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The Gravedigging Beat


This month’s Vanity Fair features a windy trot through the remains of Marilyn Monroe’s estate, in the name of unraveling the “mystery of Marilyn’s death.” There are a few Kennedy love letters, one from T.S. Eliot (!?), and a whole lot of morbid fetishism. (The curious can find a full web-only accounting here.) Of course, the media loves a dead blonde, but this is more unseemly than usual.

Monroe’s death is only a mystery the way JFK’s death is a mystery. When a corpse is found surrounded by sleeping pills, you don’t have to reach too far for the truth. Monroe was an orphan, and struggled all her life with what Arthur Miller described (in a far superior VF article) as “the bottomless loneliness that no parented person can really know”, so her suicide was not as inexplicable as Kashner would have us believe. The real shock is how blind most writers have been to her real, human problems.

Of course, her struggles with depression weren’t helped by moon-eyed writers gushing about her inner grace/neckline (we’re looking at you, Truman) or world leaders stopping by for a quickie (we’re looking at you, Bobby and John). Fame kills, as today’s quick-burning starlets can attest. Marilyn was the first example, but more than forty years later Vanity Fair has yet to figure it out.

It’s no coincidence that her will left a big chunk of her fortune to the famous method-acting tutor Lee Strasberg. He knew her before the fame set in and, one presumes, knew her as a human being. All the people who’ve come along since—and that includes late-comers like Kashner—are just part of the problem.