YOUR MAMAS NOTES: This pretty, hacienda style casa in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles that recently hit the market with an asking price of $3,595,000 is not currently owned by a celebrity. It was however, once owned by the voluptuous, legendary, and deeply insecure super star Marilyn Monroe. It is, in fact, the very house in which a 36 year old Miss Monroe met her untimely end in August of 1962 due to an (alleged) drug overdose.
The 5th Helena Drive dwelling has a rather complicated history littered with ownership gaps, rumors, and conspiracy theories that Your Mama will to try to sort out, synthesize and condense as best as we can into a bite sized nugget.
It the early 1960s Miss Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortenson and baptized Norma Jean Baker, and her dedicated housekeeper Eunice Murray went a’hunting for a home in Tinseltown. Some reports say that the enigmatic and unstable Miss Monroe craved a crib with a similar vibe as the Brentwood home of her long-time psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson. In addition to Miss Monroe, Mister Greenson, a prominent and accomplished head shrinker, reportedly also treated the likes of Tony Curtis and Frank Sinatra.
Anyhoo, in late 1961 Miss Monroe and Miss Murray came upon a modest Monterey Spanish casa perfectly and privately situated behind tall gates at the tail end of a tiny and quiet cul–de-sac. Most reports indicate Miss Monroe purchased the property for less than $90,000 and in March of 1962, she took a mortgage for which she made monthly payments of $320.
The single story, white stucco and red tile roofed house house was built in 1929 and at the time Miss Monroe purchased the property included just 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms plus a detached guest house. Miss Monroe reportedly used one of the bedrooms for herself, the second one for her dedicated housekeeper Eunice Murray and the third for a “telephone room.” There was, and still is, an essentially but not quite kidney shaped swimming pool in the backyard that Miss Monroe allegedly never used.
Miss Monroe, internationally beloved but psychically isolated and emotionally needy, threw herself into making a home for herself. She planted an herb garden and in early 1962 traveled to Mexico to purchase authentic furniture, art and tapestries for her new home, the only home she ever owned.
There was a plaque–some say above the front door and others say it was on the doorstep–that bore the Latin phrase “Cursum Perficio” translating to “My Journey Ends Here.” Miss Monroe’s journey did indeed end here at this house on 5th Helena Drive. Her body was discovered on the early morning of August 5, 1962, after her housekeeper and the unfortunately named Dr. Hyman Engelberg busted through her bedroom window with a fireplace poker and found her dead from an (alleged) overdose of prescription pills. At the time of her death, some of the furniture and other items purchased in Mexico had recently been delivered and were still, reportedly, in their shipping materials.
To this day Miss Monroe’s death remains shrouded in mystery and unanswered questions that lean towards conspiracies that usually have something to do with her (alleged) relationships with president John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. More on that later.
According to the Movieland Directory, Miss Monroe’s home had previously been owned by the lewd and ludicrously named silent film actor Dick Hunter. Mister Hunter perished in December of 1962 but it’s unknown if it was Mister Hunter who sold the property to Miss Monroe.
There were, reportedly, at least half a dozen sales contracts placed on the property on the very day of Miss Monroe’s death. Talk about some bad ass and morbid real estate ambulance chasers. However, Miss Monroe died intestate, meaning she did not have a will and her property remained in probate. Eventually a judge ruled that Miss Monroe’s home be sold for 10% above the highest offer. The highest bidder, as it turns out, was also the first bidder. The Nunez family, who took possession of the house in the fall of 1963, also became the de facto owners of many of Miss Monroe’s household possessions including her damn Hoover brand vacuum cleaner.
Some reports say the Nunez family owned and occupied the house until 1980. Other reports say that the property was bought in 1972 by actress Veronica Hamel (Hill Street Blues, Lost) and her huzband Michael Irving. According to those reports, when Mister Irving and Miz Hamel went to remodel their new home they discovered an extensive and sophisticated eavesdropping and telephone tapping system. A retired (and unnamed) Justice Department official claimed the system was built with parts not available for commercial purchase in 1962 but were instead “standard FBI issue.” These claims of a tapping system only added fuel to the already raging fire that Miss Monroe had been surveilled by the Kennedys and/or the Mafia. More on that later.
It’s unclear to Your Mama how long Mister Irving and Miz Hamel occupied or owned the house on 5th Helena Drive. What is clear, according to property records, is that in August of 1994 Miss Monroe’s former home was purchased from a Mister and Missus Alexander Bull by film director Michael Ritchie (Bad News Bears, Fletch, The Fantasticks) and his wife Jimmie for $995,000. Soon after buying the house the Ritchies relocated to New York and sold the property to an architect and his wife, in April of 1996 for $925,000. The architect and his wife did some remodeling we presume–what architect does not do some remodeling after all–and settled in for the long real estate haul.
