The death of Marilyn Monroe, like the “Paul Is Dead” phenomenon, was one of those things I’ve been obsessed with since childhood. I was introduced to her movies as a kid, but it was always with this caveat that she had died young, supposedly by suicide. So, like other celebrities such as Karen Carpenter and James Dean, Monroe always carried that “morbid” quality about her. I can only imagine what it must have been like to encounter her work and persona when she first made it big—to experience her “fresh,” without that tragic filter of hindsight.
I can’t remember how I first saw her autopsy photo. It was way before the Internet was a “thing,” so I’m thinking maybe it was in one of those “Hollywood Babylon” books? Or maybe an old bio, or maybe a sensationalistic article in my mother’s Cosmopolitan or National Enquirer.
Monroe looked so…different in that photo. Sort of “deflated.” It’s a shocking photo. I think she’s the first dead person I’ve ever seen. I wondered if that was the way all dead people looked, outside of extenuating circumstances (and by that, I obviously mean what happened to Toht in Raiders).
I started reading conspiracy theories about her death when I was in my early teens. They could get quite graphic. The central premise—that she was killed because she “knew too much”—made a lot of sense to me, even back then. Occam’s razor, once again. She likely had an affair with both the president of the United States and his brother. She kept company with some organized crime types. She was in a very dangerous position.
And as I got even older—and understood the full context of her life, her death, and where it fit within a whole web of early-1960s intrigue, it became even more obvious to me that she was probably murdered. Not only that—but I realized just how worthless and expendable she was considered to be by the powerful men who surrounded her. To the world, she was a cinematic Goddess—and probably more than that, the embodiment of a whole archetype of femininity. But to the powerful, she was kind of just a piece of trash, to be used and discarded (liquidated) if necessary. It was just that simple.
Peter Levenda in Vol. 3 of his trilogy Sinister Forces has really great commentary on this situation:
It’s possible that the men who killed Marilyn were concerned about national security; it’s possible they were protecting American secrets from leaking to the press, or to the Soviet Union. It’s possible they told themselves, these grey-souled men of the CIA, the FBI, the Mob, the anti-Castro Cubans, the Sinatras, the Giancanas, the Hunts, that Marilyn Monroe was just a weak-willed, inconvenient woman who was in the way, a dumb broad with a big mouth, a slut who slept her way to stardom, a woman scorned, a mistress dumped.
I submit—after my own, twenty-five-year-long investigation into American politics and American culture—that all these men taken together, all these Hunts and Sinatras and Giancanas and Bolanos, and Greenson and Murray and all the rest, were not worth one Marilyn Monroe, whatever the official or unofficial reason for her execution.
How many other “Marilyns” have there been that we don’t even realize?