WEIRDLAND: August 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Joe & Marilyn: Legends in Love, Hippocampus

Soon there were Marilyn's visits to Joe DiMaggio’s home on Beach Street in San Francisco, the house he had bought for $14,000 in the early days of his success and where his sister Marie played hostess. Sometimes the couple would go fishing, Marilyn bundled up in leather jacket, jeans, and scarf. They were rarely recognized, and the times when they were spotted DiMaggio angrily told reporters to ‘beat it.’ On his home turf, DiMaggio offered a tranquility rarely experienced by Marilyn. On the matter of his brief marriage to Marilyn, their divorce and moving reunion, Joe DiMaggio’s intact silence is well known and can only be respected. “I didn’t want to give up my career,” Marilyn had said to columnist Earl Wilson, “and that’s what Joe wanted me to do most of all. He wanted me to be the beautiful ex-actress, just like he was the great former ballplayer. We were to ride into some sunset together. But I wasn’t ready for that kind of journey yet. I wasn’t even thirty, for heaven’s sake!” On his deathbed, Joe DiMaggio said in 1999: “I don’t feel bad about dying. At least, I’ll be with Marilyn again.” It was not the first time DiMaggio had said that, according to Morris Engelberg. “We were sitting together in the patio one night, talking about his illness, and he said he wished to be with Marilyn again. 

Dinner With DiMaggio: Memories of an American Hero promises a rare glimpse into the private life of a frequently misunderstood man, and although occasionally prone to sensationalism, for the most part it delivers. Joe met his first wife, showgirl Dorothy Arnold, on a film set. Their son, Joe DiMaggio Jr., was born in 1941, but the couple were soon embroiled in a bitter divorce. “Dorothy was always trying to get between my little guy and me,” Joe told his friend Dr. Rock Positano. Although he was a lifelong movie fan, Joe’s brushes with Hollywood left him unimpressed. In the late 1940s, he was dining at the Stork Club with some of the biggest names in the movie industry, including Marlene Dietrich and the Bogarts. “I knew better than to pry,” Positano says, claiming that Joe gradually opened up. “He also spoke with [lawyer] Morris Engelberg about Marilyn,” he adds, “but I never knew what he told each of us, and Morris and I never compared notes.”

Joe thought Marilyn was both beautiful and “highly intelligent,” as Positano revealed in a recent interview for People magazine. “He had a tremendous amount of respect for Marilyn because she was a really great actress.” Nonetheless, her star was rising when she married Joe, and babies seem not to have been an immediate priority. His jealousy, and her ambition, were more likely causes of the split. When crowds gathered to watch her standing over a subway grate during filming of The Seven Year Itch, columnist Walter Winchell dragged a reluctant Joe along. The couple separated shortly afterward. “Doc, Marilyn told me that no man ever satisfied her like I did,” Joe said. Although respectful in public, Joe apparently took a dim view of her third husband, Arthur Miller. Sinatra told Joe that Marilyn kept a photo of him hidden in a closet, which “drove Miller crazy and right to the divorce court.” In the final years of her life, Marilyn grew close to Joe again. Talk of reconciliation was rife, but she insisted they were just good friends. Joe had probably been hurt by Marilyn’s relationship with Frank Sinatra, but by 1962, when her alleged involvement with John F. Kennedy occurred, the president had distanced himself from Sinatra. Positano repeats the tale of Joe snubbing Bobby Kennedy at Yankee Stadium in 1965. Marilyn had a long history of depression, and was addicted to sleeping pills. Joe told Positano that she would sometimes neglect her appearance. “Though Joe saw Marilyn’s behaviour become erratic, he was unsophisticated about mental illness,” Positano reflects. During his final trip to New York in 1999, a frail Joe was in a nostalgic mood. “I miss Marilyn more than ever,” he confided. One of his proudest achievements was the opening of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida.

One of Lee Strasberg’s standard suggestions—practically a requirement—was that students enhance their reservoir of primal memories and emotions (what he called “sense memory”) by entering psychoanalysis. He and Paula were undergoing analysis, and both felt, among its other advantages, that it had strengthened their marriage. Turning to Milton Greene for advice on the subject, Marilyn was soon given a referral. Greene himself had been in therapy for several years with Dr. Margaret Herz Hohenberg, who, like Lee Strasberg, had come to the United States from Hungary. A follower of the Viennese school of psychoanalysis founded by Sigmund Freud, Hohenberg, at fifty-seven, was a tall, heavy woman with white hair that was often braided and wrapped around her head. On Milton Greene’s recommendation, Marilyn met with the analyst. By March 1955, she was seeing Margaret Hohenberg five times a week.

Monroe’s presence on the block did not go unnoticed; Hohenerg’s neighbors would frequently stop her on the street and inquire, “How is Miss Monroe doing today?” During their sessions, for which Marilyn invariably arrived late, they dealt with the traumas of Monroe’s chaotic childhood, her lack of self-esteem, her lust for approval, her dread of rejection, her obsessive search for a father figure. To facilitate the analytic process, the actress recorded her thoughts and dreams in a series of binders that, in 2010, were posthumously published as a single volume called Fragments, which seemed an appropriate title considering Hohenberg’s pronouncement, made soon after she met Marilyn, that the actress possessed “a fragmented mind.” Typical of Marilyn’s nightmarish notations in Fragments is one that reads: “For Dr. H—Tell her about that dream of the horrible, repulsive man—who is trying to lean too close to me in the elevator—and my panic and then my thought despising him—does that mean I’m attached to him? He even looks like he has a venereal disease.” After six months of treatment, Hohenberg diagnosed Monroe as suffering from borderline personality disorder, a psychological condition characterized by intense turmoil and instability in relationships and behavior.

Marilyn demonstrated two of the conditions commonly associated with Borderline Personality Disorder: dissociation and depersonalization. Under stress, her mind and body would literally shut down, which helped explain (at least to Hohenberg) why Marilyn was always late for appointments and had difficulty remembering her lines when appearing in films. Strangely enough, Hohenberg also determined that Marilyn had a hearing dysfunction in her right ear. She sent her to Dr. Eugen Grabscheid, an audiologist, who confirmed that she had a mild case of Ménière’s disease, a permanent buildup of fluids in the inner ear, a potentially dangerous, difficult-to-treat ailment that led to hearing loss and bouts of dizziness. —"Joe & Marilyn: Legends in Love" (2014) by C. David Heymann

A 2013 study published in the journal Hippocampus found that daily sexual activity was not only associated with generation of more new neurons, but also with enhanced cognitive function. Research on humans has yielded similar findings. It turned out that both men and women who had engaged in any kind of sex over the past year had higher scores on the word recall test. Furthermore, for men only, being sexually active was linked to better performance on the number sequencing task. The results revealed that women who engaged in more frequent sexual intercourse had better recall of abstract words on the test. A new study out this year (also in the Archives of Sexual Behavior) that involved 6,000 adults age 50 and over explored how sexual frequency was associated with performance on two episodic memory tasks administered two years apart. Participants who had sex more often had better performance on the memory test. It's worth noting that more emotional closeness during sex was linked to better memory performance, too. As always, more research is necessary, especially research that can help to establish cause-and-effect in humans and that explores what actually happens in the brain in response to frequent sex. That said, the overall pattern of findings to date is consistent with the idea that sex may very well be beneficial for our brains and our cognitive performance. Source: www.psychologytoday.com

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe as The Girl in "The Seven Year Itch" (1955).

