Chapter 8: The Kennedy Affair: A New Wrinkle

Chapter 8

THE KENNEDY AFFAIR: A NEW WRINKLE

The next time she saw Pat, Marilyn was a little nervous. Marilyn decided on a surprise visit to Pat’s home where she found her on the beach with friends. Marilyn dressed in orange and black, sported cat-eye glasses, and carried a bag with a small stuffed animal tiger to give Pat as a gift. Marilyn was sure Pat would get the inside joke. She dressed in honor of Frank, because he had in more ways than one, brought them together. Orange and black were favorites of Frank’s and Sinatra loved to dress in those colors. Ever since the three of them had spent the night together, Marilyn and Pat shared a secret pet name for Frankie. When the two were alone together they would call him Tiger. They would giggle about how the phrase “Put a tiger in your tank” took on a whole new meaning.

Pat was surprised to see Marilyn, so things got awkward quickly. Neither was sure how to act in front of other people, so Marilyn made up the excuse that she was there for the president’s phone number. It was a partial truth because Marilyn did want to smooth things over with Jack after the Crosby weekend. JFK had left early Sunday morning, so the last she saw of him was when she left the pool. About two months after their “swim,” and just days after the birthday gala, Marilyn would decide to have a little fun teasing the president about what he had missed out on at Crosby’s. She posed nude, in and out of the pool, on the set of the movie she was filming, Somethings Got To Give. She would make sure the photos made the covers of magazines on newsstands around the world. No one could miss it, not even the president. That it knocked Liz Taylor off the covers was just an added bonus.

With Jack squarely in her rear view mirror, the view forward was foggy. How to proceed would be a problem that would vex both women, right until the moment Marilyn died, which would now be only a few months away. At first both agreed to tell no one about what had happened. It seemed the best for everyone. Marilyn especially needed time to come to terms with it and she was the first to break their pact by telling her psychiatrist. At least she told him in her own way. Knowing Dr. Greenson would disapprove she had to talk around it. She told him her feelings for women were starting to surface, asked how to cope with it, things like that. She told him how tremendous the fear was that she would be exposed and how the information becoming public might ruin her career. She was vague and not at all specific in what she initially told Greenson. But then she finally confided to Greenson that she had followed through on her feelings. She never said a word about Pat to the doctor. Instead she told him about a situation she put herself in with another young actress, one that hadn’t worked out well.

Then one day Marilyn, while having lunch with Pat, let the cat out of the bag about telling Greenson. She wanted to explain that she never told her doctor any details, but she couldn’t because they were at a lunch date that included a last minute addition of one of Pat’s friends. Pat got defensive because she feared Marilyn had disclosed too much to Greenson. Upset, crying and unable to explain, Marilyn got up and made a hasty exit, hoping that Pat wasn’t angry with her.

Pat wasn’t as angry as she was concerned. It had to be difficult for her too. She had told Marilyn that she was closer to her sisters Eunice and Jean than to anyone else in the world, and she didn’t think she could even tell them what had happened at Crosby’s. If you want to gauge how the family would have reacted in 1962 think about how things still are today in 2017. Are there any Kennedy’s today that live an openly gay lifestyle without fear of being cut off by the family? You would think that with the dozens of nieces and nephews of Ethel Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith there might be at least one.

Peter probably knew, without ever having been told. His and Pat’s marriage had basically been for show now for many years. All Pat demanded was a modicum of discretion. Peter was aware, and apparently alright with Marilyn spending more and more evenings with Pat at the Lawford home. When the oldest Lawford child began to notice how affectionate his mother was with Marilyn, he was told that she was “like a little sister” to Mommy.

Jack was the only person in the Kennedy family Pat could confide in. She knew she could trust him. He was the only one in the family that wouldn’t judge her harshly. Many years earlier, when Pat’s older sister Kick had fallen in love with a married man, ten years older and, heaven forbid, a Protestant, Jack was the first in the family she told. He supported his sister when the man divorced and the two decided to marry. Shortly after, Kick tragically died. It was Jack (and Kick’s example) that gave Pat the resolve to marry Peter, a man also outside the Catholic faith, who agreed to raise their children in the church. Jack was supportive then. But could Jack accept this? He did, but he also counseled what she already knew. It could never become public knowledge and keeping what had happened under wraps would be difficult but it would be of the utmost importance. With a wink he tried to lighten the situation and added, “At least until after the next election.”

