Marilyn: Fifty Summers Gone
On August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found
dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home, due to an apparent
overdose of barbiturates. Whether they were taken with intent
or accidentally, was said to be uncertain. But certainly on
that morning as I awakened from the couch of a Staten Island
bungalow to the first words of the day, “Marilyn Monroe
is dead,” no one was calling it murder.
Photo taken at an art gallery window 6/2012;
by Ron Vazzano©
Since then, many have come to believe that
she was in fact murdered. It’s a belief that has arisen
periodically over the past half century, whenever something
newly alleged regarding the circumstances surrounding her
death, comes to the forefront. That we still care, is a further
testament to the place she holds in that pantheon of tragic
figures that have passed through our collective memory.
As a sixteen year old boy at the time, and especially one
coming of age on the streets of the Lower East Side, I should
not have mourned her passing. It certainly wasn’t a
macho heterosexual male thing to do. Besides, Sophia Loren
was the preferred sex symbol in that Italian-American neighborhood
of my youth. And when Ursula Andress would later appear that
year in the first James Bond film Dr. No, and then
later in a Playboy spread, (Ursula “Undress” we
punned) well, now we were really talking sex.
But Marilyn was not just about sex, beauty, and stardom. She
was also about a sense of innocence and vulnerability. Though
I was hardly sitting there that morning contemplating that
mix, and how no other person I could think of had ever wrapped
all that into one persona. I was upset. And trying not to
show it. And of course, persona is the operative word here.
The public never really gets to know the real person.
Marilyn was also a talented actress having honed her craft
at the legendary Lee Strasburg Studio over the years. A favorite
performance of mine, was her role in the “Seven Year
Itch.” A piece from a Muse-Letter written several
years ago on the 50th anniversary of that film, is reprised
here as it originally appeared.
If Marilyn were alive today she would be eighty-six;
an image impossible to fathom. And one might wonder what she
would have made of all the MM wannabes that have passed through
our midst these last five decades in movies, music and the
pop culture in general.
Where they all fall short, is that they work so hard at it.
All trying to be so bombastic. All screaming out: “Look
at me! Aren’t I gorgeous! Aren’t I outrageous!
Aren’t I something!” And that is ultimately what
might be the real secret to the long lasting appeal of Marilyn
Monroe. Norma Jean Baker never seemed to be working hard at
being Marilyn Monroe. She just was. And as is the case with
any great work of art, it all seems so inevitable. You look
and you think, “Yes. Of course.” I sensed that
at sixteen. I know it now.
Quote of the Month
Random Colliding Thoughts
on the Hadron Collider and the Boson It Has Wrought
The Hadron Collider
is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator,
stretching 17 miles, 540 feet beneath the surface near Geneva,
Switzerland. Why it was built in Switzerland, I don’t
know. But you get the feeling that that country leads a charmed
life. Never at war…almost genetically neutral…birthplace
of the Red Cross…mandatory national health plan…watches
that run like clockwork…a nifty pocket knife…and
of course, yodeling! And now it is the home to the possible
discovery of the Higgs boson (so named after Peter Higgs who
first theorized its existence in 1964). This discovery was
announced on July 4th, our nation’s birthday.
In case you were at the beach by day and a
fireworks display by night (can they do better fireworks in
Switzerland than us? Ha.) and missed it, in essence here’s
a likely end to one of the longest, most expensive searches
in the history of science, physicists said Wednesday that
they had discovered a new subatomic particle that looks
for all the world like the Higgs boson a key to understanding
why there is diversity and life in the universe.”
(New York Times, July 4, 2012)
I, who can hardly operate a TV, can’t even begin to
get my head around particle physics. They lost me at CERN.
Which inexplicably is some sort of acronym derived from the
European Organization for Nuclear Research, which
is behind this whole project. And what exactly is their logo
Yet, knowing nothing about something
has never prevented a collision of random thoughts in my Head-on
Collider on any matter. Or anti-matter for that matter. Such
as this case with the boson, which we’re told is a particle
with no mass of its own, just energy which pulls all other
particles of mass together.
Great as this discovery has been deemed to
be, it is the bold statement by Lawrence Krauss, a rather
pompous theoretical physicist well known in theoretical physicists
circles (rather infinitely small circles one would imagine)
who in espousing, “With enough data, physics would
make God obsolete,” that grabs one by the lapels.
Especially as the boson has been nicknamed
the “God particle.” Especially given that for
many, theology and science run on parallel tracks and never
the twain shall meet. Yet, given that God was once declared
dead by Nietzsche, “obsolete” seems like an upgrade.
(Woody Allen once said: “Not only is there no God, but
try getting a plumber on the weekends.”)