A new Marilyn Monroe exhibit and auction will include outfits that belonged to the blonde bombshell including a replica of her iconic Seven Year Itch dress. Beginning August 18, The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills will display a collection of Marilyn Monroe's costumes and artifacts until September 30, which precedes an October auction of the items. Pieces displayed throughout "Essentially Marilyn: The Auction/The Exhibit" will be complemented by photographs taken by photographer Milton H. Greene, who was also Monroe's friend. The items on display include 15 costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe including the sequined showgirl leotard style from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At the end of October, Profiles in History will host an auction of the items, but a date has not yet been announced." Source: www.apparelnews.net

“The greatest thing about Monroe is not her chest,” Billy Wilder declared with sincerity. “It is her ear. She is a master of delivery. She can read comedy better than anyone else in the world.” For many, Marilyn Monroe will always be the girl on the sidewalk grating; her skirt blowing up around her waist. For others she is the woman breathily singing her way through Happy Birthday for President John F Kennedy. In reality, however, she was neither. In fact it could be said that Marilyn Monroe wasn’t even a real person; she was a fascinating character created by Norma Jeane Baker, the little girl who dreamed of becoming a movie star. Marilyn was an invention in which she herself didn't believe. By 1933 Gladys Baker decided to move Norma Jeane into a house she was sharing with Mr and Mrs Atkinson, an English couple who worked in the movies. Shortly after moving in together, news came through that Gladys’ grandfather Tilford Hogan had committed suicide, and her son Robert had died tragically at 14. Gladys had always been emotional and these two events were enough to push her over the edge. Shortly afterwards Gladys suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. 

In 1942, when faced with yet another stint in an orphanage, Norma Jeane married Jim Dougherty, a neighbour of the Goddard family, where she was living at the time. For Jim, it was a chance to ‘save’ her; he could be a knight in shining armour and he embraced the challenge wholeheartedly, though Norma Jeane was conflicted. “It was like being retired to a zoo,” she later said. The marriage lasted four years, during which time Jim went to war and Norma Jeane moved in with her in-laws. She was bored and lonely, so took a job at a defence plant, where she was discovered by a photographer taking photos for the war effort. These photographs led to a modelling career and Jim went along with it, giving her all of his savings for her customes and fees, though assured his wife that when he returned from war, she’d have to give it all up and start a family. She responded by heading to Las Vegas and filing for divorce; much to the shock and despair of her husband. Johnny Hyde, a prominent Hollywood agent, put her forward for the small but important role of Angela in The Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston. Hyde asked her many times to marry him and she turned him down each and every time. After Johnny Hyde’s death, Marilyn channelled everything into her career, earning roles in films such as Love Nest, Clash By Night and Don’t Bother To Knock

Marilyn's star was on the rise, and yet it all threatened to come crashing down with the discovery not only that she had posed nude, but that her mother, whom she had been declaring dead for years, was actually alive and living in an institution. Many theories have been brought forward over the years as to why or how Marilyn died. Some say it was because of her involvement with the President of the United States, though this has never been proved and indeed any actual relationship remains to this day an unfounded rumour. All we really know is that she sang for him on his birthday, and was friends with his sister Pat – hardly the basis of an affair. The truth is that we will never know how Marilyn Monroe passed away. She took her secrets to the grave, and any stories of her death that have come and gone through the years can only be speculative at best. Each question invites further answers, on and on, like an endless hall of mirrors. But perhaps in the end it really doesn’t matter if we never find out, as the appeal of her life is so much more captivating. —"The Shocking Truth Behind Marilyn Monroe's Secret Life" (2015) by Michelle Morgan

Kelli Garner is the latest actress to tackle an impossible role — the screen legend Marilyn Monroe, whose dumb-blonde persona masked a dark personality haunted by mental illness. Sometimes Garner's performance doesn’t work at critical times because it lacks sufficient nuance. Vocally, Garner goes for mannered breathiness punctuated with a bubbly giggle. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is based on the biography of the same name by J. Randy Tarraborelli, although the book was written off by some critics as being little more than vapid gossip about the late actress. And that's one of the problems with creating yet another book, movie, or TV show about Monroe. Since Monroe's untimely death at the age of 36 on Aug. 5, 1962, she has taken on a larger-than-life, mythic quality that makes it difficult to know what is fact and what has just been repeated as part of her legend for years. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe suggests that mental illness ran in Monroe's family. Just as her mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, Monroe also deals with bouts of paranoia, delusion, and depression. Hollywood, then, provides the perfect escape from a miserable reality. One screen test revealed what we all know now: the camera loved Marilyn Monroe and she loved the camera, giving herself to it as she never could to any husband or lover. In one scene the mother-daughter duo are on the same page: when Norma Jeane asks Gladys at what age she began to hear the voices, Gladys gives her a knowing look and says, “So you’re hearing them too?” At least Gladys realized she was better off under a doctor’s care. 

A printed epilogue notes that Gladys ended up outliving her daughter by 22 years. In the series, things got so bad that Monroe almost tried to kill herself by jumping out of a window, which eventually caused her therapist Dr. Kris to admit her to a psychiatric hospital. In the 2001 documentary Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days, Dr. Kris says Monroe got into the psychiatric ward at Payne Whitney in 1961, with a doctor forcing a physical exam on her and Monroe threatening to cut herself with glass if she wasn't released. “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” takes a compassionate look at a star whose beauty made her a legend, but whose private life was a torture chamber. Monroe was in many ways unknowable and you'll come to the sad realization that you'll never come to truly know her either, which is what Monroe wanted but also feared the most. Marilyn Monroe, as Joshua Logan said, is pure cinema. Source: www.sfgate.com

It takes more than a breathy voice and a golden dye job to play Marilyn Monroe, the most celebrated and troubled of Hollywood idols. Kelli Garner certainly throws herself into the title role of Lifetime’s two-night miniseries The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, adapted from the 2009 biography of the same name by J. Randy Taraborrelli. Yet she never seems to be doing anything more than celebrity karaoke, rarely digging deep beneath the long succession of hairstyles and form-fitting clothes. As for John F. Kennedy, that’s included too, but the senator-turned-President remains discretely off-screen, although there’s still an excuse to show Garner in the knockout gossamer dress Monroe famously wore when she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.” Underlying it all, in the adapted screenplay by Stephen Kronish, directed by Laurie Collyer, is that Monroe inherited mental illness from her mother, a religious scold (she calls modeling “a sinful business”) who hears voices. Marilyn, as usual, is portrayed as an object mostly of pity, someone who tells her agent, “Everyone uses everyone,” having been on both sides of the equation. Source: variety.com

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Marilyn Monroe: The Misfits, The Last Sessions

A nude scene long believed lost featuring Marilyn Monroe in John Huston’s The Misfits has been re-discovered. The footage, cut from the film by Huston, was previously believed to have been destroyed. The whereabouts of the footage was uncovered by Charles Casillo, the author of Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon. Casillo discovered that the footage had not been destroyed during an interview with The Misfits producer's (Frank Taylor) son Curtice Taylor, who revealed that he had kept in a locked cabinet since his father's death nearly twenty years ago in 1999. Living up to her sex symbol status, Monroe reportedly went nude while filming without warning, much to the chagrin of director, John Huston. Her impromptu disrobing was not appreciated by Huston, however, who felt it was unnecessary for the scene. Source: deadline.com

While Something's Got to Give (1962) is listed as Marilyn Monroe’s last film, The Misfits was her last completed movie before her death from a drug overdose in 1962. Bored while waiting for Monroe to arrive on the set, Clark Gable volunteered to do a number of hazardous routines which included being dragged by a truck travelling at 30 mph. On the last day of filming, he allegedly said, "Christ, I'm glad this picture's finished. She [Monroe] damn near gave me a heart attack." The next day, he suffered a massive heart coronary which led to his death eleven days later. According to Arthur Miller, Clark Gable had already seen a rough cut of the movie by the last day of filming, and said: "This is the best picture I have made, and it's the only time I've been able to act."

