn't his child. I just, but then it doesn't jive. If he thought it wasn't his child, why would he have told a me a minister that he'd had the child? So somewhere along the lines, knew he had the child.
Elisa: And can you talk a little bit about that?
Scott: About the minister.
Francine: In the book, they talked about it, and Daddy said that he just made that up. The first person just made that up. But then my grandfather, when we looked at one of his, we're looking through his letters, right? And then he'd written to my dad and this is of course where he was sick at this point. He had cancer. And he said there's somebody I want you to talk to. If you can come out here, I want you to meet this minister. I've been talking to him and he's willing to talk to you. There's some things that he'd like to tell you that I've been able to talk to him about. So what else would it be?
Scott: Wow. Wow.
Elisa: It sounds like it was weighing on him toward the end.
Francine: I think it would've stayed with him his whole life, especially when he lost her. That was because then you can't reconcile.
Scott: Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Once it's too late, it's too late.
Elisa: So I just curious about your dad, did he also go by Stan? Because the name is Charles Stanley Gifford and then he was a junior. So Charles Stanley Gifford Jr. Did he go by Charles or did he go by Stan?
Elisa: Chuck. Okay.
Francine: Yeah, he was Chuck. That was, that was what he went by. Yes. Chuck.
Elisa: What did he do for a living in Virginia?
Francine: My father could do anything. He can build, he could do anything. He chose to work with an oil company. I wanna say distributor or whatever it would be, but he was with all the different stations, gas stations. He would sign up the new ones and then he'd go out there and check on them and make sure that everything was going smoothly and what was production and what do they need, what do they need to change? And how were their displays being? Because I remember going to those gas stations within being bored to death and playing among the displays of the tires and being admonished, not, it was myself and my and my sister. I wasn't alone and, playing with the tires and going through them, but it, they were boring to me. But the gas station.
Elisa: You much preferred your grandfather's cows.
Francine: Oh, yes. And at my grandmother's I liked looking at the goat, didn't like them like it chasing me. But the funny story of my father was that he said he would, when he'd go and he'd do presentations to the big wigs or to the people, to the men he was working with. A lot of times they were like bored with it too. And he'd say, all right, now this is how you wanna set up the tires in the display room. And he would slip in on the, cuz it was all slides, right? And you'd slip in with the slides, a picture of a scantily clad woman, he go, oh, where did that come from? And then he flipped the thing. He said, have at least about four of those in there because that perked everybody up. They paid attention, right?
Elisa: So he was person.
Francine: Oh, he was called himself shy, but no, he was a raconteur. He could tell a story. My brother would say, Dad never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. Yeah, he told great stories of childhood, and most of them involved behavior that he would not want us to be doing. Skipping school and, sneaking on the sets of Gone with the Wind.
Elisa: Oh, so there's that Hollywood childhood!
Francine: Yes. He was there. He met them all. In fact he, it was Stanley and oh, it's the one that's Oliver and Stanley the heavyset guy and then the real tall, skinny guy, goofy guy.
Scott: Laurel and Hardy.
Francine: Hardy. Okay. The clothes for the skinny one, which I guess is Laurel. Okay. My father he had extra clothes and they were the same size from my father, and he gave them to my father and my grandmother was saying, “oh, he's giving him cast off.” But my father just cherished those things that came from a real movie star. Cherished those cast off jackets and shirts, and clothes. But yeah, my grandmother was not cherishing it,
Elisa: What was your grandfather's second wife like? What was Mary like? Did you get along well with her?
Francine: That was his third wife. His second wife passed away. We loved aunt Mary. She was a school teacher, and just so wonderful. After Granddad had passed away and she had gone into assisted living, which a nursing home basically, and we went and visited her. And she, daddy went to visit her because he wanted to see her while she was still there, you know, gotten quite old and that point. And she was so happy to see dad, and so happy to see me. And she said come on in. She said and then she said all the inmates, that's what we call each other here, she said, I've been very good, very friendly, but she was in like a … it was at least one other person in the room with her. It may have been more than that. They were in bed. I guess they had limited options. And she had one nephew that she dearly loved with. She was a lovely person. Mary was just a lovely person, she was disappointed that dad wasn't able to visit more often, especially when Granddad was ill. But it's hard. That's a long trip, long flight.
