The main question that comes out of the case history of Marilyn Monroe’s death is not whether she was murdered or even by whom, but how the men who ran this country in 1962 ever found time to do their jobs. They were all too busy with Marilyn Monroe.
The Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, president and attorney general respectively, were either in bed with her for hours at a time or talking dirty to her on the phone for even longer. San “Momo” Giancana – the Chicago/Vegas mob boss who, some say, really ran the country – was preoccupied with the sex icon to end all sex icons, and wiretapped her – as did Teamster leader and Kennedy-hater Jimmy Hoffa. Giancana saw her as a means to gain power over the Kennedys. He bedded her too. At one point Momo boasted to another gangster that he had one up on the Kennedys because he was the last to have sex with Marilyn before her death.
And, unsurprisingly, J. Edgar Hoover spent his time listening to recordings taken from bugs in every room in her house – or anyone else’s house or hotel where she stayed.
The Marilyn tapes, according to Hollywood private eye Fred Otash, who recorded and retained many of them, are “probably the most interesting tapes ever made – with the exception of Watergate.”
Come on. What’s on the Watergate tapes but a bunch of old lawyers cussing, smoking cigarettes, and grumbling about politics? The Marilyn tapes are said to contain lengthy recordings of America’s most glamorous movie star doing the nasty with America’s most glamorous president. And other intriguing episodes. Private investigator Milo Speriglio, who had spent thirty years on the Monroe case, says that the tape recorders were rolling right through Marilyn’s murder.
Among researchers, writers, and sleuths who claim either to have heard some of these tapes or know what’s on them – or to have just done a lot of legwork – there is a dazzling spectrum of opinions on how the former Norma Jean Baker met her demise at age thirty-six, on August 4, 1962. And at whose hands. Most of the hypotheses involve the Kennedy brothers and Giancana, with Hoover in the wings, as always, watching.
Speriglio names none other than Jack Kennedy himself, in collusion with his morally bankrupt father Joe (by that time incapacitated by a stroke that diminished his physical and mental faculties but apparently left his capacity for evil unscathed), as ordering the hit. Marilyn had become too pesky. Her constant calls to the White House and the Justice Department had become a hot gossip item for Washington insiders. And there was the omnipresent threat of a press conference at which Marilyn would blow the lid off her relationship with the Kennedy brothers, an option Marilyn was apparently considering. Not only did she jeopardize the Kennedy dynasty, but national security. In some kind of weird attempt to impress his extramarital flame, Bobby blabbed secret info about the CIA-Mafia kill-Castro plots to Marilyn Monroe, of all people. Or so the story goes. The official version is that Marilyn committed suicide by barbiturate overdose.
But even Goddess author Anthony Summers, who believes that Marilyn did not intentionally kill herself and goes no further than to “leave open” the possibility of murder, seems in his book to have been persuaded that Bobby Kennedy was at Marilyn’s bungalow the night of her death. The attorney general may have visited her on a humane “mission of mercy,” that night, Summers, perhaps wishfully, speculates.
Marilyn was extremely distraught that day, attempting to call everyone she knew in a fit of despair over her broken relationships with the Kennedy brothers. Career minded as always, they rather cruelly led her on then cut her off. In most versions of the story, Bobby initiated his relationship with Marilyn mainly to protect the president. Jack saw Marilyn as a fling. She saw him as marrying material. She harbored delusions of First Ladydom and when Jack grew bored of her, she wouldn’t let him go. In stepped Booby, who made the tragic error in falling in love with her.
Some biographers have written that Marilyn Monroe carried a Kennedy child in 1962, though whether it was supposed to be Jack’s or Bobby’s is not clear.
According to Summers’s recreation of events, Bobby Kennedy would have arrived to find Monroe already in the throes of overdose but alive. He, or an aide, called an ambulance, which was to take Marilyn to the hospital, but she died en route. When the younger Kennedy brother saw that his paramour had passed, he switched immediately into coverup mode. No matter how she dies, it would not look good for the aspiring next president to show up at a hospital towing the corpse of America’s favorite sex symbol.
The ambulance, according to Summers, turned around and returned to the bungalow. The body that wet dreams were made of was laid out on the bed, the room straightened, and a call placed to Marilyn’s confident and psychiatrist Robert Greenson. It was Greenson who, officially, discovered the decease Marilyn Monroe. By this time Bobby was safely out of L.A. maybe. A police officer named Lynn Franklin tells of pulling over a car driven by Peter Lawford sometime after midnight – hours after Marilyn died. Bobby Kennedy was in the backseat.
Unlike some other writers on the topic, Summers admits that his scenario might be “wrong in certain details, but it is a fair construction from the information now available.” He also says that, probably, “no serious crime was committed that night.” But the death of Marilyn Monroe was, in Summers’s view, Bobby Kennedy’s Chappaquidick – a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong dead woman. But Bobby got away were his younger brother Ted got caught.
