Marilyn's Fragmentary Journals

Sometime prior to 2010, Anna Strasberg, Lee Strasberg’s third wife and his widow,1uncovered two previously undiscovered boxes concealed among the passel of clothes, pictures and other artifacts that Marilyn bequeathed her friend and acting mentor. In those two boxes, the widow Strasberg found a cache of documents along with several notebooks and journals, on the pages of which Marilyn had committed her intimate thoughts and feelings. In these newly discovered diary entries and poems, Sam Kashner wrote for Vanity Fair, Marilyn reveals a young woman for whom writing and poetry were lifelines, the ways and means to discover who she was and to sort through her often tumultuous emotional life.2Or as Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment asserted in an editorial note to their publication featuring Marilyn’s intimate writings: What the notes reveal is intimacy without showiness, the seismic measuring of a soul.3It is doubtful that Marilyn ever intended for her personal, unedited journals to be published: they are, by and large, emotionally raw, extremely raw. The appropriateness of the widow Strasberg’s decision to publish them, and her motivation for doing so, is certainly a fair topic for debate, but debate for another time.

Many of the persons who actually knew Marilyn, and spent a considerable amount of time with her, testified that she frequently wrote in journals, Paula and Susan Strasberg, for example, and Amy Greene, who alleged that Marilyn wrote everything down. She was like a musician that way. You’re sitting down to dinner, and all of a sudden they’ll run out of the room to write something down. She liked those black-and-white composition books for school-children.4Odd: evidently, Marilyn avoided those little red diaries equipped with a clasp for locking; and she also avoided entries beginning with the words Dear Diary.

However, neither Paula nor Susan nor Amy ever offered any insight into why Marilyn kept journals nor what she wrote in them; but the publication of Marilyn’s fragments certainly clarified why and what she wrote, clarified her need and desire to express the thoughts and feelings that frequently approached ineffability, to express the anxiety she felt as an actress and her fears of inadequacy. More importantly, perhaps, she wrote to purge her unsettled and often frenetic mind: All this thought & writting [sic] has made my hands tremble, she wrote in a letter to herself analyzing her marriage to Jimmie Dougherty, but I just want to keep pouring it out until that great pot in my mind is, though not emptied, relieved […].5

Marilyn’s journal entries are scattered almost frantically across the pages on which she actually wrote: within her journals there are many empty pages. Marilyn’s expression of a brief, a lightning-like thought might begin on this page, maybe in the upper left hand corner, come to an apparent end, then begin anew, on the same page after several intervening passages, then begin anew, perhaps, even two pages later in the journal in the lower right hand corner. She indicated the flow of her thoughts and related passages by drawing directional arrows; and the passages are replete with crossed-out words and misspellings. She simply could not spell; and she did not concern herself with the constraints of punctuation. It is apparent, when the mood to write struck her, Marilyn availed herself of not only journals, but single pages, hotel stationary and, according to Amy Greene, sometimes napkins as well.

Marilyn was not an organized woman. Many persons who actually knew her commented on this very Marilyn characteristic. She was, after all, an undisciplined poet. Her friend, the poet Norman Rosten, realized that Marilyn was instinctually a poet but without the necessary control or restraint. Many of her entries are poetic fragments, abstractions, metaphorical fragments, virtually all inner directed; and some even suggest that Marilyn possessed a death wish; but as the editors of Marilyn’s fragments correctly noted, very few heard that contradictory and timorous voice: the voice of the dazzling and effulgent cinema star attracted all the attention. Arthur Miller wrote of her: she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.

Marilyn did not include a calendar date for any of her journal entries, but that is not surprising: Ralph Roberts often commented that she seldom knew the exact date or the exact time; she seldom bothered with those troublesome details. However, the editors of Fragments suggest, based on the contents of Marilyn’s fragments, that she began writing in her journals around 1951 and continued to do so until her death in 1962. It is apparent that the frequency of her entries diminished during the later years of her life.

Ted Jordan alleged, in his goofy memoir, that Marilyn was in such a debilitated psychological state during the final two years of her life that she could not perform even the simplest of functions without help. She certainly was in no shape to keep a diary (Jordan 252-253). According to Muqaddin, however, Marilyn made continuous entries in her diary, a constant practice that only ended the night of her death. Muqaddin asserted about a few of Marilyn’s entries regarding Bobby Kennedy and Peter Lawford: I always believed that Marilyn had made these final entries the night she died (Muqaddin 115). The reality of Marilyn’s last year alive, what she was able to accomplish during her struggle with 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation, dispels Jordan’s unfounded aspersion about Marilyn’s poor frame of mind and her ability to function independently; but Jordan inadvertently hinted at an interesting point: could Marilyn have kept the kind of diary described by our five witnesses?

