Thursday, July 27, 2017

Renovation 5

Picture Legend

1. Church of the Gesù, Rome Italy
2. Hardy
3. Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
4. Beth and her yoga
5. Martian Mouse Trap
6. Mongolian Man Eater
7. African Land Snail in the restroom
8. Michael Deutsch and Michael H. Parsons
9. Pictures
10.    ^
11.    ^
12.    ^
13.    ^
14.    ^
15. Grand Park, where I was
16. People at Grand Park
17.               ^
18.               ^
19. My view
20. More Fireworks
21. Mike Alvidrez
22. “The Beguiled”
23. My room
24. Arclight Theater
25. Cinerama Dome
26. Sister Kate Micucci, Sister Alison Brie, and Sister Aubrey Plaza
27. The mist
28. Lovely Emi and her yoga enthusiasts
29. Claudia Christen
30. One of Claudia’s memes
31. My coffee

Rome, Italy. Church of the Gesù. June 23, 2017

   Inside the office of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father General Arturo Sosa was speaking with the Provincial of the California Province U.S., Fr. Michael F. Weiler. They spoke in furtive and guarded tones.
   “Well, he does know the background. He’s been on site... how long now?” Sosa asked.
   “Five months.”
   “How much time does he spend actually in the hotel?”
   “As little as possible. We want to keep his exposure to a minimum,” Weiler replied.
   “Good,” Sosa continued. “I doubt there's any danger in just having him assist when the time comes. There should be a psychiatrist present, anyway.”
   “And what about the exorcist? Any ideas?” Weiler  asked.
   “How about Kirinan McCalister.”
   “McCalister? I thought he was over in Uzbekistan. I think I read he was working on a dig somewhere in the Kyzylkum.”
   “That's right Mike. But he's finished and came back around two or three months ago, He's in Los Altos now.”
    “What's he doing there? Teaching?”
   “No, he's working on another book,” Sosa said.
   “Don't you think he's too old, though? How's his health?”
   “It must be alright. He's still running around digging up tombs,” Sosa replied. “Besides, he's had experience.”
   “I didn't know that.”
   “Ten maybe twelve years ago, in Africa. The exorcism supposedly lasted for months. I heard it damn near killed him.”
   “Huumm, okay. I’ll get in touch with him.”
   Weiler stood up and kissed the hand of Sosa.
   “Goodbye Father Superior.”
   “Goodbye Mike.”
   Weiler turned to leave.
   “Oh Mike...”
   Weiler turned around.
   “We want to keep this as quiet as possible. There is little benefit in antagonizing SRHT.”
   Weiler shivered at the mention of the organization.
   “Yes,” he said. “I understand.”

Los Angeles. June 23, 2017

   I told Tommy about the elevator shaft. He didn’t say it but I knew he thought I was crazy.
   Cliff didn’t remember last night’s incident at all. He thinks I’m crazy too.
   Maybe I am.
   Am I slowly losing my mind like Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s novel “The Shining?” Would I start mumbling to myself and typing “All work and no play makes Rick a dull boy,” over and over again. Will I stare dazedly off into space for hours at a time, start drinking, and throw tennis balls against the walls. Will I turn against my friends and family at the bequest of that which now inhabits the soul of the Las Americas, and go at them with an ax and crowbar?!

Southeast 1 Construction Notice
To: Las Americas - All 2nd & 3rd Floor Units
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: June 23rd, 2017

Re: Window Work

Dear Residents,

You are being notified that in-unit work has been scheduled for your unit. Los Angeles Building & Safety regulations require safety bars to be installed on each 2nd and 3rd floor window. These bars are designed to protect against accidental fails. They will not impede the windows from opening.

The contractor will need access to your unit on either Monday, 6/26 or Tuesday, 6/27 for approximately 30 minutes from 8am to 4pm to install safety bars in your unit. You will not need to vacate your unit when the contractor arrives to do the work, but you will need to allow them to enter.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the work. We appreciate your cooperation.


Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   Screw this! I’m getting my shotgun out and will put a load of saltpeter up the butt of the first contractor who tries to get in here!
   “Accidental fails.” I assume they meant accident falls.
   I’ve spent the last 13 years in my room with no urge whatsoever to take a running header through my window to the forecourt below. There’s no way I could, or anybody else, accidentally fall out of the window.
   What they are doing, however, is denying us 2nd and 3rd floorers one possible way to get out of the room in case of an emergency, let’s say a fire or rat attack.
   They’re trying to keep us in here.

June 24

   I saw another young and pretty black lady sleeping on the street nearby. She was lying down at the 18 bus stop on 6th Street between Central and Alameda. She had a little dog, a miniature poodle type thing, tied to her by a leash.
   The dog looked at me briefly, then returned to sleep.
   That was at 5:30am. I was on my way to the Try and Save supermarket to buy some groceries. I bought as much as I could carry back to my room, about $60 worth.
   And 10 tacos from the Jack that lives in the Box.
   The kitchen was still closed at that point. When I went down to water the thirsty plants at 5:30pm it was open. It’s a big room now, with two ovens, a sink, and nothing else.
   The sink has a garbage disposal now. It didn’t used to.
   It’s not plugged in though. I didn’t see where it could be plugged in as there’s no receptacle nearby.
   I’m sure that will be worked out in the distant future.
   There’s a big 3 by 4 foot rectangular hole in the wall right above the sink. On the other side of the hole is a one floor drop into the basement below... where the rats live.
   For some reason once I saw this hole I felt an urge to jump through it.
   I think it needs some safety bars.
   I’ll ask Tommy to put the common TV in the kitchen so Hardy will have something to do other than sit outside in front monitoring the traffic.
   Perhaps Tommy will.

June 25

   I attended the “Coffee and Dharma,” discussion group at Higashi Honganji this morning, then the weekly service, then a another discussion group as this was the last Sunday of the month, and they have discussion groups after the service on the last Sunday of the month.
   The discussion at one point turned to the divisiveness that permeates our political system these days, and some took the position that we might appease the Republicans by acknowledging that their positions are valid, we just disagree vehemently with those policies.
   I pointed out that that position sounds reasonable, but that it was hard to deal with people who live to advance their ideology despite facts that counter their core beliefs.
   “The legislatures in North Carolina, or South, one of the Carolina states, made rising sea levels... illegal. How do you deal with that?”
   No one had an answer.
   I ate two donuts during the course of these groups. I’m fat now.
   Later I used reverse psychology on my beautiful and esteemed yoga teacher, Beth, by messaging her on Facebook and pleading with her not to read “Renovation 4,” while informing her that I had used two of her pictures in the post.
   “Bad things happen to people who read it,” I maintained.
   Then I provided a link to “Renovation 4,” with the adage “Don’t read it!”
   She’ll read it for sure now, maybe.
   The people must be warned.
   I received this response from Beth. “Oooooooo!”
   I wondered what that meant in Beth Speak.

June 26

   They boarded up the 3 by 4 foot rectangular hole in the kitchen. My urge to jump through it accordingly dissipated.

Southeast 1 Construction Notice

To: All Residents at the Las Americas
From: Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff
Date: June 26rd, 2017
Re: Kitchen Offline

This notice is to inform you that the kitchen will be closed from 8am to 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday, 6/27) while the countertops are installed. You will receive $64 cash per diem for the day.

   $64. They’re trying to buy my soul.

June 27

   I waited patiently for the construction people to come and put the “safety bars” in my window.
   They never came.
   And now the danger of falling out of my window continues.
   I feel unsafe.
   I received the following notice on my door today.

(CCP 1954)
Pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1954, Owner does hereby give notice to access the dwelling located at: My address

The owner, owner’s agent or owner’s employees will enter said premises on June 28, 2017 during normal business hours between 10:30AM - 11:30AM for the reason set forth in the checked numbered item(s) below:

Pest Control Services

   So they want to control my pests do they!
   I hope they bring a whole lot of rat traps for the rats that live in the walls.
   They probably won’t though.
   They only concern themselves with cockroaches.
   We shall see.

   I don’t have cockroaches in my room. They’re downstairs though, on the first floor, the kitchen, and in the basement.
   And they’re getting bigger.

June 28

The exterminator came this morning at 10:30am. His entire extermination protocol consisted of placing a Catchmaster Insect Trap and Monitor, a little 3 by 2 inch cardboard thing, on the floor under my sink.
   After he left two two inch cockroaches came in through the wall, looked at it, and began laughing.
   Then they left.

   As I watered the garden this afternoon I noticed an influx of Martian Mouse Trap plants (Nepenthes spathulata) growing by the east chain link fence that separates the hotel’s property line from that of our neighbors.
   There were little mouse bones scattered near them.
   I thought about pulling them up but decided to confer with the garden ladies before doing so as I was not fully aware of the ramifications of killing them.
   I was quietly thankful that no Mongolian Man Eaters had infiltrated the garden as of yet.

June 29

   I found an African Land Snail in the restroom today and took a picture of it before taking it outside of the building and letting it lose.
   I don’t like killing things as my Buddhist teachings tell me to “have an unswerving kindness toward members of the animal kingdom.”
   I assume the cockroach bait has no affect on snails.
   I didn’t think much about it, except I was kind of freaked out by it’s size.
   I found a centipede, a real centipede, not one of those human things, in my kitchen once.

   Somebody is building something in the empty lot right next to our building. That lot has been empty for the 13 years plus that I’ve lived here and now somebody is building something on it.
   I don’t know what yet. Who ever is building it has dug long trenches on the dirt ground, and several vertical structures have now popped up in several places. Square structures that stand about three feet from the ground surrounded by vertical pipes.
   It doesn’t look like a refurbished parking lot to me.
   I don’t know what it is.

   I saw this story on the Internet machine today.
   "City rats are among the most important but least-studied wildlife in urban environments," the team of U.S. and Australian researchers and pest control experts wrote in the Journal of Urban Ecology.
   Michael H. Parsons, lead author of the paper and a visiting research scholar at Fordham University, is offering a "reward" of up to $1,000 for access to an appropriate rat-infested location in Manhattan.
   In return, the homeowner will get free, confidential extermination services — once the researchers are done studying the rats.
   We have rats here. I think I’ll contact Dr. Parsons and give him and his team free reign on our rats.
   Perhaps he can deal with snails as well.

July 1

   On my way to the Hippie Kitchen and Rite-Aid this morning I saw the same young black girl with her little dog sitting with her stroller in the sidewalk at the westbound 18 bus stop.
   There are literally hundreds of folks who live on the streets a few blocks west of where she was sitting. Many have makeshift tents that line the sidewalks, some just sit on the streets, some are sleeping, laying out.  
   Perhaps this pretty, young girl is trying to distance herself from them, but she’s picking a very odd and public spot to do it.
   Or perhaps that’s her plan, to be in a public space where there is less chance of others bothering or attempting to abuse her... and her dog.
   I feel sorry for her. I wish there was something I could do.
   There was a sale at Rite-Aid on Thrifty Ice Cream. Buy one 1.5 quart container and get one free. I bought some last Thursday after yoga with Beth, and I bought some more today. I now have six quarts of ice cream in my freezer.
   I’m fat now.
   Later in the afternoon I took another look at some of the photographs taken by Gudrun G & Fatemeh B (9 thru 14 above), and couldn’t help but notice some of them seem to have changed in slight, almost imperceptible ways.
   This is not only strange but decidedly odd as well.
   What do you think?
   No one had access to these pictures but me.
   Who would do such a thing?
   Or what?

   We received a notice today that the laundry room is now open. It only took them a year and a half to renovate it, a year and a half of dirty, stinking clothes and residents.
   Ha, ha, just kidding. I don’t think I’ll ever use it. I like the free coffee at the laundromat too much.
   That and the Spanish television.
   I don’t speak Spanish, but they always seem to having such a good time on Spanish TV. They sing and dance all of the time.
   The building’s power went off during the afternoon and evening twice.
   I don’t know why.

