Chapter 2: Angel and Her Demons

marilyn monroe and paula strasberg misfits 1961

Chapter 2


Marilyn Monroe still has secrets to reveal.

Marilyn loved to keep secrets. They were little parts of herself, she kept just for herself and the chosen few she decided to tell. Her press agent and friend, Patricia Newcomb, was one of Marilyn’s closet confidants in the last year of her life. She would remark after MM’s death that there was no one that Marilyn told everything to. Marilyn Monroe had a fantastic ability to compartmentalize her life. Susan Strasberg, (friend and daughter of Marilyn’s beloved coach, guru, Svengali and father-figure, Lee Strasberg) explained that Marilyn had secret friends, and often one group of friends didn’t know about the other unless they met in public.

Marilyn was bi-coastal. Marilyn had homes in both New York and Los Angeles, but in her last year she was “living” in California while only occasionally “visiting” her NY apartment. This was a reversal of how she lived from the late fifties, (the last years of her marriage to Arthur Miller) until about mid 1961. In those years she knew and befriended a lot of people on the east coast. But in her last year she was much closer to a small number of friends on the west coast. The discrepancy in the reports from these two camps present a problem. It’s very difficult to form a complete and accurate reconstruction of Marilyn’s last months. We have a wealth of information from her New York friends but are confronted with a near complete wall of silence from her confidants on the left coast.

We have so much information from the Rostens, the Strasbergs, the Greenes, a housekeeper, and from Miller himself, that it’s easy to paint a picture of a troubled women, hell bent on self-destruction and destined to take her own life. I want to tell you a different story. The New York-centric view of Marilyn is bleak because it gives testimony to a bleak part of her life. Those years were dominated by disillusion and disappointment. She suffered the loss of two babies and helplessly watched the dissolution of a marriage that she had pegged all her personal hopes and dreams on. Professionally, her career was in a shambles. Her agents and the men she let run her production company were not up to the task and she still wasn’t getting offers for the roles she wanted. Her health deteriorated. She was susceptible to sinus infections. The endometriosis and the painful periods she had suffered all her adult life seemed to get worse. She sometimes found it impossible to sleep and would often awake during the night in terror. Tormented by vivid nightmares, Marilyn would identify with the artist Goya and use his graphic portrayals of war and violence to capture the horrific nature of her dreams. She would use an encyclopedia of witches and demons to point out and identify her tormentors. Heart-pounding, pulse-racing, she would suddenly awake with sweat on her brow. For a terrifying moment she would feel caught between two realities, the next moment, certain that she had just escaped death. Lying in bed after one of these nightmares seemed to be like being on the edge of an abyss, or worse, lying in the mouth of a beast who is just waiting to consume you. She would need to get out of bed and find a comfortable chair to curl up in, until the terror subsided. She became hopelessly depressed. And to get through the long, painful, unfulfilled days and the seemingly endless, tortured nights, she became more and more dependent on drugs. Drugs freely prescribed and provided by the studio doctors and the psychiatrists she also came to depend on.

But through it all she persevered. For all her seeming weakness, she was actually quite strong. There was honor in her struggle. She was always able to mount a come back. That is until…