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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

August 5, 1962

So, how many of you out there are ready to take in another edition of the Tuesday Timeline?  I'm sure that most of you are waiting in anticipation.

(Or, at least, I'd like to hope that you are anyway.)

And the only hint that I will provide is that today's date had a profound impact on Hollywood as one legend's light blew out like a candle in the wind.

You've probably got the gears grinding in your head right now and probably have the answer.  I'll leave you to think about it some more while I go ahead with today's events and celebrity birthdays for August 5.

1100 - Henry I is crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey

1583 - The first English colony in North America (the area near St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) is established by Sir Humphrey Gilbert

1620 - The Mayflower departs from Southampton, England on its first attempt to reach North America

1735 - New York Weekly Journal writer John Peter Zenger is acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York

1861 - The United States Army abolishes flogging

1882 - Standard Oil of New Jersey is established

1884 - The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor

1914 - The very first electric traffic light is installed in Cleveland, Ohio

1926 - Harry Houdini performs an illusion on stage which sees him escaping from a sealed tank filled with water - total time spend submerged was ninety-one minutes!

1930 - Neil Armstrong (d. 2012) - the first astronaut to walk on the moon - is born in Wapakoneta, Ohio

1957 - American Bandstand debuts on ABC

1962 - Nelson Mandela enters prison and spends the next twenty-eight years of his life behind bars

1963 - A nuclear test ban treaty is signed by the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union

1964 - Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch (d. 2012) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1981 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan fires over 11,000 striking air-traffic controllers who ignored his order for them to return to work

1992 - Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro dies suddenly at just 38 years old

2000 - Sir Alec Guinness dies of liver cancer, aged 86 years

2002 - Soap star Josh Ryan Evans dies at the age of 20

2003 - Twelve are killed and another 150 injured after a car bomb detonates outside of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia

2010 - Thirty-three Chilean miners are trapped 2,300 feet below the ground after the Copiapo mining accident occurs

And, I'd also like to wish the following famous faces a happy birthday;  John Saxon, Loni Anderson, Erika Slezak, Rick Derringer, John Jarratt, Samantha Sang, Louis Walsh, Maureen McCormick, Faith Prince, Clayton Rohner, Pete Burns, Pat Smear, Tawny Kitaen, Jonathan Silverman, Terri Clark, Funkmaster Flex, James Gunn, Antony Cotton, Ami Foster, Jesse Williams, Xenia Tchoumitcheva, and Olivia Holt.

And this leads us to the discussion about today's date.

Today's date just happens to fall on the same day that Nelson Mandela was placed in prison.  August 5, 1962.

Now, I could have just talked about the events that saw Mandela imprisoned for twenty-eight years...but I already did a blog on that entry some time ago.

Instead, I'll be talking about another event.  This event took place in the United States of America - Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  And it was on this date that one of Hollywood's most sultry and provocative actresses breathed her last breath.

It seems hard to believe that had she lived, this actress would be eighty-eight years old today.  But alas, she stayed forever young at just thirty-six years of age.

This is the story about the death of Marilyn Monroe, who passed away fifty-two years ago today.

Marilyn Monroe, of course, was a movie starlet who starred in films that are widely regarded as classics today, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "How To Marry a Millionaire", and "Some Like It Hot".  And she was a huge inspiration for early Madonna as she was the direct inspiration behind her 1985 video for "Material Girl".

But Marilyn's death in 1962 remains a sort of unsolved mystery of sorts. 

It was twenty-five minutes after four in the early morning hours of August 5, 1962 that LAPD sergeant Jack Clemmon received the call from Dr. Ralph Greenson that would send shock waves throughout Hollywood.  The call that confirmed the death of Marilyn Monroe.  And the cause of death was linked to a combination of barbiturates that were still in her system at the time of autopsy.  As Marilyn Monroe had complained about having insomnia, and was having some negative health effects a couple of years prior to her death, the medication that was present in the room where she died did make sense. 

But here's the interesting thing about Marilyn's death.  Although she did die of a drug overdose, the actual autopsy report stated that she died of a "probable suicide".  Not definite.  Just probable.  And with that word came dozens of theories about Marilyn Monroe's demise.  Did she really commit suicide?  Or was something more sinister the cause of her death?

If you looked at the last few months of Marilyn's life, one might think that she would have had no reason to kill herself.  In recent weeks, she had been in talks to commit to several film projects.  She was continuing to negotiate a contract for the film, "Something's Gotta Give".  She was set to star in the film version of the Broadway musical "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn".  A conflict that she had with 20th Century Fox had been resolved and she was set to have a two-film deal with the movie company which would have seen her making a cool one million dollars.  And on top of all that, an Italian deal which would see Marilyn making four movies as well as handing over co-star, director, and script approval for ten million dollars.

