by Sébastien Cauchon
translated by Keith Bradley
Eunice, Whitey, Cherie, Ralph, Inez, Paula, Agnes, Evelyn, May and Ralph again as well as Larry and Pat.
Behind these twelve names: colleagues, friends or close friends around whom Marilyn Monroe lived her last months in Los Angeles in 1962. Her only family. In reality nearly all of her employees. Amongst them, not one whose daily professional life was not tied to their privileged relationship with the actress. For a long time simply recurring names stumbled across in the pages of biographies or spotted at the end of film credits. Bit players in Marilyn’s world whose faces could be seen on her periphery in press photographs if you took the trouble to scan the background. A small, attentive, salaried group composing her ‘entourage’ as it is commonplace to define those whose lives revolve around celebrities.
A shadow army with a subtle and shifting social order composed of allies from the outset as well as new recruits, the strong-willed and the discreet, top professionals as well as no-hopers. An entourage at the heart of which co-existed latent conflicts, open hostilities, suspicion, dedication, plots and sometimes sincere camaraderie. What did it mean to them to rub shoulders with Hollywood’s greatest star? One of the most talented but also one of the most complex. Endearing but terribly demanding. Generous but sometimes uncompromising. As time went by the proliferation of documents unearthed at auction sales showed the complexity of their relationships. For me they took on a primary importance. Over thirty years of passion for Marilyn I had developed a real obsession with these witnesses of her last days. Through them what more could be learned about her? Who in fact were these twelve individuals? And who was in the service of whom? Several times I had tried to retrace their steps and had even made a pilgrimage to see them but it was far too late. Most of them had died. Certain amongst them had sunk into anonymity, most of them had refused to break confidences, and others had eventually made their tenuous link with the icon into a business. A few amongst the rare survivors had agreed to reveal to me their memories, deformed by nostalgia, or worse, by bad faith. Sometimes I even found myself timidly clarifying events they themselves had experienced decades before. Ghosts that I wanted to bring back to life, even reinventing them where necessary.
I had climbed the deserted left avenue of the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, a small cemetery squeezed between Century City, UCLA and two fast highways, where Marilyn Monroe’s funeral had taken place at one o’clock in the afternoon on the 8th of August 1962. On that oppressively hot day, a mob made up of reporters and the curious had been kept at a distance by a significant security service presence. Not one of the directors, actors, producers or studio bosses with whom Marilyn had worked throughout her career had however appeared on the guest list endorsed by Joe DiMaggio, her second and ex-husband, who had organised her funeral. Only thirty-four people had attended the funeral. Amongst these, twenty-four had a direct financial dependence on the dead star including my twelve members of her closest circle: her housekeeper, make-up artist, secretary, masseur, accountant, coach, hairdresser, double, assistant, psychoanalyst, photographer and press agent. Twelve individuals who became the heroes of each chapter in the story of the last months in the life of a woman known as Marilyn Monroe who died alone at 36 one summer night in 1962, in the barely furnished bedroom of a small hacienda in Brentwood. A period during which she had never been so much the centre of attention.
Eunice Murray had spent three months finding the house. Three months at the wheel of her battered green Dodge, criss-crossing the most beautiful avenues of Santa Monica, then of Beverley Hills, Bel Air and Brentwood. Stopping to visit mock manors, colonnaded dwellings and Anglo-Norman farmhouses with shingle-covered roofs untouched by Atlantic sea sprays. Three months suffering the astonishment and the barely disguised scorn of estate agents faced with the ordinary appearance of this small ageless woman asking to be issued with a bunch of keys to view, alone, properties “not overlooked” for “someone who doesn’t want, at this stage, to identify themselves”. She had come up with this approach and she was proud of it. Generally it was sufficient to open to her the doors that were hidden from the curious, even if it did not yet allow her to shut these intermediaries up by revealing the identity of who she represented. It was thanks to Dr Greenson that she had been able to land this mission. Like all those that had kept her going since she was fifteen. This was, however, the first time she had found herself entrusted with finding a property (at the start, as with all the previous patients, it had only been a question of “accompaniment”) and this concrete work was much more. At last she had felt useful. If the sin of pride repulsed her, when the guilt which would gnaw away at her for many years allowed her little respite, she would subsequently congratulate herself in having succeeded in unearthing the LA house.
The two women had first met one morning in November 1961. Eunice had found herself in front of the closed door of a single-storey residence at 882 North Doheny Drive in the heart of West Hollywood. She had arrived exactly on time for a job interview with the biggest screen star in the world, Marilyn Monroe. She had been advised to ring the intercom labelled Marjorie Stengel. This was a ruse, one amongst many, as she would quickly discover, to keep away fans or, worse, the unbalanced. In reality it was the name of an ex-secretary who had once lived in the building. Greenson had assured her that the interview would only be a formality. All that was needed was to pass the test of a first meeting. Eunice could not help being nervous. She knew that she had nothing on the overqualified personnel that the employment agencies sent to their richest clients. She was wrong to worry; Hollywood, this kingdom of the “Fake”, had sheltered for a long time a band of parasites who did not hesitate to falsify their diplomas and references in order to land the best jobs. Inwardly she feared that her lack of education betrayed her (she simply did not have the slightest clue what would constitute daily life around Marilyn Monroe) and even more that her squint, clumsily hidden behind her tortoiseshell-framed glasses, would be a concern to one of the most beautiful women in the world. Eunice had waited in silence in front of the finely-crafted door and had pressed the bell again without a response. She had turned back and called Dr Greenson from a payphone on Cynthia Street. Marilyn was at home, no doubt asleep, and he would call her to wake her up and ask her to open the door to Eunice. Thus, a few minutes later, she had entered the apartment which was bathed in darkness. The woman who had welcomed her, whilst profusely apologising, seemed a lot younger than the one she had seen in the papers.
