The Kennedy Connection was a complicated, yet short-term affair that raised more eyebrows than it was probably due. The most remarkable thing about the relationship is that Marilyn was pursued by the President and that she believed herself to be his equal in their relationship. In fact, she believed she was a suitable Second Lady to replace Jackie Kennedy in the White House and telephoned her to relay that information. “Marilyn, you’ll marry Jack, that’s great . . . and you’ll move into the White House and you’ll assume the responsibilities of first lady, and I’ll move out and you’ll have all the problems,” came the flippant reply. Of all Jack’s mistresses, Jackie feared and loathed Marilyn the most. For her part, Marilyn became obsessed with JFK. He gave her a private line to the White House and she began calling it up to 15 times a day, leaving breathy, romantic messages. Norma Jeane probably wouldn’t have envisioned herself on JFK’s arm (or in his bed) one day but Marilyn certainly did. Marilyn’s charm knew no bounds.
One evening, Marilyn was invited to a dinner party for JFK in New York City. Dinner was at eight, but at 9pm Marilyn was still sitting in front of her dressing-table mirror, putting the finishing touches to her make-up. Notoriously late for everything, she was happy to keep the President of the United States waiting. She eventually arrived at JFK’s hotel, more than an hour late, with Lawford’s business partner Milt Ebbins. She drew a deep breath, smoothed down her dress and said: ‘OK, shall we?’
‘When she walked in, it was like the parting of the Red Sea,’ Ebbins recalled. ‘There were about 25 people in there and the crowd divided into halves as she walked through the room.’ The actress Arlene Dahl, who was also at that party, said: ‘Marilyn walked in and everything stopped, everyone stopped. It was magical, really. I’ve never seen anyone stop a room like that. Jack got her number before she left and invited her to Palm Springs the next month, where, he added, his wife would not be joining him. Marilyn’s best friend, Jeanne Carmen, a pin-up queen who lived about halfway across the city from Marilyn, was also at the party. She commented that “Jack was a strange person. He wanted a threesome with Marilyn and me. And I said ‘what?'” Marilyn said Jack told her “we should think of it as doing it for our country.” They spent a weekend shacked up at Bing Crosby’s house in the desert town, which, according to various sources, was the extent of the affair, although that seems questionable. It is a fact that Kennedy visited JFK visited Marilyn at her house on a number of occasions later that year. He was photographed with her at Peter Lawford’s many pool parties several times. Jeanne described how she and Marilyn would be sitting together at Marilyn’s home when the doorbell would ring and Marilyn would open the door to the President. Carmen recalled that Marilyn usually wore “an absolutely cruddy, white robe“. When it was time for Carmen to leave, Marilyn made a coy gesture and her friend left Marilyn and Jack alone.
Marilyn and JFK met in 1954 when he was still a Senator and she was married to Joe DiMaggio. They walked along the beach together on this first night and became involved in an affair that lasted for several years. They would rendez-vous at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City or at Peter Lawford’s house. When JFK visited Marilyn at her Brentwood home, it was rumoured that Jack didn’t stay long. He was the President after all and he was a busy man. He stayed long enough to share some pillow talk with Marilyn and occasionally he filled her in on tidbits about government projects. Marilyn flattered herself that the President informed her about “top-secret” information but this is unlikely. JFK probably mentioned banal daily occurrences, or flimsy gossip that kept Marilyn entranced. Their romantic relationship was no secret. Usually JFK’s performance, including pillow talk, was over in 20 minutes. “Marilyn “complained a lot about Kennedy’s performance because it was slam-bam thank you ma’am, that type of thing. No foreplay.” Yet this didn’t deter her from wanting to marry him.There are lingering rumors that Marilyn also became also became involved with Robert Kennedy, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Where JFK is concerned, many photographs remain showing him in the company of the movie star.
Years later, Marilyn spoke rather coyly about JFK to Richard Meryman during the Last Interview, as if they’d never had a relationship. “I was honoured when I was asked to sing for the President,” she stated but didn’t elaborate further. The song however became legendary and for some was known as The Night of the Tight Dress. Jack sat in the audience, smiling, his eyes shining as she performed for him. After Marilyn’s breathy rendition of the song, Jack walked onstage to jokingly quip, “I can now retire from politics after having ‘happy birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.” The audience cheered and applauded. Evelyn Moriarty, Marilyn’s stand-in on the movie sets, stated that many people didn’t believe there was an affair between the two. The rumour that Marilyn left Kennedy’s private party with him that night was ridiculous. “How could she get in and out of that tight dress with all the hooks on it?”