In his study on Marilyn Monroe, Graham McCann describes the character of Roslyn as having “the abstraction, and the intimacy, of a figure in a dream” (1988, p.155). Undoubtedly the film acknowledges the oneiric qualities of Monroe/Roslyn. Indeed, the vision of the movie as a whole seems to gesture towards an understanding of Monroe and her character as the ultimate misfit, an individual unable to completely find her place in either the ideal or the real. As Montgomery Clift’s character remarks: “I can’t figure you floating around here like this”; to which Roslyn replies: “I don’t know where I belong”.  Clark Gable plays an aging cowboy whose life has lost purpose and who is reduced to capturing wild horses — the symbols of the free life he loved — for dog food. Marilyn/Roslyn is the only beautiful thing in the whole ugly desert, in the whole world, in this whole dump of toughness, atom bomb, death. Source: wcreynolds.com

Michelle Morgan, who has studied Marilyn Monroe’s life for 30 years, was able to track down some of the last living people associated with the screen legend to further investigate how the star helped pioneer an unlikely movement in Hollywood for other actresses yearning to make it without resorting to the casting couch. “She had said that she never fell for it,” Morgan told Fox News. In the mid-1950s, Monroe spoke out about being harassed by an executive whom she did not name. "She was very intelligent about that, to keep his name out of the article. But she certainly did speak about it," Morgan said. “She was never going to let herself be victimized. She spoke about it and as a result, inspired other people. She was one of the only actresses in Hollywood at that time who was speaking out about that.” Morgan added: “I think based on the things she said herself and the outspoken way she approached Hollywood, I personally don’t believe she was ever a victim of the casting couch. I think she was able to walk away."

Harassment in Hollywood wasn’t the only hot topic on Marilyn Monroe’s mind. Frustrated for constantly being cast in “dumb blonde” roles, Monroe wasn’t shy about letting the film studio know she was willing to risk her growing success just for the chance to play different characters. The scene in which Monroe’s white halter dress blows over her hips as she steps onto a New York subway grate made her an icon. And while some may believe the actress was exploiting herself, Morgan said she was proud of making a bold statement. “I think she enjoyed the fact that she was an attractive woman who had an effect on other people. Not just on men, but on people around her… I thinks she really used the skirt scene… to get out of these dumb blond roles and… as a way of getting power because she worked so hard to get it… And at the end of the day, it was just a scene for a film. A very successful one.” Source: www.foxnews.com

In the summer of 2002 a book of photographs was published called Becoming Marilyn, featuring pictures taken in 1949 by photographer André de Dienes of a young model who was preparing to make the leap into Hollywood stardom. In reviewing Becoming Marilyn, Newsweek magazine commented that the book’s “images catching Norma Jeane as she mutates to ‘Marilyn.’” This statement reflects the basic premise of the myth of Marilyn Monroe: a real girl (named Norma Jean) metamorphosed into something that was not a person, but a concept: “Marilyn.” And it is an ideal seen as being distinct from the woman’s reality. “Marilyn” was only a fantasy of femininity, an imaginary role the actress performed with immense success, but which eventually destroyed her. Norman Mailer shows this response par excellence in his notorious, ranting catalog of Marilyn’s contradictions. She was, as Mailer describes her: a lover of books who did not read, a proud inviolate artist who could haunch over to publicity; a female spurt of wit and sensitive energy who could hang like a sloth for days in a muddy-mooded coma; a child-girl, yet an actress to loose a riot by dropping her glove at a premiere; a fountain of charm and a dreary bore; an ambulating cyclone of beauty and a dank hunched-up drab at her worst; lover of life and a cowardly hyena of death who drenched herself in chemical stupors... Simone de Beauvoir wrote that Woman “is all that man desires and all that he does not attain.” That's Marilyn. —"The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe" (2005) by Sarah Churchwell 

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon by Charles Casillo is a sympathetic biography with a substantial bibliography (500 book entries and multiple footnotes). While it contains no Earth-shaking new insights, it’s a serious, commendable study. This is not a Cinderella story. Not just because Monroe was insecure, terribly needy, but because very few men in her life were princes — and that’s what she so desperately wanted and needed. Certainly not Fox’s executives, who had little respect for her talent. Definitely not Arthur Miller, portrayed here as a weakling instead of savior. “She could say things that put a hook in my belly. Cruel, vicious insights,” Arthur Miller wrote. Joe DiMaggio, the great Yankee Clipper, was a lifelong prince of a guy. Although embarrassed by her promiscuous past and wary of her ambitions, when she needed someone after their divorce, DiMaggio regularly dropped everything to comfort her. In addition to the un-prince-like men, there were some "wicked stepsisters" as well. Her personal secretary Pat Newcomb most surely qualifies. Source: www.winnipegfreepress.com

Marilyn's Last Sessions (2013): A novel based on the records of Marilyn Monroe's analysis is grimly fascinating. The "last sessions" of the title are those that Marilyn had in the final two years of her life with the psychiatrist Ralph Greenson. In the 1950s Greenson, who had worked with Freud in pre-war Vienna, was at the top of his profession and highly regarded both by his psychoanalytical colleagues. In Michel Schneider's portrayal of Marilyn, she is deeply strange, part changeling, part demon, part lost soul. Marilyn's Last Sessions tells the story of a double tragedy. Marilyn was self-destructive, but also she was one of those people who damage anyone who comes too close. Jean-Paul Sartre said of her, "It's not just light that comes off her, it's heat. She burns through the screen." As the actress said herself, "I drag Marilyn Monroe around with me like an albatross". By late 1961, for Dr Greenson, Marilyn was both patient and ever-present family friend. Marilyn, he found, could not abide the notion of any imperfection in ‘certain ideal figures in her life.’ Greenson came up later with a more acute summation of her predicament: "she was an intellectual who shielded herself from the pain of thinking by talking in a little girl's voice and putting on a show of being dumb."

