‘Marilyn’ — A friend remembers her before the pills
by Earl Wilson
New York – Marilyn?
Yes, I knew her rather well…
What I’m saying now is from the heart.
Just three years ago the other afternoon — the day it happened — I had a date with Marilyn Monroe for an interview, and I warned her press agent, “Tell Marilyn I’m not going to wait an hour for her to get dressed, as I usually do. I’m giving my wife a surprise party right afterward — and that’s important.”
Marilyn was intrigued. She came wiggling out of her bedroom at the E. 57th St. apartment without makeup — only 15 minutes late.
Charming that day, and quite funny, she produced a large, obviously expensive cabinet portrait of herself at the end of the interview. She inscribed it, “Dear Rosemary, Thanks for sharing Earl with me on your birthday.”
Marilyn held the picture to her bosom before surrendering it.
“It’s very precious,” she said. “I had only two left. I was saving them for my grandchildren, to show them that once I was pretty…”
Maybe if Marilyn had become a mother, it’d have been different. She masked her gloominess over that, and her other problems, so expertly, with jokes and false gaiety, that most of us never really saw her dark, depressed periods.
I wrote last summer that she’d sat ringside at Frank Sinatra’s opening at the Las Vegas Sands, “holding her highball glass on the railing.”
“It was not a highball glass,” Marilyn protested. “I was drinking champagne on the rocks — and it was a champagne glass!”
Marilyn was always so friendly, so bubbly, so cheerful, so cooperative, so quotable — once you got through to her. Lately we more and more heard, “Marilyn isn’t feeling very well… you know… since her operation…”
We knew about the drinking. The sleeping pills. The quick flirtations. The rumors that she’d tried to “do the Dutch” in Payne-Whitney. The mere worrisome truth that she was 36. We all said that some day she would take the sleeping pill route out, but we didn’t expect it yet.
To me it seems now so very long ago — actually only 1959 — that I was induced, on a dull Saturday, to interview a blonde starlet nobody else in New York would bother seeing.
“MMMMmmm” was already her publicity gimmick. She was supposedly a sexpot, but to me she was colorless and wooden.
Four or five years later, when she was the biggest thing in the country, I had to wait an hour or two for her to primp when I dropped around to her Hollywood house. Would she remember me?
“Oh, here’s the interview you did — the first one — I kept it in my scrapbook!” she said, all out of breath about it, when she eventually wriggled and slithered out.
She was always laughing in those days. “You have a wonderful view from here,” I remarked to Marilyn, gazing out the window at a sloping street.
“Marilyn,” remarked a photographer with us, looking her up, down and across, “has a wonderful view from anywhere.” It was a joke she enjoyed for several years.
Marilyn was using every publicity device then to get more famous… including the story that she was not “an undieworld character” — that she wore no undies, bras; that she didn’t like to be “hampered by all those ridges and things.”
I guess I printed, first, her gags: “What do you wear to bed? … Oh, just some Channel No. 5… Don’t you have anything on? … Oh, of course! The radio!”
Later in some old files of my own, I found these gags, printed some years before, attributed to others. Somebody had borrowed them for Marilyn and she’d parroted them as part of her buildup.
But “dumb”? Never!
In London, when she was making “The Prince and the Showgirl” with Sir Laurence Olivier, I saw her captivate 200 sharpshooters of the English Fourth Estate. “How would you define ‘democracy?'” some heckler asked her.
“Well,” she replied, breathily again, “how would you define it?”… with the big smile and heaved-forward chest that made 199 other reporters give her a cheer.
And Marilyn was quick to cut off “the sponges,” the phonies who were “using” her — she wasn’t nasty, but she wouldn’t speak to them. She “never went back” to somebody she’d left.
But she did go back, wholeheartedly, to one she’d left: Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn knew he was genuine, and he remained so, till the end.
I’ll probably be writing more about Marilyn for days. I’d say her torture was due to her mixed-up childhood. Robert Mitchum remembers working in a war plant with her first husband. MM was nobody then, Mitchum was nobody.
“Hey,” said the first husband, to Mitchum, “here’s a picture of my old lady. What do you think of her?”
It was a shot of a teenage bride, a brunette then, Marilyn Monroe… naked, waiting for him at the gate.
Then eventually came stupendous fame… then the sleeping pills — “those God damned pills” — to lift her into a cloud that would carry her above her troubles. Finally, it just took too many pills.