Just after 3 a.m. on Aug. 5, 1962, mere hours after arguing with her supposed lover — then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy — at her Brentwood, Calif., estate., Marilyn Monroe’s nude, lifeless body was reportedly found by her housekeeper. As the story goes, the glamorous star was surrounded by several bottles of sleeping pills and, an hour or so later, the police arrived on the scene.
But some say that’s not quite how it happened.
“No, she wasn’t [dead at home],” says ambulance company owner Walter Schaefer in the new Netflix documentary “The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes,” out Wednesday.
One of his former drivers, Ken Hunter, had been dispatched to Monroe’s home on the night of her death. Schaefer says that the silver screen superstar was comatose, but alive, when Hunter picked her up and began transporting her to an emergency room in Santa Monica.
And writer John Sherlock claims that Monroe’s last psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, told him, years after Monroe’s death, that she was alive at home and was being transported by ambulance to Saint John’s Health Center when she died en route.
“She died in the ambulance,” Sherlock says in the documentary. “Then they took her back to the house. [Greenson] told me he was in the ambulance.”
“What I learned was information that changed completely what we thought we knew about her mysterious death,” the documentary’s narrator, author Anthony Summers, says in the film. “And suggests that the circumstances of her dying were covered up.”
For years, those who were closest to the buxom “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” bombshell, have not-so-quietly questioned whether an intentional suicide, an accidental barbiturates overdose — which has officially been ruled her cause of death — or a politically charged homicide was the true cause of her undoing.
In director Emma Cooper’s doc, Summers — the author of the 1985 book “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe” — exhumes audio recordings from the more than 650 interviews he conducted over the decades with Monroe’s friends and co-stars, as well as government officials, to set free the once-closeted skeletons of the tortured diva’s afflictions.
“The tapes I’ve accumulated while writing the book have never been heard by the public,” says Summers. “What the evidence suggests is that [the circumstances around her death were] covered up because of her connection with the Kennedy brothers.”
In the summer of ‘62, when the Cold War between the US and the communist Soviet Union was at a fever pitch, both Robert Kennedy and then President John F. Kennedy abruptly ended their supposed simultaneous, yearslong love affairs with Monroe, according to Summers.
At the time, according to his interviews with federal operatives, intelligence agencies feared that Monroe — America’s billowing-skirt sweetheart — had actually aligned with communist expatriates that were connected to Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.
And officials, who had secretly recorded audio of lusty liaisons between Monroe and the brothers Kennedy — they’d meet up at the Malibu, California, abode of actor Peter Lawford, who was married to the Kennedys’ sister Patricia at the time — worried that the chatty coquette might be sharing government secrets. They feared she had learned too much during pillow talks with JFK and RFK.
Summers says it’s “very possible” that “the Kennedys said, ‘S – – t, she can make public that we’ve been discussing nuclear matters’ …. [and] thought, ‘We’ve got to stop all this. We can’t deal with Marilyn Monroe anymore.’ ”
But the Kennedys’ sudden rejection didn’t sit well with the already-distressed beauty.
“Bobby Kennedy called her the night of her death from Lawford‘s house,” recounts surveillance expert Reed Wilson in the film. Wilson, a revered eavesdropping operative, had been hired by private detective Fred Otash to keep tabs on Monroe and the Kennedys through hidden electronic devices planted in Lawford’s house. Otash, who had worked both for and against the White House, had been commissioned by Teamster Jimmy Hoffa to build a derogatory profile on the brothers.
“And she said, ‘Don’t bother me. Leave me alone. Stay out of my life,’ ” Wilson recalls of Monroe’s rant. “It was a very violent argument. [She said] ‘I feel passed around, I feel used. I feel like a piece of meat.’ “
Monroe’s housekeeper Eunice Murray reveals in the documentary that Robert Kennedy, who reportedly tried to hide the fact that he was in Los Angeles on the night of Monroe’s death, even came to the pinup’s house. She says the two engaged in a contentious argument just hours before her body was later discovered.
“It became so sticky, that the protectors of Robert Kennedy had to step in to protect him,” Murray says of the lovers’ quarrel.
And the inconsistencies around the time, location and discovery of her death are just as curious as her sordid relationships with the Kennedys.
Credentialed authorities like senior FBI agent Jim Doyle tell Summers that the federal officials swooped down on the late star’s home long before the local police came in at the reported time of 4:25 a.m.
“I was there,” says Doyle, who doesn’t reveal what he did on the scene, but the implication is that the feds came in to somehow clean up evidence of RFK’s association with the deceased star. “There were some [Bureau] people there that normally wouldn’t have been there.”
“They came on the scene immediately. Before anybody even realized what happened,” he says. “It had to be instructions from someone high up, higher than [then-Director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover]. The [attorney] general or the president.”
Law enforcement informant Harry Hall tells Summers that once FBI agents received their marching orders from on high, Monroe’s death quickly became a “hush-hush” matter.
“The man that was really involved was the boss. He was the attorney general of the United States, so he’d have the FBI do anything,” says Hall. “People that knew, knew that they didn’t want Bobby Kennedy’s name brought into this, because his brother was the president. They had done everything to hush this up.”
Otash, too, recalls Robert Kennedy commissioning him and Wilson to “have someone go out to [Monroe’s house] and pick up any and all information that was possible regarding any involvement between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys. He was convinced there were diaries around, and maybe a note.”
Doyle confirms that records of some sort were removed from Monroe’s home.
“It happened,” he says.
Despite the Kennedys’ questionably close proximity, Summers is almost certain the “Seven Year Itch” siren was not murdered. He’s convinced she either passed from suicide or an accidental overdose.
“I did not find out anything that convinced me that she had been deliberately killed,” he says.
And while there’s still much that remains unknown about the last moments of her outwardly enviable life, the doc reveals that Monroe may have stirringly foreshadowed the would-be conundrum of her death.
“How do you go about writing a life story?” she’s heard asking Greenson in haunting audio from one of their final therapy sessions.
“Because, the true things rarely get into circulation,” says Monroe. “It’s usually the false things.”