‘Marilyn could not rest until peace had been reestablished,’ Greenson wrote. But the psychiatrist thought her inability to handle anything she perceived as hurtfulness, along with her abnormal fear of homosexuality—Greenson was to write—‘were ultimately the decisive factors that led to her death.’ Marilyn herself told journalist W. J. Weatherby, ‘People tried to make me into a lesbian. I laughed. No sex is wrong if there’s love in it.’ Earlier, speaking of her life in 1948, she said the sexual side of relations with men had so far been a disappointment. ‘Then it dawned on me,’ she said, ‘that other people, other women, were different than me. They could feel things I couldn’t. And when I started reading books I ran into the words “frigid,” “rejected,” and “lesbian.” I wondered if I was all three of them. There was also the sinister fact that a well-made woman had always thrilled me to look at.’ Source: www.theguardian.com

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

On March 15, 1956, principal photography on Bus Stop began on location in Phoenix. The work Marilyn had done the previous year at the Actors Studio with Strasberg did make her a better actress, as was revealed in this movie. Everything about her as Cherie comes across as genuine and touching, from the way her body slumps exhaustedly in a chair to the exasperation and anger she displays when Bo pushes her around. But this new depth in Marilyn’s acting came at a price. Now there were demons on the set—her own demons that she called up from her past to use in her acting. The past was with her constantly now—and the pressures she put herself under were worse than ever. “She was the most nervous actor I’d ever worked with,” Don Murray said. “She would break out into hives and her body would be covered with little red splotches, and they’d have to cover up with makeup.”

During the production of Bus Stop, a young publicist named Patricia “Pat” Newcomb was assigned to handle Marilyn’s press and would briefly enter Marilyn’s inner circle. A few years later Newcomb would become one of the major players in the last months of Marilyn’s life. Newcomb was young, smart, and fiercely loyal to her celebrity clients. She was also known to have a volatile temper—she would slam her office door so hard that a framed picture of Dean Martin would fall off the wall, shattering the glass “every other day.” Rupert Allan, who handled most of Marilyn’s press relations, told biographer Donald Spoto that Pat Newcomb would take phone messages for Marilyn—many from men wanting to meet her. “Pat intercepted Marilyn’s messages,” Allan said. Then, according to Allan, things went too far. Newcomb didn’t particularly look like Marilyn, but perhaps with the right lighting and makeup she could pass for some unfamiliar people. 

Fred Lawrence Guiles wrote in his biography, “Patricia Newcomb was a twenty-five-year-old Mills College graduate who resembled Marilyn physically. They were almost exactly the same height (almost five feet six); her thick hair was medium blond and hung loose to her shoulders.” Rupert Allan asserted that Newcomb went through “a lesbian phase” but also dated men. Marilyn protested about Pat, ‘She’s not Marilyn!’” It would be nearly five years before she and Marilyn would be in contact again. And at that time Newcomb would become one of the most important and controversial people in Marilyn’s life—known as the keeper of her secrets and one of the last people to see Marilyn on the day she died. The head of Marilyn’s public relations firm, Arthur Jacobs, recommended she give Newcomb another try.  Newcomb entered Marilyn’s life again, but this time the two would work well together and become close. Those who knew Marilyn well in her last years say that the two women would become extraordinarily close. Rupert Allan and Ralph Roberts (among others) would come to believe that Pat Newcomb became obsessed with Marilyn as she became more and more a part of her famous client’s life.

On November 16, 1960, Marilyn was awoken by the phone and, in her half-sleep state, was informed that Clark Gable had died. He died of a coronary thrombosis while recuperating in the hospital from a heart attack. In childhood she had fantasized that Gable was her father. He behaved tenderly and protectively toward her during the harrowing months they spent making The Misfits. Now she had lost another connection to a father figure. Marilyn was overwhelmed with despair. To make matters worse, she worried that perhaps her frustrating absences during the shooting had contributed to Gable’s death. His widow made statements to the press suggesting that the maddening delays in making The Misfits had contributed to his heart attack. Kay Gable never mentioned Marilyn by name, but the implication seemed clear: “That picture helped kill my husband. It wasn’t the physical exertion that did it; it was the horrible tension—that eternal waiting. He waited around forever, for everybody. He’d get so angry waiting.”

Marilyn spent Christmas Eve quietly in her apartment with her new public relations agent, Pat Newcomb. For a present, Marilyn gave Newcomb a mink coat. It was an extravagant gift for a recent employee—and someone she had clashed with and mistrusted in the past. Perhaps it was Marilyn’s way of saying she had been wrong about her initial impression. That evening, however, she received a “forest of poinsettias” from Joe DiMaggio. She invited him to visit her, and they did spend Christmas night alone together. They quietly began seeing each other again. Always very discreet, DiMaggio would visit her at her apartment. He would arrive late in the evening, use the service elevator, enter through the kitchen door, and leave by dawn. DiMaggio remained concerned not only at the apparent wasteland of Marilyn’s emotional life but her increasingly haggard appearance. The release of The Misfits also devastated her. Before its premiere she had tremendous hopes that this performance might be the start of a turning point in her career. So much effort had gone into it and had backfired. Bosley Crowther, in the all-important New York Times, said: “Miss Monroe—well, she is completely blank and unfathomable as a new divorcée. There is really not much about her that is very exciting or interesting.” Despite a few excellent reviews, the critics’ opinions leaned toward the negative. Now Marilyn’s dreams of being taken seriously as an actress seemed as far away as ever. She had let down the Strasbergs. She had let down her fans. She had let down herself.

Fox announced that they planned to cast her in the lead of Goodbye Charlie, by George Axelrod, which had been a Broadway flop starring Lauren Bacall. The plot revolved around a callous playboy, Charlie, who is killed by a lover’s jealous husband and instantly reincarnated in the body of a gorgeous woman—to be played by Marilyn. Although Charlie materializes in glorious female form, his/her mind and mannerisms remain those of a male. The studio was eager to collect the last picture Marilyn owed them on her contract and thought the novelty of Marilyn Monroe playing a man trapped inside her famous curves would be a box-office bonanza. Marilyn, however, was appalled at the idea of having to butch it up. She couldn’t bear the thought of her femininity being questioned. Obsessing over homosexuality during a psychiatric session with Greenson, Marilyn had expressed rage when he informed her that there was something feminine and masculine in both genders, and she became mortified that anything masculine might be perceived in her. Now she was being asked to act masculine on screen for laughs. “The studio people want me to do Goodbye Charlie,” she fumed to the press. “But I’m not going to do it. I don’t like the idea of playing a man in a woman’s body.” George Cukor claimed that she could not be directed: “You couldn’t reach her, she was like underwater.” Her clash with director Cukor during the filming of Something's Gotta Give could be attributed to her difficulties about connecting with a gay director. But Monroe had acted this way with other directors she deemed unsympathetic.

“It’s Pat Newcomb who knows more about Marilyn Monroe than anyone else,” Jeanne Martin (Dean Martin’s wife) commented once. In Monroe biographies, the shadowy Pat Newcomb often comes across as being a not very forthcoming person, mostly because of her silences and dodges when it comes to discussing Marilyn in her very few interviews. Newcomb and Marilyn had psychological traits in common. Jeanne, who socialized with both women, observed that Newcomb, like Marilyn, “had highs and lows.” Both of them used prescription drugs, especially sedatives. Both women relied heavily on their psychiatrists. Newcomb was at Marilyn’s side at almost every major event in 1961–62, hovering protectively on the sidelines. When not working, the two women socialized together, and it was through Newcomb that Marilyn reacquainted herself with Peter Lawford and his wife, Pat Kennedy Lawford, the sister of John and Bobby Kennedy. Newcomb would often stay at Marilyn’s apartment when she was in New York and—at times—at her home in Los Angeles. People who were around at the time go so far as to say that Newcomb became obsessed with Marilyn.

