A consensus among Marilyn researchers about topics such as her childhood, her career, her love life, her mental condition and a host of others is hard to come by. So controversy about her death is likely to never go away. (Unless, of course, her killer confesses.)
Monroe’s connection to John Kennedy and his family is only one aspect of her life that biographers disagree about. But it’s one where you find the most extreme polarities. Her relationship with JFK is either presented as “much ado about nothing” or the steamiest, most scandalous love affair of the 20th century. Rarely is there a middle ground. Someday in the future, a competent, rational historian, without a left or right wing political bias and without an agenda to either bash or defend the Kennedys, will turn their attention to writing a Marilyn biography. I feel that if that were to happen, the results of this historians findings about Marilyn’s connection to JFK, would look something like this:
– In the 1950’s, Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy crossed paths on one documented occasion. (April In Paris Ball, 1957) It’s possible the two may have both been present at party or two in Los Angeles in the early part of that decade. The actress Arlene Dahl claims to have introduced MM to JFK at a party in 1951. She tells a story that’s very unflattering to Marilyn then admits she doesn’t know if the two said much more to each other than hello. With almost certainty, there was no affair dating back to the 1950’s. The gossip columnist’s story where Marilyn makes a date with JFK on a phone from the set of The Seven Year Itch is complete fantasy.
– Details of the first time they met, with the two of them together in room, having a discussion and getting to know each other, is lost to history. It most likely happened in the spring of 1960, the same time period Monroe began a friendship with Pat Kennedy Lawford. There is a reliable witness who observed Monroe and JFK walking on the beach near the Lawford home in the months before the Democratic National Convention. JFK spent a lot of time in Los Angeles campaigning, so it’s likely he met Marilyn at that time, at a Lawford social event.
– Because it’s confirmed by Kennedy insiders and loyalists, it’s likely Monroe was present on the last day of the convention. But even this isn’t a proven fact. It’s very curious that with the abundance of press and TV coverage, and with all the photos of Pat Lawford with Frank Sinatra and his “Pack”, that there isn’t a single photo of Marilyn being present. Perhaps she didn’t make it to the convention, but arrived in town in time to go to the after party at the Lawfords. Stories of her showing up to this party escorted by Sammy Davis, Jr, have a ring of truth to them. The tales of Marilyn meeting JFK at Puccini’s are most likely garbled accounts of a future encounter or are completely fabricated. Conclusion: Marilyn and JFK’s relationship in mid 1960 was most likely social and platonic.
– For the remainder of 1960 through the fall of 1961 there appears to be no contact at all between the two. It wasn’t until September, after Marilyn returned to live in LA, strengthened a friendship with Pat Lawford and was in a relationship with Frank Sinatra, that Kennedy and Monroe crossed paths again.
– Given confirmation of witnesses within Kennedy circles, it likely Marilyn was in Washington and possibly at Hyannis Port in the fall of 1961. But she was with Frank Sinatra, and she was there as a friend of Pat, so a Monroe/JFK affair at this time seems unlikely.
– It was in Oct/Nov 1961 that the relationship between Monroe and JFK turned flirtatious. Given the reputation of the two, this seems inevitable; at least the rumors would be. The reason for the flirtation appears to be because Sinatra was pulling away from Monroe. In this time period Marilyn was seen at a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles in which JFK was present. She was also at one or two social events at the Lawford home in Santa Monica when JFK was there. A reliable Secret Service agent from Kennedy’s team remembers Marilyn being there when JFK made an impromptu swim in the ocean, where he was instantly mobbed by an adoring public. Even at this point a sexual relationship with JFK is unlikely because every time the two were together, it was in the presence of Marilyn’s close friend, Pat Lawford. That would not change until February 1962. Of note here, JFK living up to his reputation as a millionaire playboy surely by now must be considered a historical certainty. On the other hand, while she was no virginal saint, Monroe’s sexually promiscuity has been grossly exaggerated.
– If Monroe and Kennedy had an affair that went beyond a one night fling at Bing Crosby’s, it likely started in February 1962 at the Fifi Fell party and continued sporadically until it ended at Crosby’s. There’s reliable evidence that the affair upset Jackie Kennedy much more than JFK’s other trysts. She even left the country and threatened to divorce JFK if he continued the affair. It’s very likely the Palm Springs weekend was JFK’s opportunity to tell MM it was over. Their “affair” may have been more than once, but couldn’t have been much more than a few isolated occurrences. This number accounts for the rumors of meetings at the Carlyle hotel in NY and the Fontainebleau in Miami (both highly questionable). Whatever the extent of this “affair,” it doesn’t appear to have meant that much to either one of them. Marilyn wasn’t stupid, it’s highly doubtful she could have ever been so delusional that she actually believed either Kennedy brother would divorce their wife and marry her. That said, it does appear she revealed her and JFK’s intimacy to a few close friends, and it’s likely she was hurt by an off hand comment by JFK about her “not being first lady material.” Like all Kennedy affairs it probably meant more to his handlers (including RFK) who had to keep his extramarital excursions secret.
– By April 1962, the Marilyn/JFK fling would be over. The two would meet one more time (platonically) at the presidents birthday gala.
So there you have it. I think that would be the competent, rational historians conclusions. And then there’s my version. While you might find the “twist” of my story questionable, and probably even unbelievable, I’ll still ask you to consider it possible. What I hope you take away from the Last Love story is that the most significant relationship Marilyn had with a Kennedy was with Patricia Kennedy Lawford. But was that relationship sexual?
It really shouldn’t matter. Believe it or not, I find the whole matter distasteful. Not because of any condemnation on my part, I’m a strong defender of “love is love,” I find it distasteful because it shouldn’t matter. A person’s sex life should be a private matter. For many people, their sexuality isn’t something that’s easily definable. Sexuality is often fluid and doesn’t conform to labels. If I didn’t think it was relevant to her death I wouldn’t bring it up at all. But it is not only relevant, I believe it’s crucial to sort out the lesbian rumors before we can make a determination of how and why Marilyn died. That said, we can now turn to the next “key.”