An interview with Gary Vitacco-Robles is now online at: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/lights-camera-author/episodes/Lights--Camera--Author---Gary-Vitacco-Robles-e233gai
BearManor/Author Q & A:
Gary, your acclaimed, 2-volume, definitive biography, ICON: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe seemed to be the last word on the enigmatic actress; what made you tackle another book series on this subject?
The answer is simple. I could no longer remain silent on the topic of her death. For too long, I side-stepped Monroe’s death in my writing about her to celebrate her remarkable life, illustrious career, and resiliency. However, year after year, absurd allegations of Monroe’s murder already disproven by scientific and medical evidence continue to propagate in the media and in print. These outlandish rumors are accepted as truth with no fact-checking, and they distract us from the facts and evidence that are readily accessible with minimal effort. This wave of anti-intellectualism has damaged Monroe’s legacy. I performed the research that many writers intentionally avoided. Some unintentionally misinformed their readers, and others intentionally lied. My motivation was to set the record straight.
What makes people believe in conspiracy theories about this woman’s death?
Belief in conspiracy theories is a direct result of disinformation, misinformation, and confirmation bias. Disinformation is false information intended to deceive. Misinformation is information that is wrong. While disinformation is deliberate, misinformation may be inadvertent. Conformation bias starts with an assumption and presenting only information that supports that assumption. I explore how belief in conspiracy theories denies, minimizes, or dismisses the impact of Monroe’s intergenerational mental illness and the well-documented prescribing practices of her internist. Political and cultural factors also contributed to the theories associated with Monroe.
You can’t seem to cover bases in one volume. Why write two?
The case is complex. To do it justice, I must provide the reader with meticulous detail. Volume one is a cliffhanger, but the case cannot be told by shortcuts. To put this case to rest, the reader needs both access to an abundance of information and guidance to sort through each element. There has been a total of four official investigations of Monroe’s death, but the compelling details of the exhaustive re-investigation in 1982 have not been made available to the public. By providing the details of the four investigations, combined with further research and consultation with experts and qualified medical professionals, I offer the public an alternative to misinformation.
With whom did you consult?
One needs a qualified scientist to explain medical terminology and clarify medical or scientific conclusions. A layperson reading autopsy and toxicological reports may misunderstand the material or incorrectly interpret medical terminology, thus drawing erroneous conclusions. Ironically, over the years many have even used scientific evidence which supported the official conclusion of probable suicide to support their murder theories!
I include the perspectives of pathologists Dr. Stephen Boyd, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, and psychologist Dr. Robert Litman. I personally consulted with Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist and attorney with medical-legal expertise. I also consulted with Dr. Arif Karim, double board-certified medical physician and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience. But the reader won’t need a degree in psychology. The structure of the books is simple. I am writing in article format. Each chapter serves as a standalone article, and collectively, the chapters build upon each other and culminate in a rational conclusion. In the end, the reader decides what killed Marilyn Monroe.
What qualifies you to research Monroe’s mental health?
I’m a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with 36 years’ experience in the field. Since 1994, I have worked with children and families who have survived sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect and youth with sexual behavior problems. I have served as an advocate for both survivors of trauma and individuals managing their major psychiatric disorders since my career in mental health began in 1986. I had access to an abundance of information and medical evidence related to Monroe’s death that fill the gaps in our collective questioning. As a mental health professional in practice for decades, I also write from a mental health perspective, absent from most books about her life and death.
What’s different about ICON compared to the many other books about Monroe’s death?
No one has ever broken down every element or piece of information in this case--every fact, every claim, every rumor, every changing account, every source document—and objectively examined each using a scientific method. Many writers tackling Monroe’s death demonstrate confirmation bias. My readers will have access to prescriptions, car service records, phone records, address book pages, financial and estate documents, official schedules, the 641-page document compiled by the Los Angeles District Attorney from 1982-85, and other original sources.
What can the reader expect from volume 1?
Meticulous detail and context, of course! Within 420 pages, volume one explores the original death investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department; the findings of the Autopsy Report, Toxicological and Chemical Analysis Reports, and Suicide Prevention Team’s Report; the official cause of death by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner; and elements of the threshold investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1982 and in 1985. Additionally, the first volume explores Monroe’s psychiatric hospitalizations in 1961, history of mental health treatment, and the events in her last days. Finally, volume one details various documented reports by key individuals.
Which individuals do you spotlight?
Eunice Murray, Monroe’s companion/housekeeper, who went on record in 1962, 1973, 1975, 1982 and 1985. She is often characterized changing her story about the death. Psychiatrist Dr. Ralph R. Greenson who went on record in 1962 with the Suicide Prevention Team and with author Maurice Zolotow in 1973. Dr. Hyman Engelberg, prescriber of Monroe’s medications in her last year who corresponded with me prior to his death. Research revealed he was dishonest about his prescribing practices, but seemingly accurate in his diagnosis. I also focus on Patricia Newcomb, publicist and close friend, who has taken my phone calls. Ralph Roberts, masseur and close friend; Peter Lawford, Monroe’s associate and one of the last to speak to her; Milton Ebbins, Lawford’s agent who was involved in a series of phone calls intended to ascertain Monroe’s safety on the last night of her life; and Dr. Robert Litman, a member of the Suicide Prevention Team who investigated Monroe death as a consultant to the Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office by interviewing her psychiatric providers and those closely associated with her. I also include the explosive perspective of Greenson’s daughter, based upon her unpublished memoir from her father’s now-sealed archive.
What can we expect from volume 2?
Volume two will be nearly 800 pages. It explores the critics of the original investigation and their surprising, hidden backstories largely ignored or unknown, which impacts their credibility, and the medical evidence. I detail the prescriptions given to Monroe in her last sixty days. I provide the legal documents of Robert Slatzer, Frank Capell and William Fowler demonstrating their collaboration in creating a murder narrative and the motivation for doing so. I also thoroughly investigate Monroe’s contacts with Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy and confront discrepancies in what has been alleged by sloppy journalists or propogandists. I even present an entire chapter on all of Monroe’s neighbors, getting to the truth about if there really was an eyewitness who claimed Robert Kennedy visited her on the day of her death.
Readers are used to sound bites presented out of context and selected to support a position. I present the elements, and I separate fact from fiction, probable theory from outlandish rumor. I uncover how the narrative and rumors originated, the credibility of those introducing them. I acknowledge blind spots for which we cannot ascertain accuracy. Most of all, I lay it out objectively so that the reader can draw an educated conclusion.
So, what’s the verdict? Suicide, accidental overdose, or murder?
Well, you’ll have to read the book!