July 2

   No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. The Las Americas, SE1, not sane, stood by itself against its urban sprawl, holding darkness within; it had stood so for one hundred years and might stand for one hundred more. Within, walls continued somewhat upright, bricks met at times, floors were infirm, and doors sensibly shut themselves; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of the Las Americas, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
July 3

   All residents received a mysterious notice on their doors the other day. It informed us that the building’s power would be off from 8am to 5pm on Thursday the 6th and Saturday the 8th. Apparently the renovators were going to do some electrical work.
   There goes my ice cream.

   I wrote the following E-mail to case manager Henry today.

To: Henry N. Jul 3 at 7:49 PM
Dear Henry,

If you're still alive (we haven't seen you for awhile and miss you very much) we could really use some blank tracking sheets over here at the Las Americas. Usually LaShunda would handle something as complicated as this but she seems to be on vacation. If you could bring some over that would be just swell, as many on the Shelter-Plus -Care are starting to go crazy because they don't have any tracking sheets being afraid they'll get kicked out of the program for non-compliance.

  Thank you,


I received this reply:

Your message to henry@_ _ _ _ _ _ couldn't be delivered.
henry wasn't found at _ _ _ _ _ _

Original Message Details
Created Date:    7/3/2017  7:49 PM
Sender Address:    rickjoyce@_ _ _ _
Recipient Address:    henry@_ _ _ _ _ _
Subject:    Tracking Sheets

Error Details
Reported error:    550 5.1.10 RESOLVER.ADR.RecipientNotFound; Recipient not found by SMTP address lookup


July 4    Independence Day

   I spent the day watching Marilyn Monroe documentaries and a NOVA special about why sharks attack.
   Because they’re hungry?
   At 7pm I left the Las Americas and made my way to Grand Park downtown. A fireworks display was to occur precisely at 9 and this was the only way I had available for me to celebrate the day.
   Myself and about thirty five thousand other celebrators (according to KTLA News).
   To enter the park I first had to pass through a checkpoint wherein I had to empty my pockets and submit to an electronic wand scan.
   I knew how these kind of things operate and prepared accordingly.
   I hid my M4a1 carbine, Mk 46 machine gun, M9 Beretta, MK 12 Mod 1 SPR sniper rifle, M136 AT4 rocket launcher, M224 60mm mortar, Ontario MK 3 Navy knife, karambit, Strider SMF,  Ka-Bar, body armor, cigarette lighter, and twelve 40mm grenades about my person in such a way as the security guy conducting the wand scan would just register my pants zipper, my belt buckle and my jacket zippers as the only metallic entities upon me. I even had to put two of those grenades up my butt to get them all through, but that’s the price one pays when taking preparatory precautions before advancing into a large crowd of unknown individuals.
   It’s good to be ready in case of emergencies (I was forced to leave my old M9A1 flamethrower at home as it was just too bulky).
   As I approached the entrance I was told to take everything out of my pockets. I dutifully got my keys, wallet, cell phone, and a half empty pack of cigarettes I happened to have (I was smoking at the time).
   As I got near the check point a small black security lady looked at the things I was holding.
   “You can’t bring those cigarettes in here,” she said.  
   “You can’t bring those cigarettes in here, or a lighter if you have one.”
   “You’re kidding?!”
   “I suppose I can’t bring in my blunts and eight balls either!”
   “Nothing.” I turned around and walked away in disgust.
   Then I walked over across the street to another entrance line, kept my damn cigarettes in my pocket, and entered the park.
   After decorously pulling the grenades out of my ass I headed to the gourmet food trucks to get something to eat, it being the 4th of July and all.
   There were long lines at every truck. I checked out some of the menus. There were Japanese, Argentinian, Hispanic, Turkish, Indian, Burger, trucks, and many more.
   But I noticed the prices were just outrageous. $16 for a freaking hamburger. All of the trucks were just as expensive. Even ice cream was like $8 for whatever it was they were selling.
   If I was with a girl, or woman actually, then I guess I’d be forced to buy this crap and feed her, not wanting to appear cheap and all.
   And I imagine many of the men there were caught in that particular trap.
   But not me. I decided I wasn’t that hungry and moved on.
   I walked through the crowd as inconspicuously as possible, trying to figure out where the fireworks would be discharged from and situating myself in the best possible spot to see them.
   And that seemed to be the northern end of the park, near the water fountains (picture 15. I was situated on the stairs to the right).
   I waited there for about an hour, watching the people wade through the waters of the lower fountain, sit on structures then told to get down by security people, eat, listen to the deafening music coming from a DJ to the south.
 I saw people everywhere and doing all kinds of things.
   But not smoking.
   Promptly at 9pm the fireworks began. It seemed like they were being deployed from the roof of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (34° 3′ 23″ N, 118° 14′ 55″ W) on N Grand Ave (pictures 19 & 20).
   The show lasted for 15 minutes, at which point I spent 30 minutes getting out of the park, which dumped me near Hill St and 1st. I continued downtown to Broadway and 5th, to Rite-Aid where I bought some milk and ice cream (my refrigerator should keep it cool if I don’t open the freezer door during Thursday’s power outage), I then bought a carnitas quesadilla from a Mexican food place run by Asian people on Spring and 6th.
   I went home and ate half of my food while watching Robert Wise’s 1971 “The Andromeda Strain.”

July 5

To Richard Joyce    Today at 11:52 AM

Dear Ricky

   After 27 years at Skid Row Housing Trust, including 13 years as Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, I have decided to step down as CEO next year to allow new leadership to advance the Trust's mission.
   I have made this decision with a sense of fulfillment that many of my professional efforts have been realized. The public perception of supportive housing has forever changed thanks to our partnerships with renowned architects to design beautiful residential and community spaces that foster reconnection, healing, and dignity. Housing First, a model that Skid Row Housing Trust began piloting in the early 2000s, is now a nationally-recognized best practice for serving homeless individuals that many once thought to be "unreachable." And the Trust's affiliate Property Management Company is a model of blended management that puts a premium on keeping our formerly-homeless tenants successfully housed long term.
   Additionally, there is increasing public awareness of the value that permanent supportive housing brings to our communities. Skid Row Housing Trust advocated strongly for the passage of both Prop HHH and Measure H, which will provide significant local support for both capital development of supportive housing as well as the intensive wraparound services needed to help stabilize the lives of formerly-homeless people in permanent supportive housing. Nevertheless, the disheartening increase in our region's homeless population is a call to action to redouble our collective efforts to end homelessness, and today the Trust is well situated to answer the call.
   It is time for me, the executive team, and the Board of Directors of Skid Row Housing Trust to plan a successful transition of the Chief Executive Offer role.  I have communicated to our Board that I will stay on as CEO for at least another year so that a succession plan can be finalized and a thorough, intensive search for the most qualified person to assume the role of CEO can be accomplished.  It is the Board's and my joint decision to continue to stay on at the Trust as an ambassador after the successful succession.
   It has been the honor of my professional life to lead such a wonderful organization that is unafraid to take on one of the most challenging issues of our time - ending homelessness.  Skid Row Housing Trust has become known for its innovation in housing production and services delivery, its thought leadership, and its commitment to finding decent and humane solutions to homelessness.  Without reservation, I am supremely confident that the Trust will maintain its leadership role in the coming years.
   The Trust will send out public notifications when it is ready to accept applications for the CEO position.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to an exciting final year as CEO and in making a successful hand-off to my successor.
   My deepest gratitude to everyone who has supported my efforts and those of Skid Row Housing Trust. Thank you helping us touch the lives of tens of thousands of homeless and low-income men and women with your generous confidence and support.

Very Truly Yours,

Mike Alvidrez
Chief Executive Officer

   In order to prepare us for the big power shut off tomorrow the building’s power turned off then on three times today, which meant of course I had to reboot my TV and computer three times.
   I get the feeling the building is laughing at me.

July 6

   I was up early and finished my morning routine (check E-mail, read from “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Don Quixote,” Finnegans Wake,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” “Sold,” “Young Man Shinron,” “Human Trafficking, Human Misery,” Naomi Klein’s “No is Not Enough,” And “How to Clear Your Home of Ghosts & Spirits: Tips & Techniques from a Professional Ghost Hunter,”  two hours of vigorous yoga/calisthenics, 400 meditation breaths, and a six mile run.. and shower) by 7am.
   I had noticed the young black girl and her little dog sleeping at the bus stop again and thought I’d do something for her.
   I went to the McDonald’s on Central and 7th and bought her a deluxe breakfast consisting of 3 pancakes, hash browns, eggs, a sausage patty, 2 strips of bacon, and an English muffin. I bought her dog 2 breakfast burittos (not normally known as dog food, but they don’t sell dog food at McDonald’s... or do they?). I bought myself 2 breakfast burittos and hash browns, and I bought her and myself coffee.
   I returned to the bus stop and woke her up.
   “Miss...” I said.
   She looked up at me, looked at the bag I was holding out to her, smiled, and of all the possible things she could have said to me (“Thank you ,” “Oh that’s so nice of you,” “Take me!”) I did not expect “I don’t eat McDonald’s.”
   I returned home and ate her breakfast.
   She was right of course. No one should eat McDonald’s.
   They didn’t even give me any syrup for the pancakes.
   I turned my computer and T.V. off at 7:45, allowing them to shutdown properly.
   The power was supposed to be shut off precisely at 8, so they shut it down at 7:56.
   I laid down for awhile, then near 9am went to the building’s entrance and waited for the garden ladies.
   Chris (the lady on the right in picture 10) and Fatemeh (the lady on the left in picture 13) showed up. Hardy was there.
   The lovely and vivacious Fatemeh brought cookies. I returned to McDonald’s and bought coffee.
   We didn’t get much gardening done but we had a good time.
   After they left at 10 I walked to the post office on 7th and inquired about my toaster that had been delivered to the Las Americas at 7:16 the previous evening when naturally no one was there to receive it.
   The postal guy said I would have to go to the annex on N Alameda near Union Station to get it.
   I briefly stopped at the Hippie Kitchen before going to yoga with Beth at the Abby Hotel on San Pedro and 6th.
   After yoga I walked to a check cashing place on Broadway and 6th to buy a roll of quarters to be used for bus rides and laundry. I put them in my backpack.
   Then I walked to the Regent Theaters LA Live 14 on Olympic Blvd near the 101 freeway.
   I had wanted to see “Baby Driver,” with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, but the Internet machine had lied to me telling me that it would start at 2:15pm. I arrived at the theater at 1:39 and discovered that “Baby Driver” didn’t start until 3:15.
   I saw Sofia Coppola’s version of “The Beguiled,” instead as it began at 2pm.
   This was the first time I’ve been to a movie theater in about six years. It cost me about $30 to get in and for popcorn and coke (the popular drink, not the white powdery substance).
   I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon.
   The power was back on when I returned to the Las Americas at 5. I watered the plants and went to my room.
   I chased two rats out of there before noticing a notice on my door from the SE1 Renovation Staff. They were going to postpone Saturday’s power shut down until Monday.
   I watched “The Exorcist,” before going to bed and dreamt of being molested by Sac spiders.

July 7 2:33pm

   John Miller, the tall SRHT representative, gave all of the residents of the Las Americas 20 inch Lasko floor fans today, which was really nice of him.
   I suppose the Trust feels guilty that the in-room air conditioners are not yet on line, and that Los Angeles is currently experiencing ambient temperatures in the 90s.
   They don’t want any heat related deaths to occur now do they.
   It wouldn’t be good publicity.

