Pete, the Brother-in-Lawford

Like the shadow of Cal-Neva Resort, the long and sinewy shadow of a thin man falls across the death of Marilyn Monroe, that of Peter Lawford, otherwise known to the former Detective Lynn Franklin as Pete. Peter Earnest Sydney Lawford was actually born an Aylen, his conception the result of an extramarital affair between his actual father, Lieutenant General Sir Sydney Turing Barlow Lawford, KBE, and May Sommerville Bunny, Pete’s mother. At the time of Pete’s birth, his mother was married to Captain Dr. Ernest Vaughn Aylen, one of Lieutenant General Law­ford’s officers. May eventually confessed to her husband that the son she delivered in 1923 on the 7th of September in London was not his progeny. Her confession led to divorces for both her and Lieutenant General Lawford. After their divorces were finalized in September of 1924, Pete’s mother and his father married; Pete was a year old. By all accounts, Pete’s childhood was bizarre.

Peter Lawford, known also as The Thin Man for his portrayal of the suave and debonair private eye, Nick Charles, was not overlooked in the preceding text, not completely anyway. Textually, he appears here and there when the situation or the circumstances so dictated that he must. I did not forget that Pete was married to Pat Kennedy, sister to John and Robert, or that Marilyn was exceptionally friendly with Pat, or that Marilyn allegedly spent a considerable amount of time in the Lawford’s company. All of that is contained within the preceding text. Even so, I confess that I had, and have, a difficult time accepting much of the testimony that has been placed in the mouth of Pete Lawford. One of Pete’s biographers christened him the man who kept the secrets, the Kennedy’s secrets that is.

Within this text, I invoked Peter Lawford’s name nearly two-hundred and fifty times, virtually the same number of times various conspiracists invoked his name. Anthony Summers, for instance, invoked Pete’s name exactly three-hundred times. Summers apparently interviewed Pete but also admitted that the interview was brief and not long before the actor’s death on Christmas Eve in 1984, certainly not the most conducive time for an inter-view with the man who kept the secrets.

In 1983, Anthony Summers met Pete in a stylish Los Angeles restaurant for an interview. The sixty year old movie star’s excessive life had taken a toll on Lawford’s health, Summers observed. So, if Lawford was already sixty when Summers met him in that au courant restaurant, then the meeting must have taken place at the end of 1983 or after September the 7th, approximately a year before Pete’s transport into eternity. By that time, Pete was already extremely frail and ill and his frail body had succumbed to the devastating effects of chronic alcoholism and drug abuse.

When Marilyn’s Irish pathographer tried to broach the subject of her death with the frail old Englishman, Pete began to sob and stab himself in the heart with self-condemnations for not driving to Marilyn’s hacienda on the night of August the 4th, twenty-one winters past. So Summers stated that he permanently dropped the subject. Peter Lawford entered eternity just as Johannes Gutenberg’s fifteenth century printing invention began to force Summers’ words onto paper. Considering Peter Lawford’s guilt because he did not drive the few short miles to Marilyn’s modest home on that night of nights, I cannot accept that he stood silently in Marilyn’s guest house and watched as Ralph Greenson stabbed Marilyn in her heart. Perhaps it was a good thing that Peter Lawford was not exposed to Summers’ pathography.

Summers admitted that Lawford refuted the tales regarding John Kennedy’s affair with Marilyn. The ill and aging English actor termed the allegations thereof nothing but balls; and yet, since Lawford’s repudiation contradicted Summers’ entrenched belief, the Irish writer dismissed the English actor’s statements. Normal protocol. Sum-mers also asserted that the facts suggested otherwise. I am not exactly sure which facts Summers meant.

Summers did not offer many direct quotations from Lawford. Instead, he relied on quotations from various witnesses, Deborah Gould, for instance, who was married to Lawford in 1976; but as husband and wife, Pete and Deborah only cohabited for two months. Even so, Deborah reported several tidbits that she claimed Lawford told her about Marilyn’s affairs with the middle Kennedy brothers. Similarly, Summers interviewed Patricia Seaton, who married Pete in July of 1984, approximately six months before his relocation into eternity the following December. Summers’ interview with Patricia occurred after her husband’s death; and she testified that Pete told her John Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn and they copulated in one the beachside mansion’s onyx bathtubs.

Summers could not offer any direct testimony from Pete Lawford to corroborate the tales of Deborah Gould or Patricia Seaton.

Still, Marilyn’s Irish pathographer dropped many other names of persons who allegedly knew Pete and knew all about Marilyn’s assignations with the middle Kennedy brothers by way of the thin man’s juicy anecdotes, none of which were ever encumbered by a calendar date.