Of course she knew who Marilyn Monroe was even though she had never seen any of her films. Cinema did not interest her and she had learnt, thanks to several famous patients of Dr Greenson working in Hollywood, that it was an advantage to show no interest in their careers. This reassured everyone; each knew their place. It was understood one should marvel at the evening outfits, and gush at the offers received, the laudatory press reports and the signed contracts but never to initiate conversations about professional topics. This was more prudent. It was even an old trick that VIP staffing agencies drilled into their candidates: above all never say you are a fan! Eunice had no need to force herself. She would forever be known as “Marilyn’s housekeeper”. A term which she loathed and found insulting. It was so belittling, why not just call her a cleaner? She would have preferred, when journalists were fooled by the pale blouse in which she would be immortalised by news photographers in the small hours of the 5th of August 1962, to have been described as a nurse. For the record, this was completely false. Eunice Murray did not have the slightest qualification in the subject and had never even had any formal medical training.
Eunice had left school before she reached the age of 16. The daughter of a couple of very devout Jehovah’s Witnesses from Chicago, the Joerndts, she was born 24 years before Marilyn in 1902. She was the second to last child of a family of six children, before becoming the last following the death of her little brother. Eunice was just six when her family had left Illinois for Ohio. Along with her friends and sisters, she went to a village school run by members of a Swedenborgian church, a sect founded in the seventeenth century by an eminent Swedish scientist who believed that he had been have been given a divine mission and that he possessed the ability to speak to angels and spirits. Next came the Swedenborgian Urbana School and Academy, where her sister Carolyn, four years her elder, was a boarder. Carolyn was as popular and endearing as Eunice was dull and reserved. Carolyn was very beautiful. Many people thought she looked like Mary Pickford who was at that time a great success in The Poor Little Rich Girl. She had soft brown eyes and her mother’s abundant head of hair, with a thick strand which fell delicately onto the top of her right eyebrow. Her bobbed and slightly wavy hair, carefully brushed down on each side of her face to hide her bare ears, underlined the semi-circular perfect arches of her eyebrows. Thirty years later an apprentice starlet called Norma Jean Baker Mortenson would die her hair blonde and adopt an almost identical cut to become Twentieth Century Fox’s biggest star. The two were very close and Eunice was fascinated by her older sister.
In 1917 Carolyn contracted Spanish ‘flu. Faced with the grave state of Carolyn’s health, her school took the decision, in the absence of her parents away house hunting in Los Angeles contemplating a move there, to call a doctor who authorised a blood transfusion. On their return the Joerndts were furious to discover that their religious beliefs had been transgressed. They immediately legally disowned their daughter Carolyn who purely and simply ceased to exist in their eyes. Eunice escaped the ‘flu epidemic and was therefore also spared familial abandon. She continued to see Carolyn at the academy where a tutor had been appointed her legal guardian. However, she was profoundly affected by her parents’ actions and started to suffer from psychological problems. She had fits of crying during her sleep that she tried rather unsuccessfully to hide when she awoke. Her crying outbursts became ever more frequent even during the day. At school she had difficulty differentiating herself from her friends and even her sister whose haircut she had adopted despite her own thinning brown hair. From then on she lived in fear of being abandoned.
In 1918 she gave up all formal education and joined her parents in Los Angeles, where she had been living for 43 years when she joined Marilyn Monroe’s staff. In 1924, like Carolyn, she had become engaged and then married to John Murray, an ex-serviceman, carpenter and son of a Swedenborgian minister. Carolyn had gone one better: she had married Franklin Blackmer, one of the priests at the sect, who had been her teacher at Urbana. The two sisters had maintained the fundamental principles, “always think about God, salvation and the spiritual ills of mankind” and both had attained the ideal of marriage for life. Carolyn also worked at Urbana where she had become a teacher and ran a nursery. Without any formal qualification or training Eunice was happy merely to bring up her three daughters: Marilyn born in 1924, then Patricia and Jacqueline, twins, born in 1926. She was therefore mother to one child with the same first name as her future employer and of two others born in the same year as her.
She spoke of these coincidences neither during their first meeting nor subsequently. It could have been a subject to break the ice but Eunice was not troubled by silence and was accustomed to solitude during her marriage. John Murray was often away criss-crossing the neighbouring states organising carpenters’ unions to which he belonged. Thus Eunice had more or less brought up her three daughters single-handed. John was often in Mexico City where he supplied cheap terracotta roofing tiles and he took advantage of his trips to visit his brother who ran a radio station there. Churchill Murray also maintained a large network combining politicians, diplomats (including Soviet and Cuban ambassadors) and East and West Coast left-wing American intellectuals holidaying in Mexico. During his brief visits home John did not stop eulogising about two couples of erudite psychoanalysts that had made a strong impression on him: the Kris from New York and the Greensons from LA. Eunice listened with apprehension as her husband described his encounters with these strangers with a passion she didn’t recognise in him. However John would soon leave her life and Ralph Greenson would play a part in it.
“I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting. Sit down, I’ll be back shortly.” Marilyn had led Eunice into a small room to the right of the hall, which appeared to be the only room in the house where the sun was allowed to penetrate. Dressed in a red silk kimono, she turned on her heels and left Eunice seated on the only chair. She stayed focussed on the living room door which remained open. The low table was covered with books and mail. Some letters hadn’t been opened. A large green velvet sofa was flanked on either side by two sombre wooden chairs and all three were brimming over with piles of envelopes. Marilyn had dressed in the nearby bedroom and returned several minutes later in a white blouse buttoned to the top and knotted in front, over black calf-length trousers. She settled down opposite Eunice and spoke in a timid voice which contrasted with the intensity of her look.