What Marilyn failed to recognize was that JFK was involved with hundreds of women over the course of his run as Senator then President. He used prostitutes, escorts, interns, movie stars, models, and any other woman who caught his eye. Every female he met was a conquest. “If I don’t have sex every day, I get a headache,” John F. Kennedy would remark to anyone who would listen, from British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to a lowly senatorial aide. Even in the pantheon of sexual narcissists drawn to politics, Kennedy’s obsessive conquesting remains the gold standard for bad behavior. Marilyn herself had traits of narcisissm, not surprising for a celebrity. Perhaps it makes sense that the two would eventually engage in an affair although certainly Marilyn was never known to make such crude confessions.The only woman he didn’t pursue with any zealousness was his wife. Jackie fell for Jack very soon after they met and ended an engagement to another man of considerable wealth and social prestige….her mistake, perhaps.
In 1960 Jack began campaigning for President. He left a very pregnant Jackie Kennedy behind to attend a beach party at his brother-in-law’s house in Los Angeles that lasted for two days. He spent two nights with Marilyn, who had fallen head over heels for the future President. The conspiracy surrounding the Kennedys, Robert and Jack, on the last night of Marilyn’s life is merely rumour and unfounded. One myth suggests they had her killed, an absurd allegation. A dead Marilyn was more dangerous to the Kennedys than a live one. Many people knew about the affair and had Marilyn been targeted by Jack it wouldn’t take J Edgar Hoover or Sam Giancana long to uncover the truth in order to ruin him. Besides Jack had no reason to kill Marilyn Monroe. She posed him no threat. She allegedly claimed she owned a red book that contained government information told to her by Jack, but this is the type of flimsy news they probably engaged in after sex. Robert Kennedy, although a messenger between Marilyn and Jack, wasn’t likely to be involved with Marilyn. He may have maintained a distant friendship with her but he functioned to clean up Jack’s messes after the President abruptly ended relationships with his women, including other actresses.
Dr. Ralph Greenson , Marilyn’s psychiatrist, made a strange statement after Marilyn’s death that seemed to implicate Jack Kennedy in her death. More likely, he referred to Marilyn’s despondency after Jack refused to see her. Marilyn died by her own hand … an accidental drug overdose. She deliberately ingested 40 Nembutal tablets but that isn’t known if she did so all at once or over the course of a day. She may have miscalculated the number of drugs she was able to handle in her system although 40 capsules seems excessive even for Marilyn. Her last phone call to Peter Lawford, JFK’s brother-in-law, is quite telling: “Say good-bye to the President and say good-bye to you too, ’cause you’re a nice guy.”These sound like the words of a person who is planning on ending her life. When Marilyn made the phone call she probably hoped Lawford would go to her house and save her. Instead, he called her lawyer who in turn contacted her agent. Her lawyer was just about to leave for Marilyn’s home when the agent called her back, stating he’d spoken to the housekeeper, Evelyn Murray, who insisted Marilyn was fine. Murray might have made the statement after Marilyn told her she was “going to bed now,” then retired for the evening. Murray had no way of knowing that disaster would strike that evening. “On this particular day she wasn’t lively and enthusiastic and she was very quiet.” On the other hand when asked if Murray thought Marilyn was in the mindset to take her own life, stated, “I doubt that very much.” Yet later in the same interview, Murray stated she saw Marilyn’s phone cord snaking beneath her door and “of course I was very alarmed.”
It’s contradictory statements such as these that suggest a conspiracy where there is none. Perhaps in her 80’s Murray’s memory is not what it used to be. Or just as possible is that speaking about Marilyn’s death is the highlight of her life and her career. It isn’t that she wants to fabricate tales about that night. More likely she feels very important, more important than she ever has in her life, and this is her moment to elicit reactions. The journalist also may have gently pushed Murray in the direction of conspiracy for his purposes: he wanted a controversial documentary that would capture millions of viewers. Murray’s comment of course I was alarmed, sounds like a response to a question such as “weren’t you alarmed?” (the implication being, “didn’t you react appropriately?”)
At the time of Marilyn’s death no one made mention of her affair with JFK, or her acquaintance with Bobby Kennedy. There were those who suspected the affair but the nation was ignorant of the situation. Even one year after Marilyn’s death the paparazzi sought to expose the relationship. They wouldn’t let it lie and the public never will either.