In the updated edition of his book, Summers interviews an unnamed source who claims to have heard tapes of Marilyn’s final night. The tapes appear to have been edited. Bobby Kennedy, Peter Lawford, and Marilyn Monroe are on the tapes – the two ex-lovers screaming at each other while Lawford tries to calm them down. At one point, according to Summers’s informant, there are sounds of a struggle. Bobby may have pushed Marilyn onto the bed.
The tapes leave the impression, according to Summers, that Marilyn was dead when Bobby left the house after his second visit of the evening and that later there was a phone call placed to Marilyn Monroe’s home. on the tapes, someone picks up the phone, but says nothing. When Marilyn’s body was found, she clutched a phone in her hand. The implication, according to Summers, is that it was placed there – the call was intended to establish a phone record that Marilyn was alive and answering the phone at a time when she was, in fact, far too dead to chat.
Conspiracy theorists and medical examiners alike have long been bothered by the absence of pill residue in Marilyn’s stomach and the lack of any glass of water in her apartment with which she could have swallowed the massive overdoes required to kill her. And medical examiners never found any signs of injected drug either. Summers was the first to publicly postulate the one method of ingestion that would leave no trace, unless checked for. It wasn’t.
Peter Lawford, the debauched actor and Kennedy in-law who arranged Jack’s West Coast trysts, knew something about Marilyn’s death, but took his secrets to his drug-and-booze induced grave. When one of his former wives asked him if he knew how Marilyn died, he made an odd remark.
“Marilyn took her last big enema.”
The starlet “complained of chronic constipation,” Summers wrote. “Enemas relieve that complaint. Their use was also a common fad, particularly among show business people in those days, as an aid to instant weight loss.” Marilyn Monroe had been taking enemas for years.
The rectal ingestion theory is now a common one. Double Cross, written by the late Sam Giancana’s godson also named Sam Giancana, and his brother, Chuck, says that Marilyn’s killers listened to Giancana’s wiretaps as they lurked near her home, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. They overheard Bobby Kennedy and another man in the house irate at Marilyn. Finally, Bobby ordered Marilyn sedated and left. The hit men sneaked in and, as Marilyn lay in a drugged stupor, administered a lethal “suppository.”
One of the latest Marilyn books, Speriglio’s Crypt 33 (titled for the compartment where Monroe’s body was stored at the L.A. County morgue), describes how gangland superstar Johnny Roselli – a Giancana associate who is better known for his involvement in the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro and, by some accounts, JFK – showed up at Marilyn’s house to distract her (they knew each other; Roselli traveled in show biz circles) while two hit men sneaked in the back. One knocked her out with a chloroform-soaked cloth, then the other administered the killer enema. It is unclear from the rather choppily written Crypt 33 whether Speriglio bases his scenario on evidence from the actually evidence from the actual Marilyn tapes, though he seems to imply that he does. Crypt 33 includes Speriglio’s assertion that Joe and Jack Kennedy beseeched Giancana to rub Marilyn out and that the gangster, always looking for leverage with the Kennedys, happily obliged. The book revises Speriglio’s earlier theory, spelled out in The Marilyn Conspiracy. Namely, that Giancana and Hoffa, under pressure from Bobby Kennedy and aware, through wiretaps, of his affair with Monroe, set him up for scandal. Slaying his sex-queen-on-the-side was part of the plot. But the Kennedy coverup worked. Neither Bobby nor Jack suffered destruction. Until later. And then by somewhat different methods.
The coverup continues. On that point all the Marilyn writers concur. Whether she was murdered, committed suicide, or died by accidentally misjudging her capacity to tolerate downers (Summers’s preferred hypothesis), there is no question that the Kennedy brothers got involved with her in some way that grew too dangerous. In 1985, possibly for this reason, ABC killed a story on its 20/20 news magazine that independently corroborated the information in Summers’s book Goddess. The half-hour segment included information about several of Jack Kennedy’s other affairs, including liaisons with mob moll Judith Campbell Exner and suspected Nazi spy Inga Arvad.
ABC’s higher-ups were skittish and ordered the segment trimmed. Finally it was down to thirteen minutes when ABC News president Roone Arledge, a close friend of Robert Kennedy’s wife Ethel, killed it altogether. He denied that his friendship had any bearing on his decision, condemning his own reporters’ story as “sleazy.” According to Hugh Downs, one of the network’s more staid on-air personalities, the “sleazy piece” was “more carefully documented than anything any network did during Watergate.”
One biography recounts that more than a decade after Marilyn Monroe’s death, a TV actress named Veronica Hamel, later well-known on the show Hill Street Blues, purchased the house where Marilyn lived and died. During redecorating, she discovered a thicket of aged wires sticking out of the roof. The actress hired a private contractor to destroy the cables that had transmitted the sounds of Marilyn Monroe’s anguished life and eerie death to a place in history where they have never been found.