WEIRDLAND: Passion and Paradox: Marilyn & Jerry Lewis

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Passion and Paradox: Marilyn & Jerry Lewis

Joshua Greene, whose father Milton Greene shot about 3,900 pictures of Marilyn Monroe between 1953 and 1957, has turned restoring and preserving those images into a career, with a new book set to hit shelves October 16 that he says will be the "last hurrah." Greene has a seemingly endless photo archive—Unfortunately, many photos deteriorated considerably. With The Essential Marilyn Monroe by Milton H. Greene: 50 Sessions, Joshua believes he has assembled a definitive collection that represents his father’s collaboration and friendship with the iconic star. The Essential Marilyn Monroe features images, ranging from candids and studio sessions to on-set photography while Monroe was filming 1956’s Bus Stop and 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Of the book’s 284 images, 160 are never before seen.” Source:

Marilyn Monroe often wondered if she was “frigid” or “lesbian.” These issues bothered her even more as she became older and achieved success as the world’s great heterosexual sex queen, and yet was attracted to women. In the 1950s, federal and state governments passed laws identifying homosexuals and lesbians as dangerous perverts. Given such attitudes, Norma Jeane sometimes felt like an “anomaly” because she didn’t respond to men. At times she didn’t feel human; sometimes, she said, she wanted to die because of her same-sex desire. She described these feelings in My Story (written at the height of her fame for a series of magazine articles in the mid-50’s with the help of Ben Hecht). By Christmas 1941, Norma Jeane’s sex appeal became an issue, as the numbers of servicemen in Los Angeles soared with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Her first husband, Jim Dougherty, relished the role of being her savior, of taking this sweet “love child” under his protection. He was not the last man to cast himself in the role of Norma Jeane’s protector—Jim honestly loved her for her loving spirit, her beauty, her kindness and grace. The wedding occurred on June 19, 1942, three weeks after Norma Jeane’s sixteenth birthday, when she attained the legal age of sexual consent. A traditional man, Jim didn’t want Marilyn to work outside the home.

Marilyn stated that she hadn’t liked their sexual routine: “The first effect marriage had on me was to increase my lack of interest in sex. My husband either didn’t mind this or wasn’t aware of it.” But, she continued, they were too young to discuss such an embarrassing topic. According to Elia Kazan, Marilyn told him that she hadn’t enjoyed sex with Jim, except when he had kissed her breasts. In 1953 Marilyn was earning $750 weekly salary at Twentieth Century Fox. On February 9, 1953, Marilyn arranged for her mother Gladys to be transferred to Rockhaven Sanitarium. The day before, on February 8, 1953, she had attended The Crystal Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel to receive the Photoplay’s award. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky gripped Marilyn’s elbow, steering her inside. As she came through the door, Jerry Lewis, the master of ceremonies, spotted her from the stage and jumped on a table, shrieking “Whoooo!” That triggered the crowd. Laughter, whistles, cheers and jeers filled The Crystal Room.

Marilyn probably derived some of her free-love ideas from the photographers Andre de Dienes, Laszlo Willinger, and Bruno Bernard. Bernard wrote, “The artist’s fascination with the female figure is rooted not in simple allure but in the aesthetic satisfaction he gets during the quest for beauty.” She followed their free-love doctrines when she stated that sex was the key to life and that all aesthetic endeavors came from it—literature, art, music, poetry. Her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, gave her gifts all the time, including a full-length black mink coat at Christmas 1953, which she treasured. Marilyn always said that Joe was a wonderful lover. She called him her 'slugger' (“well hung”) and said that he could hit the ball out of the park. If sex was all there was to a marriage, she and Joe would be married forever. Her third husband, Arthur Miller, remembered Marilyn experiencing extreme manic-depressive cycles in her mood: “She meant to live at the peak always; in the permanent rush of a crescendo.” When the wave receded, she would turn against herself and then she couldn’t sleep.

However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker before her name was changed. According to Shelley Winters, sometimes Marilyn took a Percodan for menstrual pain, washing it down with several shots of vodka. Percodan, an opiate, had been developed in the early 1950s. In addition to lessening pain, it can produce euphoria. It is also highly addictive. By 1947 some 1,500 variants of barbiturates had been developed: Nembutal, Seconal, and Amytal were among the best known. By 1952 Marilyn was using prescription drugs, especially the barbiturates Nembutal and Seconal for anxiety and insomnia, and amphetamines for energy. In December 1961 Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Greenson called her a 'borderline paranoid schizophrenic' in a letter to Anna Freud. Judging from his treatment Greenson had difficulty pinning Marilyn down under one category. On one occasion when he was trying to persuade her to give up drugs, Greenson told her that it was either “Mr. Nembutal or me.”