“Well Miss Murray, will you help me?” she asked.
The question dumbfounded her because it seemed to her that it was not for her to decide, she was there rather to find out if Marilyn liked her. The two women looked at each other.
“Sorry for the mess. You know, I really need someone.”
“I would be delighted to have the chance to work for you”, Eunice finally stuttered.
“Perfect! Doctor Greenson never stops singing your praises. Come on, I’ll show you how I like my eggs”.
It was past eleven o’clock in the morning but Marilyn had not yet eaten her breakfast. Eunice had followed her into the tiny alcove kitchen which consisted of a gas cooker, a fridge and a cupboard hidden away in the corner. Marilyn had drawn the thick steel-blue curtains which obscured the bay window which overlooked the patio. The Californian sun had finally lit and warmed up this part-Art Deco, part-Rococo room dominated by brown and grey tones. The interior would have made an ideal bachelor pad for a studio boss. This was nothing like what the general public imagined the den of a sex symbol to be. As if Marilyn had guessed what Eunice was thinking, she had excused herself by joking “When I saw what the decorator had started I told him to stop but he carried on with his plan…”
She had smiled at Eunice who had immediately physically sensed intense warmth radiate from her. My God, she’s not even wearing make-up. God had blessed her with such a beauty that it seemed supernatural. She had responded with a faint smile trying to reciprocate Marilyn’s despite her thin lips and her oversized upper teeth, imperfectly straightened by her makeshift bridge. Marilyn had winked at her and Eunice had said to herself that she could not see how anyone, even the most stubborn decorator, would be able to resist her. The terms of the contract had been rapidly agreed during the time it took to prepare an omelette made with only egg whites (Marilyn had just had her gall bladder removed and had to stick to a strict diet). Eunice would come three days a week from eleven o’clock until three o’clock and for this she would earn a salary of $60 a week. A handsome sum, worth $500 today. Her duties were not precisely defined. Therefore on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Eunice left her small two-roomed flat on Ocean Drive to go up Santa Monica Boulevard as far as North Doheny Drive. As Los Angeles was not yet famous for its huge traffic jams and the route was virtually direct it only took her twenty minutes. At first she was happy to wash the pots, water the plants, sort the mail and answer the telephone which never stopped ringing. Eunice acted as a switchboard operator and had to guess who was calling and how to present herself to them. Evidently nobody was aware of her recruitment and neither was anybody surprised by it. Did she have so many predecessors? Unless nobody took the trouble to ask about her because they imagined she was only there temporarily. Eunice preferred not to think too much about it.
There were two telephone lines. Marilyn received personal calls on one in her bedroom and Eunice took professional calls on the second line in the living room and had to filter each by asking who was calling and for what reason. Marilyn never seemed to return these calls, but perhaps she waited for Eunice to leave before doing so? Eunice’s task was complicated by some of Marilyn’s colleagues who persisted in calling her personal line. She had complained of it to Doctor Greenson who instructed her how to proceed. Apart from his own calls none had priority, Marilyn needed her rest. Eunice also had to deal with Marilyn’s correspondence. Her mail, mainly bills and financial requests, was endless. Professional mail was, generally speaking, sent to the studios before being sorted and forwarded to Doheny. The total volume of mail was enormous. Eunice had felt her way before grasping the complexity and hierarchy of Marilyn’s administration. There were order confirmations and bills to send to Milton Rudin’s office, her manager. Bills relating to fees for her mother, who lived in an institution, were destined for Inez Melson, her former accountant and now Gladys’ tutor. Furthermore, all requests from the East Coast were addressed to May Reis, the Millers’ former secretary who continued to carry out certain tasks for Marilyn (she was not aware which), and also to Hedda Rosten, her friend, who had acted as personal assistant during her time in England where she was on location for the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957. Eunice discovered that the Rostens were close friends of Marilyn’s and that she always delegated part of her correspondence to Hedda to give her something to keep her busy. Eunice had to face this unwanted difficulty as best she could until the spontaneous intervention of Cherie Redmond, Milton Rudin’s new secretary.
This practical girl put in place a system of pockets according to the diverse types of documents for Eunice to fill; then she took care of sending the post items to different secretaries according to their nature and rectified Eunice’s classification errors. Twice a week, Cherie Redmond came to collect these files and in exchange left portfolios with pre-completed cheques for Marilyn to sign in order to pay employees and suppliers. Aside from this work, Eunice drove Marilyn in her Dodge to her appointments with Dr Greenson. In a short time she had become her companion, secretary, cook, dressmaker, cleaner, switchboard operator and driver. Greenson had given her a single piece of advice to be “totally devoted to Marilyn’s interests”. She couldn’t ask for more, but what exactly did he mean by that? She had never dared ask. Greenson had been so good to her that she didn’t dare risk annoying him, or appearing stupid. Whenever he spoke to her, she pinched her lips by way of approval, and gently nodded her head in agreement.