Because of Newcomb’s feverish dedication to Marilyn, her intentions began to confuse the star. Marilyn both craved this devotion and feared it. Some say Newcomb wanted more from Marilyn than she was prepared to give. But—at this stage in her life—without a husband or steady lover, Marilyn needed someone who extended complete dedication, unconditional love. This is what Newcomb offered. In return—as she did with anyone who was devoted to her—Marilyn made extreme demands. If Marilyn tried to call Newcomb at home and got a busy signal, she would become hysterical. When she finally got through she would scream and yell. Eventually Marilyn had a separate phone line installed in Newcomb’s apartment so she could reach her at all times. As always, Marilyn would do her best to repay Newcomb’s loyalty. After she complained that her car wasn’t working well, Marilyn gave Newcomb a new Thunderbird. And after wearing them a few times, Marilyn gave Pat a valuable pair of emerald earrings Frank Sinatra had given her. But after Marilyn’s death, Newcomb seemed to want to distance herself from their intensely personal and multilayered relationship. In spite of what Newcomb had to say, all the evidence shows that she and Marilyn were very close. When Newcomb suggested Rupert Allan he should go through her—instead of contacting Marilyn directly—Allan snapped back that he had been a friend of Marilyn’s for a long time. Michael Selsman, who also worked with Newcomb at the Arthur P. Jacobs agency, claims that there was a lot of talk about a possible lesbian relationship between Marilyn and Newcomb—and it wasn’t coming from the show-business community. The rumors spread among people in Marilyn’s circle “who knew her and worked with her.”

“Pat Newcomb was the closest confidante to Marilyn,” Milt Ebbins, Peter Lawford’s agent and friend, who was part of Marilyn’s social set, commented. “Was there something sexual between them? I have no proof of that, but they were very close. Constantly together. Marilyn loved her, she was very fond of her.” Susan Strasberg pointed out that “the adrenaline rush that came from Marilyn’s involvement with Pat Newcomb became somewhat sexualized.” Strasberg would say that Marilyn had nicknamed Newcomb “Sybil,” implying friendly “sibling rivalry.” But as their relationship intensified, Marilyn’s feelings grew more complicated, with paranoid undertones. For her there was a clear line of masculine and feminine behavior, and the confusing of genres terrified her. She was paranoid about finding anything masculine in herself. Marilyn began discussing Newcomb in her sessions with Dr. Greenson, with homosexuality a major concern. “She could not bear the slightest hint of anything homosexual,” Greenson wrote. “She had an outright phobia of homosexuality and yet unwittingly fell into situations which had homosexual coloring, which she then recognized and projected onto the other, who then became her enemy.”

“Marilyn’s mother was schizophrenic,” Susan Strasberg observed. “As a result Marilyn’s feelings toward women were complex and ambivalent.” In his correspondence Greenson gave an example of Marilyn’s relationship with a girlfriend named “Pat,” who had put a blond streak in her hair, close to Marilyn’s color. Marilyn interpreted Newcomb’s emulation as an attempt to “take possession of her,” feeling that identification meant “homosexual possessiveness.” Greenson wrote that Marilyn “burned with fury against this girl,” accusing her of trying to “rob her most valuable possession.” So much of Marilyn’s identity, her public persona, was being the sexual desire of men. Her whole projection of herself was based on that. Newcomb’s perceived passionate feelings threatened her. But—with everything in her life becoming more confusing and unclear—she pressed ahead with the relationship. “She could be very touching,” Newcomb recalled. “I always felt a kind of watching out for her. But deep down at the core she was really strong. And you’d forget it because she seemed so vulnerable.” Sometimes Marilyn’s suppressed angst surfaced, and she would say something “quite cruel,” Newcomb revealed. “She could be quite mean.” Newcomb declined all offers to publish a memoir of her time with Marilyn. This may seem an odd stance for a woman whose entire career has been devoted to maintaining the public image of Marilyn Monroe. She only gave interviews to Donald Spoto, Anthony Summers, Lois Banner and Gary Vitacco-Robles.

“Marilyn’s vocabulary included words I’d never ever heard of, and she wielded them like a sailor with no embarrassment,” Susan Strasberg once said. “She had quite a temper when she lost control.” As the months went on, Marilyn’s love-hate relationship with Newcomb would grow more extreme. It would crescendo on the last mysterious day of Marilyn’s life. In mid-June 1962, Marilyn entered a hypomanic phase of activity, socializing and publicizing herself. To combat the ongoing negative publicity of her dismissal from Something’s Got to Give, Marilyn had Newcomb set up in-depth interviews with Redbook and LIFE. Marilyn also agreed to a photo layout for Cosmopolitan. Marilyn was desperately trying to convince the public—and herself—that she was more than a sex symbol. The amount of medication Marilyn was taking cannot be overlooked. Greenson’s family said that he was trying to wean Marilyn from her dependency on Nembutal by prescribing chloral hydrate, a sedative he felt was not as addictive. Newcomb admitted that she and Marilyn shared pills at times. “One time I just wanted to relax, and there wasn’t valium and she gave me a pill and I was knocked out,” Newcomb said. “I was so detached. I was scared.”

On Friday afternoon, August 3, 1962, Marilyn filled two prescriptions at a pharmacy on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. One was for Phenergan, a drug used to treat allergies, and the other for Nembutal. Greenson and Engelberg had been weaning Marilyn off of Nembutal for weeks, substituting the milder drug chloral hydrate. Marilyn would take that with a glass of milk before bed. That evening Pat Newcomb had dinner with Marilyn in a Santa Monica French restaurant, whose name she can’t remember. When talking to Donald Spoto she said, “Afterwards we came back to the house. We just sat around—” Then Newcomb indicated the journalist’s tape recorder, stating, “I want to shut this off.” On Saturday, August 4, 1962, Mrs. Murray found Marilyn quiet and contemplative. She had tentative plans of going to Peter Lawford’s house for dinner in the evening. Some say that Robert Kennedy had planned to make a quick trip from San Francisco to attend the party, specifically to talk to Marilyn. Legend has come down through the years that Marilyn’s foul mood toward Newcomb was because she had been able to sleep for twelve hours straight while Marilyn slept very little. That’s probably partially true. However, there was something else going on that Pat Newcomb has been silent about for decades. Many years later Milt Ebbins evasively said that Newcomb was party to many secret things regarding Marilyn in her last months.

