Crossed Lines at the Cal-Neva

This has been the most delicious holiday of my life.  I’m rested, I’m relaxed, I’m at peace. If the time came that I was to supply a “How I spent my Christmas holiday” essay, I could boil it down rather easily.

Eat. Sleep. Family. Gift Giving/Receiving. Drink. Walk. Cuddle. Research. Blog. Tidy. Organize. Putter. Pinterest. 


It started innocently enough. I had a Pinterest account, but with very few pins.  My computer does happen to be teeming to various images. I search, click and save pictures in the hope that one day I might need them.  To this day, I can not find this adorable picture of a young Bill Murray with a scarf, so now I save everything.  Occasionally, I’d cast off an unused image to Pinterest, not yet understanding the wealth of imagery in store.


My husband got a new video game for Christmas.  Once home from my parents place, Benjamin really wanted to clock some hours.  I was happily scouring the internet for the last blog entry, “Vintage Grudge Match”.  Between researching biographies, taking notes, writing and searching for photographs, afternoon passed into evening, which then passed into night, then into the darkest side of the following morning.  This may not sound productive, but it really was. Creating a palatable aesthetic for the blog takes time.  And in this recent period I have hit pay-dirt, finding some pretty exceptional snapshots.


I received some nice compliments about the last post; people were into the rehashing of Old Hollywood feuds and dusty bits of gossip.  That thrills me to no end, because I had the most fun delving into these lives.  There are other lives I’d like to look into. If that suits the reader, that suits me.  After all, I’ve been lounging around in yoga pants, drinking coffee and Baileys and mucking around on Pinterest for the last week, nothing’s happening to me that’s worth mentioning.  Finding these vintage paparazzi shots, those wonderful glimpses into the personal lives of others, have led to endless fascination, too many hours of obsessive reading, which suits my husband just fine, there’s a war going on inside the television, and he’s busy fighting in it.


Nancy Reagan and Mr T? ….what? How have I gone my whole life and not seen this picture? I like how Mr T takes on the Santa Claus look, but brings in his own flavor to the ensemble with the sleevelessness and the gold chains.  Feels perfectly normal for Nancy to cop a squat on your lap as you hand out action figures molded to your likeness.


Jack Nicholson…meet The Monkees.  Got to wonder how this meeting came to be.  Did Jack burst in on The Monkees all like “Here’s Johnny!…but seriously, could you play “Last Train to Clarksville?”


The Monkees look uncomfortable here.  And if you’ve ever seen the opening credits to their television program, you know that the boys could get downright wacky.  Micky gets into a bathtub on wheels for cripes sake! And then Jack Nicholson bursts into their green room for a little jam sesh and all the guys look like they just got caught masturbating by their wives.  It doesn’t get anymore uncomfortable than this…until two hours and approximately thirty years later.


This looks like the waiting room in hell. Sure, Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson, totally conceivable to see them in a room together, the creepy clown entourage…that comes with the territory.  Just kicking back with Jon Stewart over a few beers? How does that even happen?  Speaking of how the hell do things happen…who talked Meryl Streep into this catty one piece?  But that’s the power of the Streep, give her a stool and a broken cigarette and she’ll still get Oscar buzz.


Social activist Martin Luther King having a laugh with Rat Pack entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.  In 1960  Davis married May Britt, a white woman.  Interracial marriages were illegal in 31 states, but it was perfectly legal in the state of New York.  Regardless, Frank Sinatra (a major supporter of Kennedy) was concerned that it would the future presidents chances at the polls; he insisted that Davis hold his wedding after the election took place.  And even afterwards, he was stricken from the list of performers for Kennedy’s inaugural ball. He was also bombarded with hate mail for years to come.  Years later, Davis caught a lot of criticism for hugging President Nixon, startling him during a live television broadcast.  Yes you can, Sammy Davis Jr? No actually you can’t.


I can’t decide what I like most about this picture: that Roy Orbison is being pampered and fed by the Beatles, or the little kid at the bottom of this photo who at that present time is having a stroke from all the awesome going around in his living room.


What I love about this picture in that you just know Cher has told Val Kilmer is to keep his mullet long and his trap shut.   She’s looking so engaged with this unseen individual, and Kilmer looks like he’s just bursting with fruit flavour with something over there.  A carefully constructed comment, an intelligent insight,  but more likely “Cher and I had sex and now we are in love!”


Marilyn and Frank.  While these two never officially dated, they were old-school ‘friends with benefits’.  After Monroe and DiMaggio split, she came to stay with Frank (around the same time Sinatra was breaking up with dancer Juliet Prowse).  According to biographers they were strictly platonic until one morning when Sinatra came into the kitchen where Monroe was standing naked in from of the fridge looking for juice.  She said something along the lines of “Frankie–I didn’t think you’d be up so early”, and he responded by giving her a good rogering up against said refrigerator.  (He doesn’t usually get up that early, but can be easily encouraged).


