Exclusive Interview with Marilyn Monroe’s Agent Michael Selsman
Michael Selsman is a Hollywood legend, a behind the scenes powerbroker that falls in to the category the most powerful people you never heard of, Micheal during his career in Hollywood represented many stars, none more notable than Marilyn Monroe.
Michael has been a friend of mine for over a decade, he has some fascinating insights in to Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy’s and many more, check out his book, All is Vanity: Memoirs of a Hollywood Operative
We were lucky enough to get some time with Micheal and ask some questions about his time with Marilyn Monroe.
Q. Controversy still exists about Marilyn Monroe’s death. Is that the one question you’re always asked about?
A: It is. As far as I know, I’m the last man standing that actually represented her, and I was right in the middle of the media storm surrounding her affair with the president, Jack Kennedy, and his brother, Robert. Everyone in the media knew about the Kennedy brother’s many trips to Hollywood – that’s where the girls were. But no one talked about it – Today, it would be front page news.
Q: So what was the speculation about her demise?
A: I addressed all the rumors, some outrageous, some silly, about who did what, where, and possibly how, in my memoirs, called, “All is Vanity,” which was published in a revised edition, last December, by Troika Publishing. “She was murdered by the Kennedy’s, because Jack told her the ‘real’ story of Area 51, where the U.S. government carried out experiments on the aliens who had landed on a spaceship – and were afraid she’d reveal it. Or, “The Mafia murdered her, because she was a conduit between the Kennedy’s and Sam Giancana, the real Godfather.” Or, ”She committed suicide because her career was over, having been fired from her last film, by 20th Century-Fox.” Or…Or…
Q: What do you think happened?
A: In my opinion, it was an inadvertent suicide. She was a drug addict and a drunk. Many people in Hollywood were hooked on sleeping pills and hypnotics. Taken together with alcohol, it’s easy to lose track of how many pills you’ve taken – that can slow one’s metabolism to the point you forget to breathe. Besides, she had attempted suicide many times before, and managed to call someone to ‘rescue’ her.
Q: Why did the Los Angeles Coroner take a record 13 days to make a report?
A: It was a controversial death, investigated by the police, the FBI, and for all we know, the CIA – a movie star, her involvement with the Kennedy’s, which had to come out to the public with her death – whether, as some have speculated, her organs were stolen, or needle marks had to be found for phantom injections, the fact that her housekeeper was washing the sheets she had been found on when the police arrived at 3 am, the conflicting reports by her psychiatrist and her internist as to her prescriptions – 13 of which were on her nightstand – all gave the rumors potential credence.
Q: Why, 50-some years after her death, is she still an icon?
A: It’s a mystery to me. She’s more popular today than she ever was when she was alive. Fortune magazine said she earned $50 million last year – that was more than she made in her lifetime. I’m always amazed when I do book signings, or at interviews, how many young people, principally girls, are her fans. I’ve even met young actresses who swear they are the reincarnation of her.
Q: You’ve been involved with some famous names. Was Marilyn Monroe difficult to work with?
A: I never looked forward to working with her. At the time, I also represented Judy Garland, who also died young. Both had tragic lives, beginning with their childhoods. I remember being in my car, going from Judy’s house, to Monroe’s, wondering at the difference. Judy was, at the time, married to a guy would beat her up – she would always say her black eye or bruise was a result of her bumping into a door. Judy was also into drugs and booze, but unfailingly, she was kind to me. Monroe, on the other hand, could be cruel, and would keep me waiting – even threatening to ‘have my job”. Judy was immensely talented. Monroe was an adequate actress That Judy is less remembered will always be an enigma for me.
Q: What are some of the other rumors about Monroe?
A: I was very good friends with the late New York Herald Tribune columnist, Joe Hyams, who seemed to have spies in all the wrong places. Among them, he had a paid informant in the Coroner’s office. Apparently, he said, those who choose to work with dead people have peculiarities – among them, necrophilia. Seems logical, since the pay scale is low. As Joe related to me, he was told that whenever a young, unmarked body came in, female – or male – the call would go out to the other branches, and they would line up. According to what Joe was told, at least 10 people had sex with Monroe’s corpse before the autopsy. Sex with the world’s sex symbol?
Makes up for the low salary, I guess. I suppose that was true, as well, for Natalie Wood, who died of drowning.
Q: How did you personally feel about Marilyn’s Death?
I felt sad she was dead. After all, there really was no Marilyn Monroe; it was only an invention, a fictional character. If so, who, really, was dead? Marilyn Monroe was an empty suit, that whoever was playing her left inside the door when she came home. Like Superman, who was really Clark Kent – or was it the other way around – the scared girl-woman, home alone at night, only became powerful when she put on the Marilyn Monroe suit. Thus, stalwartly dressed, she could influence the world. She could make mighty studios tremble; she could bring dominant, academy-award-winning directors like Billy Wilder to tears. She could keep the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States, infatuated and distracted from his sworn job of taking care of the rest of us. She could terrorize stupid kids like me. Talk about living a double life. How could she, she probably wondered, be so weak and so strong at the same time? I would have been confused too.
Q: Do you feel that men used Monroe?
A: She was known to say that she had been passed around like a piece of meat at Hollywood parties. In the early days, movies were always made outdoors. Actresses feared rainy days, because they couldn’t shoot – that was the beginning of the casting couch. It still exists. Although Monroe was ‘used’ by men, she also did the ‘using.’ She used her first husband, Jimmy Dougherty, to avoid going back to the orphanage. She used Johnny Hyde, a top William Morris agent, to introduce her to producers and directors. Hyde, smitten, left his wife and small children to be with her and she eventually dumped him. He never got over it. Then, Joe Di Maggio, and Arthur Miller. But she always ended up alone.
Q: Do you think there was there a connection between the White House and the Mafia?
A: I was also at the time, representing a young actress named Judy Campbell. I was aware she was one of JFK’s close personal ‘associates,’ but I later found out that she was also a girlfriend of Sam Giancana. I didn’t know about the Chicago connection until years later, when several investigative reporters revealed it. Did Judy transfer messages? When you consider that Jack Kennedy’s father, Joe, was a bootlegger in the 20s, and associated with crime figures then, the connection between the White House and Chicago becomes less of a fantasy. And then there were those rumors that Illinois was delivered to the Kennedy camp in the general election.