The reason for Marilyn’s fury the last days of her life is that she had come to believe that Pat Newcomb had become romantically involved with Bobby Kennedy—an involvement that would have overlapped with the time frame in which Marilyn had been seeing him. We can only imagine Marilyn’s rage and confusion. Bobby’s desire for her, his love for her, is what was going to make the thirty-six-year-old love goddess feel relevant again. Pat Newcomb was an attractive, sexy, intelligent woman who was four years younger than her. But she wasn’t Marilyn Monroe. If Bobby did have an intimate entanglement with Marilyn’s assistant/press agent while Marilyn was relying on his affection, she must have felt worthless. It was Newcomb, along with Peter Lawford, who had gotten Marilyn involved with the Kennedys in the first place. Now Marilyn felt betrayed by someone she considered a trustworthy friend. She had been demanding explanations and details about the affair from Newcomb all week. Newcomb did admit that she saw Bobby Kennedy shortly before Marilyn died. She could not remember the exact evening but revealed: “I had dinner with him, but it was just before that night.” When you’re fragile, empty, and lonely—as Marilyn was that summer—any slight or rejection becomes amplified. It can feel fatal. It can feel like The End. —"Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon" (2018) by Charles Casillo

In December 1961 Marilyn's psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson labeled her a 'borderline paranoid schizophrenic' in a letter sent to Anna Freud. Rather than work in a vacuum, Dr. Greenson obtained a second opinion by consulting psychologist Dr. Milton Wexler. After taking a doctorate at Columbia University, studying under Theodor Reik, a disciple of Freud, he became one of the country’s first nonphysicians to set up in practice as a psychoanalyst. Also a member of the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Wexler would go on to become a pioneer in the study and treatment of Huntington’s disease, forming the Hereditary Disease Foundation. Wexler also felt strongly that Marilyn Monroe suffered at least from borderline paranoid schizophrenia after sitting in on three sessions with her at Dr. Greenson’s home. “Yes, I treated her,” he said in 1999. “I will say that I agreed with Dr. Greenson that she presented borderline symptoms of the disease that had run in her family. I found her to be very proactive in wanting to treat those borderline symptoms, as well. One misconception about her treatment is that it was Dr. Greenson’s idea that she move in with his family. She never moved in with the Greensons. Instead, it was my suggestion that she spend as much time there as possible in order to create the environment that she lacked as a child. That was my theory at the time and Dr. Greenson agreed.” To ignore the findings of these two doctors makes no sense all of these many years later. However dominant, “Marilyn Monroe” was only one persona among many that emerged from and were created by the original Norma Jeane Baker. —"The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe" (2009)  by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Remembering Elvis Presley, a reluctant rebel


Where were you when Elvis died? That's what we'll be talking about in the future when we remember this grand occasion. Like Pearl Harbor or JFK's assassination, it boiled down to individual reminiscences. Why all our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude? Elvis was into marketing boredom when Andy Warhol was still doing shoe ads. That "Having Fun with Elvis On Stage" album released three or so years back consisted entirely of between-song onstage patter so redundant it would make both Willy Burroughs and Gert Stein blush. Now he's gone, who's left they can stand all night in the rain for? Nobody, and the true tragedy is the tragedy of an entire generation which refuses to give up its adolescence. Elvis was the last of our sacred cows to be publicly mutilated; everybody knows Keith Richard likes his junk, but when Elvis went onstage in a stupor nobody breathed a hint of "Quaalude...." In a way, this was both good and bad, good because Elvis wasn't encouraging other people to think it was cool to be a walking Physicians' Desk Reference, bad because Elvis stood for that Nixonian Secrecy-as-Virtue which was passed off as the essence of Americanism. 

I got the news of Elvis's death while drinking beer with a friend and fellow music journalist on his fire escape on 21st Street in Chelsea. As I left the building I passed some Latin guys hanging out by the front door. "Heard the news? Elvis is dead!" I told them. They looked at me with contemptuous indifference. So What. Maybe if I had told them Donna Summer was dead I might have gotten a reaction; I do recall walking in this neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that said "Disco Sucks" with a vast unamused muttering in my wake, which only goes to show that not for everyone was Elvis the still-reigning King of Rock 'n' Roll, in fact not for everyone is rock 'n' roll the still-reigning music. By now, each citizen has found his own little obsessive corner to blast his brain in: solipsism's what the seventies have been about, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the world of "pop" music. How precious the instant Elvis sauntered onto the stage. He was the only male performer I have ever seen to whom I responded sexually; it wasn't real arousal, rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in '65, never even came close. Lenny Bruce was hip, too goddam hip if you ask me, which was his undoing, whereas Elvis was not hip at all.

Elvis was a goddam truck driver who worshipped his mother. Sexual chaos reigns currently, but out of chaos may flow true understanding and harmony, and either way Elvis almost singlehandedly opened the floodgates. The rest of us are still reeling from the impact. Literally, every time this man moved any part of his body the slightest centimeter, tens or tens of thousands of people went berserk. Not Sinatra, not Jagger, not the Beatles, nobody you can come up with ever elicited such hysteria among so many. If Love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others' objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation's many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a kingdom whose domain engulfs even Elvis's. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won't bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you. —"How Long Will We Care?" by Lester Bangs (Village Voice, August 29, 1977). Article also collected as "Where Were You When Elvis Died?" in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (1987) by Greil Marcus

At his first-ever concert hall performance in New York City, his series of four Madison Square Garden shows in June 1972, he bounded onstage in a white sequined outfit complete with a series of tableau poses. Energizing the audience with a mélange of early material and recent hits, his 45-minute show drew mothers and daughters, along with laments by some critics that despite the breadth of his talent, Elvis the rocker had become Elvis the crooner. For the 80,000 fans that witnessed his New York concerts, he was “a visiting Prince from another planet.” There were indeed adoring teenagers by the legion, but his natural shyness, and perhaps a belief that it “was all just showbiz,” told him that it wasn’t Elvis Presley they were adoring; it was just the image. He would poke fun at that image, amused at the caricature he presented on stage, apt to tell the audience, “Here I am in this Superman outfit.” It’s an honesty that appeals to many. In July 1972 he was introduced to a new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, who reigned as Miss Tennessee. He would also begin dating another beauty queen, Memphis actress Cybill Shepherd.

On August 18, he filed for divorce from Priscilla on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Red West recalled: “There is no doubt that his ego was very badly hurt when Priscilla left him. Now I don’t blame her for leaving Elvis. But I do know he loved that woman. He would never have a word said against her. He always told me, ‘I will always have a love for Priscilla.’ Priscilla was one he ever really did love in his life. He didn’t love us. We thought he did. But he did love Priscilla.” The divorce papers decreed shared custody of Lisa Marie. Priscilla received $750,000 in cash; $720,000 over ten years; 5 percent of Elvis Presley Music Inc., and White Haven Music, Inc.; half of the $500,000 sale of a California house; $4,200 monthly alimony; and $4,000 monthly child support. Elvis agreed to pay her attorney’s fees of $75,000. One week after the divorce was decreed, Elvis was admitted to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis for hypertension and headaches. By mid-December he was back in the studio at Stax.

While Presley on stage was a writhing mass of sensuality, offstage he was humble, polite and he never took advantage of who he was. That contrast would prove to be dynamite. “Up until he went into the army,” Red West remembers: “Elvis was only involved with two real girlfriends, both Southern, charming and very pretty. One was Dixie Locke and the other lady was Anita Wood. He still had some pretty strict rules when dealing with women. He would never tolerate any of the guys around him cussing in front of ladies, and he would really get turned off if any of his friends went with a married lady or even a divorced lady.” Presley was particularly generous to his female friends.

Presley met Linda Thompson in 1972, soon after his break-up with Priscilla. A friend of Presley’s, George Klein, a former Memphis disc jockey, introduced them. Linda impressed the boys as extremely religious when they first met her. “It took a heck of a lot of work for Elvis to get her to move in with him.” The West boys remembered, however, that Linda was not shy about receiving gifts from Presley. “She had more clothes than Elizabeth Taylor. Whenever she traveled she had many suitcases with her. I have known her to go into Georgio’s in L.A. and buy a dozen dresses, and that is one very expensive store.