July 10  Monday 8:03am

   The power throughout the building went off. The sound of my three fans which I usually find so comforting, dissipated and then died out all together. Even the large grandfather clock in the northeast corner stopped functioning, which was odd as it doesn’t run on electricity.
   I briefly panicked, feeling alone and without resources.
   The encroaching heat drove me out of my room, and I took my office chair out to the little hallway next to the fire escape door where there was a slight breeze and read from Naomi Klein’s wonderful book (all of her books are wonderful, thought provoking, and terrifying) “No is Not Enough,” until 10am when I left the Las Americas.
   I mailed a letter to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) as I hope to volunteer there as a Hotline Advocate.
   There’s a pretty good chance that I won’t be accepted due to my colorful past, but all they can do to me is say no.
   I next walked to the library where it was nice and cool.
  At 1pm I left and took the mighty Red Line subway to Hollywood’s Hollywood and Vine station, from which I walked south to Sunset Blvd. and the famous Arclight theater, which is adjacent to the famous Cinerama Dome where my dad and I watched “Thunderball” together a long time ago.
   I was there to see “The Little Hours,” staring three of my favorite actresses, Alison Bree, Kate Micucci, and Aubrey Plaza.
   The film also features performances by Dave Franco, John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman (who in the film walls up his wife along with a dog and a boar. One would think being walled up was enough) Fred Armisen, and Molly Shannon. 
   The story concerns a young servant (Franco, the youngest of the infamous Franco brothers) who flees from his master (Offerman) and takes refuge at a convent full of 14th-century horny nuns.
   This film is not your typical nun story, and not for the faint of heart.
   The following is part of a review by Rev. Alexander Santora:
   “Medieval nuns Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Genevra (Kate Micucci) are the leads in this story inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio. In the opening scene when they encounter the gardener looking at them, they berate him in expletives that would make potty-mouthed comedians Wanda Sykes or Amy Schumer blush.  It was so shocking that the audience of some 50 mostly young adults burst into laughter. These nuns speak in 21st-century shock language with accents that are more Manhattan than Bologna.”
   “The sisters have been known to physically attack people,” warns Father Tommasso (Reilly).
   I enjoyed the movie very much. I wish I could watch it again right now.
   I also enjoyed my popcorn and soda.
   The film was only 90 minutes long and I was out of the cool (bordering on cold) theater by 2:30. The electrical guys had until 5pm to finish up, but last Thursday the ended early, so I headed back home after buying two gallons of milk from Rite-Aid.
   The power was still off at 3:30 when I returned.
   I continued to read Naomi’s book, becoming terrified.
   The power resumed at 4:33. I powered up my computer and television, both having been shut down properly that morning. Everything was running nicely when the power abruptly shut off.
   It stayed off until 5:27.
   This is just another example of the renovators attempts to drive us residents stark raving mad.
   My grandfather clock began working at midnight.

July 11  6:12am

   A thick white mist began to manifest itself over the construction sight next to the west wall of the Las Americas.
   I went outside and looked at it. The site had a chain link fence surrounding it and the fog, or mist confined itself just outside of it.
   I returned to my room. The mist would remain next door throughout the day when the sun’s heat should have dissolved it.
   The media came and took pictures then left.
   I felt uncomfortable near the mist. Somehow it felt sinister to me.

July 19 5:32pm

   We were given another notice that someone would come fix the fire alarms in our rooms sometime between 8am and 4pm on either Friday the 21st or Monday the 24th.
   Instead of a nice, blinking fire alarm on my ceiling, I’ve had a plastic rim with electrical wires hanging from it. It’s been like that for about a year now.
   It will be comforting to be protected again.

July 24  5:00pm

   The fire alarm people never showed up.
   It’s almost as someone, or something, wants all of us to die in a blazing inferno.
   I don’t feel comforted.

July 25 9:23am

   I received a notice on my door this morning dated July 24th.

   Dear Residents,

   You are being notified that there will be a temporary electrical shutdown this Wednesday, 7/26 for approximately 2-3 hours.

    The electrical shutdown is part of a city required inspection of the building. The power should be shut off for no more than 3 hours.

   We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


     -Skid Row Southeast 1 Staff

   What possible inconvenience could a 3 hour power outage cause?
   That aside, this notice was totally unacceptable.
   I immediately E-mailed my lovely case manager LaShunda the following message:

   Hi LaShunda! It was nice seeing you yesterday.

A construction notice was placed on my door this morning alerting me to the fact that there will be an electrical shutdown tomorrow for approximately 2 - 3 hours but it does not say when this will begin. Residents like myself need to know that so we can shut down our computers and other delicate electronic devices. Saying there will be a shut down at some point during the day is not sufficient information. 

I don't have John's e-mail and I'm waiting for a new phone, so if you could please contact him about this matter and get back to me I would really appreciate it.

Thank you

   She made a timely reply:

I truly apologize, you can maybe reach him in the office 213-683-0522 ext. 150

   To which I also replied:

That's the thing LaShunda. I don't have a phone right now. Mine was stolen, and I'm waiting for a new one which should be here in a week.

   To which she replied:

   Okay. Regarding this matter go downstairs and speak with Tommy the Property Manager he should have more information regarding the shut down..

   To which I replied:

   What matter?

   No, what I really wrote was:

   Tommy always says he knows nothing about nothing concerning construction. Never mind. I'll borrow someone's phone. Sorry I bothered you.

   She replied:

   No worries, sorry you could not get the information you were looking for…

   Tommy somehow got in the mix and he replied, rather formerly I believe:

   The electrical shutdown will start between 8:00am and 10:30am it should not last no longer than 2:oopm.

   The difficult syntax aside, Tommy’s pissed off at me since I busted him and the case managers pilfering 3 of our pizzas yesterday at one of our resident meetings rather than offering second helpings.
   I was just trying to help him. I’ve seen men go to state prison for less.
   He’s also upset that SRHT made him move back into the Las Americas. He had been living the good life over at the New Genesis on 5th and Los Angeles for the last year.
   Anyway, the information he provided wasn’t very helpful, was it? I still don’t know when I should shut down my delicate electronic equipment. My computer, my TV, the surveillance hookups I use to monitor Tommy’s, Lashunda’s, the SRHT and mayor’s offices. You can’t play around with this stuff or it goes bust real fast.
   Sometime between 8am and 10:30. Well, it’s a good thing I have yoga tomorrow with my lovely Italian friend Emi at 11 (I know what you’re thinking... I’m cheating on Beth, right? Well, you’re absolutely right. Men are pigs. They’d do yoga with mud if they could). At least I’ll have something to do during this horrible time.
   But what could cause my usually helpful case manager to be afraid to simply make a phone call to John?
   What terrifies this normally stout young woman?

July 26  Wednesday 10:21am

   The power shut off abruptly at 10:21. Fortunately my computer was shut off at the time, so as far as that was concerned there were no problems.
   I used the time wisely to walk over to Joshua House (Christian Health Center) on Winston St, right behind the L.A. Mission, to make a dentist appointment (Lovely Emi contacted me earlier and told me she had lost her voice this morning and would not be holding her class, allowing me to remain faithful to Beth... for the time being).
   I then walked to the VA Clinic on Temple to make a regular doctor’s appointment. From which I walked to the Central Library on Bunker Hill, as I needed to turn in some books which were due to be turned in.
   I bought some milk at Right-Aid on Broadway and 5th, then walked back to the Las Americas.
   It’s a good thing it was only 84 degrees outside today.
   The power was back on when I arrived at about 1:30. That was good.
   Apparently it had been off for less than an hour, according to my neighbor, so I hadn’t really needed to walk around all that much, but I got some good stuff done, burned a few calories, and had some nice milk to drink. 
   I noticed on my Google Calendar that the actress Claudia Christen’s birthday was coming up, August 10th to be precise, so I decided to start working on a birthday tribute to the lovely lady.
   I’ve enjoyed her work throughout her career (“The Hidden,” “Babylon 5,” ”T.J. Hooker”), but more than that, she’s a wonderful and funny person. I follow her on Facebook, and anybody who follows Claudia will periodically receive memes that more often than not will make those people laugh, like picture #30 above.    
   She’s the only person I know who does this, so I was very happy to begin this project.
   While I work on this I have a picture of Claudia on my wall. She stares at me all of the time.
   She’s dong it right now!
   At 6:30 I walked over to Higashi Honganji for the by-weekly study group, wherein Rev Peter Hata (a master jazz musician) teaches us students about Pure Land Buddhism, or Shin Buddhism to be exact.
   Everyone was getting ready for the big Obon Festival this weekend, so we were kicked, unceremoniously I might add, out of our usual meeting place, the conference room, and into the actual Hondō, or main hall, where the Sunday services are held.
   There instead of studying this time, we practiced chanting. We chanted and chanted.
   Shin Buddhist’s like to chant a lot.

July 27 Thursday 4:38am

   I had begun my morning routine and at about 4:38 I made my first cup of coffee of the day. I looked down at it when it was ready, then took a picture of it. Picture number 31.
   That wasn’t good, I told myself.
   The Garden Ladies didn’t show. Me and Hardy were waiting outside the hotel’s front entrance at 9:00 for them to arrive, but they never did.
   At 3:00pm we got tired of waiting and went back inside.
   It’s as if the universe... or something, had plucked them out of existence.
   At 7:23pm Hardy knocked on my door to tell me I had some visitors downstairs.
   “Who are they?”
   “Hell, I don’t know, man. Go downstairs and find out!”
   I had never had visitors before. Who could they be?
   On the first floor I found several dark men wearing fedoras, black overcoats, and gloves. It looked like they had stacked several boxes of, of, I don’t know, some kind of tools or equipment in the lobby.
   “Can I help you?” I asked.
   One of the men, tall, with black eyes, mustache and goatee, came up to me.
   “Mr Joyce?” he asked.
   He held out his hand. “I’m Mike Parsons. I hear you have some rats.”

To be continued


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In Rememberance of Riley Ann Sawyer and Lilly Belle Burk

