If ever there was a man who used and abused Marilyn Monroe it had to be John F. Kennedy, the Roman Catholic President of the United States. JFK had a plethora of lovers, most of them unknown to the public. He also bedded down with a number of women celebrities including Angie Dickinson, Marlene Dietrich, Ellen Romesch, a German prostitute, Blaze Starr, a stripper, and Judith Campbell Exner, a beautiful mafia moll.
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. Most people found his comment vulgar but Kennedy seemed oblivious. Too bad he wasn’t referring to having sex with his wife, the long-suffering, classy Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. How it was that Kennedy managed to keep a wife and behave the way he did I will never know. Women are a mystery.
Marilyn met with Kennedy throughout different junctures in her life, not just the end. They were introduced on a number of occasions through the Lawfords, close friends and neighbours of Marilyn’s. Peter Lawford, of course, was JFK’s brother-in-law. However, in the last year of her life, Marilyn was especially vulnerable. Although Frank Sinatra kept company with her from time to time, he began dating a dance-turned-movie actress named Juliet Prowse. Prowse was an unusual-looking woman: not especially beautiful, but with a dynamite figure and known for her dancer’s long legs. On Sinatra’s arm, Marilyn was the Queen of Hollywood. Without Sinatra, Marilyn felt de-throned. After the media released pictures of Sinatra and Prowse together, Marilyn began calling several friends to ask them what was wrong with her gorgeous legs. After the skirt scene in the Seven Year Itch, it’s difficult to imagine Marilyn having such a lack of self-confidence, but that vulnerability was always at her core.
Add to this the fact that Marilyn was struggling with her role in Something’s Got to Give. Her absences were legendary and extreme. Her lateness when she arrived at all was equally bad. In the midst of this Marilyn was unable to resist the chance to attend JFK’s public birthday celebration in New York City. After all, it was the chance to see him again. He wasn’t answering her phone calls to the White House anymore. She was rumoured to have spent the night with JFK after the performance but this was never proven. Afterward, Marilyn never heard from JFK again.
During this time, many former friends and acquaintances stated that Marilyn insisted JFK promised to divorce Jackie in order to marry her. They were shocked by her lack of discretion and reality. No one was surprised when JFK ended all contact with the movie star. There were many unhappy developments at this juncture in her life, and certainly JFK alone cannot be blamed for her drug overdose. But the affair certainly had a negative impact on Marilyn. In hindsight had JFK ended the affair long before Marilyn began work on Something’s Got to Give she may not have still been suffering from the end of the affair. This might have empowered her – however slightly – at this shaky juncture in her life. Or it may not.
We will never know. But one thing is for certain: JFK was on Marilyn’s mind during the last phone call she would ever make. The words came from her own mouth: “Say goodbye to the President…”