And like I said dad and I took the flight for the last one, but even, like I said, just doing poorly wasn't expected to move much longer, but she was still bright and chatty and joking.
Elisa: So it sounds like the Gifford family, just in general, is just a really close-knit happy family.
Francine: For all the secrets that are with the family, you have to keep that in mind, right? You have to realize you're talking to someone that didn't find out until two years before her father passed away, that she was adopted, so yeah, that's really fun. And it, or that, and that my brother wasn't my brother of blood wise. Right? We weren't related at all blood wise but that was yes. They raised us up and mother was strong about family, which made me smile, when you think about it. But it was a good childhood. We had a, it was a very good childhood.
Elisa: And it sounds like your parents had a nice marriage.
Francine: Oh yes. They loved each other. When my mother passed away, he grieved. He grieved for her. It really scared me. It really scared me and my mother, ever the practical one, had told me, “your father needs a woman, so I picked out one in the church and he needs a woman. So when something happens to me, I do not want you to say anything about him needing another woman.”
So I didn't. He found somebody else after about a year, but that was a rough year on him. He lost a lot of weight and he would come over for dinner and then just cry.
Francine: She apparently discussed it with him and said, you need to find something else. And she pointed out different women in the church that would, she thought would be good.
Elisa: oh, wow.
Elisa: So she was thinking of him.
Francine: Yeah, yeah. She did. She loved him, and she didn't want him to pine. And she really wanted a good life for him regardless, and they traveled the world together.
Francine: So they were in Africa, they were in South Africa. They went to Australia, they went to China. They went around the world, you know, and they were, and mother was the one that was I wish I would, did have relationship with her cause I would've been inherited, perhaps her tidiness. But she was so organized, and they just, they were wonderful. They were wonderful as a couple. They were glamorous. They had a lot of parties. We always had parties at the house.
Scott: Say Francine, you made a comment a minute or two ago about somebody being adopted. Who was adopted?
Francine: I was adopted.
Scott: You were?
Francine: I was the child of a of an affair that Daddy, I say an affair. It was a … he was a young serviceman and she was a young a young woman, Um, and she, interestingly enough her name was Lillian. She went by Betty. So it's funny cuz Lillian, of course Lillian is my grandmother's name. But she went by Betty. Daddy was quite taken with her. And, but when she was expecting then, apparently he was going to marry her, but had been transferred to London. And while he was in London, he was into the photography. That's what he did. He took photographs for all of the events cuz he loved photography.
So they used him for any kind of a special event they had. They pulled him in there to take all the pictures of it. And there was a, they were encouraging in London, they were encouraging the to do, to open their homes up to, and have some of these servicemen over for tea, just to be nice. The courtesy type thing. I'm assuming that was on England's part doing it, and they were encouraged to do it. So my grandmother invited them and they came, and my father came and of course my grandmother being a wise woman, this was Granny Callender, made sure that her daughter was nowhere around, her single daughter. And my father taking the pictures, glanced down and saw a picture of my mother and took a picture of her. And then he came back, he had it blown up and came back and my mother answered the door.
This is a week or two later. My, my mother answered the door, and that's how he met her. And she was dating somebody else at the time, but Daddy swept her off her feet.
Francine: And he was just crazy about her.
Elisa: So you were on the way when he met Joan, the woman you called your mother.
Elisa: But he got custody of you.
Francine: What happened is that she did have me and they knew, “it was my child” because Granddad had webbed toes, and I had the same webbed toes. So when I was born, Daddy knew I was his child.
Scott: Oh boy.
Francine: And no question about it. And I was always questioning if Marilyn had we toes, but apparently she didn't,
Elisa: I don't think so. No.
Francine: Yeah. Yeah. She didn't. So anyway, so yeah, and so she met somebody else, Betty met someone else and then came to my father and said, “I've met someone else. I'm going to marry him. He is Catholic, so I cannot bring the child with me. I can give her to my sister, if you don't want her.”
And my father talked to my mother and Mother said, “no, bring my baby home.” Cuz mother had lost a baby girl in her first marriage. She'd lost a baby girl. And then Tim, my brother was the second child of that marriage, but they were broken up at that point.