Frank was a good friend, but he’d never commit to being her full-time partner.  Monroe had wanted him to marry her, in a way to keep her safe, but Sinatra had his limits.  Monroe was not a low-maintenance gal, and famously needy. Just a week before Monroe died, she spent a weekend at the Cal-Neva Lodge, a casino that Frank Sinatra allegedly co-owned with mobster Sam Giancana. Amongst historians, this time is often known as “The Lost Weekend”.

mm CalNevaCollage2

Marilyn was in a bad place. She had been fired from “Something’s Got to Give”, and had been dumped by Bobby Kennedy after being cast aside by John F. Kennedy.  She had sung her infamous “Happy Birthday Mr President”, in May of that year, and it was such a blatant insult to Jackie Kennedy that she refused to attend her husband’s birthday celebration.   (Bonus fun fact: Audrey Hepburn, who dated him briefly in the early 1950’s sang to JFK the following year).  By that weekend in July of 1962, both men had stopped returning Marilyn’s calls.  She had legitimately believed that one of those fine Catholic husbands intended to leave their wives and children for her.  She saw herself as the first lady; as a political wife.


Marilyn had allegedly called Jackie to confess to the affair, and of her intentions. Jackie replied “Marilyn, you’ll marry Jack, that’s great. And you’ll move into the White House and you’ll assume the responsibility of the first lady, and I’ll move out and you’ll have all the problems”.  Only Jackie could be that cool under those circumstances.  Then again, she was more than aware of JFK’s rampant infidelity, and of Marilyn’s reputation. But out of all the President’s lovers, his relationship with this famous sex symbol was nearly too much to bear.  Even though Jackie herself was unimpressed with JFK’s sexual bravado, telling a longtime confidant: “he goes too fast and falls asleep”.  There were rumors that Monroe had fallen pregnant, but didn’t know which brother was responsible.  According to FBI documents, she was encouraged by Bobby to have an abortion, which she did on July 20, 1962.  Monroe was unraveling, and those involved with the Kennedy’s were deeply concerned that a rejected and unhinged Monroe would hold a press conference and reveal all.


On July 28, 1962, Monroe arrived at the Cal-Neva Lodge and Casino, a grand getaway that straddled the state lines of Nevada and California.


She arrived with Peter Lawford, whom she was not speaking to due to his Kennedy affiliations (though ironically, he was one of the last people she ever spoke to, he called to invite her to a party the night she died). They used Sinatra’s private plane but by the end of the weekend she was sent home in the same fashion.  Though she started off in good spirits, Monroe was like a water main fixing to burst, especially as the champagne and prescription cocktail began its toxic tailspin.  She was getting sloppy, making scenes, spilling secrets, she even overdosed in her famed Cabin 3. Apparently Sinatra had given photographers strict instructions to not snap them together;  Marilyn kept trying to…well photo-bomb him, which really ticked off Old Blue Eyes. As the weekend went on, she became increasingly intoxicated, obnoxious and indiscreet. Sinatra had to get rid of her.

sinatra stare

Like her death, the details about this weekend is shrouded in mystery.  This was her last public appearance, these are the last pictures of Monroe alive.  Depending on who you ask, Marilyn died at the Cal-Neva, in the famous round bed that was tossed in a dumpster after Sinatra sold the establishment.   Conspiracy theorists think it would have been easy enough.  With the combined forces of Sinatra, the Mafia and the Kennedy’s, moving a body would be easier than a quick game of golf, or a scotch and a cig whilst crooning with Dean and the crew.

cal neva

The Cal-Neva had once burned down, and all that remained of the previous structure was tunnels that ran under the buildings.  Many secrets passed along those passageways, mistresses, booze…why not a body?  With Sinatra at the helm, with his heli-pad and mafia connections, anything was possible.  His lodge and casino was made to be a secret celebrity playground where the press would never get wind of the kinky hi-jinks.

What the agents couldn’t see was what went on inside the Cal-Neva’s secluded bungalows after the opening night party had ended. Momo Giancana reportedly told his brother that he had been present at a Kennedy brothers slumber party that night at the Cal-Neva Casino. “The men,” he said, “had sex with prostitutes, sometimes two or more at a time, in bath-tubs, hallways, closets, on floors,almost everywhere but the bed.”(Quoted from the FBI Frank Sinatra files).

sinatra jfk

Wow, you could really count on Sinatra being the best-ever host. Except if Frank gets even a hint that you are going to die on his premises, in his presence, he will have you removed.  And apparently Frank had no tolerance for narcotics, which was a problem for Marilyn as she carried a pharmacy at the bottom of her purse.

