The cavernous arena is electric, its walls vibrating with applause one moment, laughter the next. Yet at the end of one of its long hallways and sitting behind a closed door is a woman having an experience all her own. Just minutes earlier, she had breezed through a crowd of onlookers and backstage technicians with a confident smile and a glamorous way. At this moment, however, while waiting for a drink she’d requested of a stagehand, she seems to shiver with apprehension. “They’re making fun of me,” she tells the young man as he offers her a glass of New York City tap water. “Listen.” But he can’t follow her direction, for he is too taken aback by how her eyes are locked on his . . . how she is talking to him . . . and how she is . . . Marilyn Monroe. Indeed, even though he shook hands with the president of the United States less than an hour ago, this is the moment he will always treasure.

Moments earlier, the woman was an emotional wreck, confused and panicked when she popped her head out of her dressing room to ask him for the favor of a drink. But now she is looking to him for something altogether different. Perspective. Reassurance. Maybe even wisdom. After it’s clear that he is nearly immobilized by her presence, she drops her look of concern and smiles knowingly. After all, he’s just another one, and she knows it—another one of the millions of men who love her. One thing he doesn’t know, however, is something that might surprise him: She loves him back.

By May 19, 1962, Marilyn Monroe had whittled down her circle of close friends to a precious few—or perhaps the circumstances of her life had done it for her. Along the way, there had been many who tried to talk her through her bouts of anxiety or paranoia.

Tags: Books