I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…. They are accidents and no one’s fault, as used to be thought. Once they were considered the visible punishments for concealed sins. And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul? -John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”
   On their anniversary, for as long as Joyce’s Take is active and being published, as much as it is possible, I will post the stories below of Riley Ann Sawyers and Lilly Belle Burk, who were brutally murdered two years apart, on July 25th, 2007, and July 24th, 2009 respectively.
   Riley Ann
Sunday, September 20, 2009
   It's terrifying to write this. So I won't. The following are actual excerpts from various news reports:
   On Oct. 29, 2007, fisherman Robert Spinn of Bayou Vista found a storage container on an uninhabited island about a mile offshore in Galveston Bay, Texas. It contained cement and a blonde toddler wrapped in three plastic bags. "I ripped the bags (in the container) open with some fishing pliers. I saw a shoe. I knew it was a person." Sheriff’s investigators named the girl “Baby Grace” and embarked on 26-day media blitz to confirm her identity.
   Nellie Zeigler heard about “Baby Grace” on a talk radio program and found an artist’s sketch of her on the Internet.
   The toddler's identity was a mystery for weeks until Sheryl Sawyers of Ohio, saw an artist's sketch of the girl and told authorities in Texas she thought it was her granddaughter. The call from Sheryl Sawyers led authorities to Royce Clyde Zeigler II (24) and Kimberly Dawn Trenor (19), who had invented a story that their daughter, Riley Ann Sawyers had been taken away by child welfare officials in Ohio.
   Riley was born and lived in Ohio until her mother Kimberly separated from Robert Sawyers, and took Riley to Texas last summer. Kimberly met Royce Zeigler playing the online game World of Warcraft, and had an online relationship with him.
   Kimberly's defense attorney portrayed Trenor as a scared 19-year-old girl who had moved to Texas from Ohio to marry a man she met while playing an online game, and after two brief encounters. She said Riley's father, her former boyfriend, had assaulted her and Zeigler was her "knight in shining armor, her Texas cowboy."
   They married June 1st, 2007, and settled in Spring, Texas.
   Although Zeigler's mother Nellie, and her husband didn’t approve of “ready-made marriages,” she said the family opened their home to Trenor and Riley and quickly came to love and adore the vibrant, charismatic and intelligent toddler who brightened their lives.
   Nellie Zeigler recalled going to the couple’s home in June to deliver milk and snacks, saying she knocked on the door, but it took Trenor a while to answer. "Kim had a belt wrapped around her shoulder," Nellie Zeigler testified.
   The following week, Nellie Zeigler picked up Riley on Saturday morning, eventually changed
her diaper and was disgusted with what she saw.
   “Her little butt was bruised, greenish, yellowish, purplish, and I got mad,” Mrs. Zeigler said. “I
let her watch cartoons, anxious for Kim and Royce to come over."
   Nellie Zeigler told the couple she disapproved of the belt discipline, saying both dropped their heads."Mom. This is never going to happen again," Nellie said of how her son replied. "After that, I never saw bruises on her again."
   The weekends of mall shopping and bonding ended abruptly with Riley’s death July 25, 2007, and Nellie Zeigler would spend the next four months agonizing over the whereabouts of the “sunshine of our lives.”
   Nellie Zeigler eventually learned Ohio officials didn’t have Riley, and she and her husband confronted Trenor, asking her why she wouldn’t tell authorities her girl was kidnapped.“My husband said, ‘Kim. You’re lying,’ and the third time he asked, she jumped up and starts to cuss us out,” Nellie Zeigler testified. “She shot the finger at us and said ‘F---you! F---you! F---you!’”
   The confrontation continued upstairs, Nellie said. "What kind of mother are you?’” Nellie Zeigler said. “‘You show no emotion. You never talk about her. You never seem to care where
she's at.' I'm crying and she's smiling at me."
   The two had more heated words, when Trenor said, “You’re going to pay for this,” Nellie Zeigler testified. The couple left, she said.
   Royce Zeigler worked for a company contracted to create schedules for petrochemical companies, earning $54,000 annually. The fatal beating happened after Zeigler stayed home from work to make sure his wife was following his discipline plan, the defense said.
   According to Trenor's attorney, Tommy Stickler Jr., Zeigler wanted Trenor to spank Riley with a belt when she failed to say things like "please" and "yes sir" or "no sir." Zeigler didn't believe Trenor was doing it, however, because the 2-year-old's behavior wasn't changing. A list was found by authorities after the arrest of the couple for the murder of Riley, the list, called "Rules for Riley," included such things as "being polite," "behaves in public," "toys stay in her room" and "listen to mom & me." There was space for a 10th item on the list but it was left blank.
   During her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Kayla Allen detailed for jurors the day that she said Riley Ann died for forgetting to say "please" and "yes, sir. "Allen said that on July 25th, 2007, Trenor and Zeigler disciplined Riley by whipping her with a belt, pushing her head against a pillow and holding her head under water. She said Zeigler grabbed Riley and tossed her across the room, fracturing her skull. An autopsy concluded the skull fractures caused her death. Riley died of three skull fractures she received when Zeigler, threw the child across the room, authorities said.
   Riley Ann Sawyers tried to stop her mother and stepfather from beating her to death by reaching out to her mother and saying, "I love you," assistant district attorney Kayla Allen told jurors earlier in the day during her opening statement. The toddler's pleas didn't stop her mother from brutalizing her, the prosecutor said. "To the very end, Riley said, 'I love you' to her mom. She's reaching out," Allen said. "That's her lifeline, to her mother. What does Kim do after hearing her say I love you? She starts beating her."
   "I said we have to get her to a hospital. (Zeigler) said, 'No we can't. We'll go to jail,' " Trenor said in the videotape, crying. "There came a point where she stopped breathing. He started doing CPR on the floor. He took her ... and handed her over to me. I could just feel her going cold."
   At the defense table, Trenor's eyes teared up as she watched the videotape on a large screen.
   Several jurors wiped away tears.
   Galveston County Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Pustilnik Testified that any one of three skull fractures he found during his autopsy could have killed Riley. He said that it would have been apparent within seconds of one of the fractures that Riley was in need of medical help. Symptoms included a change in body temperature, headache and the inability to stand up, he said, all symptoms described by Trenor in her statement to investigators. She said that Zeigler accused Riley of faking when she was unable to stand.
   After Riley was killed, beaten so badly that Trenor said Zeigler complained of it making his shoulder sore, the couple bought a plastic container, partially filled it with cement, stuffed her beaten body inside and stored it in a shed for two months. They tried to bury it in a wooded area north of their home, but when that failed, they dumped it in Galveston Bay in September.
   The seven-woman, five man jury took less than two hours to convict Kimberly Trenor of capital murder in the slaying of her 2-year-old daughter. Trenor will receive an automatic life sentence without parole because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty due to technical reasons peculiar to Texas law. Jury foreman Randal Rothschild said it didn't take the panel long to reach a verdict because we had all the evidence. Apparently the jury felt it was pretty cut and dried. As his eyes teared up, Rothschild added, "It was a very emotional trial."
   Zeigler will be tried for capital murder in a separate trial. No date has been set yet.
   The island where the toddler's body was found was officially renamed "Riley's Island." A wooden cross bearing a plaque with her name was placed there as a memorial, but Hurricane Ike washed it away on Sept. 13.
   A Mr. Miller, who made that cross, said he is making a new one and hopes that he and Riley's family can place it on the island later.
   "It's sad the cross is gone. But as much damage as the hurricane did, I was afraid the whole island would be wiped away," he said. "God did not want that to happen. The cross will be put there again in her honor."
   In Mentor, Ohio, pink balloons were released into the wintry sky after the funeral for Riley. Some of the balloons had cards attached with her picture and an address where the finder could return it to her family in northeast Ohio. The balloon release coincided with similar releases around the world in memory of the toddler, who had been nicknamed Baby Grace.
   "People all over the world adored this child. She was loved and cherished by everyone," Riley's great-uncle, Mike Nebelski, said in a eulogy.
   "Let's not forget Riley. Let's not forget all the other kids out there who are missing," he said.
   After the service and balloon release, the funeral procession left for Mentor Cemetery for burial of the 36-inch coffin. Inside was an urn with the girl's ashes and various other items, including a dress and a stuffed animal toy.
   Riley Ann Sawyers was with us for 866 days. Her online memorial can be found here.
   On November 6, 2009, Royce Zeigler was convicted of capital murder and received an automatic sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
                                                                Lily Belle Burk
   Soon the donut and noodle people came. The line had grown to over a block long. I got mine, seven donuts, and I took the soup too, then was on my way home.
Unbeknownst to me, and unknown to me until Monday morning, approximately and hour and forty five minutes before I secured my 7 donuts, the body of Lily Belle Burk, age 17, was found near the intersection of Fifth St. and Alameda, about a block from my box. She was discovered by an employee of a nearby business, presumably the same gas station where Paul and I had inflated his dolly's tires a few days previously (see, Puzzles & Bricks). She was found in her own black Volvo, in the passenger seat, apparently having been bludgeoned to death and her neck slashed. There were signs of a struggle.
   She had left her home in Los Feliz the day before at about 2:30 to pick up some papers for her mother from the Southwestern University School of Law, where her mother worked as an adjunct professor. About an hour later she made calls to both of her parents asking them how she might get cash from an ATM machine using her credit card, something her card was not set up to do.    Her parents state that she did not sound distressed.
   She did not return Friday night and her parents contacted police and filed a missing persons report.
   The next morning her body was discovered. Police estimate she had been dead from 5:00PM the day before.
   That Friday at 5:30PM, Charlie Samuel, aged 50, was arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia on 3rd Street. His fingerprints were discovered in Lily's Volvo and is now being held on suspicion of murder without bail. Sources said Samuel had a previous history of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, and kidnaping, and if he did indeed kill that lovely young girl I am ashamed that I am against the death penalty.
   From the LA Times: "The thing we want people to know about Lily is that she was a beautiful person and that she was looking forward to her life. She was funny, warm, kind and empathetic. She was deeply and widely loved," read the statement from her parents, Deborah Drooz and Gregory Burk, a Times freelancer who writes about pop music.
   Burk was supposed to begin her senior year at Oakwood School in North Hollywood in the fall.
She was set to star in her high school's production of a David Mamet play and planned to volunteer helping the homeless this summer."
   Dear Erin, I hope your heaven is real, and Lily now resides there.
   My sincere condolences go to her parents, family, and friends.
   May she rest in peace.
   Update from NBC Los Angeles, May 28th 2010:
   Charlie Samuel was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the July 24, 2009, slaying of Lily Belle Burk. During the sentencing hearing, he apologized to the girl's family.
   He pleaded guilty first-degree murder, kidnapping to commit robbery, second-degree robbery, attempted first-degree ATM robbery, carjacking and kidnapping for carjacking. He admitted special circumstance allegations of murder during a carjacking, kidnapping and robbery.
   The plea deal saved him from a possible death sentence

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Remembering Marilyn Monroe, Conclusion

“I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”
I Wanna be Loved by You

Picture Legend

1. “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” poster
2. Marilyn singing “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend”
3. Marilyn  and Jane Russell in Gentlemen
4. Betty Grable
5. Marilyn and Jane Russell at Grauman's, 1953
6. Marilyn, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall in “How to Marry a Millionaire” 1953
7. Cover of the first issue of Playboy magazine, December 1953
8. Marilyn’s centrefold, taken from the 1949 Tom Kelly photoshoot
9. Jack Benny, Marilyn, and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, 1953
10. Husband #2 Joe diMaggio & Marilyn
11. Marilyn in “River of No Return” 1954
12. With Robert Mitchum in River
13. In “There’s No Business Like Show Business” 1954
14. In “The Seven Year Itch” 1955
15. With Tom Ewell in “The Seven Year Itch”
16. Kelli Garner as Marilyn in “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe”
17. Michelle Williams as Marilyn in “My Week with Marilyn”
18. Marguerite Chapman & Tom Ewell
19. Tom Ewell & Carolyn Jones
20. Marilyn and Milton H Greene
21. Milton Green photograph of Marilyn, “The Hooker Sitting,” LA, 1956
22. Constance Collier
23. Lee Strasberg, Marilyn, and Paula Strasberg, 1961
24. Marilyn and Marlon Brando
25. Marilyn and Arthur Miller
26. Arthur O'Connell, Eileen Heckart, and Marilyn in 1956's “Bus Stop”
27. Laurence Olivier & Marilyn Monroe in “The Prince and the Showgirl”
28. Marilyn meets Queen Elizabeth II in October of 1956. Both ladies were 30 years old at the time
29. Donald Sinden
30. In “Some Like it Hot” 1959
31. With Jack Lemmon in “Some Like it Hot”
32. With Tony Curtis
33. Rockhaven Sanitarium for the Copiously Insane
34. Telegram from “Let’s Make Love producer    to Marilyn concerning preparations for “Let’s Make Love”
35. Frankie Vaughan, Marilyn, Arthur Miller, and Yves Montand publicity photo for “Let’s Make Love” 1960
36. Marilyn in “The Misfits”
37. And another
38. Crew of “The Misfits” Front row, left to right: Montgomery Clift, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable. Back row, left to right: Eli Wallach, playwright Arthur Miller, and director John Huston.
39. My favorite picture of Marilyn
40. Marilyn’s Brentwood home
41. She lived there for about six months
42. Home
43.     ^
44. Marilyn’s bedroom
45. Swimming pool scene from “Something’s Got to Give”
46. Three pictures from The Last Sitting
47.                           ^
48.                           ^
49. As she was found
50. The world finds out
51. Joe at her funeral
52. Her final resting place
53. Marilyn’s Star
54. Marilyn

   “I remember when I was in high school I didn't have a new dress for each special occasion. The girls would bring the fact to my attention, not always too delicately. The boys, however, never bothered with the subject. They were my friends, not because of the size of my wardrobe but because they liked me.”

