... David Marshall remembers Marilyn
How and by whom was Marilyn brought into your life?
By the time I was conscious of words and my surroundings, Marilyn Monroe was a part of my world. Just like kids born after 1990, who hear the name and can identify President Clinton or Madonna, I was aware of names like President Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe and Richard Nixon. The first time I can remember going to the movies with my parents was to see Some Like It Hot even though I must have been just under five years old at the time.
What are your fondest memories (related to your childhood) that include Marilyn ?
When I was about seven years old my family sold their house and I remember all the sorting through possessions that everyone in the family did-throwing some things away, marking what would go to the new house and what would go to Goodwill. My job was to empty all the trash containers in the house and take them out back to the big trash bins. One day when I was emptying the trash, just as I was tipping the wastebasket into the big bin, I spotted one of my sister's Movie Stars paper dolls in the trash-Elizabeth Taylor covered in coffee grounds and cigarette butts. It didn't bother me as I didn't care one way or the other about Liz Taylor. But then it hit me-if my sister could throw Elizabeth Taylor out then maybe Marilyn Monroe was down there too. I frantically dug through the garbage and found her-saved by an old TV Guide so she didn't have any coffee stains or cigarette ash. But even at seven years old I knew my folks would not be thrilled with their son saving a Marilyn Monroe paper doll. I slid Marilyn up under my shirt and snuck her inside making sure no one could see. I have that paper doll to this day.
Do you have an idea of the reason that made you feel Marilyn was different and made you keep her as a part of your life since your childhood ?
Marilyn Monroe was the BIGGEST MOVIE STAR IN THE WORLD and yet she was also this quiet, soft, pretty and very kind lady. This is the perception of a five or six year old. Something about her just made me think that out of all the people in the world, Marilyn Monroe would like me and be nice to me. I KNEW if she and I ever met, (even though I knew that was impossible), I knew she'd be a good friend and she and I would have a great time playing together. It was that sense of her that even a kid could pick up on that has stayed with me all these years. Kind, shy, pretty and soft. And someone who would really listen to me if we ever got a chance to meet.
Do you have the feeling that she changed something in your life or had an influence on the way you grew up and on what made you who you are now?
Although the combo may seem odd in retrospect, growing up and then in my teen years, I had two heroes, two people that I consciously or unconsciously patterned as role models: Marilyn Monroe and Robert Kennedy. And in a sense they both were role models for me. The things they taught: be kind to those who don't have it as good as you do; don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something, if you work hard at it, you can accomplish whatever you set out to do; be kind to children and listen to them, don't just blow them off as inexperienced. I guess that's about it: Kindness and consideration for other people, for animals and for children.
If you were already born during Marilyn's lifetime and familiar in a way or another with her, what is that that struck you the most about her? How do you feel the media was communicating about her by then? Has this changed in a way or another?
What struck me was the difference between what I saw and what everyone else saw. On television, in the newspapers and listening to my dad and his friends, I picked up early on that there were two sides to Marilyn Monroe. The first was the Va-Va-Va-Voom girl who was the punchline of whispered jokes and the elbow to the rib comments of older men. Instead of a person, Marilyn Monroe was more like an adjective, a description of the ultimate sex machine. She was a giggly girl with dyed blonde hair and enormous breasts that even the kids on the school ground would make jokes about. But for some reason Marilyn was this person I knew. I didn't talk about her to anyone but the Marilyn who was my friend was this funny and incredibly kind woman who was just misunderstood by everyone else in the world, a woman who had to dress up and wiggle for a living but one that I knew was nothing like that at all.
And the media has changed over the years. First she was the Va-Va-Va-Voom girl. Then she was the Ultimate Hollywood Tragedy. Then she was the President's Piece on the Side. Then… slowly, gradually, it was as if my perception and th eworld's perception of her started to merge. I think Gloria Steinhem's book had a great deal to do with that. Here was THE feminist of the world saying, "Hey, hold on a minute. I think we've done the woman a disservice". By stepping back and taking a different look at a woman who basically made it to the top on her very own and against considerable odds, fighting for things that very few women at the time were fighting for, Marilyn is now perceived as a trend-setter, an early feminist and an American Icon for what a person can do with a bit of luck and a hell of a lot of guts.
41 years ago, the world was shocked and saddened by the news of her death. Do you remember that day and what you felt when you learnt that she had passed away ?
Forty-one years later I can say exactly what I was doing on Sunday, August 5, 1962. My parents were in the kitchen lingering over late morning coffee. I was watching Sunday morning cartoons. Some man came on to interrupt my cartoons to tell the audience that Marilyn Monroe had been found dead in her bed. I can remember telling my parents and both of them reacting in shock. But as the day wore on I began to have my first conception of what death meant. No one I knew up to that point had ever died. None of my pets had died. The whole death thing was out of my understanding. But then as the thought began to gel it hit me that it didn't matter who you were, how famous you were, or even how nice you were: at some point you were going to die. Add on top to that my confusion over suicide. It had never occurred to me that people could or would want to kill themselves.
Is her presence in your life something you try to keep private, all yours, or do you try to pass it on to your family, friends, children? If so, what do you say to them so they can feel what you feel about her?
Unlike a lot of Marilyn fans, I have only two pictures of her on my walls, both in my office. My family and friends know I "like" her and so I'll get Marilyn birthday cards and postcards. But mostly, my feelings about Marilyn, even my participation in online groups, is a private thing. Unless you've really read a lot about her or have made an effort to understand her life and times, you just don't "get it". I'd rather just keep it to myself and talk with people online than try and explain to those in my day to day life and see them roll their eyes.
The only place she comes out of my life and is "shared" is through my writing. She's a major character in a novel I'm working on now and in the last book I wrote, one of the characters was a major fan. It's only on paper that I can get it across to someone else.
If you could tell her *one* thing, that she would be able to hear, what would it be?
"Still holding a thought…"