Pat didn’t want anyone else, especially Bobby to know. At least not at first, probably never. Pat knew that for Bobby, Eunice and her mother, it would be a toss up as to whether a lesbian affair would be more detrimental to the family name or to Pat’s immortal soul. Papa Joe could never be told. Marilyn had heard the rumors about Pat’s sister Rosemary, so she knew that Pat’s parents could never find out.

Marilyn felt that Bobby would be key to any future she hoped to have with Pat. After their argument in New York, Marilyn was determined to have Bobby “like” her. Even after all that Frank had done during the election, she saw how Bobby just cut him off cold. It was brutal and she didn’t want the same thing to happen to her. After she was fired from 20th Century Fox, she sought his help and advice. She also wanted to discuss the strange way the MCA case was playing out. Marilyn was worried about backlash from the Screen Actors Guild and from fellow actors if her role in the case ever became public. She had every reason to be worried. The men who ran MCA were heavily connected, not only in the southern California political scene, but also by the mob connected lawyers they hired. There was more going on behind the scenes than anyone has ever realized.

By the end of 1961 both Kennedy brothers became aware of the bugs that had been in the Lawford home. They went to great lengths to make the “Western White House” safe and warn all family members to be careful in conversations and NEVER assume any phone conversation to be secure. Because of the added scrutiny the eavesdroppers had to find alternative methods of getting new information.

By the end of June of 1962 the rumors about Marilyn and JFK had subsided, but new ones concerning Bobby were beginning to spread. The MCA case would provide kindling for these rumors and by the end of July these smoldering embers had turned into a raging wildfire. Decades after the fact when people began to “remember” an affair between MM and RFK, what they are actually remembering are these rumors.

It’s claimed Marilyn herself is responsible for some of these rumors and that may be true for a couple of reasons. First, she was still in contact with Bobby for reasons already stated; her firing, the MCA case, and now also the trouble RFK was facing getting his movie made. She still felt she had to be “clandestine” in her conversations with Bobby, so she sometimes characterized those meetings as a “date.” Second, I’d like you to consider that something else might be going on here. Marilyn wanted to be playful, plus, at times she could wear her heart on her sleeve. She lived from a place where only feelings are real, so she may have wanted at times to share a piece of herself with those around her. She loved Pat and wanted the world to know, but that was impossible. She wanted to be part of the family, yet knew it had to remain secret. So I’m suggesting that, what is happening here, is a playful yet secret way of disclosing the truth. Something along the lines of: Marilyn teases, “I’m seeing a Kennedy!” Stunned bystander says, “The President?” Marilyn winks and says, “No, the other one.” It’s the assumptions that the other one is Bobby is what’s being repeated.

So in the summer of ’62, all of Hollywood had heard the rumors of Marilyn and Bobby, including many who wanted to use that information to get Bobby off their backs. Somebody in that large group of people, put a wire on Marilyn’s phone. They were quickly disappointed about an affair but at the same time they were presented with an opportunity. They lucked out when RFK made plans to visit Marilyn’s home. In an effort to get on Bobby’s good side, and show how stable and independent she was, Marilyn invited him to see the home she had bought that year and was in the process of fixing up and decorating. With no affair to work with, and in an effort to make something from nothing, a plan was hatched by our nefarious eavesdroppers and evildoers. A photo of Marilyn and Bobby at her home might prove useful. They had no idea how lucky they would get.

Marilyn had a small house but it had a pool, patio and a large backyard. Beyond the pool and patio the yard stretched backward ending in a group of trees and a fence shared by the neighbors backyards. It was remote enough that with access from the neighbors yard it made a great vantage point from which to photograph the back of Marilyn’s house. Conveniently given the date and time of his arrival from a phone call Marilyn made to Washington to confirm Bobby’s visit, a photographer was in place when RFK, driven by the Lawfords, arrived at Marilyn’s home. The Lawfords stayed in the house while Marilyn gave Bobby a tour. As fate would have it she led him out to the patio hand in hand.

Was a photo taken? Was the photo used as leverage to get Bobby to back off from his relentless pursuit of the criminal underworld? If that was the plan it completely backfired. Bobby dug in his heels and decided to fight back. He had enough trouble keeping his brothers real affairs secret, he wasn’t going to back off because of a fake one. He doubled down on his efforts to expose the evil he felt was overtaking America. The script for his movie was nearing completion and the search for actors had begun. And as for MCA, the case took a monumental turn.

