“She doesn’t,” I said. “But what kind of studio doesn’t see the PR value in that?”

“ This one,” the publicist said bitterly. “They let Elizabeth Taylor run wild and stick adultery in their faces and rack up cost overruns that would bankrupt a European nation, and then punish Marilyn for it.”

“Is this a happy set I’m visiting tomorrow?”

Her tone lightened. “Oh, yes. And you have to love it-Marilyn knows just how to play these kind of people.”

These kind of people were mostly men, of course. And Marilyn had known all she had to do to get them eating out of her hand was take off her clothes.

When Sam and I stepped onto Soundstage 14, the world turned a bilious shade of pink. The elaborate, expansive set would have filled Soldier Field: spread out before us was the ass end of a stone-and-stucco Mediterranean mansion with a vast, angular pool surrounded by rococo lawn furniture and bushes and trees, one bearing a tree house.

Catwalks and lighting platforms made a spiderweb sky. A dapper little old gnome of a man was strutting around up there barking commands, and spotlights took various angles, as if searching for an escaped prisoner. This, I later learned, was Cukor, who-other than issuing very general orders, including the obligatory “Action!” and “Cut!”-gave Marilyn scant direction that afternoon.

On the fringes of the brightly lit set, an inky darkness prevailed. In one such pocket Sam and I positioned ourselves.

When a blue-robed Marilyn arrived with Pat Newcomb, a phalanx of attendees formed around her like Secret Service agents guarding the president. This group included Snyder and other hair and makeup techs, as well as Marilyn’s acting coach, Paula Strasberg, a fat witchy-looking figure in a black muumuu. Another slant board was waiting for Marilyn between takes, but the truth is-except for a lunch break, which for her was coffee-she never got completely out of the pool, once she got in.

She just swam happily, the center of attention in the elaborate set in the cavernous soundstage, queen of her domain. At first-when she slipped out of the blue terry-cloth robe, and into the pool-she wore a flesh-colored swimsuit. But after only a few minutes, a voice called down from a catwalk.

Not Cukor’s, rather that of one of the two cinematographers (one camera was going poolside, this other up top) yelling down, echoingly, “I’m sorry, darling-but the lines in the swimsuit are showing up!”

This was a stilted reading, obviously planned, but Marilyn quickly, and deftly, slipped off the suit. That left only the very sheer bra and panties beneath, and those soon followed, deposited at the edge of the pool as if put out to dry.

Sam’s mouth was hanging open. I started to laugh, then realized mine was yawning, too.

She was a vision, a nymph, if a nymph was as womanly as that, a pink ghost flickering beneath the turquoise glimmer, occasionally exposing more than just a limb, a delicious rump, a pert breast-even the amber pubic triangle made its presence known, if fleetingly.

Pat Newcomb, at my side, said softly, “Having fun?”

“I guess she’s showing the Fox boys she isn’t over the hill.”

The publicist grunted a little laugh. “She had to get Black Bart’s blessing, you know.”


She nodded toward the stout woman in the black muumuu, just beyond the big camera. “Had to have Paula’s blessing. Had to be approved ‘Method’ technique for Marilyn to swim in the nude.”

“Yeah? What’s the scene about?”

“Tempting her husband out of Cyd Charisse’s bed.”

“This is the method that would do that.”

Cukor would occasionally call “Cut,” mostly for a camera reload, and during one such break, Pat called an assistant director over and said, “Now.”

Soon a couple of photographers came in, and the publicist walked them to their respective spots and said, “You have half an hour, fellas. Don’t waste it.”

They didn’t. They had those new motor-driven Nikons that could snap half a dozen frames per second.

They caught her bobbing in the turquoise water. Got her poolside getting in and out of the nappy blue robe, even providing a few glimpses of dimpled behind. Captured incredible shots of her gripping the pool’s rim while a shapely leg slid up onto the Spanish tiles. All that, and one dazzling, knowing smile after another…

Then when she sat on the steps and let the robe disappear and showed the fantastic sweep of her back into her narrow waist and out into the full hips, water beading, sparkling on that gorgeous flesh, audible gasps (including from Heller Father and Son) could be heard.

She just looked over her shoulder at everybody, with that old Betty Boop innocence, as if to say, “Whatever are you boys so excited about?”

And my son said, “Best birthday ever, Dad. Hell. Best dad ever.”

And father and son just stood there in the dark, bonding, ignoring each other’s erection.


Two weeks ago, more or less, I had left Marilyn Monroe on top of the world, or anyway the part of it that included a soundstage swimming pool at Twentieth Century-Fox, whose executives were at her feet. Now, having breakfast at Nate ’n Al’s in Beverly Hills, I was reading in the LA Times about a very different Marilyn from the one Sam and I had watched doing a sexy water ballet.

According to Hedda Hopper, Marilyn had been “half mad” on the set of Something’s Got to Give, unable to remember her lines, sleepwalking through her performance, and-on the day of her nude swim-stripping off her Jean Louis bikini, so high on drugs “she didn’t even know where she was.”

Around me in the showbiz-heavy deli, Marilyn arguments pro and con raged, and when I went around picking up various other papers, including the trades, I found amazing quotes: director Cukor saying, “This is the end of the poor girl’s career,” Fox studio head Peter Levathes claiming, “Miss Monroe is not temperamental, she is mentally ill,” producer Walter Bernstein insisting, “By her willful irresponsibility, Marilyn Monroe has taken the bread right out of the mouths of men who depend on this film to feed their families.”

“This film” had officially been shut down by Fox for recasting or outright scrapping, and Marilyn fired.

I pushed aside half a plate of scrambled eggs and lox, quickly paid the check, and tooled the Jag back to my bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My digs were just the basics-living room, marble fireplace, two bedrooms, two baths, private patio. The spare bedroom had a desk that I used for work, and from there I tried to phone Marilyn at her North Doheny Drive apartment, but a dozen rings got me nowhere.

Trying Pat Newcomb at the Arthur Jacobs agency got me a little somewhere-a receptionist put me through to the publicist’s male assistant, who took my name and number and said he would pass it right on to Miss Newcomb, who was out.

I went on about my business, spending the day at the A-1 office in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles-we were hiring, and my partner, Fred Rubinski, and I interviewed half a dozen ex-LA cops. Despite what Jack Webb might have you believe, not every LA cop is intelligent, reliable, and honest, and it was a chore.

Anyway, the following Monday I was reaching for the phone to make a TWA booking back to Chicago when the damn thing rang, making me jump a little. Maybe I wasn’t as tough as I used to be.

“Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner,” Pat Newcomb said. She sounded tired.

“I guess you’ve had your hands full.”

“I have. I’m at Marilyn’s now, as it happens.”

“The Doheny pad?”

Marilyn’s actual residence was an apartment on East Fifty-seventh in New York, but since she and Arthur Miller divorced, her Hollywood address had been at a triplex in West Hollywood, owned by Frank Sinatra. Frank’s Negro valet, George Jacobs, lived there, and usually one or two of the singer’s squeezes, or sometimes a pal needing a temporary roof. Which category Marilyn fell into, I wasn’t sure.

“No, she’s not there anymore,” Newcomb said. “She has a house in Brentwood.”

“How’s she doing? This shit in the papers, it just doesn’t let up.”

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