For instance, Jeanne Carmen described a diary which contained detailed descriptions and even map sketches; and Muqaddin asserted that in her diary Marilyn detailed the events of her life. Certainly Marilyn possessed the intelligence to maintain such a diary but she lacked the discipline; and the fragmentary, disjointed nature of her writing indicates that she was not an organized, linear thinker. And, too, there remains one major problem with what our diary witnesses have asserted over the intervening years since Marilyn’s death, an important detail that they have left relatively unexplained about her politically sensitive writings: when did she enter all the explosive information into her Red Book of Secrets? When did she write the detailed descriptions, memorialize her activities as a spy and her conversations with the middle Kennedy brothers. When did she sketch the maps the diary contained? Robert Slatzer allegedly questioned Marilyn about her diary, asked her why she began to keep one.

She began her diary, according to Marilyn according to Slatzer, because the attorney general enjoyed discussing politics. He lost his temper with Marilyn on at least one occasion because she could not remember anything he had said. She decided thereafter to jot down a few notes to help her remember, not in front of Bobby, of course, but later, after their encounters and when Marilyn was alone. She often studied her notes before her next meeting with her attorney general lover. Slatzer cautioned Marilyn about the sensitive nature of what she had recorded in her dairy, noting its historical importance. Slatzer’s assessment of her diary produced a frail smile and a differing assessment from Marilyn. She allegedly dismissed her entries: they were not that important.

According to legend, Marilyn needed more than forty takes to finally say correctly, Where’s that bourbon. Her directors and her costars mention one aspect of Marilyn the actress more than any other: her apparent inability to remember lines of dialogue. Don Murray, her costar in Bus Stop, avails himself of every opportunity to proclaim that Marilyn was afflicted with a short attention span; and George Axelrod, who wrote The Seven Year Itch, both the original Broadway production and the screenplay, commented on more than one occasion that Marilyn could not remember anything; once he even asserted that Marilyn could not even remember the address of the apartment building where she lived in Manhattan. If we take Murray and Axelrod at their word, and if we accept the preceding Slatzer anecdote, accept that Marilyn could not remember anything Robert Kennedy said during their conversations, then the conspiracists have a troublesome problem.

Muqaddin and Carmen, along with other conspiracists, expected their readers to accept, and therefore to believe, that Marilyn could recall the intricacies of her surroundings with enough accuracy to compose detailed descriptions and to sketch maps of allegedly secret locations, which I’m not sure is even possible. Allegedly, Marilyn could recall code names and could recite verbatim all the conversations between her and the middle Kennedy brothers, along with the conversations of agents from the FBI and the CIA, conversations about complex politics, even though Slatzer asserted that Marilyn did not even understand politics, did not even know the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

What Robert Slatzer, Jeanne Carmen, Samir Muqaddin and many others have asserted about Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets contains an inherent and quintessential contradiction, one the conspiracists obviously did not and do not perceive. How could Marilyn remember all that detail plus the intricacies of geopolitical espionage and how could she ever transcribe those conversations into her Little Red Diary, even the conversations with Robert Kennedy, and especially at a later time, if she could not even remember simple lines or three words of dialogue and she could not remember anything Robert Kennedy actually said? And, too, if Marilyn was an agent working for the FBI and the CIA, as asserted by Muqaddin, certainly she would have realized and understood the importance of her diary.

Many erudite and intelligent persons have analyzed and attempted to analyze what Marilyn wrote in her journals. So, I will not attempt to superimpose my layman’s analysis thereon; and thusly, I will leave any additional and future analysis to persons much more erudite and intelligent than I. While the words Marilyn wrote in her journals, and the thoughts she expressed, are certainly important, they are not important within the context of this book. What is important, however, is what she did not write about.

Neither the MOB nor mobsters appeared on the pages of her discovered journals. Not a word about Sam Giancana nor Handsome Johnny Roselli nor Tony Accardo. Neither the FBI nor the CIA appeared therein. Neither intelligence agents nor the spyboys appeared on the pages of the journals found by the widow Strasberg. Not a word about J. Edgar Hoover nor Iron Bob nor Big Jim nor Eduardo. Neither Frank Sinatra nor Fidel C. nor Cuba nor the USSR received a mention. Her journals did not contain detailed descriptions of secret places nor sketched maps thereof. None of that appeared therein, although one of her journals presented a comic profile sketch of a lantern-jawed fellow, presumed to be Sir Laurence Olivier. Neither UFOs nor aliens nor little green men received as much as a passing mention. Finally, her journals do not contain graphic descriptions of her romances. Not a word about any sexual encounters with the middle Kennedy brothers nor their torrid nuclear affairs. Not a word about her desire to assume the cloak and crown of First Lady nor to ceremoniously receive then wear any sort of garland diadem. The middle Kennedy brothers do appear, however, in one of the journals found by the widow Strasberg. Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters contains a chapter entitled “Written Answers to an Interview, 1962”.

While Marilyn enjoyed established friendships with more than a few photographers, the editors of Fragments noted, she was frequently leery of journalists, suspicious of their motives; and she usually required them to submit in advance the questions they planned to ask her during an interview. Marilyn prepared for interviews just like she prepared for a movie scene. In one such case, the interviewer planned to ask the actress to name the persons she most admired. Marilyn wrote in one of her journals that she admired Eleanor Roosevelt because the former First Lady was devoted to mankind. Also, on the list of persons Marilyn admired, she included Carl Sandburg, with whom she also shared a friendship, Greta Garbo, due to her courage and integrity, and finally, President and Robert Kennedy because they represented America’s young people, their vigor, brilliance and compassion. Other than the above reference to the middle Kennedy brothers, Marilyn did not mention those scions of the Kennedy family on the pages of her journals.