According to an article in the Daily Mail:

The list of drugs she was using by 1961 was staggering. She was taking the antipsychotic Thorazine for the borderline paranoid schizophrenia diagnosed by Dr Greenson, as well as the narcotic painkiller Demerol and barbiturates Phenobarbital, HMC and Amytal, along with large quantities of Nembutal, to which she was addicted, to help her sleep.  There were 15 bottles of pills on Marilyn’s night table when she died. She’d also developed the alarming habit of giving herself injections. A source who was very close to her recalls the concoction was of Phenobarbital, Nembutal and Seconal. ‘Marilyn referred to it as a vitamin shot,’ said the source. ‘Afterwards she would be gone, no longer able to function.’

mm sinatraIt was these ‘vitamin shots’ that drove Sinatra over the edge.  The President taking on two prostitutes at a time in the hall closet, that’s one thing…to stick a pin in your pills so it will get into your blood stream faster–that’s worth firing up the chopper over.  But in fairness, Sinatra had his allies to protect, and at the end of her life Marilyn was a danger to herself and those around her.

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Of course, there’s many theories about Monroe’s death, the many powerhouse players: The Kennedy’s, the Mafia, Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, right down to her housekeeper Eunice, her publicist Pat Newcomb, (who went on to work for the Kennedy’s), and Dr Ralph Greenson, her psychiatrist.  Eunice called Greenson before she called the police. Another detail to fuel the conspiracy fire; Eunice had been fired once by Monroe, and Dr Greenson told her to rehire her.  Eunice had asked for holiday time for that August, and Monroe paid her for her time and asked her not to return after that holiday.  Marilyn paid her for her time, and Eunice’s  last day of employment was the last day of Monroe’s life.  Eunice tried to cash this cheque, written the day of Monroe’s passing, days after the death, but to no avail.


Greenson, arguably one of the last people to see Monroe alive, claimed to have broken a bedroom window in her Brentwood Hacienda because he saw her body through the glass.   Apparently Marilyn’s bedroom had  heavy curtains that were closed, and that the doctor couldn’t have possibly seen her past the thick fabric.  There were rumors that she died in hospital, but was brought back home by ambulance.  A former Monroe lover claimed to have spoken with her on the phone; but she put the phone down to check on a disturbance, and never came back.  This was around 9pm, and coroner’s reports claim that she died somewhere between 9 and 11pm.  On that night, there was a significant buzz of concern around Monroe; someone had called her lawyer, who then called Monroe’s house. He spoke with Eunice who claimed that Marilyn was fine without actually checking on her.


Eunice was the keeper of information who couldn’t keep a story straight if her life depended on it.  She said the door was locked, and then later said there was no lock on the door, she said she saw a light on in the middle of the night, which was also impossible as the carpeting was thick and imposing.  She first said no one was there, then later said Bobby Kennedy arrived on the scene with two mysterious men.  Then when police did show up, Marilyn was face-down in the pillow, her body straight as an arrow, as if she had been placed there. And there’s Eunice, doing a load of laundry in the middle of the night, which is the queerest thing: (Hey lady, your boss is dead, you don’t have to clean anymore).  Over the years, she changed her story a number of times, wrote a book, was interviewed for a documentary and was overheard making a remark about ‘still having to cover things up’.  Nobody followed up on that, and she died in 1994, taking the truth to her grave.

mm bedroomThere are holes in stories, dangerous affiliates, an incorrectly done autopsy, sloppy police work…there’s reason to believe that Marilyn was murdered, or that there was a cover up.  Then again, this was a woman with a history of overdoses and suicide attempts who gave herself barbiturate enemas based on advice from Mae West.  Not to say she was suicidal either.  She had just signed a multi-million dollar contract, and was rehired to complete “Something’s Got to Give”–which was a rather appropriate title, given her condition.

mm frank 2

Joe DiMaggio claimed her body and took great pains to exclude Sinatra and the rest of Hollywood from the funeral services.  While Sinatra took equal measures to distance himself from Monroe, he arrived at the Westwood Village Mortuary Chapel on August 8 in an $800 black suit, but was turned away by security.  In the years that followed, Sinatra was heavily criticized, that he had the means to save her life but he turned her away, as had everyone else. But the thing about Marilyn is that girlfriend couldn’t even help herself. And you can’t help someone who can’t help themselves. She was doomed long before the Lost Weekend.  Said George Jacobs, valet at Cal-Neva:

Frank Sinatra didn’t know what to think about any of it. He was upset, though. He loved Marilyn, yes. But for her to maybe die at Cal-Neva while he was there? That would have been terrible. So he said: ‘Get her out of here and get her out of here now.’ And that was it. We had to do what he said. I mean, the woman was sick. But as compassionate as Sinatra was, he had a line and she crossed it.”

Marilyn-and-Frank-Sinatra-marilyn-monroe-15189170-875-700All Images Courtesy of Google

One thought on “Crossed Lines at the Cal-Neva

  1. Pingback: Faith Tones & the Freak Show Circuit | "Pin Up Picks Pen Up"

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