Marilyn rarely consulted Dr Greenson in his office at 436 North Roxbury Drive in Beverley Hills. Rather, at his invitation, at his house at 902 Franklin Street. Eunice knew well the large Mexican colonial style building at this address and for good reason: she and John had built it with their own hands. They had always rented their home and had contemplated owning a house for years. This dream, which Eunice had dared not believe, seemed possible if they made several sacrifices. John had a lot of contacts in the building trade and if they managed to put some money aside to buy a plot of land he would manage to do the rest. In 1944, thanks to their savings from John’s bonuses, and his union network, they had been able to buy a plot of land on credit in Santa Monica Heights near Brentwood golf course. They set about constructing the building. John, who had not been conscripted because of his age, took care of the major works such as the foundations, the carpentry and the roof, and Eunice herself laid down terra cotta floor tiles, undertook paintings and coatings and fitted coloured ceramic borders that came all the way from Mexico. The house had five bedrooms, their daughters were no longer living with them and did not often visit, but Eunice insisted on being able to welcome them should the need arise. They had moved in in 1946 and, even if John had almost immediately returned to his travels, Eunice had been intensely happy. Briefly.
Only four months after moving in the Murrays had become incapable of paying their bills. Eunice, usually so calm and submissive, became angry and sullen, aware that once more John had lied regarding the state of their finances. As always when faced with problems, he had fled, leaving her alone to face the debtors and incapable of paying their monthly bills. The house was put up for sale and Ralph and Hildegard Greenson, with whom John had stayed in touch over the years, acquired it, in January 1947, for the sum of $16,500. Eunice and John separated. Eunice was forty-five and experienced again the terrifying feeling that life had escaped her. Eunice, who had always found comfort in her faith, started to have doubts. Was she responsible for this failure? What lessons could be learned from it? Should she battle once again to save her marriage or risk seriously breaking her faith with the Swedenborgian church? She had taken refuge in a guest house on Rustic Road. The irony had passed her by, but the address was aptly named. She occupied one of the six ground floor rooms and shared toilet facilities with the other lodgers. Two weeks earlier she had benefited from the comfort of her house on Franklin Street, with its two bathrooms and its first-floor balcony overlooking both sides, from which you could see, if you leaned out a little, the Pacific Palisades and the sea… She had decided that she was not responsible for John’s shortcomings and had adapted herself to his departure. She even felt liberated. God only knew how enraged she could have let herself become if she had been forced to live side by side with the person who had caused her downfall… she would never have had the guts to admit it, even less to confess it to the church, but even though she had kissed goodbye to her marriage (they were divorced in 1950) she never got over mourning her house. Once again she had great difficulties in getting to sleep at night, but each morning she was awoken early from her sleep by the sounds of her co-lodgers who breakfasted in the communal kitchen before going to work. She was the sole jobless resident and the little money she had received from the sale of the house only allowed her to pay her expenses for a few months more. She had spent the first few days despondently in her bedroom and then forced herself to take some fresh air at the wheel of her car. She stopped in laybys along the Pacific Coast Highway and ate tacos and fatty fish fritters from mobile traders. On the way home she turned onto the start of Sunset Boulevard and travelled up to 26th Street before re-joining Wilshire Boulevard and turning left into Franklin Street to stop at number 902. Her bitterness towards John did not extend to the Greensons. They had two young children, a boy and a girl, and in a way she was flattered that this psychoanalyst and his family had chosen to live in her house…They seemed to be happy there, perhaps she could remain in contact and visit them? Eunice was not close to her daughters, had lost her father the year before, did not see either her mother or her brothers and sisters who disapproved of her divorce and John had just remarried and settled in Texas. She was alone and penniless and the Greensons were her only hope.
First of all she visited them “as a matter of courtesy” to see if they had settled in well. The window in the small room did not close properly? That was nothing, it needed to be planed, she would let them know the name of a person who could fix it. The varnished tiles in the kitchen were tarnished? She had the name of the wax that she could give to their cleaner. Hildi Greenson showed little interest in these exchanges but Ralph Greenson always welcomed Eunice warmly. In the end she plucked up courage and confided in him regarding her distress. She needed work and if she could be useful to him she would be happy to carry out small jobs for him. To her great surprise Greenson hired her on the spot. At least, he found her a job as a home nurse for patients suffering solely from mild psychotic problems. Apart from their analyst these patients had another thing in common: they were personalities and workers from the Hollywood industry, often their spouses. Eunice never worked directly for Greenson, in what capacity could he justify a co-worker having no experience in the field? He therefore only recommended her during his analysis sessions, and she spent several months as a housekeeper or an assistant to those who paid her directly. The salary was good and Eunice was not stupid to the point of not understanding what he gained from it. From then on he could ask her what he wanted. He did not stop himself from asking her from time to time about the private lives of his patients outside of his surgery consultations. Eunice was quickly able to leave the guest house on Rustic Road and rent a furnished apartment a stone’s throw from the ocean at Santa Monica. On the advice of Dr Greenson she added “nurse” under her name and address in the phone directory in case anybody ventured to look for it there. The arrangement had been working perfectly for fifteen years at the time when Eunice joined Marilyn Monroe’s staff.
Her visits to 882 North Doheny Drive followed a natural and settled routine. She had the key to the apartment and, on arrival, started by sorting the post. She then busied herself with the cleaning before preparing a light meal for Marilyn, acting occasionally as her driver. The last hour in the apartment was set aside for sorting the washing (a laundry service collected it several times a week) and sewing. Marilyn had lost a lot of weight since having her gall bladder removed and much of her evening wear needed altering. In this way, Eunice was able to put to good use one of her rare talents. She herself had patched and sewed most of her daughters’ clothes during their childhood and she had developed a true talent for it. Marilyn had even congratulated her one day when she had succeeded in altering a pleated dress on loan to her from Fox.
“Mrs Murray, the studio seamstresses couldn’t have done a better job!”
Eunice was so proud.
“Mrs Murray, could you help me find a house?”