Certainly, this discovery does not prove or
disprove the existence of God or a Higher Power. As Philip
Clayton the Dean of Claremont School of Theology and a researcher
of science and religion (no parallel tracks for this man)
said: “The fans and foes of religion…are overreaching
on both sides.”
Another equally temperate physicist, Robert
Cousin at UCLA, offered: “It is a beginning, not an
end.” Going on to say that every scientific discovery
leads to new questions, new discoveries.
There are more things in heaven and earth,
Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet,
Act I scene V).
But what if the cycle in search of those things
was infinite, Horatio? Questions. Discoveries. Questions.
Discoveries. What if what we dream of, ultimately is beyond
the scope of human understanding? Then what? What would scientists
say? Theologians? Atheists? Believers?
Just a few particles passing through just one man’s
collider. Here’s a few others:
• If as scientists claim, that the
boson can explain how matter can be formed from nothing,
where did the boson come from? From the bosom of even more
nothingness? From a particle playing possum?
• Once you start talking about energy
fields and anti-matter isn’t anything possible? Even
a soul? Good and bad vibes? Even some form of an afterlife?
I’m just saying.
• I have never met a human being who
didn’t feel that they were more than just flesh and
bone; the sum of their physical parts… just matter.
In effect, everyone believes that they have
a soul. As Seinfeld might have said, “what’s
up with that?”
• What if science could “prove”
that we didn’t have a soul? Who would believe it?
• Where does the impulse come from
to shout for joy when something goes right?
in Geneva applauding the discovery of a subatomic particle
that looks like the Higgs boson.
So ironic to see the most left-brained of
minds who deal in equations and provable theories, whooping
it up like they had just won the Super Bowl! “Now
that you’ve discovered the boson, what’s next?"
"We’re going to Disneyland!"
• Speaking of emotions, is there
an equation for love? A particle for grief?
• The metaphorically poetic beauty
of the opening of Genesis is so in synch with science. That
from nothing came something. And that that something took
time to reach fruition. And that it was good.
• Why does Switzerland continue to
piss me off?
As if the very existence of the horse itself
whose foal can stand in the hour of its birth
gallop in clover
as if that were not enough
wings on one
a horn on the forehead of another
in need of our own creation.
The Republican National Convention will take
place at the end of this month in Tampa Bay. Conventions are
to politics what the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC),
or “extreme fighting,” is to sports.
Expect that Obama will be pummeled with everything
the opposition can muster — Trump may even show up demanding
a birth certificate. Similarly, when the Democrats have their
convention shortly thereafter in the first week of September,
do not be surprised by a reference or two to the dog-on-the-roof-of-the-car
thing. And in rebuttal, Trump may be called upon to account
for his hair. It’s the nature of the beast.
Whereas conventions used to be characterized
by a lot of in fighting, “out fighting” is now
exclusively the order of day. If the opposition says tomato,
you say to-mah-to. They say potato… you say po-tah-to.
And never call the whole thing off.
The last convention of either party where
the nomination battle might have been in doubt, where some
in fighting occurred, was in 1976 when Regan nearly wrestled
the nomination away from the incumbent (and unelected) president,
Though how mild was that tussle in comparison
to what transpired on the Democrat side at the 1968 convention.
Tear gas and billy-clubbing in the streets of Chicago? (Though
it beats watching a Cubs’ game). The defiant chant of
“The whole world’s watching”? Dan Rather
being arrested on the convention floor?
And in the end…Hubert H. Humphrey anyway? (Sorry but
you can’t be president with a nursery rhyme like sounding
name. Not to mention selling your soul for the nomination).
The transformation over the years of political
conventions into a four day infomercial, is hardly an insight.
It is something that has long been lamented by the pundits,
and the declining TV ratings over the years, substantiate
that the public has long since caught on to the fact that
what they have been watching is not news. One is not apt to
see anything newsworthy at these gigs, unless a loose cannon—
say a Bu-chanan, as in Pat at the ’92 convention
— takes to the podium. Which could be why another “killer
B,” as in Bachmann, will not be at the convention.
Even fellow Republican and former Presidential
nominee, John McCain recently took her to task for allegations
that the family of Huma Abedin— an aide to Hillary Clinton—
has ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Condemning,
as he put it, "specious and degrading attacks against
On the Democratic side, Joe Biden is always
shooting from the lip, so who knows what might happen this
year at O.K. Coral.
As has been illustrated previously (JANUARY,
2012 Muse-letter), hard-ball politics is nothing new.
But conventional wisdom about the continuing growth of the
internet as a communications force— with its YouTube
moments of infamy waiting to happen— suggests that this
year’s conventions might have something new to offer
after all. Especially in light of the heat thrown off by the
debate on “Obamacare.” Hmmm. I’ve been wrong
before. Maybe I’ll watch.