Foreword by Gary Vitacco-Robles
Even before I began the research for my two volume Marilyn biography, Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe, I knew Marilyn was a cultural goddess, a legend, and an American icon. I had been her fan for many years by then; but my research revealed how she survived a childhood marked by neglect, chaos, and sexual abuse to become a psychological, cultural and spiritual phenomenon of the Twentieth Century. My admiration for her only grew; but more than that, I realized that Marilyn Monroe is a magnet that not only draws people to her but also draws people together. It was through the medium of Marilyn’s magnetism, my Marilyn biography and FaceBook that I met Donald McGovern and established a friendship with him, based on our mutual admiration for Miss Monroe.
Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe’s birth name, survived the adversity of childhood sexual abuse, familial mental illness and addiction to prescribed medication while establishing herself as an accomplished and beloved international motion picture actress and historical figure. Marilyn continues to illuminate the world and fascinate us with her incredible and indelible story. Her resilience has inspired us while also increasing our awareness of mental illness, prescription medication addiction and the impact of childhood sexual abuse. Part of Marilyn’s enduring appeal may be the empathy that her pain and life experiences evoke in each of us. She inspires us to project our own subjective interpretations onto her extraordinary life.
Only a few deaths of prominent global figures have incited such a proliferation of conjecture and conspiracy theories in the decades receding them: John F. Kennedy, for instance, along with Natalie Wood and Princess Diana. In the fifty-seven years since Marilyn’s tragic death at age thirty-six, the proliferation of conspiracy theories have reduced her to a one-dimensional victim in an over-simplified whodunit similar to the children’s game of Clue. Colonel Mustard committed the murder in the library with the candlestick becomes Robert Kennedy killed Marilyn Monroe in her bedroom with a lethal injection. Tabloid television and journalism thrive on the public’s hunger for conspiracy theories involving the government and entertainment industry with equal doses of sex and violence thrown in to appeal to our most primal drives. Year after year, new books, articles, and alleged television documentaries sell recycled versions of a Marilyn murder plot. The conspiracy theories become circular as newer ones refer to or expand upon previous theories, and in many cases, even contradict them. The murder theories introduced by Frank Capell and Robert Slatzer, mentioning two only, were later accepted by biographers Anthony Summers and Donald H. Wolfe, and subsequently debunked by Donald Spoto and myself. However, the reiteration of these unsubstantiated and often outlandish estimations manipulate the general public to accept them as fact.
Why are we so enthralled by conspiracy theories? Scholar Mark Fenster effectively explains conspiracy theories in the post-Watergate and post-9/11 era as our cultural means of interpreting and narrating the abundance of information hurled at us by global mass media. Robert Alan Goldberg argues this is a timeworn practice. Since the colonial period, Americans have entertained notions of vast, subversive plots. In Enemies Within, for instance, Goldberg says the media’s validation and distribution of conspiracy theories, combined with the behavior of elected officials, have damaged the public’s faith and confidence, have also created a fertile ground for disturbed rhetoric and thinking in today’s America.
Occasionally, new information about Marilyn Monroe, such as unpublished images, interviews or personal letters written by Marilyn herself, humanize her and partially erase the steady stream of sleaze journalism. Susan Strasberg accurately described this phenomenon through the metaphor of Marilyn as a lotus rising out of the mud.
Enter Donald McGovern and Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View Of Marilyn Monroe’s Death. Within his book, which now appears on this website, he restores logic and sanity to the investigation of Marilyn Monroe’s death. McGovern’s thesis is based upon the premise that the engines of conspiracies are started and fueled by opinion, not by facts. Marilyn’s murder orthodoxies, he argues, are the same types of engines, fueled by opinion, not by facts. Moreover, the murder orthodoxies and the pathographies advancing them are filled with inconsistencies and contradictions. They are essentially illogical, include a multitude of illogical assertions and the multiplicity of the murder orthodoxies render each suspect. Finally, the murder orthodoxies surrounding Marilyn’s death are mutually exclusive, meaning they cannot all be the truth or factual.
McGovern separates fact from fiction and probable theory from outlandish rumor. He addresses and debunks all of the usual allegations related to Marilyn’s death, the secrets recorded in her little red diary, her scheduled whistle-blowing press conference, the murder plots by organized crime and the brothers Kennedy and the fatal injection of drugs, along with many others. In this era of fake news, ultimately, Donald McGovern’s credible conclusions are based on logic, science, toxicology, and forensic evidence. With hope, his Murder Orthodoxies: A Non-Conspiracist’s View Of Marilyn Monroe’s Death will push years of conspiracy-theory driven biographies of Marilyn Monroe off the shelves and inspire a new generation of biographers grounded in fact, logic, and ethics. Case closed.