Female “dumb-blonde” comics also influenced Marilyn. Anita Loos combined “Dumb Dora” with the blonde to create the classic “dumb blonde” in her 1925 novella Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Dark-haired and witty, Anita Loos participated in intellectual New York circles, but she also was friends with Broadway chorus girls. Loos was inspired to write the book after watching a sexy blonde turn intellectual H. L. Mencken into a lovestruck schoolboy. In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Loos positioned her chorus girls—Lorelei Lee and Dorothy—in the guise of the traditional fool, a historical character to be found in Shakespeare’s plays, who was wise under a mask of stupidity. Loos also made fun of the myth that the chorus girls were “gold diggers” who fleeced men. Loos emphasized that those men deserved what they got.

Marie Wilson, best remembered as the title character in My Friend Irma (1949) with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, inspired partially Marilyn's onscreen persona. Mae West and the fast-talking dames dominated female style in films in the 1930s, but the dumb blonde still existed, represented especially by Marie Wilson. Wilson isn’t well known today, but she was very popular from the 1930s through the 1950s. She had a childlike look, a fey personality, and a zany intellectualism, as she quoted from books and got them mixed up. She was a hit as the dumb blonde in Ken Murray’s Blackouts, a variety revue, in the 1940s. Marilyn Monroe borrowed directly from Marie Wilson. The difference lies in three features. Wilson had a typical tinny “dumb-blonde voice—high-pitched, nasal, slightly harsh.”

Marilyn talked softly, with childlike inflections. When Marilyn turned herself into an outrĂ© dumb blonde, with hip-swinging walk, puckered mouth, half-lidded eyes, childlike voice, and skin-tight dresses, she parodied herself. None of Marilyn’s imitators—neither Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, nor Sheree North—matched the subtlety of her parody of sensuous femininity. Eve Arnold called her “a practitioner of camp.” Marilyn Monroe combined the “high arts” of photography, drama, and literature with the “low arts” of burlesque, striptease, and the pinup. She moved among them, dividing and uniting them to create varying looks, personas, and meanings. —"Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox" (2012) by Lois Banner

Stella Stevens was the 1960s’s sexy blond bombshell par excellence, a voluptuous young woman with an adorable air that heightened her allure. Jerry Lewis was absolutely bowled over by her. Three weeks into the production of The Nutty Professor, he stayed late at the office to write what could only be described as a love note to her. “I was completely inspired last night,” he assured her. “You are the reason men can’t live without the pride and thrill of direction. Perhaps one day you too will know the feeling.” Jerry must have realized how far overboard he’d fallen, admitting that his favorite Buddy Love moment was the cliff scene when he tells Stella Purdy "Here y'are, baby. Take this, wipe the lipstick off, slide over here next to me, and let's get started." Allegedly, Jerry had affairs with sizzling Stella Stevens, 'girl next door' Gloria DeHaven and bombshell Jeanne Carmen.

Patti Palmer (married October 3, 1944—divorced September 1980) was Jerry Lewis' first wife. Jerry had fallen in love previously with Lily Ann Carol in 1943 after meeting her at the Central Theatre in Passaic, but he was just a virginal kid to her. Jerry was still thinking of Lily Ann when he met Patti Palmer (born Esther Calonico) at the Downtown Theatre in Detroit in August 1944. Patti was a diminutive, dark-haired doll beauty. From the first glimpse of her ankle, he was hers. Jerry was a 60 dollars a week intermission act and Patti was Ted Fio Rito Orchestra's singer. When the engagement in Detroit came to an end Jerry had proposed to Patti and was pursuing her with letters and gifts. At eighteen, Jerry Lewis felt he had to marry each girl who smiled at him. Unlike Lily Ann, Patti fell in love with him. Patti quit the Jimmy Dorsey band and would never work again: “Jerry had to support me,” she explained, “because I believe in a one-career marriage.”

SanDee Pitnick (married February 13, 1983—until his death): Jerry had auditioned a hundred dancers to pull off a parody of Saturday Night Fever in a fantasy sequence of Hardly Working. Among the auditioners was Sandra (or SanDee) Pitnick, a divorced, twenty-nine-year-old dancer originally from North Carolina. Not only did SanDee get the part, but she got a dinner invitation from Jerry. “I didn’t know she was turning me on,” Jerry said later. “I just wanted someone to have dinner with. I fell in love with her pins (legs).” SanDee recalled: “One of the most precious things he ever gave me came within the first week, when I confronted him, ‘Wait a minute! What are your motives? What do you see in me?’ He said, ‘If I can just be your friend and give you self-confidence, I want to try to do that.’” Whether she was simply starstruck or he had really told her something truthful about herself, it worked. Jerry had danced in Living It Up like an amphetamine-riddled chimp with Sheree North. But in Hardly Working his reflexes and agility are gone. Jerry and SanDee dance very closely together—Jerry doesn’t even try to make a joke of the scene.

