Marilyn Dorothy Ava

 

“Fame will go by and, so long, I’ve had you, fame. If it goes by, I’ve always known it was fickle. So at least it’s something I experienced, but that’s not where I live.”

Marilyn Monroe

 

It was 1961 and Marilyn Monroe had not made a picture since her divorce from Arthur Miller.

In New York Miss Norma quietly tried to rebuild her life as she closed off communication with 20th Century Fox and she concentrated on her studies at the Actors Studio hoping to fill her noisy mind with something positive.

Despite all her efforts at busyness she was having a hard time coping, traveling back and forth from New York to California as if hells dogs were nipping at her heels.

This of course interfered with her sleeping patterns and as before she started relying on prescription sleeping pills and alcohol again to get through the long days and nights.

I could not convince her to visit Mother Z again she wanted to be true to the only positive thing she gained from the marriage to Arthur Miller which was accepting the Jewish faith.

One of her close Hollywood friends Sammy Davis Jr. had turned to this religion as well and she took great stock in what he believed as well as owning up to the idea that somehow Christian faith had let her down.

Since we were friends we could openly discuss our opinions about what we believed in, even if we agreed to disagree.

Miss Norma would try to explain the draw she felt for the dignified and respectable way Jewish people carried themselves and her praise for the famous Jewish physicist Albert Einstein.

Her admiration for him knew no bounds because he was head above the crowd for his intellectual writings which she endeavored to understand in her thirst to better herself.

It was a bond she felt between the alikeness of the ways Negro’s and Jews had always been treated (a true statement if ever I heard one and it was one I had heard from my parents growing up.)

Knowing how she always rooted for the underdog and identified with oppressed folks, I could not fault her in what she believed and as always made sure to keep her name upon my lips in my nightly conversations with the Lord.

Every girl knows the best way to get over a man is to surround yourself with your best girl pals and none fit that bill like Miss Norma’s fellow actress friend Ava Gardner.

Up until this point I had not met her and had only heard stories of the high jinks those two would get up to whenever they hung out in Hollywood.

Some were innocent pranks like shopping without their bloomers being totally unaware of the scandalous looks of the clerks and later getting angry calls from the studio head pleading with them to have some decency.

There were other more serious capers like the one that verged on a charge and arrest of disturbing the peace.

They’d both had too much to drink and decided to heckle Ava’s husband, the singer Frank Sinatra who was appearing in Las Vegas at the Desert Inn.

The studio was not able to hush up the unladylike headline documenting a sloppy Ava yelling out to the maître de “Great idea. Call the police. Call the fucking police!”

To her credit Marilyn looked just slightly less drunk and her side of the story was that Frank was two timing Ava and got found out.

And like they always said about Hollywood no publicity is bad publicity and soon enough things righted themselves.

Like Marilyn Monroe she had married young and divorced three times and she too battled feelings of insecurity about her acting and inability to hold on to a marriage.

Her sizzle factor heated up the screen and her private life as well. She was known for her outspokenness and sharp tongue. She was just the sort of friend a vulnerable Norma Jeane needed at the time.

When she was in California Miss Norma was under the care of a psychiatrist Doctor Greenson whom she adored and looked up to as a father figure.

Teasingly she always called him by the slang name “shrink” since he was helping her to shrink her problems.  They were extremely close and she often had dinner with him and his family.

Marilyn was no stranger to doctors for both her physical well-being and emotional needs. It was her New York psychiatrist Dr. Kriss that referred her to Dr. Greenson.

Since 1957 she had been under her care and often after class at the Actors Studio she would go to her shrink appointment which was very convenient since the doctor worked out of her apartment which was in the same building.

Adding to Miss Norma’s already unsteady frame of mind was the death of her co-star from her last film “The Misfits.”

The passing of Clark Gable was a cruel reminder of those horrible days in Nevada when she realized life with Mr. Arthur was over and Clark’s death was the nail in the coffin.

Dr. Kriss scheduled time away at a clinic in the hopes that being out of the public eye would allow Miss Norma a much needed time of rest.

I was spending the weekend helping her prepare for her extended time away.

I would also take her dog Maf back home with me since she was not allowed to bring him with her.

When I arrived that Saturday morning Miss Norma announced she had two surprises for me. Despite her worries it was me she was thinking about which was typical of her friendship.

The first surprise was that I would be doing “no cooking even though I know how much she and Miss Dorothy loved my chitlins.”

The second surprise was that a good friend that specialized in southern cooking was in charge of all the food.

On the menu was fried chicken, mashed potatoes and secret, special red eye gravy.

Looking back it was like Miss Norma was preparing to eat a last meal as if she were a condemned man.

It turns out that Ava Gardner was in the city especially for Miss Norma and had flown in from her home in Spain where she had been living since her divorce from Frank Sinatra.

Miss Norma was in high spirits that Friday night looking forward to some rest and relaxation secluded away from the headlines.

Headlines that hinted it was her fault that Clark Gable had died of a heart attack due to delays of filming because of tardiness.

A weight was lifted off her shoulders by a phone call from Mr. Joe assuring her he was there for her “if” he was needed and a warm call from Kay Gable telling her not to believe any of the poison from the press.

That Saturday was typical New York winter weather, there was not a lot of snow but it was mighty chilly with occasional burst of flurries.

From the apartment window you could see folks going about their usual task bundled up like all get out from head to toe.

The reason I knew this is because Miss Norma kept urging me to look out the window to see if the car had pulled up.

No sooner than I would shake my head no she would ask me to look again.

Seeing color back in her face and hearing her laugh there was no way I could get irritated with her and soon it became a joke to run to the window every second to the slightest sound from the street.

I was so busy hamming it up that I actually missed seeing our guests arrive and the next thing we knew there came the sound of laughter and bumbling of groceries thudded against the door as two voices echoed.

Open up dolls it ain’t the police!

In came the delivery boys bearing boxes of various liquors and grocery bags full to the brim with goodies followed by Miss Dorothy rubbing her cold hands together and shrugging out of her coat.

Right beside her a vision in fur grabbed Miss Norma in a bear hug as she proclaimed “it’s colder than a witches’ tit out there!”

And that was my first encounter with Ava Gardner.

 

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