Also in Las Vegas, she would shop at Suzie Creamcheese and buy a dress in every color. Her jewelry is something else again. Elvis has given her at least a quarter of a million dollars in jewelry, and that is a modest estimate. He has also bought her family a house in Memphis and he has got her a beautiful apartment in Los Angeles.” In 1974, Presley was introduced by Joe Esposito to Sheila Ryan, an incredibly pretty girl from Chicago. “He often would alternate taking them on tour with him,” Sonny West recalls. “One time he would take Linda, then the next time he would take Sheila. If ever Linda made a fuss, I would always hear Elvis tell her over the telephone, ‘Woman, take that knife out of my damn back.’” While still dating Linda, the boys remember that Presley introduced Sheila Ryan to a Las Vegas audience as his girlfriend and asked her to show off her new diamond ring.

In January of 1978, Vernon Presley was interviewed by Good Housekeeping magazine. Vernon had this to say, "I never got to know Ginger Alden well. She's not much of a talker, but awhile back Elvis told me he'd fallen in love with her. 'This is the love I've been searching for,' he said. 'I want more children, a son. And I want Ginger to be my children's mother.' After that, Ginger and Elvis came over to show me her engagement ring. That was one of the few times I'd ever seen her smiling. I assumed they were going to get married. Finally, just a day or so before he died, I told him, 'I keep hearing and reading that you're going to announce your engagement. Is that right? When are you going to get married?' 'Only God knows,' Elvis said." —"Elvis Presley, Reluctant Rebel" (2011) by Glen Jeansonne & David Luhrssen

Friday, August 10, 2018

Elvis Presley: Ginger Alden's lover and protector

A new study shows that men only have to believe they’ve bested another man in competition to get raised testosterone levels and an inflated sense of their own value as a sexual prospect. Scientists found that this hormonal and psychological shift made men more inclined to approach new potential partners. The research team measured hormone levels in men in their twenties, as well as self-perceived attractiveness and confidence in approaching women. Unbeknownst to participants, the competitions in the study were rigged to randomly declare the winner, regardless of who was better. While previous studies have shown that winning can affect male hormones, it was not known whether this was down to the efforts it takes to win or the belief that one is victorious. The latest study, led by biological anthropologists from the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Human Nature, reveals that just being convinced you have won, or indeed lost, is enough to cause male hormonal fluctuations that can influence sexual behaviour. Researchers say this is an example of “plasticity”: the body adapting without altering genetic make-up to suit a change in circumstance. In this case a perceived change in social status, due to the men believing they have defeated a rival. The body attempts to take advantage of this apparent status improvement by inducing chemical and consequently behavioural changes that promote a “short-term” approach to reproductive success, say the researchers. Longman points out that in many animal populations, male social hierarchies correspond with reproductive success, and social status is determined by competition between males. The men who believed they had won received an average testosterone increase of 4.92%, while those convinced they had lost dropped by an average of 7.24%. Overall, men who thought they were winners had testosterone levels 14.46% higher their deflated opponents. The men who felt like winners had a ‘self-perceived mate value’ that was 6.53% higher, on average, than their rivals, and were 11.29% more likely to approach attractive women in an effort to instigate sexual relations. Source: www.cam.ac.uk


In death, the allure of Elvis's legendary life and career grew even larger. Unlike celebrities of today, he had kept his private life private, creating an enthralling air of mystery. Elvis and Ginger is a testament that Elvis’s last days were not filled with the torment and misery of a drug filled haze. While there’s no doubt he was struggling with a prescription drug dependency that caused wild mood swings and shortened his life; he was still trying to live life and have fun. With Ginger Alden, he seemed to be seeking refuge in his southern origins and a longing for a stable home life. Elvis requests that Ginger join him on his tours, whisking her away in private suites, and sitting her backstage where he can see her during his shows. Elvis becomes her "mentor, lover, and protector" while emerges from Alden's memoir as an eccentric, jealous, and needy person. Alden writes from the point of view of young woman in awe of her fiance, yet it’s obvious that she was mature beyond her 21 years. Of course he bestowed her with generous gifts including a credit card to use as she pleased. In her own words, Ginger details their whirlwind romance—from first kiss to his stunning proposal of marriage. Above it all, Ginger rescues Elvis from the hearsay, rumors, and tabloid speculations of his final year by shedding a frank yet personal light by revealing the man behind the myth—complicated, romantic, fallible, and human. Fewer than nine months after they meet, she finds Elvis sprawled on the floor of his bathroom, breathing his final breaths. Source: www.bookbub.com

Billy Smith (1995): “I think Ginger was the first woman he’d run across other than Priscilla who rejected him. You could tell they were having problems. Sometimes she wouldn’t come up for a few days, and he’d get all agitated and sullen and say, ‘Where is she, man? Why don’t she stay here?’ That made him more controlling and paranoid than ever, complaining that Ginger didn't realize he needed her at his side.” ‘He always needed a woman in bed’, said Lamar Fike. ‘The touching and the feeling and everything else meant more to Elvis than the actual sex act. I guess Elvis was the King of Foreplay.’ Elvis gave Ginger a gold bracelet with “Elvis” spelled out on it in diamonds. “Now everyone will know you belong to me,” Elvis asserted. Dr. Max Shapiro, a Beverly Hills dentist who treated both Elvis and Ginger while they were vacationing in Palm Springs, substantiated that their engagement was sincere. “I can verify Ginger’s story,” he stated in 1979. “Elvis told me he loved Ginger very much and that he had asked her to marry him. They were engaged.” He added, “Elvis knew I had invented an artificial heart, and the last thing he ever said to me was, ‘Max, please make one for me and make one for Ginger.'” By August 1977, Ginger says they were discussing the details of their wedding day. Elvis said: “I would like certain people there, public officials and friends. I don’t want this wedding to be a three-ring circus. The limousines should be inches longer than a normal-length limo and in blue. I’ve thought about your gown. The dress should have a high collar and I would like it to have small rosebuds with gold threads through it.” 

Most accusations against Ginger Alden amount to a stream of vague phrases, such as “it seems,” “she might have known,” “we think,” “we guess,” “she probably figured”... And that’s the weakness of all the criticism leveled at Ginger Alden by Billy Smith and his fellow “down-home boys,” Lamar Fike, Marty Lacker, and Joe Esposito. None of them provide any credible evidence to support their negative opinions about the relationship between Elvis and Ginger. It’s time to assess the credibility of the characters on stage during the closing scenes of Elvis Presley’s life. There’s no reason to trust the accounts of any of the guys posing as Elvis’s friends in those final months. The person who was the closest to Elvis during that time was Ginger Alden. Her book “Elvis and Ginger” supports her account of those final days with dates, details, and controlled emotion. Her book is by far the best existing narrative of the final nine months of Presley’s life, leading up to his death.

Elvis told Ginger of his troubles with his entourage. “There’s gonna be changes around here.” When Elvis fell on the stairs coming off stage in Milwaukee, he told Ginger, “People just aren’t doing their jobs. I’m getting rid of Dick, Joe, and whole lot more.” Later, when Elvis told Ginger he felt lonely at Graceland, she reminded him of all the people he had around him. “They’re not my friends,” he responded. “Do you think if it weren’t for their paychecks, they’d still be around?” Elvis nearly always wanted Ginger by his side. He insisted that she stop seeing anyone else, even going so far as to hand her a telephone and asking her to call the boyfriend she had been dating and end their relationship. It was just one of many examples Ginger gives of Elvis's controlling nature. Her resistance then and at other times caused Elvis to have angry outbursts. Elvis may have been trying to bring Ginger more under his spell with an endless stream of expensive gifts. In addition to the already mentioned diamond ID bracelet, the amount of jewelry he gave her in nine months time was staggering. 