RFK had a bulldog named Leonard Posner as the chief investigator in the MCA case. Like many in the Justice Department he wanted to see MCA prosecuted for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. In mid July 1962, RFK decided to unleash the hound. On July 13, RFK sent a shock wave through LA by charging MCA with violating antitrust laws. The government placed a restraining order on MCA and wouldn’t allow it to sell off it’s talent agency. Plus they threatened to block MCA’s takeover of Decca Records which owned Universal Studios.

It was feared criminal charges against MCA and the Screen Actors Guild would have been disastrous for Hollywood. Many in Hollywood decided to back MCA and denounce the government’s actions. There was a widespread fear that TV and movie production would move elsewhere. Marilyn feared she would become essentially “blacklisted,” or worse, if her participation in the case became public. Suddenly the rumors about her and Bobby weren’t funny anymore. People were starting to assume Bobby was doing this for Marilyn because of the split she had with MCA. She wanted answers and Bobby was backing away and ducking her calls. She heard that Sidney Korshak (reported mob lawyer with connections to the Chicago syndicate and MCA) was involved. She set up a meeting with Korshak to find out what was going on.

Frank had returned from an oversees tour in June, and Marilyn now turned to him for advice and protection. When Frank had found out about the Marilyn and Pat weekend at Crosby’s he left the country. At least that’s how it seemed to Marilyn. For a guy who supposedly didn’t like to travel he sure went on a lot of world tours. This time he’d been gone from April well into June. Back in February, her publicist’s idea to get Frank jealous by suggesting Marilyn date an ex-bullfighter in Mexico had been a dismal failure. (Maybe by design because her publicist didn’t want Marilyn with Frank.) Frank did not come running as he had with Ava eight years earlier, when she starting seeing a bullfighter in Spain.

Neither Pat Lawford nor Marilyn had seen much of Frank for many months but when he did get back it turned out that he was more supportive than anyone. He was genuinely fond of Pat and the feeling was reciprocated. He knew how close the two had become. He was, after all, there that evening in late 1960 when the three of them spent the evening together and took the midnight flight over New York. Marilyn called that evening her “fling on a wing.” Something she had never tried before.

Pat and Marilyn provided the lift for the flight as they coaxed Frankie’s fuselage to fly skyward. Then the women settled in to enjoy the view and the ride. Flight Frankie was mostly about him that night but everyone did reach their destination, happy and content. It never happened again, but Frank had definitely noticed how the two touched and looked at each other, and how their relationship would cool immediately afterward, (maybe because of shock, surprise, confusion or concern) then really deepen a few months later.

Frank was happy when Marilyn finally told him, although he doubted Pat would ever tell anyone about what happened. He knew it couldn’t ever become anything serious, but he saw how happy she was and couldn’t burst her bubble. He even joked he was okay with being Marilyn’s beard, and then in all seriousness, asked her to marry him. He knew that no one would ever mess with her if she was Mrs. Frank Sinatra. They wouldn’t dare say a word. Marilyn seriously considered his offer. It had actually been one of the plans Pat and Marilyn had considered. That night at Crosby’s they talked of how Pat would stay married to Peter. Marilyn would marry a willing partner to the arrangement, then they could live in close enough proximity to maintain the relationship. Marilyn dreamed of other plans as well.

Marilyn knew of Pat’s ambitions when she came out of college. Pat wanted to be a producer. She had come to Hollywood with that intent but soon encountered the glass wall. It was a male dominated profession. Marilyn thought she could change that by having Pat run Marilyn Monroe Productions, with Pat not only producing, but some day directing Marilyn’s movies as well. She was already making concrete steps in that direction with Frank Sinatra and with the Lawford owned production company Chrislaw. Marilyn was talking with Frank about many projects. One was going to be an Ocean’s 11 type caper on a train.

Marilyn was planning a future that she was eager to get to. Frank was happy to help. Frank even offered his Cal-Neva lodge for her and Pat to get away to. He promised that no one would ever bother them there and contrary to some rumors about rooms in the lodge, the cabin would not have cameras or listening devices. It turned out it was a promise he couldn’t keep. A photo was taken at Cal-Neva that would change the lives of nearly everyone mentioned in this story so far.