The request had caught Eunice off guard. Didn’t Marilyn have an army of advisors who could take care of such a task? Then she had understood. Marilyn adored the Greensons’ house where she drove her, not only for psychoanalysis appointments but also sometimes to share family meals with them, several times a week. In particular she liked their warm and colourful kitchen. Greenson had suggested that given that it was Eunice who had constructed and decorated this house that pleased her so much, surely she was the best person for finding a similar property. Eunice was delighted; this was an undeniable show of trust that reassured her. She thought that Marilyn liked her, but she had noted that other members of her entourage kept her at a distance. In particular, Pat Newcomb, her press agent, openly snubbed her. Allan, Marjorie and Agnes, the team comprising her makeup artist, hairdresser and stylist, who she saw regularly, were more friendly, but Eunice felt that she had not yet been integrated into the closest ranks. It was probably too early in the day. Eunice had suggested to Marilyn that she call her by her first name but she preferred to keep to ‘Mrs Murray’ whilst Eunice used ‘Marilyn’. It was odd, but because her life now revolved so much around the star, she never once thought of her daughter when she uttered this name.
Each week, Eunice spent more and more time at North Doheny Drive where from time to time Marilyn was visited by her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio who had surprised her by turning up unexpectedly to spend Christmas and New Year with her. Joe seemed to appreciate Eunice’s discretion; he himself was so reserved that he introduced himself in a soft voice. Marilyn had arranged for her dog Maf to be brought from New York. Maf was a present from her press agent and had been named in a flash because of the supposed links of Frank Sinatra, a mutual friend, with the Mafia. The animal, a curly-haired white Maltese terrier, had never been house-trained and regularly soiled the carpet in the apartment. Eunice would clean up without batting an eyelid.
Finding a house. Where to start? First of all, Marilyn had asked Eunice to find a villa with an ocean view. She had often been to Malibu’s and Santa Monica’s beaches during her youth with her foster families with whom she had lived, then later, with photo shoots when she was a model, and also for photographs for Fox’s publicity department. She also had in mind the houses clad in painted wood owned by her friends from Long Island and the Connecticut coasts. Furthermore, she liked the Pacific view from the first floor of the Greensons’ and the seafront of the sumptuous villa that her friends Peter and Pat Lawford, President Kennedy’s sister, owned on the beach at Santa Monica. Milton Rudin, Marilyn’s new lawyer, who was also her manager (he performed the same roles on behalf of Frank Sinatra and Ralph Greenson’s brother-in-law), had warned Eunice about the modest budget at Marilyn’s disposal. This type of property was not within her reach. She might be the most famous actress in the world but her last two films, The Misfits and Let’s Make Love, had flopped. It was wiser to look in other districts. Marilyn had swept away the argument, sighing that she would make other films and she wanted a view of the ocean! Then she had finally been convinced by a more pragmatic argument. A sea view was hardly compatible with the protection of her privacy which she valued above all else.
Eunice started her searches afresh. Her task was a major challenge. Up to now Marilyn had never owned a property. She had experienced guest houses for starlets such as the Studio Club on Lodi Street where the major studios lodged debutants under contract before replacing them with younger ones. Then West Hollywood’s motels, before being housed by Johnny Hyde, one of her first agents and protectors, then the apartment belonging to Natasha Lytess, her acting teacher, and then most of LA’s luxury hotels once she had found her fame and fortune (the Bel Air, the Beverley Carlton, the Beverly Hills and the Argyle), before fleeing to New York. Then she had again found refuge with the Greenes in their Connecticut house. Milton Greene was the new photographer darling of fashion magazine editors.
“But you’re only a kid!” Marilyn had cried when she discovered that the man who was responsible for the covers of Look and Harper’s Bazaar was a small brown-haired man in a jumper.
“But you’re only a kid!” he retorted coolly.
Their friendship, born from this mad laughter and a sincere mutual admiration, led to a remarkable partnership. Together they produced some of the most beautiful photographs of Marilyn before uniting to extract her from Hollywood a nd her tyrannical contract with Fox. With help from Greene’s lawyers she was able to stand up to the studio for a year and launched her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, of which she held 51 per cent of the shares and he 49 per cent. However, neither their friendship nor the production company could stop her marrying Arthur Miller. She had left the Greenes’ country house to move into the Waldorf Astoria before marrying Miller and renting an apartment with him on the Upper East Side of New York at 444 East 57th Street. The couple dashed off as soon as possible to Miller’s farm at Roxbury, an hour’s distance from New York, that he had kept from his first marriage. In 1962 Marilyn was 36 and by the time she returned to work on the West Coast she had lived at 57 addresses without ever really establishing a place she could call “home”.
Eunice had completed her mission and, excited after a concluding visit, phoned her one evening to say “I believe that I have found you a house”.
“When can I see it?” Marilyn simply replied.
The visit took place the next day. Up to that moment, Marilyn had delegated total power to Eunice in the search and had little involvement in it. Rudin and Greenson encouraged her to move in as soon as possible. Rudin advised her to invest in bricks and mortar and Greenson to devote herself to a personal project whilst she waited to work again for Fox. This research was a healthy distraction. However, her true life and her friends were in New York. She was in Los Angeles to honour her contract with Fox with whom she had to make two more films. Divorced three times and childless, the idea of buying a house alone, in this town that regarded her as nearly finished, depressed her. However, Mrs Murray seemed convinced. It was worth the effort to view it and after all was it not a good idea to have her own pied-à-terre in LA where she could entertain whomsoever she wanted? Actually, Eunice had found a replica of the colonial dwelling owned by the Greensons: an authentic hacienda.
