Bombshell: Documents Throw New Light on Marilyn Monroe’s Death

44 years after Marilyn Monroe's tragic death, just released government documents raise new questions about what really happened.

By Anthony Summers from Reader's Digest | October 2006

Monroe was drawn to powerful men and keenly interested in politics. She had had an on-off dalliance with John Kennedy since before his election in 1960 and met Robert just before her 1962 Mexico trip, at the Santa Monica home of the brothers’ sister Pat and her actor husband Peter Lawford. Knowing Robert would be present, she brought with her a prepared list of political talking points, which they discussed at length. “Bobby was enthralled,” recalled guest Joan Braden, and soon Monroe was talking about the “new man in my life.” She identified him to one friend only as “the General” because, she coyly explained, he was a prominent public figure. “The General” was how Justice Department insiders spoke of Robert Kennedy. The President’s brother and the actress began exchanging phone calls, as Robert’s secretary Angie Novello has confirmed. Robert visited Monroe at home in California, according to several sources, including the FBI’s former Los Angeles agent-in-charge, Bill Simon, who more than once lent Kennedy his Cadillac convertible to “go see Marilyn.”

The D.A.’s review dealt cursorily with stories about Robert and Monroe, pouring scorn on a claim that the Attorney General visited Monroe on the day of her death. “There is no evidence that he was in Los Angeles,” a report noted, and newspapers placed him in San Francisco that weekend. In fact, from Friday evening to late Sunday, Kennedy was on a ranch owned by a political supporter 60 miles south of San Francisco. From there, authoritative sources indicate, he indeed made a trip to Los Angeles.

Daryl Gates, who in 1962 was an aide to the Los Angeles police chief — he went on to head the force himself — is one such source. “Our records show that [Kennedy] was in Los Angeles,” he said this year. Several other senior police officers have said the same. One of the 1982 D.A. investigators told me that John Dickey, a Deputy D.A. in Los Angeles in 1962, said he, too, was told the Attorney General was in Los Angeles on Monroe’s last day alive. Ward Wood, a Lawford neighbor, told me he saw Robert Kennedy arrive at the Lawford house that “late afternoon or early evening,” by car.

Several people, including Monroe’s housekeeper, claimed that at some point that day the President’s brother did go to Monroe’s home.

We know Monroe had several phone conversations during her final hours. Two of them appear to have been highly significant. A young scriptwriter she met in Mexico, José Bolaños, told me he phoned her sometime after 9 p.m. Monroe told him, he said, “something that will one day shock the whole world.” I pressed him, but he would not elaborate.

At about 9:30 p.m. Monroe called Sydney Guilaroff, doyen of Hollywood hairdressers and a confidant of several stars. When I interviewed him for my book, he, like Bolaños, refused to reveal what she had said. Before his death in 1997, however, Guilaroff, in a little-noticed memoir, wrote that Monroe had sounded frantic. She had told him: ” ‘Robert Kennedy was here, threatening me, yelling at me … I’m having an affair with him … I had an affair with JFK as well.’ She said that Robert Kennedy had journeyed to Los Angeles that afternoon not merely to break off his own affair but to warn Monroe about ever phoning the White House again. ‘It’s over,’ he had told her. … Now Marilyn was sobbing on the phone. ‘I’m frightened … I know a lot of secrets about what has gone on in Washington. … Dangerous ones.’ ”

That the brothers should have wanted to cut off contact with Monroe is no surprise. Dallying with her had been foolhardy from the start. Both were married men in an age when adultery by public figures was even more perilous than it is today. Their folly was compounded by the fact that they apparently talked too much when with Monroe. The 1982 investigators gave some attention to a claim that Monroe kept a journal in which she scribbled notes about her conversations with Robert Kennedy on subjects such as his crusade against the Mafia, his efforts to put Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa behind bars, and the confrontation with Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The D.A.’s report quoted associates saying they had seen no such diary and doubted whether — in her final months especially — Monroe was capable of keeping one.

Yet no fewer than seven people, including Monroe’s friends and two reporters, are on record as saying the actress did habitually make notes in a diary. One was Jeanne Carmen, the girlfriend with whom Monroe discussed her scenario for suicide. In a memo summarizing an interview with Carmen — omitted entirely from the 1982 report — an investigator wrote: “Monroe informed Carmen that Robert Kennedy made numerous business telephone calls from Monroe’s residence. Monroe was aware of Kennedy’s plans regarding Castro and apparently wrote them in a diary. … One evening Kennedy, Carmen and Monroe were at Monroe’s apartment when Kennedy discovered the diary. He examined it and became upset. He told Monroe she should never put anything in writing and to throw the diary away. Carmen doesn’t know what Monroe did with the diary.”

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