   I bet they did.

   1953‘s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” was a musical comedy film based on the stage musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” of 1949, which itself was based on the 1925 novel, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady,” by Anita Loos,  who was inspired to write the book after watching a sexy blonde turn intellectual H. L. Mencken (who is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. His satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial", also gained him national and international attention. The character E. K. Hornbeck in “Inherit the Wind,” played by Tony Randall in the original 1955 theatrical production and Gene Kelly in Stanley Kramer’s 1960 film, was based on H. L. Mencken) into a love struck schoolboy (women will do that sometimes. They think it’s funny as hell).
   The film was directed by Howard Hawks (“The Big Sleep,” “His Girl Friday,” “The Thing from Another World”), and starred Marilyn, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, George Winslow, Taylor Holmes and Norma Varden in supporting roles
   The story concerns two show girls looking for love... and diamonds.
   Here’s a clip of Marilyn getting stuck in a hole.
And here’s one with Marilyn, Jane, and Tommy Noonan.
   And Marilyn singing “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.”
   That last clip pretty much summed up Marilyn’s character, who was looking for love... with economic benefits.
   Some say that”  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” established Marilyn’s screen persona as a "dumb blonde," but I didn’t see anything particularly dumb about her character. Lorelei Lee knew what she wanted and knew how to get it... which she did, and at no time, within the framework of the movie, was any criticism leveed at her for her gold digging ways. 
   The role of Lorelei was originally intended for Betty Grable, who had been 20th Century-Fox's most popular "blonde bombshell" in the 1940s, and pin up goddess to our fighting men during World War II. However Marilyn was fast eclipsing her as a star who could appeal to both male and female audiences.
   As part of the film's publicity campaign, Marilyn realized a childhood dream by having her hands and feet immortalized, along with Jane, in wet concrete outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in June of 1953.
   “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,”  was released the next month and became one of the biggest box office successes of the year by grossing $5.3 million ($48,538,471.91 in 2017), more than double its production costs.
   Bosley Crowther of The New York Times and William Brogdon of Variety both commented favorably on Marilyn’s performance, especially noting the film’s rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." According to Brogdon Marilyn demonstrated the "ability to sex a song as well as point up the eye values of a scene by her presence."
   Apparently Jane was a a bit of an evangelist, as she tried to convert Marilyn during the filming of the movie. "Jane tried to convert me (to religion) and I tried to introduce her to Freud."
   Smart girl.
   Here’s Jane talking to Sally Jessie Raphael and Susan Strassberg about working with Marilyn.
   Jane passed away on February 28th, 2011, of a respiratory-related illness.
      Marilyn played yet another gold digger by co-starring with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall in her third movie of the year, “How to Marry a Millionaire,” which was released on November 5th. She played a naïve model who teams up with her friends to find rich husbands, repeating the successful formula of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
   Made by 20th Century Fox, “How to Marry a Millionaire” was the first film ever to be photographed in the new CinemaScope wide-screen process, although it was the second Cinemascope film released by Fox after the biblical epic film “The Robe” (also 1953).
   “How to Marry a Millionaire” was also the first 1950s color and CinemaScope film ever to be shown on prime time network television, though panned-and-scanned (a method of adjusting widescreen film images so that they can be shown within the proportions of a standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio television screen, often cropping off the sides of the original widescreen image to focus on the composition's most important aspects), when it was presented as the first film on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies on September 23rd, 1961.
   Despite mixed reviews, the film was Marilyn’s biggest box office success at that point in her career, earning $8 million in world rentals ($72,339,176.03 in 2017 dollars, against a budget of $1,870,000, $16,909,282.40 today).
   “How to Marry a Millionaire” premiered at the Fox Wilshire Theatre (now the Saban Theatre), in Beverly Hills, California. It was Fox's second highest grossing film of that year (with “The Robe” being the first), and was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1953, whereas Marilyn’s previous feature “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was the ninth.
   Here’s a clip.
   Marilyn was listed in the annual Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in both 1953 and 1954, which is good for an actress.
   According to Fox historian Aubrey Solomon, Marilyn became the studio's "greatest asset" alongside CinemaScope (an anamorphic lens (anamorphic lenses are specialty tools which affect how images get projected onto the camera sensor. They were primarily created so that a wider range of aspect ratios could fit within a standard film frame. CinemaScope’s creation in 1953 by Spyros P. Skouras, the president of 20th Century Fox, marked the beginning of the modern anamorphic format in both principal photography and movie projection).
   Marilyn’s position as a leading sex symbol was confirmed in December 1953, when Hugh Hefner featured her on the cover and as centerfold in the first issue of Playboy (December 1953). The cover image was a photograph taken of her at the Miss America Pageant parade in 1952, and the centerfold featured one of her 1949 Tom Kelly nude photographs.
   Marilyn made her television debut on September 13th, 1953 on “The Jack Benny Show (one of my two favorite comedians, the other being George Carlin),” playing Jack's fantasy woman in the episode "Honolulu Trip." Here she is.
   Jack died in his home of pancreatic cancer on December 26th, 1974 at age 80.
   She filmed “River of No Return” in 1953  and it was released on April 30th, of 1954. The film was directed by actor/director Otto Preminger, who had never made a western, and only did so due to contractual obligations with 20th Century Fox.
   Besides Marilyn the filmed starred an old time friend, Robert Mitchum, along with Tommy Rettig, and Rory Calhoun.
   Marilyn was accompanied on the shoot with her acting coach Natasha Lytess (a situation that would pop up quite often), who often gave acting advice to her that clashed with what Mr. Preminger wanted done. He actively tried to get Lytess barred from the set. He succeeded once only to have Marilyn complain to Darryl Zanuck, the head of Fox at the time. Marilyn with the success of Gentlemen was now a box office draw, so he let Lytess return much to Preminger’s consternation.
   Much of “River of No Return” was filmed in Banff and Jasper National Parks and Lake Louise in Alberta, which is part of the mighty nation of Canada. Preminger also had to contend with frequent rain, Mitchum's heavy drinking, and an injury to Marilyn’s ankle that kept her off the set for several days and ultimately put her in a cast.
   That injury occurred when she almost drown when filming a scene in Jasper. She was wearing chest high hip waders to protect the costume she was in when they filled up with water. She consequently slipped and wasn’t able to get up. Mitchum and others jumped in the river to rescue her but her ankle was sprained as a result.
   In later years, Marilyn claimed that “River of No Return” was her worst film.
   Bosley Crowther again, of the New York Times, continued to obsess on Marilyn’s physicality in his review.
   "It is a toss-up whether the scenery or the adornment of Marilyn Monroe is the feature of greater attraction in River of No Return . . . The mountainous scenery is spectacular, but so, in her own way, is Miss Monroe. The patron's preference, if any, probably will depend upon which he's interested in. Certainly, scriptwriter Frank Fenton has done the best he could to arrange for a fairly equal balance of nature and Miss Monroe . . . And that should not be too lightly taken. For Director Otto Preminger has thrown all the grandeur and menace of these features upon the eye-filling CinemaScope screen. A sickening succession of rapids, churned into boiling foam, presents a display of nature's violence that cannot help but ping the patron's nerves. The raft tumbling through these rapids is quite a sight to see. And layouts of Rocky Mountain landscapes are handsome in color, too. But Mr. Mitchum's and the audience's attention is directed to Miss Monroe through frequent and liberal posing of her in full and significant views."
   Otto wasn’t happy with Marilyn and spoke bitterly about her in various interviews. It wasn't until January of 1980, when being interviewed for the New York Daily News, that he conceded, "She tried very hard, and when people try hard, you can't be mad at them."
   He would pass away six years later, on April 23rd, 1986, of complications of Lung Cancer and Alzheimer's.
   No one who knew him liked him very much.
   Here’s a clip with Marilyn and Tommy Rettig, and another one with Marilyn and a bunch of drunken cowboys.
  Robert Mitchum had a long successful career ahead of him and made 63 more films after River before succumbing to lung cancer and what is now called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) on the first of July in 1997.
   Here he is speaking about Marilyn.  
   One year later, on October 27, 1955, I would appear on the scene in San Jose.
   On  January 4th, 1954, Marilyn was placed on suspension from 20th Century-Fox after refusing to accept the leading role in a film version of “The Girl in Pink Tights,” with Frank Sinatra, and who can blame her. I mean pink tights... really?
    During her suspension, she married Joe DiMaggio and the two honeymooned in Japan, during which she took time to entertain troops in Korea (here’s the clip).
   When Marilyn returned to Hollywood, her Fox suspension was lifted, and studio executives offered her a role in the ensemble cast of “There's No Business Like Show Business” as a replacement project for having refused to make “The Girl in Pink Tights.”
   Marilyn initially refused to make “There's No Business Like Show Business” until Fox ensured her that her next film would be “The Seven Year Itch.”
   “There's No Business Like Show Business,” premiered on December 16th, 1954.
   Here’s a clip from “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

   Scene from “The Seven Year Itch:”
   Richard Sherman: “If Helen sent you to get a divorce...”
   Tom MacKenzie: [incredulous] “A divorce?”
   Richard Sherman: [continuing] “I absolutely refuse! I'll fight it in every court!”
   Tom MacKenzie: [incredulous] “She sent me for the paddle.”
   Richard Sherman: [continuing; crazed] “Because I can explain everything: the stairs, the cinnamon toast, the blond in the kitchen.”
   Tom MacKenzie: [interrupts; incredulous] “Wait! Wait a minute Dickey-Boy. What blond in the kitchen?”
   Richard Sherman: [seething with contempt] “Oh, wouldn't you like to know! Maybe it's Marilyn Monroe!”