The house, number 12305, was ideally situated in a residential area in Brentwood, the left-hand one of the only pair of houses found at the end of a small cul-de-sac called Fifth Helena Drive, reached via Carmelina Avenue. A large wooden door concealed this bungalow from the view of any unlikely passers-by. The L-shaped property consisted of a garage, and a studio separated from the main building, which itself hid a kidney-shaped swimming pool surrounded by a red-bricked terrace set within lawns. A spacious garden, not over-looked, sloped sharply down to the back of the property, which was circled by cypresses, orange trees and bougainvilleas. The property was modest by Hollywood standards, measuring only 210 square metres and comprised three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It possessed several architectural details and original features that added to its discreet charm. Most of the windows were overhung with red tiles and adorned with wrought iron grills. The whitewashed walls were unusually thick and reassuring, the original woodwork had been preserved in most of the rooms and chimneys embellished the living room and the main bedroom. Marilyn adored it straightaway. With a little bit of work the annexe would be perfect for accommodating guests. The house also had the advantage of being very close to Ralph Greenson’s which, separated by San Vincente Boulevard and the Brentwood Country Club, was only a kilometre away. The doctor had impressed upon Eunice the necessity of this close proximity. It would thus be easier for Eunice to drive Marilyn there for her analysis sessions with Greenson, which were now daily. He had also expressed his counsel in fairly basic terms. Eunice recalled his words perfectly: “Marilyn was fragile, a house that she could finally call her own was an excellent substitute for the husband or the child she lacked and would “protect” her. The property seemed curiously to form part of her therapy.
Whilst not entirely grasping this, Eunice complied. Pico Boulevard and Fox Studios were ten minutes away by car and this would be ideal if she decided to make a film with George Cukor as she was being pressurised into doing. Wisely, Marilyn had asked for details about her future neighbours. One of them, Abe Landau, was a lecturer at the university and another, Hanna Fenichel, turned out to be a friend of the Greensons. Marilyn had viewed the house twice more, the second time accompanied by Joe DiMaggio who had approved her choice and offered his financial aid if needed… Milton Rudin had organised the sale and brought her the documents to sign at her apartment at Doheny. She paid $77,500 for the house. She had forced to draw an advance on the royalties of her last box office success, Some Like it Hot, and count on Joe DiMaggio’s financial help to be able to pay the deposit of $42,500. She took a fifteen year term loan from the Beverly Hills branch of City National Bank for the remaining $35,000 and committed to monthly payments to the tune of $320. If all went well she would own the property outright in February 1977 when she was fifty… When it came to signing she hesitated and shut herself away in her bedroom for a few minutes. Then she pulled herself together and countersigned the agreement with a steady hand, before seeing out her lawyer. Eunice had remained dumbfounded. Were you not supposed to celebrate the conclusion of a project that she had, after all, seen through in record time?
“Marilyn, are you happy to have bought the house?” she had dared to ask.
“Of course Mrs Murray, it’s nothing, I’m just a little sad to have bought a house all on my own.”
Eunice understood but Marilyn was not going to be alone. Eunice was planning on being by her side. Marilyn had excellent news for Eunice, she was going to need help in renovating and furnishing the house. Could she take care of recruiting reliable tradespeople? She would also have to be free to supervise the works on site. If Eunice accepted, her salary would be raised to $200 a week. More than treble the amount she had earned in nearly two months. Greenson had discreetly proposed this rise to Marilyn; Eunice was so devoted, and taking care of a house was not at all the same as managing a two-roomed apartment… Eunice accepted immediately. Never had one of Dr Greenson’s patients treated her so well. Better still, she already knew a right-hand man, on whose discretion she could count, to take charge of the works. This was Norman Jeffries, her daughter Patricia’s husband, who was currently looking for a job and was ready to start work straightaway. Marilyn took him on for $180 a week.
There was more good news. Eunice had kept the contact details of the craftsmen who, fifteen years earlier, she had employed for Doctor Greenson’s house. Marilyn’s house was to be constructed by the rulebook using the most beautiful and authentic materials. Fifteen years after losing her adored house, Eunice was going to spend her days transforming a new dwelling, on behalf of the biggest star in the world, who was going to pay her to do it.
Day by day the list of tasks grew longer. The house had been built in the 1930s and had hardly been changed since. The kitchen was dated and the bathrooms needed renovating. The bedrooms needed to be carpeted and one of them had to be transformed into a dressing room by installing full length mirrors all along the walls for trying things on. The frightful hot water tank that partially obstructed the view of the swimming pool from the patio needed to be replaced. At the foot of the front door Marilyn had discovered something that reassured her in her choice, namely four flagstones adorned with a coat of arms and the Latin inscription Cursum Perficio which means “my journey ends here”. It was as if the hacienda was bidding her welcome and offering her the stability she had so lacked. Yes, she was going to be happy here. The prophetic nature of the inscription would soon haunt Eunice’s nightmares.
“Mrs Murray, we’re going to Mexico”, announced Marilyn, now galvanised by the purchase of 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. She put an end to her mornings spent at Elizabeth Arden, script readthroughs and meetings with her press agent. Marilyn only had one remaining obsession; to move in as quickly as possible and bring it up to her standards. She knew exactly what she wanted and it was not necessary to call the decorators. She wanted to make her hacienda completely authentic and furnish it directly from source. At first, Eunice had thought she would be involved in this assignment but she quickly became disillusioned. Marilyn had already accepted the help of Fred Vanderbilt, a fabulously wealthy expatriate living in Mexico, who mutual friends had advised her to contact in situ. Suspected by the FBI of being a Russian spy and disowned from his inheritance, Vanderbilt managed the Russian American Institute. He and his wife, Nieves, had successfully proposed themselves as Marilyn’s guides during her visit to Mexico, and they envisaged that they would take her to visit the best artisans in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Toluca, Taxco and Acapulco. Eunice would be responsible for booking the flight tickets, packing the cases and noting each furniture order placed on site so she could organise its delivery to Los Angeles. At least she would be part of the travelling party… Acting as a scout, she had left a week earlier and checked into the modest Montejo hotel, where she had met her ex-brother-in-law Murray Churchill, who was still living there. Without doubt the Vanderbilts knew the galleries with the best reputations, but Eunice had not had her last word on the matter.
