Goodbye, Marilyn

Marilyn in the Dark

My Real Memoir

It was August 4, 1962, and sweltering like it is now. I was only a kid, so you wouldn’t think it would have affected me much. But when I heard Marilyn Monroe had died while my buddy Jeff and I were at Camp Osceola, I stared at the cabin rafters. Skipped the afternoon swim. Picked at my mess hall chow.

How can I explain why her death impacted me the way it did? She was older than my mother. Yet her sad-gleeful eyes, her spun glass hair and Birth-of-Venus figure were Some Like it Hotageless. I’d been stealing glances at her infamous Playboy centerfold in a dirty old man’s open garage ever since I started delivering newspapers. I’d watched her sensuous faux-naiveté obliterate everything else onscreen in Some Like it Hot (still one of my favorite movies), and longed to protect her and be naughty with her (whatever that meant) all at the same time.

They say pizza combines all the essences our palates crave: savory, sweet, chewy, crispy. Marilyn Monroe combined all the essences the masculine palate craves: breathtaking beauty—someone to worship; yarn-chasing glee—someone to play with; in-heat sexuality—someone to desire and be desired by. When she sang “Happy birthday, Mr. President” everyone wanted to be John F. Kennedy, not because he was the most powerful person on the planet, but because Marilyn Monroe desired him.

But perhaps her most compelling—and real—trait was her vulnerability. Everyone, even women, wanted to protect her, to help Norma Jean find her way.

But she never did.

Elton John’s song “Candle in the Wind” begins, “Goodbye, Norma Jean, though I never knew you at all…” But the saddest thing is that ultimately Norma Jean Baker, Marilyn Monroe’s creator, didn’t know herself.

Her breathy voice and platinum hair, her teasing “I-don’t-realize-how-I’m-affecting-you” sensuality, were the conscious inventions of a comedic genius, once a smart middle school brunette who edited the school paper. Born to a schizophrenic mother, eventually becoming a ward of the state, bouncing from foster home to foster home (she tried for years to find her father), she understood what people wanted.

But not who she was.

Norma JeanYes, she was the face of desire. But by the time I reached high school I would begin to want to know girls for who they actually were. Indeed, to help them discover who they were, even as they helped me discover who I was. So my first I-Love-You wasn’t a Marilyn, but a Norma Jean. And my final I-Love-You, the girl I married, was a Norma Jean too, a smart, creative and, yes, beautiful woman who knows herself.

I still mourn Marilyn.

But it’s Norma Jean I love.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Memoir, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Goodbye, Marilyn

  1. Wonderful insight, Mitch! Love the passion in your writing. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoying your writing style. Nice post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. beth says:

    a sad and caring tribute

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Caroll says:

    Lovely piece! You reminded us of the essence of her and that she was so underestimated in her brains and acting abilities. I have no idea why I remember vividly where I was (rollerskating on a neighbor’s driveway, age 9) when we heard with shock on the radio she had died, but she certainly left an indelible mark on American society. One of a kind people do. Thanks for your beautiful writing, as always!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Badfinger (Max) says:

    Great post Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beautiful, Mitch. I remember well finding out about Marilyn’s death. Great insight, and wonderful analysis of a sad vulnerability that touched so many.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. joyroses13 says:

    Poignant, well worded post! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Me and Princess Leia’s Mom | Mitch Teemley

  9. Ana Daksina says:

    Mitch, that was an absolutely beautiful ending. Thank you on behalf of Norma Jeans everywhere. 🙋

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Uncoffined says:

    Wonderfully written and hugely insightful, nice post

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Goodbye, Marilyn — Mitch Teemley | Ups Downs Family History

  12. But with her, she was all those things….sadly it was that and trying to stand up to being all that was what ultimately led her to lose who she was and implode. No one is all that. Sad but a pitfall of celebrity. Some can separate and some can’t. That’s where being a total nobody can be fun 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very nicely put, Mitch. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nancy Richy says:

    “Her spun glass hair” – wow! One of the most evocative phrases I’ve read in a very long time. Your homage to MM was brilliantly crafted, making all of us – and I put my heterosexual self in that group – long to protect her or get naughty with her. That scene with her and Tony Curtis on the yacht is legendary (and I know you know what I’m talking about since it is my favorite movie also). I wanted to be Marilyn Monroe so badly! I love that woman; she is perfection in my eyes. Poor Norma Jean, taken from us way too soon. Grateful for the time we had together. Superb writing, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ahhhhh. Mitch. This brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely beautiful. Thank You. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wonderful post so sad and yet true.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, I loved your abbreviated bio of Marilyn Monroe and how it impacted your relationships! Her story is truly heartbreaking. I got the impression she never learned how to love others because she didn’t even like herself. She may have loved Joe DiMaggio, who truly loved her.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. revruss1220 says:

    A truly beautiful tribute to a beautiful, misunderstood woman. Great job capturing the Marilyn/Norma Jean dichotomy and helping each of us see ourselves in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Svengoolie Newmar says:

    Love this! This is Marilyn tribute is on par with the wonderful “Candle in the Wind.”

    Liked by 1 person

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