The 1960s were marked by the two most beautiful and memorable women in the United States: Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. They were both iconic in their very different images and more importantly, they both fought each other for the love of the same man.
Marilyn Monroe (aka Norma Jeane Baker Mortensen)
A symbol of both vulnerability and sex, Marilyn’s style was defined by tight dresses, high heels, mink stoles, and most importantly, her trademark red lipstick and platinum, luminous blonde hair. The moment Marilyn put on her makeup and heels, she became Marilyn Monroe. She knew she oozed sex and that she was utterly irresistible for most men. Scads of young women attempted to mimic her look. Some women who took the bleach into their own hands, were horrified at the results and had to run off to a hair salon to get it corrected. Others were bleached in one application, frying and drying their hair. And some got it right, lightening their hair in slow stages until they achieved that iconic colour.
Her affair with the President was both a highlight and a traumatic low in her life. Norma Jeane, the little “orphan” girl from nowhere, was seen on the arm of the most powerful man in the United States. That in itself was an accomplishment for Marilyn and she went about bragging to anyone who would listen that she was sleeping with the President of the United States. Still she wasn’t satisfied with the status of “mistress.” She wanted to be the “wife.” So disillusioned was the actress that one afternoon Marilyn contacted Jackie Kennedy at the White House, informing the First Lady that Jack would be divorcing her and she would be taking her place. If Marilyn expected an explosive reaction she would be disappointed. “That’s fine Marilyn, you’ll marry Jack and I’ll step out and you’ll become First Lady and you’ll take on all the responsibilities and you’ll go to the state dinners and you’ll travel to India and you’ll travel to Ireland.” Jackie hung up the phone on the movie star. We can imagine the shocked disbelief registering on Marilyn’s pretty face and shattering her sense of reality. What had Marilyn imagined would happen? That Jackie would cry and beg her not to take away her husband? Or that the First Lady already knew of the “pending divorce” and was preparing to pack her bags? Marilyn’s delusional thinking toward the end of her life increased and led her to say and do very odd things.
On Thursday, May 17, 1962, Marilyn dropped filming in Los Angeles and flew to New York to sing happy birthday to the President. The famous dress made Marilyn appear as if she had walked onstage “in the altogether.” This display of Marilyn’s devotion to her lover incensed the First Lady who had declined to attend her husband’s celebration. It was now that Jackie insisted to Jack that he never see Marilyn again. Marilyn was kept at arm’s length by Bobby Kennedy, who cleaned up his brother’s mess, as he had many times over the years. As for Marilyn, after the telephone call, which came after the famous performance at Madison Square Gardens, she never saw the President again. What nearly killed her (pun) was the lack of closure with the President. His wife told him never to speak to the movie star again and to avoid her at all costs, and that cost might have been a divorce. Finally, Jack listened to his wife and obediently cut off all contact with Marilyn. Marilyn couldn’t ask Jack “why, Jack? Why is it over?” Jackie reclaimed her husband and Marilyn, in response, threatened to take her story to the media. It was rumored that Marilyn became involved with Bobby Kennedy but this is unlikely. Bobby was busy trying to disconnect Marilyn from his brother. He wasn’t foolish enough to become involved with her himself. This would encourage Marilyn even more in her quest for “Kennedy” as her new surname. Weeks later, Marilyn was found dead in her bed. The rivalry between the two women was finally over.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy
Unlike Norma Jean, Jackie grew up in the lap of luxury. A wealthy Bouvier, she was a socialite and in 1951 became engaged to a stock broker named John (irony) G.W. Husted Jr. For a time Jackie worked for a newspaper as a “reporter,” of sorts. She took pictures of people she met on the street and asked them questions concerning their opinions about silly matters.She wasn’t good at her job. Usually the pictures were blurry and her “articles” were unusable. Her career as a reporter came to an abrupt end after only six months. She met her future husband, John F. Kennedy. at a dinner party and broke her engagement to John Husted. Once Kennedy became involved with Jackie his social status rose significantly. Marrying Jack was a misfortune for Jackie, however. His many liaisons tormented her, as they would any woman. She gave serious thought to leaving Jack but his father, Joseph, offered Jackie a substantial amount of money to remain in the marriage. Jackie refused it, of course, but for whatever reason, she chose to stay married to Jack.