   In September of 1954, Marilyn began filming Billy Wilder's comedy “The Seven Year Itch,” in which she starred opposite Tom Ewell as a woman who became the object of her married neighbor's sexual fantasies.
   The “Itch” refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, most often by the male, and apparently is an actual phenomenon as psychologists use it to this day to sanction extramarital affairs.
   “The Seven Year Itch” was filmed between September 1st and November 4th, in 1954, and was the only Billy Wilder film released by 20th Century Fox.
   The film also starred the lovely and talented actresses Marguerite Chapman, and the future Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones.
   Although the film was shot in Hollywood, the studio decided to generate advance publicity by staging the filming of a scene on Lexington Avenue in New York. In the shoot, Marilyn is standing on a subway grate with the air blowing up the skirt of her white dress, which became one of the most famous scenes of her career.
   The Girl: “Oooooooohhhh! This feels just elegant!”
   The shoot lasted for several hours and attracted a crowd of nearly 2,000 spectators, including professional photographers, as most of the still pictures you see of this event do not appear in the film.
   The scene was shot twice: the first on location outside the Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theater, then located at 586 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, while the second take was on a sound stage. Both eventually made their way into the finished film.
   While the publicity stunt placed Marilyn on international front pages (everybody got really excited about all kinds of stuff back then), it also marked the end of her marriage to Joe, who was furious about the stunt (what a douche. What did he expect when marrying someone like Marilyn? That she’d give up her career, which included being a sex symbol, to wait on him for the rest of her life? What a douche! However, he would remain felicitous toward Marilyn for the rest of her life, and beyond. He sent roses to her burial vault three times a week for 20 years).
   DiMaggio, a heavy smoker for much of his adult life, was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, on October 12th, 1998, for lung cancer surgery and remained there for 99 days. He returned to his Hollywood, Florida home on January 19th, 1999, where he died on March 8th. Joe DiMaggio's final words were: "I finally get to see Marilyn."
   The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union (AFTRA) had been troubled from the start by Joe’s jealousy and controlling attitude. Biographers David Spoto and Lois Banner have also asserted that he was physically abusive, as was depicted in the excellent 2015 bio TV picture “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe,” featuring an outstanding performance by Kelli Garner as Marilyn, the best I’ve ever seen (yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Michelle Williams was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, and earned Best Actress nominations from the Academy Awards and British Academy Film Awards for her portrayal of Marilyn in “My Week with Marilyn,” but as I watched that movie, Michelle (who I love. Who doesn’t love Michelle Williams? Tell me, who?) always reminded me of Michelle Williams, wherein Kelli completely disappeared in her role).
   “The Seven Year Itch” was released June 1st, of 1955.
   The film was both a critical and financial success earning $12 million at the box office, and $6 million in rentals ($108,508,764.04 and $54,254,382.02 respectively in 2017 dollars) against a production budget of $1.8 million ($16,276,314.61 today).
   Ewell won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his work.
   Not everybody was happy with the movie though. In the 1970s the co-writer/director Billy  Wilder called the movie "a nothing picture because the picture should be done today without censorship... Unless the husband, left alone in New York while the wife and kid are away for the summer, has an affair with that girl there’s nothing. But you couldn’t do that in those days, so I was just strait jacketed. It just didn’t come off one bit, and there’s nothing I can say about it except I wish I hadn’t made it. I wish I had the property now."
   Here’s a clip, and another, and another.
   Here’s a short documentary on the making of “The Seven Year Itch.”
   On September 12th, 1994, Tom Ewell died of undisclosed causes. He was 85 years old. He passed away at Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, 26.7 miles via the scenic 101, from where I’m typing this.
   When Marilyn finished filming and returned to Hollywood, she hired famous attorney Jerry Giesler and announced in October of 1954 that she was filing for divorce.
   “I have too many fantasies to be a housewife. I guess I am a fantasy.”
   She left Hollywood for the East Coast, where she and photographer Milton H Greene founded their own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP), which no actress had done before and is attributed to the beginning of the end of the studio system, in which the studios had complete control over their actors and actresses careers.
   When Marilyn announced the formation of MMP at a press conference in January of 1955, she said she was "tired of the same old sex roles. I want to do better things. People have scope, you know."
    She insisted she was no longer under contract to Fox, as the studio had not fulfilled its contractual obligations, such as paying her a promised bonus for “The Seven Year Itch." This began a year-long legal battle between her and Fox. She won.
   In New York Marilyn continued to study her craft by taking acting classes with actress and acting couch Constance Collier, and attending workshops on method acting at the Actors Studio, run by actor, director, and theater practitioner Lee Strasberg, obviously before he was shot to death by Tom Rosqui in “The Godfather Part II.”
   Here’s Jane Fonda talking to David Letterman about Strasberg and Marilyn.
   “...Strasberg makes me feel badly [that I was acting out of "fear"]... You must start to do things out of strength... by not looking for strength, but only looking and seeking technical ways and means.”
   Yet she became close to Strasberg and his wife Paula and took private lessons at their home, ostensibly due to her shyness (she suffered chronic insecurities regarding her ability to act. Marilyn also experienced pre-performance anxiety that sometimes made her physically ill and was often the root cause of her being late on films sets, which was so extreme that it often infuriated her co-stars and crew. "She would be the greatest if she ran like a watch," director Billy Wilder once said of her. "I have an aunt Minnie who's very punctual, but who would pay to see Aunt Minnie?"
   I would love to see Aunt Minnie, but she’s more than likely not available any more (Wilder died on March 27th, 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles, near Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Marilyn’s crypt is located in the same cemetery. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, "Billy Wilder dies. Nobody's perfect," quoting the final gag line in “Some Like It Hot”).
   Marilyn gave Natasha Lytess the old boot and replaced her with Paula, and the Strasbergs remained an important influence to her for the rest of her career.
   She also began psychoanalysis at Lee’s recommendation, who believed all actors could use some therapy.
   I mean it couldn’t hurt, right?
   I know I could use some...
   Here’s a television “Person to Person" interview with Edward R Murrow that occurred on the 8th of April, 1955.
   Murrow, a pioneer of television news broadcasting, who produced a series of reports that helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Fellow journalist like Eric Sevareid, Ed Bliss, Bill Downs, Dan rather, and Alexander Kendrick consider Murrow one of journalism's greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.
   Given that he sure asked Marilyn some bizarre questions, and of Greene and his wife. Did Marilyn pick up after herself? Did she make her own bed? Geez, might as well ask if she was potty trained.
   In this interview one easily sees a shy, vulnerable, almost insecure, delightful girl. Someone I wouldn’t mind knowing.
   Marilyn continued to see DiMaggio despite the ongoing divorce proceedings because women generally don’t know what’s good for them. She also dated actor Marlon Brando and playwright Arthur Miller (“Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible”). The studio people didn’t like that at all.
   She had first been introduced to Miller by Elia Kazan in the early 1950s. The affair between Monroe and Miller became increasingly serious after October 1955, when her divorce from DiMaggio was finalized, and Miller separated from his wife.
   The FBI opened a file on her as Arthur was being investigated by them for allegations that he was a  communist and had been subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, headed by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.
   The people at Fox feared Marilyn would be blacklisted by association and urged her to end the affair. But despite that risk she refused to end the relationship, later calling the studio heads "born cowards."
   By the end of 1955, Marilyn and came to an agreement about a new seven-year contract.
   It was clear that MMP would not be able to finance films alone, and the studio was eager to have her working again. The contract required her to make four movies for Fox during those seven years. The studio would pay her $100,000 for each movie ($904,239.70 in 2017 dollars), and granted her the right to choose her own projects, directors and cinematographers. She would also be free to make one film with MMP per each completed film for Fox.
   Marilyn began 1956 by touting her win over 20th Century-Fox. The press, which had previously ridiculed her for her move toward independence, now wrote favorably about her decision to fight the studio. “Time” called her a "shrewd businesswoman" and “Look” predicted that the win would be "an example of the individual against the herd for years to come."
   In March, she officially changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.
   Her relationship with Arthur prompted some negative comments from the press, including Walter Winchell's statement that "America's best-known blonde moving picture star is now the darling of the left-wing intelligentsia," as if that were a bad thing.
    Marilyn and Arthur were married in a civil ceremony at the Westchester County Court in White Plains, New York, on June 29th, and two days later they had a Jewish ceremony at his agent's house at Waccabuc, New York.
   Marilyn converted to Judaism with the marriage, which led Egypt to ban all of her films. The media saw the union as mismatched given her star image as a sex symbol and his position as an intellectual, as demonstrated by Variety's headline "Egghead Weds Hourglass."
   How rude.
   “Bus Stop” is sometimes labeled  a romantic comedy, which was directed by Joshua Logan (“Picnic," “Sayonara," “South Pacific") for 20th Century Fox, and besides Marilyn starred one of my favorite character actors, Arthur O'Connell, with Don Murray, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray and Hope Lange.
   It was the first movie that Marilyn chose to make under her new contract and was released on August 31st, 1956.
   The story revolves around Marilyn Chérie, a saloon singer whose dreams of stardom are complicated by a naïve cowboy who falls in love with her. For the role, she adopted an Ozark accent, chose costumes and make-up that lacked the glamour of her earlier films, and provided deliberately mediocre singing and dancing. Here’s a clip of that singing.
   Just awful!
   Broadway director Logan agreed to direct, despite initially doubting her acting abilities and knowing of her reputation for being difficult.
   The filming took place in Idaho and Arizona in early 1956, with Marilyn "technically in charge" as the head of MMP, and occasionally making decisions on cinematography
   Making “Bus Stop," changed Logan's opinion of Marilyn, and he later compared her to Charlie Chaplin in her ability to blend comedy and tragedy.
   The film became a box office success, grossing $7.27 million ($65,312,761.19 in today’s dollars), on a budget of $2.2 million ($19,819,044.78 in 2017).
   The film received positive reviews from critics, and Marilyn’s performance was highly praised. Despite Murray's Oscar nomination, his performance was poorly received. I took away his character as being way over the top and quite frankly obnoxious.
   Marilyn received a Golden Globe for Best Actress nomination for her performance.
   Here’s a documentary on the making of “Bus Stop.”

   “Now don’t pull the Grand Duke with me. You made a pass and I turned it down. That’s all that happened. We can still be friendly.” -Elsie Marina, from “The Prince and the Showgirl.”

