The Middle Kennedy Brothers
Without debate, most can agree that Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful, magnetic and sexy woman, arguably one the most beautiful, one the most magnetic and sexy women of all time. Some will even argue that she was the most beautiful, most magnetic and the most sexy woman who ever walked the planet. Legendary costume designer William Travilla recalled in an interview that the greatest gift he ever received was knowing Marilyn Monroe, whose incredible beauty could not be replicated.1According to her 20th Century-Fox press agent, Roy Craft, Marilyn’s demeanor was so magnetic and pervasive that she could convince each man in a group of men surrounding her that he was the one man for whom she was searching. Jock Carroll photographed Marilyn in 1952 while she was filming Niagara; he described her direct gaze as cataclysmic; and he observed that her gaze, when focused directly on you, made you feel as though you shared a naughty secret with her. Philippe Halsman, along with two assistants, photographed Marilyn for LIFE magazine, also in 1952. Halsman observed that Marilyn had the incredible ability to make each one of them feel like he was the most important person in the room, that absent the others “something incredible would happen. Her sex appeal was not a put-on,” he also observed. Marilyn was desired and pursued by many men, and according to some, many women as well; but Halsman believed that Marilyn used her ability to mesmerize along with her un-put-on sex appeal, not only as a weapon, but also as a defense.2
Marilyn’s sexuality, her legendary sexual prowess along with her many alleged dalliances and peccadilloes are a large part of the Marilyn Mystique, even as large as her screen performances, her whispery elocution, her glamorous curves, platinum hair, crimson lips and liquid blue eyes. According to sexual legend, she was involved with more men than Carter’s got little liver pills; that is, if you accept all the tales by various common men, photographers and movie stars who came forth after her death with a memoir to sell, heady accounts of sin and sex. People will trade silver money for tales involving sin and sex; and if the tales of sin and sex involve Marilyn Monroe, people will trade gold money for them, as if the tales are sugary sweets at a County Fair. But then, according to Norman Mailer, Marilyn was fed sexual candy. She was transformed by the candy’s alchemy into an enchanting sexual sweet herself, one with creamy skin and cotton candy hair.
The beautiful actress and sexual sweet mesmerized and attracted many men, including the middle Kennedy brothers, very powerful men in very high places. According to the conspiracists, their murder orthodoxies and the many pathographies that have fallen onto the shelves in libraries and main street bookstores, the middle Kennedy brothers ended up ordering Marilyn’s murder. As Sarah Churchwell observed in The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, Sarah’s unusual but interesting analysis of Marilyn’s debasement in biographical media, the documentarians and film makers, the journalists and novelists all recount similar fables and slavishly repeat the identical homilies and replace truth with truism (Churchwell 74).
The murder conspiracist’s biographical cañon rotated and revolved around sensationalism for the better part of a decade following Marilyn’s death; and during that time, the murder orthodoxies which formed became more bizarre and goofier while at the same time, became less substantiated. Marilyn became the bell cow of sensationalist authors and the bulls those authors invariably led into the publishing barn yard were the middle Kennedy brothers, John Fitzgerald and his younger brother, Robert Francis.
The first biography that distinguished itself by questioning the accepted intrigue of Marilyn’s romantic entanglements with the middle Kennedy brothers, a biography that briefly interrupted the accepted use of intemperate sensationalism as a marketing device, arrived in the form of Donald Spoto’s 1993 publication, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography. Spoto questioned the verity of Robert F. Slatzer and Jeanne Laverne Carmen, without really examining the details of their bizarre assertions, while he also questioned the sexual legends and the constructs that Marilyn engaged in a lengthy romance with John Kennedy, a fatal whirlwind affair with Robert Kennedy and that she was also a MOB mistress.
Two additional biographies followed thereafter, one by Randy Taraborrelli in 2007, and then Gary Vitacco-Robles’ exhaustively researched two volume tome in 2014. Each biographer agreed with and otherwise reinforced Spoto’s assertions; and each biographer refuted that Marilyn and John Kennedy were involved in a surreptitious long term and complex romantic affair. Likewise, each biographer refuted the accepted assertion that Marilyn and Robert Kennedy were lovers. Each maintained that no credible evidence existed, or exists, to support a romantic relationship at all between Marilyn and the younger Kennedy brother and each refuted the standard murder orthodoxies.
The lack of credible evidence to support a love affair between actress and attorney general should come as no surprise: Norman Mailer confessed in 1973 that he fundamentally fabricated that romantic link between Marilyn and Robert Kennedy; but more precisely, Mailer merely reproduced the fabrication instigated by Maurice Ries and Frank Capell, the unfounded imputation that Robert Kennedy and a gaggle of murderous communists were involved in Marilyn’s death, an imputation featured in Capell’s 1964 pamphlet, an anti-communist, anti-Kennedy philippic. Mailer advanced Capell’s fabrication, he admitted, as a strategy to ensure that his biographical novel would be a best seller and his strategy succeeded.
Of course, the only person who actually knows for true who she gifted herself to sexually, and the details of her gift left Planet Earth over one half century ago; and so, we are left yet again with some worrisome but nonetheless pertinent questions. Just how many of the sexual legends are factual; and likewise, just how many of the sexual legends revolving around the middle Kennedy brothers, and various mobster criminals, are also factual? But more precisely and more importantly, perhaps, what type of evidence could exist that has been able to transform the rumors and innuendoes, the mythologies and the legends, not to mention the downright sticky web of lies woven over the decades, into an orthodoxy, into a gospel of incontrovertible facts and truth?