If Marilyn’s image was that of sex queen, Jackie’s was the opposite. She was the epitome of class and sophistication. Her style was the opposite of Marilyn’s tight evening gowns and diamond earrings. Jackie favored Chanel suits, pillbox hats with matching purses and little white gloves. She was completely relaxed when holding a dinner party with heads of state, and visiting Presidents, Princes and other heads of states worldwide. She was a natural as she learned about and managed to blend into foreign cultures. Many women aspired to mimic Jackie, just as women attempted to copy Marilyn.
The two women couldn’t have been more different. The sophisticated brunette versus the bubbly blonde, with Jack Kennedy in the middle enjoying every minute of their rivalry, no doubt. Years later Darwin Porter has published a book entitled Rainbow’s End, where she claims that [Jackie] and Marilyn actually met in person at New York’s Carlyle Hotel to discuss the affair with Jack. She supposedly “begged Marilyn not to publicly humiliate her children in front of the world. She also pleaded with Marilyn not to make John, Jr. and Caroline the victims of a divorce.” Porter claims Marilyn was touched by her heart-to-heart with Jackie and agreed to keep her romance with the President a secret. If this unlikely meeting took place I believe Jackie didn’t beg Marilyn not to go public with the affair but to end the affair altogether.However I really can’t see this meeting as legitimate. Meeting in a very public place to discuss the affair sounds foolish. Jackie would never be so stupid. She also wouldn’t have wanted to meet Marilyn Monroe, her mortal enemy, at all. Porter also alleges the actress had one more big surprise for Jack Kennedy on the day before her death: she called to tell the President she had aborted his baby. Wellll, now. While it is true that Marilyn had a history of manipulating men by inventing pregnancy where there was none, what motive did she have after she supposedly agreed not to go public with her affair? What purpose could her so-called admission have possibly served? Lying that she was pregnant with the President’s baby would make more sense if Marilyn was still trying to maintain contact with him. Hours after the supposed telephone call, Marilyn was found dead in her Los Angeles home. Since Marilyn’s telephone connection to the White House had been severed weeks earlier, I doubt she was able to call Jack to inform him about a phantom pregnancy.
Her passing was ruled a suicide, but Porter claims he has unearthed evidence that suggests the star was murdered by Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana for refusing to help Mafia bosses poison Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who the author claims idolized the actress. Nothing sounds stupider in my opinion but there are millions who would disagree with me. However, Fidel Castro’s name doesn’t really factor into any other aspect of Marilyn’s life. It has nothing to do with the Kennedy rumor about her death. It was the mob who, supposedly working with J. Edgar Hoover, was focused on toppling the Presidency by using Marilyn Monroe. Hoover ties into this unlikely scenario through a mutual relationship with the mafia. The relationship between Hoover and the mob supposedly arose when Hoover worked in tandem with the mob by allowing them plenty of leeway in their criminal affairs, and in return they happily complied with this request to tarnish the President’s reputation. These are rumors. When I see actual documentation (and of course it is rumored there is documentation) then I’ll believe it. No evidence? No connection. I prefer to maintain a healthy skepticism.
After Marilyn’s death Jackie Kennedy’s victory was short-lived. Her name would be forever linked to Marilyn’s. And only one year after Marilyn’s death, the President was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.Jackie was inundated with hundreds of thousands of letters in condolences, (nearly 8 million total) some from heads of state and other politicians, some from extended family, and most from the public. “It is my greatest wish that all of these letters be acknowledged. They will be but it will take a long time to do so, but I know you’ll understand.” Eventually the letters made their way into the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. In some ways, Jackie must have felt a sense of relief, freedom from the constant humiliation she suffered from Jack’s infidelity. Surely she missed her husband but she probably didn’t hurt or grieve as intensely as she might have had he been faithful to her.
Marilyn may have killed herself partly due to her devastation over Jack Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy probably lived with the pain of Jack’s infidelities and his untimely death for the rest of her life. Wounds of the heart run deep.