Missing Marilyn Monroe in a time of Kardashians
There she is, on Page C2 of this morning’s New York Times. I got to her late, after first finishing The Post and all the other news of the day –the Greek crisis and the Goldman Sachs crisis and the crisis in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel –turning the pages fast, skimming, cheating, trying real hard to remember it all, when suddenly there is this incandescent beauty and I stop. I look. I study the thumbnail photo. A book of her letters is being published. It will contain personal stuff –about how she was reading about Italian Renaissance art and also the letters she wrote when she was locked in the Payne Whitney psychiatric clinic in New York. She was terminally crazy.
I miss Monroe. I live in a world of Kardashians. I don’t even know who they are exactly or how many of them there are. I think there must be dozens –the same (or similar) woman over and over again on the cover of magazines I see in the doctor’s office or in the supermarket. I hear their name while sitting in airport lounges where the TV is always on, and on the morning shows where they are mentioned without explanation: just the Kardashians, as if am supposed to already know all about them.
A friend tells me that the Kardashians have a reality TV show. Who doesn’t? What do they do? Have I ever seen them in a movie? Did they once cut a record? Are they on Dancing With The Stars, one Karsdashian dancing with another? Have they singularly or in total lost an incredible amount of weight or overcome an addiction? Do they hoard -- obsessively, compulsively, filling the house and the garage and the backyard with junk and stuff? Did they put their kid in a balloon and call the local TV station? Did they go out to the movies and return to find their home had been demolished and they now had a new one? Are they Jersey housewives, real or synthetic? Are any of their boyfriends or husbands carpeted with tattoos and known to have a hankering for bondage ladies? I don’t know. I am merely rattling off things I have seen from the corner of my eye.
Monroe is of a different era, I know. We knew so little about her when she was alive –nothing, really, about her craziness. Her life was interesting, literary. She was always on a quest for self-improvement. She thirsted for knowledge. Her men did not sport tattoos. She married the great Joe DiMaggio. She married the greater Arthur Miller. They were both difficult men, but they both played at the top of their game, titans both. Marilyn had other men, lovers and friends and intellectual mentors, but I’d like to think they were all of the quality of Elia Kazan, the great stage and screen director who wrote tenderly about Monroe in his memoir, “A Life.” She came to see him one night and announced she was engaged to DiMaggio. “I’m not going to see you again,” she told him -- and then slept with him for the last time.
I look at the thumbnail photo in the newspaper. It pops beauty, a refreshing beauty, a clean beauty, a beauty divorced from ripped jeans or too much bodice or suggestive talk. Monroe, I know, is the past. The Kardashians are the present. This, too, is a crisis.
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