While Summers quoted Pete sparingly, the serial fabulist, C. David Heymann, quoted Pete extensively, some quotations pages in length, all enclosed in quotation marks. As I noted in Section 4, within the part dedicated to Heymann, Patricia Seaton informed David Johnston, a vocal critic of Heymann’s frequent use of fabricated and deceased sources, that Lawford could not have been interviewed by Heymann as the author had alleged. According to her, and I repeat here what I previously noted, Pete was close to death and hardly able to make coherent statements, much less conduct a lengthy interview.1Therein rests a difficult problem and the navel of the issue. Considering that Heymann’s initial book about the Kennedys, A Woman Named Jackie, which featured tales about Marilyn and President Kennedy, published in 1989, appeared five years after Peter Lawford’s death, when, then, did Heymann interview the dying actor? More than likely, I here assert, never. According to Patricia Seaton, Heymann invented all the quotations he attributed to her husband; and a considerable amount of what Heymann quoted, what he alleged came from the mind and mouth of Pete, found its way onto the pages of Marilyn pathographies written thereafter; but the quotation most often mentioned in the same breath as the name Peter Lawford became the title of a BBC television documentary, Say Good-bye to the President, broadcast in October of 1985. According to Anthony Summers, Pete said that Marilyn spoke similar words during their telephone conversation the night of August the 4th: Say goodbye to Jack and say good-bye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy. John Kennedy was also called Jack Kennedy.

Summers admitted that Pete altered more than a few times over the years the words which he placed in Marilyn’s mouth. Many Marilyn historians note that Lawford did not begin using and then inconsistently repeating the famous quotation until the mid nineteen seventies. As a re­sult, those historians doubt the validity of the quo-tation, citing as partial corroboration the following fact: Marilyn was not a fan of Peter Lawford. Their unique history suggests that Lawford fell romantically for Marilyn at the beginning of her movie career and he pursued her while they were both a part of the local surfing community; but she was simply disinterested. She apparently referred to him as a beach wolf more than once; and as I noted earlier, Marilyn was suspicious of Pete’s wolfesque motives.

However, on October the 16th in 1974 at 5:00 PM, the Los Angeles Police Department interviewed Pete Lawford. During that interview, according to the LAPD, Pete asserted that Marilyn said: Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to Jack and say good-bye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy. The preceding quotation is not exactly the same as the one reported by Summers and other conspiracists; but neither is it radically different. Moreover, during his LAPD interview, as noted on the written account thereof, Mr. Lawford also stated that most of what has been written by various authors, such as Slatzer, Scaduto, Mailer and others regarding the last days in the life of Marilyn Monroe are ‘pure fantasy’. Odd. No conspiracist of which I am aware has ever mentioned or quoted Pete’s inter-view with the LAPD.

Randy Taraborrelli stated, in his Marilyn literary work, that he interviewed Pete Lawford in 1981, two years before Summers’ interview and before Pete became seriously ill, before most of the fiction about Marilyn and the Kennedys took root. Taraborrelli described Pete as a kindhearted but conflicted man who would never have betrayed a friend. Taraborrelli quoted the loyal and kindhearted Pete: All of this business about Marilyn and JFK and Bobby is pure crap. I think maybe―and I’m saying maybe―she had one or two dates with JFK. Not a single date with Bobby, though, and I swear to Christ that’s the truth (Taraborrelli  486). While writing his book about Frank Sinatra, Taraborrelli interviewed Dean Martin who testified: If you knew Peter like I knew Peter, you would know that he would never have said those things about Marilyn and the Kennedys, especially if those stories were true (Taraborrelli 487). I do not know what secrets Pete revealed to his ex-wives, if any; and I do not know what secrets he revealed to his acquaintances and friends, if any; and I do not know what Marilyn said to Pete the night of August the 4th in 1962, or if she said anything at all about John Kennedy; however, the testimony, statements and anecdotes attributed to Peter Lawford, particularly those attributed to him by C. David Heymann, should be considered suspect.

Allow me to pose questions and raise a possibility. If, at the time of her death, Marilyn was in love with and having an affair with Robert Kennedy, why would she instruct Pete to say good-bye to the president for her? To do that seems implausible and, well, a good-bye misdirected. Certainly she would have instructed Pete to tell her current former lover good-bye, the attorney general, who was staying at Pete’s beachside mansion, some have alleged. Marilyn was putatively devastated over Bobby Kennedy’s rejection. Say good-bye to Bobby. Does the absence of a good-bye to Bobby suggest that Marilyn never had an affair with the attorney general?

Whitey Snyder and His Injudicious Introduction