Scott: Wow. So basically your birth mother gave you up to your birth father.
Scott: Francine, you need to write a book.
Elisa: You do.
Francine: I know. It's all love stories though. The people cared about each other and but here I was thinking we had such a boring family, like I said, everybody else fighting families and no idea of all the secrets that were in the family.
Elisa: But what an amazing thing that Joan took you in and raised her as your own, and you felt loved and cared for, to the point that you thought you had a boring family.
Francine: Everybody else had exciting families. My mother was always saying, stressing, “This is blood. You stay together. It's important. And we stay together. We keep up with each other.” Tim works in the office above me in the real estate division. I'm in the insurance, all family business.
Scott: All in the family.
Francine: Yeah. My niece is involved with property management, so yeah, we're all there.
Scott: Francine, could you just tell us about your impressions of Marilyn today and her stardom and her long lasting, legendary status in the world today. She's bigger today than she was even when she was alive, Which is saying something. What do you think about all that?
Francine: I wish I had inherited more of her. But, however, I'm fascinated with the fact that she had such, cuz she married very young.
Francine: And I'm fascinated that she had enough gumption to move on and I, I guess in a way that beauty really helped her. Of course people took advantage of her, I'm quite sure along the way, but she I think she had a strong sense of self.
I think there's a lot of sadness that she certainly experienced and it would've been sadness to have a father that she wasn't even sure it was her father. It's sad that there was apparently, I don't know what the mental illness was with the mother, but her mother, but apparently it was it could have been something that could have easily been resolved with today's medication. It might have been bipolar, I'm not sure. Depression,
Elisa: It was schizophrenia.
Francine: That was rough. That's a hard one.
Elisa: Yeah. They could treat now; they couldn't back then.
Francine: Yes, that's true. It would be locked away. That's really frightening. But even then, she reached out to her mother, so I have a lot of respect for her. She cared about family,
Scott: And she took care of her mother.
Francine: Yeah, and her mother certainly didn't seem to be caring for her, I guess because of the illness.
Scott: Yeah. It even though Marilyn didn't really have a strong relationship with her mother and there was a period of time where they didn't even talk at all. She still made sure that her mother was taken care of in her will. Francine, what's it like when you're in the grocery store and you see a magazine cover with Marilyn on it, or you're watching television and Marilyn on the news or something like that?
Francine: I'm always pleased. I always enjoy it we have a wonderful theater here, the Aero Theater, and they do older movies, and of course they did. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And they had people up there talking, and describing what was going on and who were the actresses and what happened.
And Marilyn was making just minimum wage then, cause she was contract and the other actress was making just this fabulous money, there were things about her, I just learn, and I guess like when you're going through and finding like the cards from the Red Rock Dairy Farm, from Granddad and then it's just I find myself hungry to learn more about her, so yes, I see something that I wanna pick it up and read it.
Elisa: Do enjoy her films?
Francine: I do. even for as corny as they, they are, right?
Elisa: Well, it was the 1950s. (laughs)
Francine: But yeah, I enjoy her films. I enjoy her. I like seeing her.
Scott: Francine, how has your life changed since it's been proven definitively thanks to you that you are Marilyn Monroe niece.
Francine: I would say that it really hasn't changed. It was a flurry. I did an interview, and so I had my 15 minutes of fame. And so no, it hasn't changed anything other than the fact that the family tree is a, little larger.
Elisa: It has another branch.
Francine: Yes. Yeah, there's the branch. We always knew that. We always knew.
Elisa: Francine, Scott and I have talked to each other on a personal level about what an amazing gift you gave to Marilyn and to Gladys by agreeing to have your DNA tested because, a lot of people have made money over the years claiming terrible things about Gladys and the type of woman she was. And no one really knew who Marilyn's father was. And Gladys was sleeping around and that was tough on Marilyn. And Marilyn always said, “Stan Gifford is my father.” Gladys never wavered. She always said, “Stan Gifford is the father of my child.” And even Gladys's best friend, who was her roommate at the time, confirmed Stan was the guy who Gladys was going out with at the time.
