MEMORY ~ Marilyn in August

When Clark Gable, my mothers childhood idol died in 1961 I saw my mother cry for the first time…and I didn’t understand why. A year later I understood.

(little me)

Early on the Sunday Morning of August 5 1962 I was sitting at the breakfast table eating a bowl of Trix.  With Motion Picture magazine open before me, I was reading all about the adventures of Liz and Dick in Rome. That summer I was so engrossed in the incredible drama and getting a real education at twelve all about morals and Hollywood, and how mean the ladies on my block could be about a divorcee. Liz and my Mother were the most famous divorced women that anyone on my block knew of. Between them they kept the hens of Orchid Street clucking and pecking for hours.  Suddenly in a crackly transistor radio second  Shelly Fabares’ Johnny Angel was cut off by the announcer. “Actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead this morning in her Brentwood Home……..” I burst into stinging tears.

All I could think was…”Gee if only she had known me I could’a helped her.” I found out over the years that lots of kids thought that very same thought. My friend Lane’s brother Cameron who was turning 12 wanted only one thing for his birthday on that very August 5th and that one thing was Marilyn Monroe, nothing else, just Marilyn. Imagine how HE felt when he heard the news.

Later that day my father picked me up for mandatory visitation. When I got into the car he noticed my red rimmed eyes. “What’cu been crying about now?”

“Marilyn Monroe” I barely managed to whisper her name. I knew what was coming but I at least owed her the courage of the truth. Someone owed her some kind of respect or something on this day….didn’t they?

Geez kid what are you crying over her for? She was a dumb stupid lush and a slut. Grow up and be a man!  She ain’t worth thinking about. She was just a dime a dozen movie star. Geez you and your damn stupid movie stars. Stop being such a sissy for Christ sake or I will give you something to really cry about!”

The best thing my Mother ever did when it came to my father was to divorce him.

I knew deep in my gut that he was wrong, that Marilyn was worth thinking about. She had changed us by being on the screen. Especially those of us who were children in her time on earth, children who were in trouble, unloved, abandoned, different.  She spoke to us in ways adults couldn’t hear. And we understood and loved her for it. She was one of us.

 

(MARILYN ESCORTED TO THE PREMIER OF “RIVER OF NO RETURN” BY HER CO-STAR TOMMY RETTIG)

But with her gone I had no role model. On that Sunday morning as I rode beside my father in the Chevy Bel Air on the way to the beach in Santa Monica we passed under a bridge on Olympic Blvd, the old deco bridge that connected the two lots at Twentieth Century Fox.   There across the bridge in huge gold letters a word shimmered with the promise of what would change my life for ever. “CLEOPATRA” it screamed. “Coming Soon!”.

That is another story.

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29 Comments

  1. Lanier, may I reblog this later in the day? Off to dim-sum! xox, V

  2. Aww… what a bittersweet memory. Isn’t it funny how we connect with certain people that project an understanding of vulnerability? I can totally see how she became that person who would represent the abandoned, unloved and different. Behind the “Marilyn” fascade was a sad, wounded girl. I’d like to think that if she had known you, she would have loved you and you could have helped each other. 😉
    Great post.

    • oh you are so sweet! Thank you. In reality from an adult perspective I don’t think any one least of all a child could have helped her. But it is a lovely thought isn’t it.

  3. A lovely, poignant piece, Lanier! And seeing your sweet little visage added even more depth to your remembrance. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. I have always admired Marilyn through my mum. She was a great fan of hers and told me that when Marilyn died she was in the family country house in Greece, threading tobacco leaves; she was a student at the time, and she also cried… Marilyn’s death perceived from different corners of the world…

    That was a very touching story! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hello Alexandra and welcome to my blog. Thank you so much for telling me your story about your mother. I loved it.

  5. Oh you poor baby . . . Have you read Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates? Those tangled Hollywood roots of fact and fantasy that Norma Jean had as a child were shared by so many. Don’t you just wish you were little Tommy R taking Marilyn by the hand?

    • No I haven’t read Blonde but now I am going too thanks to you. Yes that might have been fun to hold her hand and go to the movies! I moved on of course and my next star taught me how to be tough and loyal and how to make an entrance …..more to come.

  6. Reblogged this on BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD and commented:
    One of my favorite memoirists – Lanier Smith

  7. Poor Marilyn. All she wanted was love. If I were alive then I would have been sad too. My mom was very upset when she learned of her death, she was very fond of Marilyn too. Thank you for this poignant memoir, Lanier. Looking forward to hearing about you and Cleopatra!!

  8. As always, I enjoyed your memory. Obviously your dad was not a Marilyn fan. Regardless of what people thought she was or wasn’t there’s no denying that her story is a sad one.

    • No, he was not a fan of the arts. LOL. You know, out of all that sadness in Marilyn there remains on the screen a great joy.

  9. I agree with the others – what a lovely piece of writing. And this is such an insightful comment: “She spoke to us in ways adults couldn’t hear. And we understood and loved her for it. She was one of us.” Thanks for sharing this memory.

    • Dearest Natalie thank you so much. Your comment is so appreciated.

  10. It’s amazing that after reading your memories today I feel like hugging that little boy from the half the century ago and telling him that it’s OK to be sad or even cry because of a loss of something or somebody important to you – no matter what others think. Thank you for sharing, Lanier.

    • I am feeling the hug! You are so sweet. Thank you Undina!

  11. Reblogged this on The Eye of Faith and commented:
    Undeniable. Always beautiful, Lanier Smith always conjures memories as if they were happening before your eyes….this anecdote of Marilyn Monroe, the spell of Hollywood, and the death of our idols simply caught {theEye}. Please Enjoy!

    • The Eye! You honor me with this re-blog and your very kind words. Thank you so much. You made my day even more lovely.

  12. What a beautiful piece… thank you.

  13. You know, this got me thinking. I’ve never asked my mom what she was doing when she heard about Marilyn (her idol, too). We talking about when Kennedy died. And I remember hearing of Natalie Wood’s death, but never Marilyn. I’m going to ask her.

    • I remember Natalie leaving …It effected me too since she was only 11 years older than me at the time….kinda felt like a big sister leaving. I think that is a wonderful idea to ask your Mom about her memories of Marilyn’s passing. Thanks for the visit and the wonderful comment.

  14. I recently assigned a paper about an influential person from the 1960s. A lot of my students did a paper on Marilyn Monroe. They were wonderful.

    • I bet they were wonderful! Interestingly enough when she was alive she was not considered that important other than being a movie star. Her cultural significance and placement as an icon of American culture only came about after her passing and in hindsight.

      • She was a very interesting person and just think, she is now an icon and known my everyone!

  15. […] Hello, kittens. Well – it appears that Lanier Smith of SCENTS MEMORIES and I have entered into a pact. We demand stories of each other. To that end I am posting this little memory of a time 25 years ago, right before I got married, and Lanier is going to post about the morning he heard Marilyn Monroe had died. Word to the wise – his memory is profound and moving – and mine is not. MEMORY ~ Marilyn in August | SCENTS MEMORY. […]

  16. […] Hello, kittens. Well – it appears that Lanier Smith of SCENTS MEMORIES and I have entered into a pact. We demand stories of each other. To that end I am posting this little memory of a time 25 years ago, right before I got married, and Lanier is going to post about the morning he heard Marilyn Monroe had died. Word to the wise – his memory is profound and moving – and mine is not. MEMORY ~ Marilyn in August | SCENTS MEMORY. […]


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