With all those opportunities surrounding her, do you think that it would make sense for Marilyn Monroe to throw it all away by overdosing on drugs?  The only way that this would be the case is if it were an accidental overdose.  Which would mean that it probably wasn't suicide at least, not an intentional one, anyway.

And that's not counting the conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn's death, with some people believing that Marilyn Monroe was murdered.  Some people have the belief that the CIA or the Mafia went to great lengths to kill Monroe, feeling that she had something on them and that they would go to great lengths to see that her secrets never got out.  Others seem to think that Monroe was killed because of her connection to the Kennedy clan.  After all, Marilyn Monroe had gotten pretty close with President John F. Kennedy, reportedly even calling the White House several times a day to speak with the president.  It's even alleged that Monroe and Kennedy had a love affair while Kennedy was in office, though I can't say for sure if this was the case, as I was not alive during that time.  But still, Monroe's link to the Kennedy family was called out by some people as the reason that she died.

I bet when Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles, California on June 1, 1926, she never would have imagined that her life and death would have been so much in the public eye, even decades after her passing.  By all accounts, little Norma Jeane's life had started off being incredibly tough right from birth.  She spent the majority of her formative years in foster homes due to her mother's mental instability, and although several families were interested in adopting Norma Jeane, her mother refused to sign the adoption papers giving up her full rights to her.  She lived with her mother's best friend Grace for a little bit, but that arrangement ended quickly after Grace's husband tried to molest Norma Jeane. 

It really was a story that some would have felt would only exist in the movies.  A little girl who only wanted to find love and acceptance only to face pain and heartbreak everywhere she went.  Only it wasn't a movie.  It was Norma Jeane's real life.  It took a marriage to her first love, James Dougherty, for Norma Jeane to finally find some stability in her life.  But the marriage didn't last.  They were divorced by 1946.  In fact, none of her three marriages lasted.  Her second marriage to Joe DiMaggio didn't even last a whole year, and her third marriage to Arthur Miller was the longest of the three, with the couple staying together for five years before divorcing in 1961.  But when you consider just how much instability she had in her early life, I suppose you can understand the instability that she sustained in her romantic life.

But I suppose one could say that her career (at least the early part of her career before the drug use started and she began to earn the reputation of being incredibly difficult to work with came into play) was the one thing that gave her stability.  And certainly, Marilyn Monroe's body of work speaks for itself.

But I suppose you're wondering how she ended up transforming herself from Norma Jeane Mortenson into Marilyn Monroe.  Well, as we close the book on another Tuesday Timeline, I'll share that story with you.

In June 1945, Norma Jeane was working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory when David Conover of the U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Motion Picture Unit was sent to the factory to shoot photos of young women helping out with the war effort.  He happened to come across Norma Jeane, and snapped this photo below.

Though the photo never actually appeared in the magazine that he was sending the photos he snapped to, he did think that Norma Jeane seemed to have model-like qualities, and encouraged her to sign up for a modeling agency, which she did.  It is here that the first change took place - bleaching her naturally dark hair to her signature platinum blonde.

Shortly after taking some photos with the agency, she got the attention of 20th Century Fox executive Ben Lyon who arranged for Norma Jeane to perform a screen test.

She passed the screen test with flying colours, and she was immediately signed to a contract.  However, Lyon didn't like the name Norma Jeane Dougherty, claiming that the name didn't have enough star power.  Lyon suggested the name of Carole Lind (a combination of Carole Lombard and Jenny Lind), but that name didn't seem to be appropriate for her.  Norma Jeane's idol was Jean Harlow, and she knew that Jean Harlow used her mother's maiden name for her own stage name, so Norma Jeane decided to do the same, using her mother's maiden name of "Monroe".

So then came the battle to choose an appropriate first name.  Initially, they were going to try the name Norma Jeane Monroe.  Then just Norma Monroe.  Then just Jeane Monroe.  Finally, the suggestion of Marilyn was offered up, and initially Norma Jeane didn't like the name.  To her, it was a contraction of the name Mary Lynn - a name she didn't like.  But Lyon insisted on Marilyn.  Norma Jeane reminded him of Marilyn Miller - a Broadway star of the 1920s.  And he felt that the alliteration of the name Marilyn Monroe would be sexy, sultry, and lucky.  It took a little time, but Norma Jeane decided that she liked the name.

And that was how Norma Jeane became Marilyn Monroe.

And, to end this blog off, let's have a listen to the 1973 hit single that Elton John wrote about her.

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