And you have put that all to rest. You've given them a tremendous gift. And now that I've talked to you, I have to say I think you've given your grandfather a tremendous gift because you're humanizing him. We're seeing his point of view, and we understand him a little better. So I just wanna thank you on a personal level for not only doing the DNA testing, but for coming on our podcast and just talking about him and letting everyone get to know the family and getting to know him better.
Francine: Yeah, he was certainly flawed, and that had to been a terrible thing to have followed him all his life to where he was trying to get it resolved at the end. So for that I feel bad for him. Plus he missed a relationship, you know?
But yeah, he was a very good man; he was a very good man that did a very bad thing. A very sad thing.
Elisa: And he was not the only man at that era who did something like that, by the way.
Francine: No, but he certainly, it certainly just from the way, like I said, from his letters, that it was certainly weighing heavy on him. And it, it's interesting that it would weigh heavy on him all those years. All those years. And he wanted to let my father know, he wanted him to know the troops,
Scott: Yeah. Wow. Francine, this has been unbelievable. Just incredible. I cannot wait to share this podcast with all of our followers. You may have another 15 minutes of fame, so just be prepared for that.
Elisa: When people hear this please do not bother Francine. Please leave her in peace. I do wanna let everyone know because I think this is a funny story. This is our second attempt at an interview. We tried to do this interview a couple of weeks ago and we were hit with some very unexpected and very weird technical difficulties, and we had to reschedule. And I remember telling Scott when we were in the midst of all this, my God, I hope this isn't Stan. Yeah, and that night I thought I don't know if he's listening, but just in case I'm gonna talk to him. So that night when I went to bed, I was saying, “Stan, we just wanna get to know you. This is a no judgment zone. We wanna find out about you. Please allow this interview to happen, and I promise you, we will present you as honestly and as fairly as possible.” So I hope we've done that, Francine, I hope we've made you and your family proud.
Francine: Yes. Yes. I appreciated it. I appreciate it because like I said, he was a good man, but he certainly had flaws.
Scott: Yeah. We just wanted to get a chance to hear from you and learn more about your father and your grandfather and the family, and what this has all been like. It's been fascinating to hear your stories and thank you so much for taking time to meet with us and to share your story with us, and also with all of our followers.
Francine: Sounds great. Appreciate talking with you.
Scott: Okay. Bye. Wow., that was fantastic.
Elisa: Oh my gosh. That was such an amazing conversation and I feel like my whole perception of the situation has changed in a way, or opened up. I don't know. I just feel better about it. I realize it doesn't change the fact that Marilyn didn't have the relationship with her father that she wanted, but seeing his side of it and seeing things as he just didn't wanna lose his kids, and that's what he was motivated by, does help soften it quite a bit. And to know that he was a good father to his children, he was a good grandfather, and really went out of his way to be a good person later in life. And the fact that he was affected by this pretty profoundly, it makes me sad for him, but it also humanizes him.
Scott: It sure does. And what a story really. What a story. As far as I know, this is the very first time anyone has had any kind of an in-depth conversation like this with a member of the Gifford family? This is incredible. I don't know about you, but I got goosebumps several times.
Elisa: I have goosebumps . My body temperature is just sky high because I'm sweating in a weird way. Just like I feel like we know Marilyn a little bit better now and know the family story better. And just talking about the relationship that Gladys and Stan had and seeing it wasn't an ideal relationship, but they did care about each other. They did love each other and, again, Marilyn didn't have the relationship that she may have wanted, but she was born out of love.
Scott: She was, it's always been presented as a fling. Just a quick fling. But it sounds like there was deep emotion, connection and bonding there.
Elisa: I feel so much better about this I'm really grateful to her for trusting us with her story.
Scott: Me too. Thank you everyone for tuning in to this episode of All Things Marilyn. Again, it is season two, episode one. We're back. We're super happy to be back. We have a whole list of guests ready to be interviewed for season two of the All Things Marilyn podcast. You follow us on Instagram at AllThingsMarilynPodcast. Also if you got any questions, comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elisa: Don't forget to rate us wherever you listen to your podcast.
Scott: Yep. A five star rating would be really helpful and appreciated.
Elisa: Thanks for joining us.
Scott: Thanks everyone for tuning in to this episode of All Things Marilyn.