   MMP came to the decision that their first independent production, would be  “The Prince and the Showgirl,” with Lawrence Olivier, who would also act as director and co-producer. You can read about my favorite non-domestic actor, Sir Larry, here and here.
   Lawrence and his wife Vivien Leigh flew to New York to conclude negotiations for the film. When he arrived at Marilyn’s Sutton Place apartment on February 7th, 1956, Marilyn kept him, his agent Cecil Tennant, and playwright Terence Rattigan waiting for an hour and a half, but Olivier was impressed anyway. ”One thing was clear to me: I was going to fall most shatteringly in love with Marilyn. She was adorable, so witty, and more physically attractive than anyone I could imagine.”
   A press conference held two days later at the Plaza Hotel saw the two actors trading compliments. When asked what he thought of Marilyn as an actress, Olivier replied ”She is a brilliant comedienne, and therefore an extremely good actress. She has the cunning gift of being able to suggest one minute that she is the naughtiest little thing, and the next minute that she is beautifully dumb and innocent.” Marilyn summed up her enormous respect for Olivier in a simple sentence: ”He has always been my idol.” On this occasion, however, Marilyn stole the show thanks to the spaghetti-thing strap of her dress snapping in mid-conference.
   A costume malfunction that would find it’s way into the movie.
   In August of 1956, Marilyn began filming “The Prince and the Showgirl,” at Pinewood Studios in England. It was based on Rattigan's “The Sleeping Prince,” a play about an affair between a showgirl and a prince in the 1910s. The main roles had first been played on stage by Laurence  and Vivien.
   The production became complicated due to conflicts between Lawrence and Marilyn. He angered her with the patronizing statement "All you have to do is be sexy", and by wanting her to replicate Leigh's interpretation of the role. He also disliked the constant presence of Paula Strasberg, Marilyn’s acting coach, on set.
   In retaliation to what she considered Olivier's "condescending" behavior, Marilyn started arriving late and became uncooperative, stating later that "if you don't respect your artists, they can't work well."
   Her use of drugs escalated, and according to biographer Donald Spoto she became pregnant and miscarried during the production. She also had arguments with Milton Greene over how MMP should be run, including whether Arthur should join the company.
   Despite the difficulties, the film was completed on schedule by the end of the year. It was released in June of 1957 to mixed reviews, and proved unpopular with American audiences. It was better received in Europe, where she was awarded the Italian David di Donatello and the French Crystal Star awards, and was nominated for a  British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award.
   Here's a clip.
   In October 29th Marilyn took some time to meet Queen Elizabeth II at Royal Film premiere of war film “The Battle of River Plate,” in Leicester Square, London.
   At the time the Queen and Marilyn were both 30 years old.
   Years later Olivier still recalled Marilyn as a ”thoroughly ill-mannered and rude girl…I was never so glad to have a film over and be done.” But with the advantage of time, he acknowledged that ”She gave a star performance. Maybe I was tetchy with Marilyn and myself because I felt my career was in a rut…I was as good as could be, and Marilyn! Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. What do you know?”
   Here’s a clip of him talking about her.
   Sir Lawrence Olivier lived to be 82 years old. He died of renal failure on July 11th, 1989, at his home near Steyning, West Sussex. His cremation was held three days later, and a funeral was held in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey in October.
   Donald Sinden, then a contract star for the Rank Organization at Pinewood Studios, had a permanent dressing room four doors from Marilyn's during the filming, although working on different movies. He said "She was still suffering from the effects of The Method school of acting, so one day I had the props department make up a notice that I fixed to my door saying: "Office of the Nazak (Kazan, backwards) Academy. You too can be inaudible. New egos superimposed. Motivations immobilized. Imaginary stone-kicking eradicated. Um's & Er's rendered obsolete. Motto: 'Though 'Tis Method Yet There's Madness In It'." I waited inside and presently heard the usual footsteps of her and her entourage. They paused outside and from the entire group I only heard one laugh—that of Monroe. The door burst open and in she came, slamming the door in the faces of her livid retainers. From that moment on, whenever the poor girl could not face the problems of her hybrid existence—which was frequently—she popped in for a natter and a giggle. Of course as a sex symbol she was stunning, but sadly, she must be one of the silliest women I have ever met."
   I enjoyed the film. I enjoy every film Sir Lawrence is in. I’d enjoy a movie of Olivier taking out the trash if it were available, but it was Marilyn’s performance that made the movie work as much as it did. She was just wonderful.
   Here’s a clip.
   “My Week With Marilyn,” was based on the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” with Michelle Williams as Marilyn and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier.
   After she got back to the states Marilyn took a year and a half off to be married to Arthur in Manhattan and an eighteenth-century farmhouse that they had purchased in Roxbury, Connecticut.
   She became pregnant in mid-1957, but it was ectopic (a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus), and had to be terminated.  She suffered a miscarriage a year later.  Her gynecological problems were largely caused by endometriosis (a condition in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus (endometrium) grows outside it), a disease from which she suffered throughout her adult life.
   Marilyn was also briefly hospitalized during this time due to a barbiturate overdose.
   During this period, she dismissed Greene from MMP and bought his share of the company as they could not settle their disagreements and she had begun to suspect that he was embezzling money from the company.
   “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
   Marilyn came back to Hollywood in 1958 to work with Billy Wilder again in “Some Like it Hot,” with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
   Her role in the film was a familiar one, a “dumb blonde,” she agreed to do it because Arthur encouraged her to do so, and she got an offer to receive ten percent of the film's profits in addition to her standard pay.
   There were a lot of problems during the production of “Some Like it Hot.” Marilyn would demand dozens of re-takes, and could not remember her lines or act as directed. Scenes wherein she had two words to say would be redone 30 to 40 times because she didn’t feel they had been done right (prompting Wilder to say to Lemmon and Curtis, “Guys, whatever take I like and think works I’m going to print.”).
   Many of the problems stemmed from a conflict between her and Billy, who also had a reputation for being difficult. Marilyn made him angry by asking him to alter many of her scenes, which in turn made her stage fright worse, and it is suggested that she deliberately ruined several scenes to act them her way.
   This will tend to drive a director crazy.
   Which it did.
   Wilder was committed to the Rockhaven Sanitarium for the Copiously Insane on December 22nd, 1958 and was kept there under heavy sedation until March 25th, 2002, two days before he died in Los Angeles.
   Just kidding. Mr. Wilder survived the shoot somewhat intact and continued making many other fine films, like “The Apartment,” “One, Two, Three,” and “The Fortune Cookie.”
   When it was all said and done Billy was happy with Marilyn’s performance, stating: "Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!"
   Despite the difficulties of its production, “Some Like It Hot” became a critical and commercial success when it was released in March of 1959. Marilyn’s performance earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress, and prompted “Variety” to call her "a comedienne with that combination of sex appeal and timing that just can't be beat." It’s been voted one of the best films ever made in polls by the American Film Institute and Sight & Sound.
   Well, I don’t know about that. I love the movie but feel Wilder didn’t know how to end it. It started out great, with a good and funny premise, but fizzled during the last third of the film.
   But that’s just me.
   Here's a clip.
   “Some Like it Hot,” cost $2.9 million to produce ($24,226,740.48 in 2017) and made $40 million in 1959 ($334,161,937.72 today).
   Here’s a clip of Jack Lemmon talking to Charlie Rose and some other guys about Marilyn.
   Jack died of metastatic cancer (metastasis is the spread of cancer cells to new areas of the body often by way of the lymph system or bloodstream. A metastatic cancer, or metastatic tumor, is one which has spread from the primary site of origin (where it started) into different area(s) of the body) of the bladder on June 27th, 2001. He had been fighting the disease, privately, for two years before his death. He was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California, buried near his friend and co-star, Walter Matthau, who died almost exactly one year before him. His gravestone reads like a title screen from a film: "JACK LEMMON IN."
   Here’s a clip of Tony Curtis talking to that other guy about Marilyn.
   Tony died at his Henderson, Nevada, home on September 29th, 2010, of a cardiac arrest. He left behind five children and seven grandchildren. His widow Jill told the press that Curtis had suffered from various lung problems for years as a result of cigarette smoking, although he had quit smoking about 30 years earlier.
   Here’s a documentary on the making of “Some Like it Hot.”
   Per her 1955 contract with Fox, Marilyn was expected, or required, to make four films within the next seven years. By 1959, she had completed only one: “Bus Stop,” which had been released in 1956. While Marilyn shot “Some Like it Hot” in 1958 (for United Artists), Arthur completed the screenplay for “The Misfits,” which they had intended on being her next film.
   Hoping to capitalize on the success of “Some Like it Hot,” 20th Century Fox required Marilyn to fulfill her contract. “The Misfits,” was put on hold and instead Marilyn signed on to star in what was then titled The Billionaire.
   The Billionaire, was a musical comedy about an actress and a millionaire who fall in love when performing in a satirical play.
   She chose George Cukor to direct (“The Philadelphia Story,” “Gaslight,” “A Star Is Born,” “My Fair Lady”). Several leading men were considered, including Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, and Gregory Peck. Peck agreed to play the lead, and then Monroe was signed opposite him, even though screenwriter Norman Krasna preferred Cyd Charisse.
   Marilyn and Arthur wanted her part of Amanda expanded. Miller worked on the script (although he did not receive credit) to expand the role, then Peck bowed out after the emphasis was shifted to the female lead.
   The male lead was eventually offered to the French actor Yves Montand, who had appeared in a French film version of Miller's “The Crucible” (1957) and had received praise for his recent one-man musical show in New York. Monroe and Miller both gave their approval for Montand. The title was changed to “Let's Make Love” and production began in January of 1960.
   There was one little problem... Montand didn’t speak English.
   So he worked with translators and spoke his lines phonetically... and it worked! It worked real well!
   While filming the movie Marilyn was a constant no-show for her scenes. So much so that she added 28 days to the shooting schedule and cost the producers (and by extension, herself) an extra $1 million in production costs.
   Marilyn was insecure about her acting abilities, Montand was insecure about his English, and the two bonded during the production. It was rummered they had an affair although Yves later denied it. It certainly didn’t help that their respective spouses left the shoot to pursue their own agendas (Montand was married to the French film actress Simone Signoret).
   Whether the two got together or not, the supposed affair was widely reported by the press and used in the film's publicity campaign.
   Here’s an audio interview with Marilyn by Georges Belmont for Marie Claire magazine in April of 1960.
   “Let's Make Love” was unsuccessful upon its release in September of 1960. Bosley Crowther writing for the New York Times described Marilyn as appearing "rather untidy" and "lacking ... the old Monroe dynamism," and Hedda Hopper called the film "the most vulgar picture she's ever done."        
   It opened at the top of the box office its first weekend, but made only $6.54 million in total ($53,706,302.04 in 2017 dollars. The production cost $3,585,000, $29,439,922.45 today). It was the first film starring Marilyn to earn so little money on its initial release, although it was the top-grossing musical of the year and one of only two musicals in the top 20 in 1960. It was better received in overseas markets than in the United States.
   Here’s a clip.
   And here Montand speaks of working with Marilyn and his troubles with English during the production with David Letterman.
   Basically Marilyn’s career began with John Houston in “The Asphalt Jungle,” and it ended with John Houston in her last completed film, 1961's “The Misfits.”
   It was the kind of role she always wanted to tackle, a serious dramatic role (one could successfully argue that her work in “Niagara” was just such a role as well, but in that film her part was subservient to that of Jean Peters).       
   Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for his wife who played Roslyn Tabor, a recently divorced woman who becomes friends with three aging cowboys, played by Clark Gable, Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. Her past co-star, Thelma Ritter, also appeared in the film.
   The filming in the Nevada desert between July and November 1960 was again difficult.  Monroe and Miller's four-year marriage was effectively over, and he began a new relationship with Inge Morath, an Austrian-born American photographer. They would marry in 1962 after Arthur’s divorce from Marilyn. They would remain married until her death from cancer in 2002. Their first child, Rebecca Augusta Miller, would become an independent filmmaker, screenwriter, film director, and novelist. A classic overachiever. She married the English/Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis, and so can claim the title Lady Day-Lewis, as Daniel was knighted by Prince William in 2014).
   Marilyn disliked that Arthur had based her role partly on her life, and thought it inferior to the male roles; she also struggled with Miller's habit of re-writing scenes the night before filming.  Her health was also failing: she was in pain from gallstones, and her drug addiction was so severe that her make-up usually had to be applied while she was still asleep under the influence of barbiturates.
   In August, filming was halted for her to spend a week detoxing in a Los Angeles hospital.
   Despite her problems, Huston stated that when Marilyn was playing Roslyn, she "was not pretending to an emotion. It was the real thing. She would go deep down within herself and find it and bring it up into consciousness."
   So like many of the directors Marilyn had worked with, Houston considered the finished product worth the effort it required to work with her.
   John provided his own set of problems to the filming of the movie. He gambled and drank, and occasionally fell asleep on the set. The production company had to cover some of his gambling losses. He became addicted to camel racing. He tended to shoot (with a gun) things that didn’t work (Huston's car overheated on the drive up to Virginia City via Hwy 341. He "executed" the car by reportedly firing a stunt gun blank into the radiator)... except Marilyn.
   Marilyn and Arthur separated after filming wrapped up, and she was granted a quick divorce in Mexico in January of 1961.