There are multiple rumors and reports floating around the interweb–including on the Movieland Directory–that at some point the property was leased to the Marilyn Monroe obsessed model Anna Nicole Smith, a more trashy and modern day version of Miss Monroe who met her own tawdry, drug related end in a South Florida hotel room in February of 2007. However, Your Mama is deeply suspicious about that rumor. Maybe she did, but probably she didn’t and if she did we’re quite certain it would have had to have been before the current owners bought the place.
In 2006 rumors ran rampant that British born disc-jockey turned tee-vee presenter Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance) had bought Miss Monroe’s old house on 5th Helena Drive for around two million clams. However, that is simply not the case because not only are the sellers of the house the same folks who bought the house back in 1996, Miss Deeley, in fact, bought another house unrelated to Miss Monroe in September of 2006, a 2 bedroom and 2 pooper bizness in the Beverly Hills Post Office area for which she paid $2,699,000 according to records and reports.
Now, getting back to some of the conspiracies. Beginning sometime at the end of 1961 the most famous woman of the world allegedly embarked on a torrid affair with president John F. Kennedy. Shortly after she made her famous appearance in April of 1962 at Madison Square Garden where she breathily and sexily sang the Happy Birthday song to president J.F.K., the president and his men put the kibosh on their illicit trysting. Miss Monroe, not exactly the best picker of man-friends, almost immediately began an even more torrid (and alleged) affair with John F.’s younger brother Robert F. Kennedy. It is widely alleged that her relationships with both John F. and Robert F. Kennedy were facilitated by debauched hard drinking actor Peter Lawford who was at the time married to Patricia Kennedy, John F. and Robert F.’s sister and who owned an impressive 14-bedroom ocean front home in Santa Monica, CA where Miss Monroe and the Misters Kennedy are said to have rendezvoused.
Shortly after Miss Monroe’s death, bizarre, shocking and almost unbelievable stories began to circulate that Miss Monroe’s house had been bugged by either–are y’all ready for this?–Jimmy Hoffa or that horrible, cross dressing Director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover. These rumors only heated up in the early 1970s when the stories about Veronica Hamel finding a hidden eavesdropping system in the walls began to circulate. Both men, theoretically, would have peed their pants with glee to have heard any conversation or interaction between Miss Monroe, Mister Lawford and both of the Kennedy brothers that may have provided information and evidence that could be used to twist the arms of the Kennedys who were at that time one of the most powerful families on earth. The fact that John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas just over a year after Miss Monroe kicked it in her Brentwood bedroom only added more lighter fluid to the already aflame rumors that Miss Monroe’s death was part of some vast conspiracy to bring the Kennedy’s down.
Several suspicious circumstances surround Miss Monroe’s death that lead people to these dubious but plausible conspiracies. Your Mama could not possibly be bothered to recount all of them but they include that Miss Monroe’s autopsy report did not note the presence of the sort of residue that would have been left behind by the 50 or so pills she allegedly popped as well as that Miss Murray waited several hours after finding Miss Monroe’s dead body before contacting the authorities. Then there are the missing phone records that would have shown just who Miss Monroe called on the night she died who Miss Murray called on the morning she was found. There, of course, there are the most horrific and salacious theories that Miss Monroe was snuffed out by the Kennedy family so that she would not publicly spill the beans on her alleged affairs with both John F. and Robert Kennedy who both, it is believed by some, may have told Miss Monroe any number of politically explosive tidbits that she may or may not have recorded in her diaries that, apparently and according to some theories, also went missing in the hours and days after her death.
Whatever the case and circumstances, Miss Monroe is long dead and most if not all the players who might have known about any foul play are also gone. That means those who care will probably never know the real truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Currently listing information, the home sits on a 23,000 square foot lot at the tail end of the cul–de-sac, a location that ensures total privacy and offers “lovely vistas.” Since Miss Monroe owned the home there have been several renovations and the current configuration offers, according to listing information, 4 bedrooms, 3 poopers, a formal living room with wood burning fireplace, family room–formerly the dining room–an office that opens up to the backyard, a good sized sky-lit gore-may eat-in kitchen that opens to a spacious courtyard garden, a game room cabana adjacent to the swimming pool, and separate children’s play room.
The home retains many original details–or at least details that are authentic in style to the original home–including extra-thick walls, casement windows, original beamed ceilings, terra cotta tile floors, and period hardware and tiles.
Whomever buys this house on 5th Helena Drive is buying a whole mess of history and confusion regarding Miss Monroe not to mention her ghost that some stay still haunts the halls of the house. Oh dear. Will the madness never end? Have mercy. Your Mama needs a nerve pill and a nap now.
photos: David Offer Fine Homes