Thanks to Churchill she had persuaded Marilyn that she could organise for her a personal shopping trip to suppliers to unearth materials identical to those she had used in the house that was now the Greensons’. At Brentwood, the major works had started. Norman, Eunice’s son-law, tall, thin and quiet, had taken up the formica tiles in the kitchen and started to mount the mirrors on one of the bedroom walls. His brother Keith had arrived to give him a helping hand. The plumbers’ and electricians’ small vans blocked the bottom of the little cul-de-sac. With the exception of Norman and Keith nobody had wind of the identity of the owner of the property.
Marilyn had also arrived in Mexico, accompanied by her part-time hairdresser, George Masters, and Pat Newcomb, her press agent. To the consternation of Eunice the two women had recently become inseparable. How had she imagined she would be able to remain one to one with Marilyn throughout their Mexican jaunt? The three of them arrived at the brand new Continental Hilton hotel. Eunice stayed at the Montejo. Not that she needed telling, but the allotment of lodgings confirmed her status. She had greeted them and found herself straightaway being assigned to the unfolding, ironing and hanging of the numerous outfits Marilyn had brought.
Marilyn’s presence had been leaked, and a mob of reporters were milling in the Hilton’s reception area. Eunice, who up until now had only rubbed shoulders with Marilyn in private, took stock of the fascination she provoked amongst the masses. Two hundred Mexican journalists and photographers refused to leave until they met “Maraleen”. The Hilton’s overwhelmed manager begged Marilyn to make an appearance, and she agreed to a meeting with the press. Pat took care of the request and the next day at precisely midday she left suite number 1100 to appear in the reception area dressed in a very closely-fitting pale green Pucci dress. “Lime Green”, according to Emilio Pucci. The outfit was made from a jersey so flowing that Eunice had no difficulty in smoothing it out. The high neck and long sleeves accentuated the curve of her bust, which was moulded by the material in such a way that it was impossible to tell whether she was wearing a bra.
“What a dress, Marilyn!” somebody at the front of the room cried.
“You should have seen it on its hanger”, Marilyn, definitely on form, replied.
Her hair had been straightened and lacquered into a helmet of platinum locks, from which a strand fell onto her right cheek. Somebody had immediately served her a glass of champagne and she posed for a long while for the mob of photographers, putting the cup to her slightly opened lips, taking a sip, and alternating bursts of laughter and complicit smiles, before throwing herself onto a sofa. The questions were of no interest but Marilyn nevertheless seemed to be enjoying herself. Snapping away along with his colleagues, Antonio Caballero Rodriguez, a young Mexican photographer, aged 22, would realise later that evening in his dark room that he had hit the jackpot. Forced into the front row by the crowd, squeezed against a low table, facing Marilyn, he had shot several low-angle shots of her seated and surrounded by microphone leads. On one of these shots she had briefly uncrossed her legs at the exact moment he had released his shutter, and Antonio’s powerful flash confirmed she was not wearing any underwear. Eunice, who could not understand how anyone could take pleasure from all this, had sat at the back of the crowd, away from the madness that unfolded in front of her eyes.
That same evening, on the telephone, Eunice shared her concerns with Dr Greenson. Marilyn seemed to be in good shape and more in need of a maid than a psychological prop. Should she return to Los Angeles? Definitely not, came the response, her apparent joviality should not be taken at face value and it was important to remember that she was an actress and perfectly capable of hiding her real state of mind. Eunice absolutely must stay by her side, Marilyn ran the risk of a relapse, particularly in an unfamiliar environment. The trip concluded without a hitch. The hairdresser left them after the press conference and a young Mexican screen writer, with the physique of a Latin lover, acted as her escort the same evening as they attended an evening in her honour at the home of the director Emilio Fernandez Romo. The fop, called José Balanos, had not yet written much of consequence but he dreamed of making his breakthrough in Hollywood.
He initiated Marilyn into the correct way of drinking tequila, with salt and lemon. Eunice was shocked by so much audacity. The mariachis played their hearts out, and Marilyn seemed to be spending an excellent evening with Bolanos whose contact details Pat took care to note at the end of the evening. A bizarre convoy set off in the direction of the artisans’ villages the next morning. Marilyn, Pat and the Vanderbilts led the way; Eunice, and two Mexican presidential guards who Fred Vanderbilt had decided to procure in order to provide protection for Marilyn, followed in a second vehicle. Eunice was mortified when Marilyn had politely declined the help of her ex-brother-in-law. In each boutique Marilyn found herself systematically presented with the most expensive furniture and items. However, she selected her purchases with care and after several days the order book, that Eunice kept up to date, had been filled with the details of carpets, coffee and side tables, chairs, mirrors, chests of drawers, lights, paintings, painted terracotta, silverware and crockery. Everything was to be made to order in the artisanal workshops and sent to Los Angeles.
