Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Report: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

My fascination with Marilyn Monroe started in the dining room of a Red Robin restaurant here in Tulsa. As I was on my way to the ladies room, a poster of Marilyn's famous white swimsuit photos stopped me dead in my tracks.

She captivated me. What struck me is that the images were untouched. Several of the pictures clearly show bulges of her thigh beneath her suit, and her perfectly un-flat tummy. No airbrushing. And she is not a waif. She is curvy, with hips, thighs, and a waist. And her captivating smile.

I brought Marc over to see the poster, and do you know what he said? He said, "You know who that looks like, don't you?" I stared at him blankly. He then covered the face of one of the pictures with his hand, looked at me questioningly, then pointed to my own body. "Babe, you have a gorgeous hourglass figure just like her!"

Like most women, I feel intimidated seeing the seemingly perfect images of celebrities on magazines. Impossibly flat stomachs with make believe belly buttons (seriously, they air brush those in - did you know that?), surgically and artistically altered breasts, and erased blemishes and wrinkles all combine to make me feel bad about myself. I was awestruck at this icon who was beauty incarnate, with no help from anyone's imagination or computer.

Could it be true that MY body is just as beautiful as hers? Could yours? I think so. I think to break the hold modern fashion and beauty images have on our confidence (or lack thereof), we can turn to images of the past, to a time when women's bodies were appreciated as they are: curvy, soft, and full of life.

But I digress, and should get onto the book report part of this book report! We left Red Robin that day and went straight to Barnes and Noble to find me a biography of Ms. Monroe to dig into. I was officially hooked. I had to know more about this woman who was so captivating, just as she was. I scoured the back covers and introductions to maaaannnnny biographies and landed on this one:

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli
What sealed the deal on this one is that it's one of the newer biographies available and goes more in depth about Marilyn's private life, and what was going on behind the scenes of her public acting and modeling life. In particular it goes in depth into her history with mental illness and desperate drug use. There are also several things unique about the research for this book, including the recent release of FBI files on her from the days of J. Edgar Hoover's infamous investigations.

Taraborrelli puts to rest many rumors and incorrect reporting over the years about her relationship with the Kennedy brothers, and even the night of her tragic death. Her life truly was one of tragic beauty filled with both vulnerability and hope.

It was LONG (476 pages, before the appendices), but a read that was well worth the work and time invested. It even has 24 pages of rare photos, several from the author's personal collection, many of which have never been published.

I feel like I know Marilyn. I feel like she's a friend of mine, or maybe like I knew her at another time in my life. Learning about her has inspired me in many different ways. Though she was troubled, beginning her life as an orphan and ending it struggling with a variety of mental disorders and drug abuse, she was known and loved for her drive, tenacity, and love affair with the American public. She was accessible, waving at blue collar men who whistled at her on the street, and allowing the most common of citizens to snap pictures of her at events. The men she married were not boldly attractive like the men who shared the screen with her, but were rather seen as "every day" men. In a way she was like all of the rest of us, and never really seemed to fit in with the Hollywood scene at the time. In the end, her home was no bigger than the average American, and modestly furnished.

I'll leave the rest for you to find in the book, and do hope you'll read it. The author was as meticulous in his research as he was in his writing. The book is informative, without being drab or lecture like. You won't be able to put it down...unless your life is as busy as mine and it takes you as long as it took me to finish. Trust me, though, I never put it down because it was boring!


Anonymous said...

Umm, she wasn't an orphan. Her mother outlived her.

Missy Rose said...

Thank you for the correction. You are right; though she lived in an orphanage at least one of her parents was still living.


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