   “The Misfits” was released the following month, on February 1st, 1961, but the film failed at the box office. “The Misfits” cost $4 million ($32,406,979.87 in 2017) to make and made $4.1 million ($33,217,154.36 today) on it’s initial release. It has made more money for United Artists since it came out on DVD.
   Despite poor reviews and on-set difficulties, Gable, Marilyn, Clift and Wallach delivered performances that modern critics consider amazing. Many critics regard Gable's performance to be his finest, and Gable, after seeing the rough cuts, agreed.
   Marilyn received the 1961 Golden Globe Award as "World Film Favorite" in March of 1962, five months before her death. The Directors Guild of America nominated Huston as best director.
   Here’s a clip.
   And here’s a documentary on the making of “The Misfits.”
   And here Arthur speaks of Marilyn.
   Gable suffered a heart attack two days after filming ended and died ten days later, November 16th, 1960, on his 60th birthday. Marilyn and Clift attended the premiere in New York in February 1st, 1961, while Arthur attended with his two children.
   Marilyn later said that she hated the film and her performance in it. 550 days later she was dead of an apparent drug overdose.
   “The Misfits” was the last completed film for both Marilyn and Gable, her childhood screen idol.
   As a child, Marilyn had often fantasized that Clark was her father.
   1448 days after Marilyn died Montgomery Clift passed away on July 23rd, 1966, due to an apparent heart attack in his New York City Town house. He was 45 years old.
   His last words to anyone other than himself were “Absolutely not!” when asked if he wanted to watch “The Misfits,” on television with his private nurse, Lorenzo James, the night before his body was discovered.
   Thelma Ritter died of a heart attack in New York City on February 5th, 1969, nine days before her 67th birthday.
  21 years, 2 months and 5 days after Clift’s death, the director of “The Misfits,” John Houston, died on August 28th, 1987, in his rented home in Middletown, Rhode Island, from pneumonia as a complication of lung disease. He had made 8 other feature film since “The Misfits,” and was 81 years old when he passed.
   17 years, 5 months and 13 days after Houston died, the screenwriter for “The Misfits,” Arthur Miller, died of bladder cancer and congestive heart failure, at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut on February 10th, 2005 (the 56th anniversary of the Broadway debut of “Death of a Salesman”). He was 89 years old.
   My point in relating this time line is to point out that all of the major players involved with Marilyn are now dead (with the possible exception of her half-sister, Berniece Baker Miracle)  Even good old Eli Wallach passed on 1110 days days ago of “natural causes.”
   Sounds suspicious to me.
   Be that as it may, Eli was 98 when he went on to reunite with his fellow cast members in what might be heaven.
   Marilyn was to return to television in an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's short story “Rain” for NBC, but she insisted that Lee Strasberg direct it and the network didn’t want him, so the deal fell through.
   She spent the first six months of 1961 concerned with varied health problems, undergoing surgery for her endometriosis, had a cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder. Who needs a stink’en gallbladder anyway? It just takes up precious space), and spent four weeks in hospital care, including a brief stay in a mental ward for depression.
   I’ve done that. Another thing Marilyn and I have in common.
   Joe helped her through this difficult time and their relationship turned towards being good friends.
   “What good am I? I can't have kids. I can't cook. I've been divorced three times. Who would want me?"
   In the spring she moved back to Los Angeles and bought her first house in Brentwood, where all the rich people live.
   Marilyn got back to work the following year and began to shoot a new film for 20th Century-Fox, “Something's Got to Give,” a re-make of “My Favorite Wife (1940).” It was to be co-produced by MMP, directed by George Cukor and to co-star Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse.
   Days before filming began, Monroe caught sinusitis; despite medical advice to postpone the production, Fox began it as planned in late April.
   Marilyn was too sick to work for the next six weeks, but despite confirmations by multiple doctors, the studio tried to put pressure on her by alleging publicly that she was faking it.
   Tell me, why would she do that?
   She got well enough to do the Kennedy birthday thing.
   When she returned to the set she did a nude swimming pool scene. Fox invited the media to generate publicity for the film. Some of these photographs appeared in “Life” magazine.
   Had “Something's Got to Give” been completed and released as planned, it would have been the first Hollywood motion picture release of the sound era to feature a mainstream star in the nude. Instead, that distinction goes to actress Jayne Mansfield in “Promises! Promises!” (1963).
   When she was again on sick leave for several days, Fox had had enough and decided that it could not afford to have another film running behind schedule when it was already struggling to cover the rising costs of “Cleopatra” (1963).
   On June 7, Fox fired Marilyn and sued her for $750,000 in damages.
   She was replaced by Lee Remick, but after Dean refused to make the film with anyone other than Marilyn, Fox sued him as well and shut down the production.
   The studio blamed Marilyn for the film's demise and began spreading negative publicity about her, even stating that she was mentally disturbed.
   Later Fox took another look at Marilyn and reopened negotiations with her in June; a settlement about a new contract, including re-commencing “Something's Got to Give” and a starring role in the black comedy “What a Way to Go! (1964) (eventually made with  Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Bob Cummings and Dick Van Dyke), was reached.
   On June 1st, 1962, Monroe's 36th birthday, she, Martin and Wally Cox shot a scene in the courtyard set. Monroe's stand-in, Evelyn Moriarty, bought a seven-dollar sheet cake at the Los Angeles Farmers Market. A studio illustrator drew a cartoon of a nude Monroe holding a towel, which read "Happy Birthday (Suit)." It was to be used as a birthday card, and signed by the cast and crew. The cast attempted to celebrate when Marilyn arrived, but director Cukor insisted that they wait until 6:00p.m. (the end of the working day) because he wanted to get a "full day's work out of her."
   It would be Marilyn’s last day on the set. She left the party with Wally Cox, and had borrowed the fur-trimmed grey suit she had worn while filming that day, because she was to attend a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser at Dodger Stadium that evening, with her former husband Joe DiMaggio, and co-star Dean Martin's young son, Dean Paul Martin.
   Here are her last scenes.
   After Marilyn’s death Twentieth Century-Fox overhauled the entire production idea the next year with mostly a new cast and crew and produced their “My Favorite Wife” remake, now entitled “Move Over, Darling,” starring Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen.
   To repair her public image after the barrage of negative publicity Fox had manufactured, Marilyn engaged in several publicity ventures, including interviews for “Life” and “Cosmopolitan” and her first photo shoot for “Vogue."
   For “Vogue,” she and photographer Bert Stern collaborated for two series of photographs, one a standard fashion editorial and another of her posing nude, which were both later published posthumously with the title “The Last Sitting.”
   In the last weeks of her life, she was planning on starring in a biopic of another childhood idle, Jean Harlow.
   “Nothing's ever easy as long as you go on living."
   On August 4th, 1962, a Saturday, Nelson Mandela was captured by South African police. He spent the next 27 years in prison.
   It is also the date that Marilyn Monroe died.
   Marilyn’s agent, Pat Newcomb, stayed over on the Friday before. She says that the actress woke up feeling cranky through lack of sleep, but was excited about a delivery of furniture from Mexico. When her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, arrived at 8:30am, she claimed Marilyn was already up, tiling the floor.
   Newcomb awoke at noon, and she and Monroe argued, apparently over Newcomb's ability to sleep in, but it was soon resolved. Pat says they planned to sunbathe by Marilyn’s pool, then maybe join the actor Peter Lawford and his wife Pat for supper.
   Some time during that Saturday morning, Marilyn’s mood changed. She was unsettled by the arrival of a stuffed toy in the post with no note. There was a flurry of phone calls. Murray recalls Monroe asking if they kept oxygen in the house, an odd request. Shevey believes that Marilyn  had begun to fear for her life, aware that she was a political liability. "John F Kennedy was going to run for a second term, Jackie had to be happy with all of it. They needed Marilyn out of the picture."
   Newcomb went out shopping, and said Marilyn was upbeat when she returned. But her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, who had arrived for his daily visit, claims Marilyn was in a highly emotional condition.
   Greenson asked Newcomb to leave, and then asked Murray to stay overnight with Marilyn. He left at 7pm. Marilyn took the phone into her bedroom and Murray claims she never saw her alive again. Lawford says he rang Monroe at 7.30pm and she sounded depressed and slurred. He claims she said, "Say goodbye to the President and say goodbye to yourself, because you're a nice guy," before her voice faded out. However, his view is contradicted by Joe DiMaggio Jr, the son of her second husband, who says he phoned her at 7:30pm to tell her he was breaking off an engagement she disapproved of. He says Marilyn welcomed the news.
   Later that night, Marilyn was found dead. Murray woke up and claims she saw a light under the door. Concerned that something terrible had happened, she called Greenson at 3:30am. They peered into Monroe's bedroom window and saw her naked body. Greenson says he broke in with a fireplace poker, before ringing Marilyn's physician, Dr Hyman Engelberg.
   The Los Angeles County Coroners Office was assisted in their investigation of Marilyn’s death by psychiatrists from the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Team.
   It was estimated that she had died between 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., the day before and the toxicology report later revealed that the cause of death was acute barbiturate poisoning. She had 8 mg% (milligrams per 100 milliliters of solution) chloral hydrate and 4.5 mg% of pentobarbital (Nembutal) in her blood, and a further 13 mg% of pentobarbital in her liver.
   Empty bottles containing these medicines were found next to her bed. The possibility that Marilyn had accidentally overdosed was ruled out, because the dosages found in her body were several times over the lethal limit, in other words she took too much for it to be an accident. 
   Her doctors stated that she had been prone to "severe fears and frequent depressions" with "abrupt and unpredictable" mood changes, and had overdosed several times in the past, possibly intentionally. Due to these facts and the lack of any indication of foul play, the coroner classified her death as a probable suicide.
   Marilyn’s sudden death was front-page news in the United States and Europe.  According to American author and professor of history Lois Banner, "it's said that the suicide rate in Los Angeles doubled the month after she died; the circulation rate of most newspapers expanded that month," and the Chicago Tribune reported that they had received hundreds of phone calls from members of the public requesting information about her death.
   French artist Jean Cocteau commented that her death "should serve as a terrible lesson to all those, whose chief occupation consists of spying on and tormenting film stars," her former co-star Laurence Olivier deemed her "the complete victim of ballyhoo and sensation," and “Bus Stop” director Joshua Logan stated that she was "one of the most unappreciated people in the world".
   Her funeral, held at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on August 8th, was private and attended by only her closest associates.
   The service was arranged by Joe DiMaggio and his business manager Inez Melson.
   Hundreds of spectators crowded the streets around the cemetery.
   Marilyn was later interred at crypt No. 24 in the Corridor of Memories.
   In the decades afterwards, several conspiracy theories were introduced about her death, including murder and accidental overdose.
   The murder speculations first gained mainstream attention with the publication of Norman Mailer's “Marilyn: A Biography” in 1973, and in the following years became widespread enough for the Los Angeles County District Attorney, John Van de Kamp, to conduct a "threshold investigation" in 1982 to see whether a criminal investigation should be opened.
   Who would have murdered Marilyn? Many theories abound.
   She could have been murdered by Robert Kennedy, JFK's younger brother. The idea is that Robert panicked when Marilyn threatened to reveal her affair with JFK, and had her killed by lethal injection. Another theory is that he became her lover, and killed her to protect his career. He insisted he was in San Francisco on the night she died, but there were witness sightings of him in Los Angeles - even entering Monroe's house.
   Well there you go! It must have been RFK.
   Or could have been his dad, Joseph Kennedy, who was afraid that Marilyn would wreck his son JFK's campaign to be re-elected.
   Or a member of the Rat Pack, to protect the Kennedys.
   Or the Mafia, to blackmail the Kennedys after JFK declared war on organized crime.
   Or right wing nationalists, disturbed by the Kennedys' liberal agenda, or even as punishment for Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur Miller, a Communist sympathizer.
   Or the FBI: documents revealed that Marilyn was one of a number of stars the FBI kept files on after applying for Russian visa.
   Or Fidel Castro, in retaliation for attempts to assassinate him.
   Or the CIA, to get even with the Bay of Pigs disaster (what?!)
   I maintain that in most instances the simplest explanation is the one that is correct (Occam's Razor), so it is my contention that aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from, abducted Marilyn leaving a dead clone in her place. They obviously whisked her off to one of Tralfamadore’s satellite moons where they used her mercilessly for their own sick and perverted purposes. 
   Little alien bastards!
   It doesn’t really matter now. She is gone.
   So is JFK, RFK,  Joseph Kennedy, the Rat Pack, Thomas Eboli, Edwin Walker, J. Edgar Hoover, Fidel Castro, John McCone, and in the distant future the Tralfamadorians and the entire universe due to a Tralfamadorian test pilot experimenting with fuel.
   No evidence of foul play has ever been found.
   “The nicest thing for me is sleep, then at least I can dream.”
   Here’s Marilyn’s last audio interview in July of 1962 for “Life” magazine.
   Here’s the actual article.
   Here’s the documentary “Marilyn on Marilyn.”
   When she died in 1962, Marilyn had an estate valued at $1.6 million (worth $12,954,913.91 today). She gave most of it to her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, and another large portion to Dr. Marianne Kris, her psychoanalyst. She also left a trust fund to her mother that offered about $5,000 per year.
   “You know, most people really don't know me.”
   Ahead of her time in many ways, Marilyn was an early convert to yoga. She even took lessons from Swedish-Russian Bollywood film star Indra Devi, who also taught Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson.
   “My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night, I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.”
   Marilyn Monroe has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the McDonalds restaurant on the 6700 block of Hollywood Blvd.
   This  is a link to a website that features Marilyn.
   “Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”
   Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did