There were the rings: a gold and diamond cluster ring, one with sapphires and diamonds, another set in rubies and diamonds, another diamond cluster ring, and the engagement ring with a huge center diamond surrounded by six smaller ones. Then there were the necklaces: a diamond and emerald one, a couple more diamond necklaces, another with TLC spelled out in diamonds, and then what Ginger described as the “most singular piece of jewelry I’d ever seen: his own large ram’s head necklace in gold, inlaid with diamonds and emeralds.” Elvis also gave Ginger three new cars, mink coats, design clothing, and her own credit card. Ginger saw only benevolence in Elvis’s serial gift giving. “He saw himself as someone who was in a position to enhance other people’s lives by bringing beauty into it,” she concluded. “He thought that would make them happy.” However, when Ginger refused to immediately call her boyfriend to end their relationship, Elvis grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and thrown it against the wall. “It troubled me that Elvis had flown off the handle like that,” she recalls, but then she adds a naïve rationalization for it. “As odd as this sounds, it also made me feel good to think that Elvis was really that serious about us.” Weeks later a “deafening bang” awoke Ginger one morning at Graceland. “I bolted upright and saw Elvis standing at the foot of the bed, holding a 57 Magnum pistol in his hand. I risked a glance behind me and saw a bullet hole in the wall above the headboard. I looked back at Elvis, trying to wrap my mind around the idea that he really had just shot a hole in the wall. By way of explanation, Elvis said he had asked for yogurt and I hadn’t responded. ‘It was an attention getter,’ he said.” Although she professed to be “in shock”, Ginger accepted his apology, sensing “on a deep level, that Elvis honestly was sorry.” It wasn’t the last time she’d hear gunfire at Graceland. A running toilet in his bathroom so irritated Elvis, that he “blasted it to smithereens” with what Ginger called a “machine gun.”

That time, Ginger’s shock turned to anger, she says, and she fled Graceland and ran home to be comforted by her mother. She soon went back to a contrite Elvis, though. While Elvis and Ginger were vacationing in Hawaii in March 1977, Elvis’s anger resulted in him doing what Ginger called the “inconceivable.” It started with an argument between the two because Ginger felt Elvis had been drinking too much juice. When she left the room while Elvis was still talking, he pursued her into an adjoining room and slapped her. “No one ever walks out on me when I’m talking,” he said. “The dark mood had transformed Elvis into someone I didn’t recognize,” Ginger observed. Still, she forgave him. “I could tell by his voice that Elvis was deeply remorseful for having struck me.” Ginger says that in the nine months she was with Elvis, she never saw him sitting at a table to eat. Elvis had isolated himself in his bedroom, that is where he and Ginger were served their meals. Early on in their relationship, Ginger spoke briefly with Priscilla on the phone. “See that he eats right,” Priscilla told her, but Ginger learned that was easier said than done. “I was concerned about his health. When it came to mealtimes, Elvis and I enjoyed eating similar things such as hamburgers, steak, and omelets. I hoped to move us toward a healthier diet, but I just didn’t know how because he was used to getting what he wanted.” Eventually, she thought he was showing “more awareness of his diet.” He was drinking a lot of water and eating less yogurt. But she made that observation on August 15, 1977. It was too late to reverse decades of poor eating habits.

Elvis had popularized the peanut butter and banana sandwich. “When I told his bodyguard Sam Thompson (Linda Thompson's brother) that I had eaten fried shrimps for dinner, he said “I can’t believe you ate that in front of him.” One afternoon, Elvis was asleep and I decided to visit his paternal grandmother Minnie Mae Presley on my own. Right away, Minnie Mae’s conversation turned to her grandson. “I’m so proud of Elvis,” she said. “You know, Gladys was a strong mother. She worried about Elvis.” Minnie Mae told me that Gladys used to cook fish in the house all day and that’s why he hated fish now. It was nice talking with Elvis's grandma. She was sweet, opinionated, and funny. Best of all, she seemed as eager for me to marry Elvis as I was. Minnie Mae told me that she loved me and hoped Elvis and I would have a little boy. “I was tired of seeing that blond stuff come down the stairs,” she said. I wasn’t sure who she was talking about, but Minnie Mae Presley was the first person to really make me feel like part of the family.”

Early on, though, she says she trusted Dr. Nichopoulos to monitor Elvis’s health. Later she began to attribute Elvis’s bad mood swings to the “prescribed medication” he’d been taking. She finally summoned up the nerve to confront him about those medications. “One morning, as Elvis called for Tish to bring him medication, I told him, ‘Elvis, you don’t really need that.’ He looked at me and shook his head. ‘You don’t understand,’ he replied. ‘I need it.’ I wondered if Elvis had built up an immunity to whatever medication he’d been taking on a regular basis, and that’s why he needed an increase in dosage. I wondered if this medication could be harmful to Elvis in the long run. A few times, it seemed clear to me that it had affected his mood and behavior in negative ways.” According to Dr. Nick: “Elvis felt Ginger was the one. I had always thought that if Elvis could work out his relationship with her, everything else would fall in place. Despite their turbulent relationship, Elvis asked her to marry him. Maybe he was just ready for marriage this time.” The peril of an accidental overdose became clear to her one day when a phone call sent her rushing over to Graceland. “In the middle of the night, Elvis called me at home. I suspected he was phoning me from Las Vegas. From his heavy sounding voice, it sounded like he’d taken some sleep medication. “I miss you,” he said. “I miss you, too,” I told him. We spoke briefly, said we loved each other, then said good night. My heart sank as we hung up.

The following afternoon, someone called from Graceland to say Elvis was ill. This concerned me and I was on edge. I rushed over, and when I entered Elvis’s bedroom, I was greeted by the sight of Elvis lying in bed on his side, facing me with his eyes closed and hooked up to an IV. Scared, my heart sank again. I had never seen Elvis like this before. Charlie, Billy, and a few others were standing around. Dr. Nichopoulos was sitting in a chair. “What happened?” I asked. Charlie told me that Elvis had gone to Las Vegas and taken too much medication. It crushed me to see him like this. Everyone stood about the room, quiet. Gradually, Dr. Nichopoulos and the guys began slowly exiting the room. I lay down beside Elvis. I stared up at the ceiling, brokenhearted, and my eyes welled up. Suddenly, I felt Elvis move on the bed beside me. I looked over as he began rolling over onto his back. Turning his head my way, Elvis slowly opened his eyes. He didn’t say a word, but with an unsteady hand, he took his finger and wiped a tear from my eye. The questions swirled in my mind as confusion and anger blurred my vision. All I could think about, over and over again, was how could his people have let this happen? In retrospect, I can’t help but feel that Elvis’s plunge into that kind of extreme depression for those few days was exacerbated by Elvis’s knowledge of the scathingly negative book coming out, written by his former bodyguards Dave Hebler and Red and Sonny West.” Source: www.elvis-history-blog.com