Eunice had heard Marilyn tell Pat that, since her arrival, she no longer needed sleeping pills. This was a first, conversations at Doheny Drive having often revolved around her difficulties in getting a good night’s sleep. Eunice shared this good news with Dr Greenson the same day. The Acapulco part of the trip had been cancelled because Marilyn had preferred to stay in Mexico City and visit the town’s Catholic orphanage with Pat Newcomb and Eva Samano, the wife of the Mexican president. She wrote a cheque for $10,000 as a donation to the establishment. Later, she visited the set at the Churubusco studios where Luis Buñuel was shooting The Exterminating Angel and where the team fought each other to have their photograph taken with her. The trip ended with an insignificant incident that nevertheless acutely embarrassed Eunice. Marilyn was due to check in at the airport at the last possible minute and Eunice, given the task of wrapping up all of her clothes, had carefully packed her personal effects, including her high heels. When the time came to leave the Hilton, Marilyn ended up without any shoes, whilst the trunks had already left the hotel. Pat glared at her and Eunice expected the worst, but Marilyn found it highly amusing to board the plane bare-footed. Eunice remained in Mexico for a few days while Pat and Marilyn flew off to Los Angeles. She preferred not to imagine the subject of their conversation during the flight.
It was a somewhat less amiable Marilyn who welcomed Eunice on her return. Happily though, she was not to blame for her irritation: a magazine had just published her private address in Los Angeles, it was impossible to remain at North Doheny Drive and she wanted to move into the hacienda at Brentwood straightaway.
“Marilyn, I’m sorry, it’s impossible, the floors aren’t finished and the kitchen isn’t ready”, Eunice told Marilyn.
“You’ll have to get it sorted, I’ll eat outside and I’ll walk on the concrete if I have to but I want to sleep in my own house!”
Her tone of voice was uncompromising and she flounced off with Pat Newcomb in tow, leaving Eunice shocked and alone in the apartment. Was this a test or a tantrum?
Eunice did get things sorted. She found the carefully selected samples that she had thought lost, and the pure white woollen carpets were laid in record time. The plumber installed a provisional makeshift kitchen in the guest annexe. And without Eunice quite knowing how, part of the furniture from North Doheny Drive was delivered one morning at Fifth Helena Drive. Norman Jefferies tipped her off that a big dark-haired guy had taken care of it. Who could it be? And why had she not been told? It was she, after all, who was in charge. Marilyn had always compartmentalised her friendships, and there were still grey areas that Eunice was unaware of, and she hated that.
And so it was that, on the 8th of March 1962, three days after she had told Eunice to take care of things and during which time she had stayed with the Greensons, Marilyn moved into her still unfinished hacienda. From then on Eunice worked full-time for Marilyn. Eunice was once again able to take stock of her genius for taking the necessary measures for her own protection.
When a telephone company employee came to connect two lines (with extra long leads so she could choose to take calls in the living room or bedroom) Marilyn left instructions that under no circumstance should her numbers (476 1890 and 472 4830) be written on the handsets as was normal practice. On the telephones Marilyn had the switchboard number of the LA police written on the phone. If any of the workers at her house had the idea of taking a note of one of the numbers to sell on the black market (this had already happened) whoever tried to contact her would be in for quite a surprise… Eunice was proud of how the works had advanced and Marilyn also seemed to appreciate her efforts. At least she convinced herself of this, for Marilyn spoke infrequently to her, and was spending a lot of time in the company of Pat Newcomb and the newly arrived Paula Strasberg. Apparently, she was preparing to resume work for the studios, and Paula, her drama coach, had relocated to Los Angeles.
“If only you had a working kitchen”, the two women sighed endlessly when Marilyn had them round.
Didn’t they realise what this meant?
Eunice had taken to gliding around silently, and in so doing, managed to catch snatches of conversations, which often stopped when she entered one of the rooms. Only the bedrooms had doors and the large living room, the solarium, the dining room and the kitchen, all doorless, enabled her to approach entirely discreetly.
How was she supposed to know Marilyn’s timetable and organise herself accordingly if nobody kept her informed? Cherie Redmond often brought letters and had often complained about not being able to find a single lockable piece of furniture where she could store documents in Marilyn’s absence. So what? There was no need to worry because Eunice was trustworthy and permanently there. Behind her back, several people close to Marilyn nicknamed Eunice “the mouse”.
From then on, Eunice spent most of her daily life at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. Marilyn went back to using the services of her usual, but occasional, driver, Rudy Kautzky, of the Carey Cadillac Renting Company, and was also using a limousine that Fox provided for her to take her to the studio. She had agreed to make a film directed by George Cukor, a remake of a Cary Grant and Irene Dunne comedy My Favourite Wife, retitled Something’s Got to Give. The material was stale but Dean Martin had agreed to take the male lead and Marilyn had a mortgage to repay… At Brentwood none of the furniture and accessories ordered from Mexico had yet arrived and the works were finishing. With the exception of a huge brand new bed which dominated the main bedroom, and a sofa, a table and a few chairs that had been transported from the North Doheny Drive apartment, the hacienda was noticeably empty. Eunice was going around in circles. In the evening, before leaving the house, she would put Maf in the garage, so that if he barked he would not wake his mistress during the night. The dog slept on a beaver fur coat, a former present from Arthur Miller that Marilyn had resolved never to throw out, and which she was delighted to use as a luxury bed for her dog. Dr Greenson believed this to be a good sign but, nevertheless, Eunice thought it was a shame. And then, the first pieces of furniture started to arrive and Marilyn started shooting her thirtieth film. Cherie Redmond was now doing most of her secretarial work and for practical reasons had moved into an office provided for her by Fox. Paula Strasberg, Pat Newcomb and Allan Snyder accompanied Marilyn directly to the studio set. During the day, Eunice had the Brentwood house to herself.
 A sum of around $600,000 in 2016
 A sum of around $2,500 in 2016
 Around $1500 in 2016