In 1982 Jerry and SanDee were openly living in a condominium at the Las Vegas Country Club. One week before The King of Comedy’s nationwide opening, Jerry and SanDee flew to the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Key Biscayne to be married. “There wasn’t another marriage in my life,” he said. “The first was so long ago. I felt like a young stud starting out all over again.” Indeed, the wedding in Key Biscayne rather echoed his secret elopement to Connecticut with Patti Palmer. His father Danny was gone, his mother Rae was sick at home in Las Vegas, and none of his six sons were present. Jerry had, in fact, failed to reconcile with most of the boys since the divorce and focused on his new family. The mention of his wife in interviews led him to lyrical speeches on love. In his last years, Jerry would credit SanDee and their adopted daughter Danielle with keeping him alive and happy.

The traditional Dean Martin character may have been a small-time conniver, a cad with the ladies, a singer, and an occasional tippler, but he didn’t do any of it with the headstrong purposefulness of Buddy Love. While Jerry Lewis opens and closes Dean & Me with heartfelt admiration, Dean Martin’s character suffers the death of a thousand condescensions. Even as Lewis starts by recalling their last performance together in 1956 at New York’s Copacabana, for example, he muses that while “truth was my greatest ally, Dean could lie if it would spare someone’s feelings. I had difficulty with that.” And from the beginning, it’s the older Martin (in a “big brother” role that Lewis conjures) introducing the kid to hard liquor and other women. Jerry eventually confesses they hooked up with MGM peaches-’n’-cream married actresses June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven in what is described as an extended Manhattan shack-up. In his review of Dean & Me Lawrence J Quirk writes: “the biggest question of all: Why on earth did Gloria DeHaven bother to sleep with Jerry Lewis when she was married to handsome hunk John Payne at the time?” Probably Lewis was a better lover than his clueless onscreen persona would suggest. Never a 'ladies man' as Martin or Sinatra, however Lewis had a very appealing style when not 'on character.' Martin’s consistent insensitivities and ingratitude ended up annoying Lewis. Martin played golf while Lewis dealt with rehearsals, and at one point was a no-show at a charity commitment. Lewis blew up and initiated the split.

On March 5, 1965, Jerry took time off from The Family Jewels to drive up to Burbank for a taping of “The Andy Williams Show.” Jerry came on stage and he slipped in a puddle of water, landing on the base of his skull. In terrific pain, he wrapped up his number—people must have taken it for just another Jerry Lewis pratfall. “I finished the last three minutes of that show unconscious,” he told Hedda Hopper. “I don’t remember anything for about forty minutes after the show, when I woke up in the hospital.” He had suffered a serious injury; radiologists at Mount Sinai Hospital detected a “fine linear skull fracture.” Jerry had another severe accident fifteen days later, on March 20, 1965, while taking a pratfall off a piano during his closing show at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. The pain was horrendous, almost paralyzing, and it wouldn’t stop. The doctors fitted him with a metal neck brace and prescribed codeine and Emprin to relieve his pain. It’s plausible that Jerry damaged his spinal column as well as his skull when he first fell in Burbank. He sought help from neurologists and orthopedists, but the prognosis was always pessimistic: A knot of fibrous tissue had developed along the nerves where his spinal column had cracked. Not even surgery could help him; he would have been luckier if he had broken his back. The pain was grueling and persistent, and to alleviate it, all the doctors could offer him was a regimen of heat, massage, rest, and medication. The codeine and Emprin were not enough to numb him and, in due time, he would become addicted to Percodan. —"King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis" (1997) by Shawn Levy

Women love a guy with a sense of humor. How much? So much it drives them over the edge. In a good way of course. And according to a new study published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, it’s all about the laughs. The results? Well the results showed that “how often women experienced orgasm as a result of sexual intercourse was related to their partner’s income, self-confidence, and how attractive he was. Orgasm intensity was also related to how attracted they were to their partners.” “Those with partners who they rated as more attractive also tended to have more intense orgasms,” the study reads, suggesting the hotter you are, the better her orgasms will be. Apparently, the sexiest personality trait a man can have is a sense of humor, and how funny a dude is can predict a woman’s “propensity to initiate sex, how often they had sex, and it enhanced their orgasm frequency in comparison to other partners.” In fact, having a good sense of humor was rated sexier than physical appearances, which really says something. So it helps to be super good looking and rich, but ladies looking for the perfect orgasm should set their sights on funny dudes. Source:

No comments :