Arthur Miller received fragmentary mention on some stationary from Parkside House, the Manor where the Millers lived while they were in England. While filming The Prince and the Showgirl, an event transpired that adversely impacted the Miller’s relationship. As the editors of Fragments noted, Marilyn discovered one of Miller’s open notebooks. Her new husband expressed doubts regarding his marriage to her, expressed disappointment with her and, perhaps more importantly, stated that he was frequently disgraced and embarrassed by her. Miller’s writings devastated his wife. She felt betrayed; and in response, she wrote a description of her embarrassed husband as he slept beside her in the dimly lit room. Even though she saw the man and his masculine jaw, she imagined him as a sensitive but playful child who merely forgot what he did not understand. In death, she wondered, would he look as he looked lying there; and then she declared oh unbearable fact inevitable yet sooner would I rather his love die than/or him? (Monroe 107).

Many biographers and many conspiracists have delineated, over the years, a Marilyn Monroe that did not exist: she was neither a helpless victim nor a silly pubescent girl of fantasy swooning over, seized by the passion of an infatuation. Marilyn’s musings about her relationships with the men in her life, and her feelings about both the men and the relationships, were invariably psychological in nature and invariably led her to engage in an intense introspection; but individuals who did not actually know Marilyn would be prone to attribute uncharacteristic writings and comments to her, would offer the most fallacious and preposterous characterizations based on their dubious agendas and their foregone conclusions, not to mention their ignorance and their sophistry. When we compare Marilyn’s actual writings with the writings that certain individuals have alleged were Marilyn’s, a large chasm between what those individuals have alleged, and what we now know is real, becomes painfully apparent. Those certain individuals never mentioned her scattered, almost frantic, often poetic entries, her disjointed thoughts, crossed-out words or directional arrows and her frequent misspellings. Clearly, those certain individuals, biographers and conspiracists alike, never expected this: that Marilyn’s journals would be discovered and then published in 2010, and evidently, the individuals who penned and published books after the tenth year of the 21st century never bothered to read Marilyn’s fragments, her poems, her intimate notes or her letters.

Some will suggest―maybe many will―that nothing I have herein asserted regarding Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets proves that it did not exist; some will suggest that the red diary might still exist, even now, somewhere on Earth. I suppose those are suggestions that can be made; however, nothing asserted by the five individuals who claimed to know that the diary existed―they saw it they read it―or the conspiracists who have repeated and otherwise embellished the claims of our five alleged witnesses, none of their assertions prove the diary ever existed either; and too, if it actually existed and those who wanted the diary destroyed eventually found it, certainly it no longer exists. Certainly, as well, the contradictions contained in the testimonies of our five diary witnesses, and others associated therewith, cast reasonable doubt on the entire mythology of Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets. It is their word against history: no diary of the type described by Slatzer, Carmen, Jordan, Rothmiller and Muqaddin has, in forty-nine years, been found. Besides and in fact, not one person in Marilyn’s inner circle ever mentioned seeing a diary of the type described by our witnesses, not Pat Newcomb nor Susan Strasberg nor Ralph Roberts nor Joe DiMaggio nor Arthur Miller, not even Eunice Murray, who allegedly possessed it briefly, ever mentioned a Red Book of Secrets, Marilyn’s Little Red Diary.

In the end, however, if you believe that Marilyn Monroe was what certain individuals have alleged, and continue to allege, or if you believe she was romantically and sexually involved with certain nefarious and brutal individuals, as alleged, why would she keep a diary as proof? Why would she record the secrets of John and Robert Kennedy and record her conversations with them? An intelligent woman like Marilyn would not engage in such an activity: to do so defies reason and logic. But allegedly Marilyn intended to defy logic yet again. In the final chapter of his memoir, Muqaddin asserted that he found type-written proof of Marilyn’s intent to hold a press conference and expose the middle Kennedy brothers. He found this proof in the same purse in which he found Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets. Like Marilyn’s Little Red Diary, that proof also disappeared; but more about it and the press conference later.

At the start of this discussion, I compared Marilyn’s diary to the Holy Grail and the Arc of the Covenant, two religious artifacts alleged to exist that have never actually been seen by contemporary eyes. In many respects, Marilyn’s Little Red Diary has become a religious artifact, a religious relic from the Realm of Marilyn, the tale of its existence not unlike a theology; and the type-written document that Muqaddin claimed he found in Marilyn’s purse is a part of that theology. I suppose a more appropriate comparison for Marilyn’s Red Book of Secrets is a comparison to the famous Maltese Falcon, an object prescribed by legend and mythology to have a certain form that is desired by many because of its incredible value, only when found, the object proves to be something altogether different, not worthless for true, but possessing less value than its legend otherwise prescribed. Marilyn’s Little Red Diary, her Red Book of Secrets is, after all, like that black, jewel encrusted falcon statuette from film lore: a MacGuffin.

SECTION 7: The $64,000 Question