Monday, September 5, 2016

Jeanne Carmen And Marilyn Monroe (Extended)

by Don Wilson

This feature is enhanced with video of Jeanne Carmen and her son and daughter in interviews and documentaries.

HOLLYWOOD, CA.: September 5, 2016-- Jeanne Carmen was born in Paragould, Arkansas, when she was growing up, she picked cotton and hated it. She told me that she had to tote a gun to go to the outhouse. "There were snakes around, so you had to be prepared with a gun. we had no toilet paper, so we used newspaper. At the time I looked for Hitler's picture that was usually on the front page. And, well you know what I did with it!" 

Jeanne Carmen wanted more than the small Arkansas town, she wanted excitement - and did she ever find it. Jeanne ran away from home at age 13 and eventually moved to New York City. Carmen was always blunt and to the point, she always had a sense of humor right along with her frankness.

                                         Jeanne Carmen's appearance on The Golf Central.

Jeanne was hired as a dancer in Burlesque, performing with Bert Lahr, who had played the cowardly lion in the MGM classic "The Wizard Of Oz". Jeanne also modeled for several men's magazines. Jeanne also became a trick golfer and appeared with Jack Redmond, she's a legend in the skill that she achieved with her trick shots - which are still spoken about today. Jeanne also appeared in a Three Stooges short entitled "A Merry mix Up" playing Joe Besser's girlfriend 'Mary'.

Jeanne Carmen is seen, thrid from the left embracing Joe Besser in this still from a Three Stooges short. Photo: Brandon James Collection

Jeanne became known as "Queen of the B Movies", that title was used by E! Television on their series E! The True Hollywood Story in 1998. It was the first widespread coverage on media where Jeanne spoke about her "dangerously close friendship with Marilyn Monroe and The Kennedys". Jeanne had told this writer that after Monroe's death she was warned her to leave Hollywood or she's be leaving in a box like Monroe. It was Chicago mobster Johnny Rosselli who was working with Chicago Mob Boss Sam Giancana. Carmen heeded his advice, packed up all of her belongings and boxed up her career, the films, magazines, glamour photos and left California for a quiet life in Scottsdale, Arizona. She married and had three children along the way. It was her son Brandon and his curiosity while going through boxes that he learned of his mother's Hollywood career. 

Marilyn Monroe modeling in a drak wig.

Jeanne Carmen met Marilyn Monroe in a bar in New York City, Carmen was studying with Lee Strasberg and she had to do a scene that day. Carmen continues: "I went to this bar and I looked around and the bar was full of guys and there was this one girl sitting there with dark hair and horn rimmed glasses, she had no make up on. And I thought 'Okay, I'll sit next to her...then I won't be bothered. I can work at my scene.' So, I sat down and she instantly said 'Hi!' and I said 'Hi!' and she said 'I'm Norma..." I said, 'I'm Jeanne...' Norma said, 'Are you doing a scene with Lee Strasberg today?' and I said 'Yes.' She said, 'Would you like me to help you?' I said 'Sure...' so we ordered a wine and she started helping me do my lines and then at one point, I looked at my watch and said 'Oh, I gotta go, I have to do, you know, he gets mad if you're late. But, I need to go to the bathroom." Then, I came out and I looked around and there's this blonde standing there and I thought 'What happened to my friend?' So, i started to go out the door and she said in her Marilyn Monroe voice 'Jeanne...' and I looked around and I thought 'My God, this is Marilyn Monroe!' I had seen her picture in the paper and and I go 'You're Marilyn.' and she said (giggling) 'Yes!' So, we became friends and that moment and we stayed friends until she was killed." 

Jeanne Carmen and longtime friend Tony Curtis in Las Vegas.

In Tony Curtis's book American Prince; A Memoir he spoke of Jeanne: "Marilyn Monroe said that when she was a child her mother had been sick. Marilyn didn't mention her father. She had a friend named Jeanne Carmen, a showgirl, who was very important to her." A few paragraphs down Curtis mentioned Carmen again: "I liked Marilyn more than any of the other. She was different. She was fragile and vulnerable, which attracted me greatly. we continued seeing each other for awhile. We would go to her friend Jeanne Carmen's place, or Howard's (Howard Duff) bungalow, and once we even went to Marilyn's hotel room. We almost never went out at night, in public, though." 

Jeanne Carmen last talked with Marilyn Monroe on the evening of August 4th, 1962 (Carmen's birthday) Marilyn had asked Jeanne to come over, but Carmen told me that she had drank so much that evening that she couldn't drive the distance and besides that, it would be unsafe. Carmen regretted not being able to go that night to see Marilyn and she would tear up talking about that last night of Monroe's life. She did speak with me on many occasions about Marilyn and her memories would be fresh and she would speak of them with joy. I could just mention Marilyn's last night and Jeanne's face would change all expression and she'd lose that joy, her face was full of sadness and regret. I had told her: "Jeanne, But even if you went that last night, things may not have changed." She looked me straight in the eyes and said "You're right. But, I wanted to be there for her..."  When asked where she thought Monroe would go had she lived: "I think Broadway. that would really have made her a great actress and she would have gone up, up, up!"

The general public and fans have sought out photos of Jeanne with Marilyn, but to no avail. They may exist, but it was a different time. Cameras were bulky and cumbersome and when you were living day to day with busy schedules, trying to lead a private life as possible. Many times the thought of snapping photos was the last thing on a actress or model's mind. After all wasn't there enough of that on the set, the fans snapping photos of you if they spotted you - or the endless publicity of the studios at the time. It was long before the advent of cell photos with the capability of shooting instant photos and posting them on media. 

Jeanne Carmen on "Missing Reward". Featuring re-enactments of Marilyn Monroe, Jeanne Carmen and Bobby Kennedy.

Hugh M. Hefner visits Jeanne Carmen during an autograph show at the Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood. Photo: Brandon James Collection

Jeanne Carmen died on December 20, 2007, she was 77 years old. Jeanne was unique, one-of-a-kind,unpredictable, fun and delightful, She was a good and trusted friend of mine and I cherish that friendship and I miss her to this day, very much. When all is said and done, time is very important, don't waste it. Jeanne Carmen didn't waste time and she lived her life to the fullest and she loved life and those who were in her life. Her epitaph reads "She Came. She Saw. She Conquered." and that she did,

                                           Jeanne Carmen: The E True Hollywood Story

This won't be the last article on Jeanne Carmen. I have cassettes of audio with her and a video interview that has never been made public, along with my memories. They haven't even been tapped yet. I owe it to Jeanne to get what she left in my hands in this blog and my website. If Jeanne were here she would be supportive of me, as she always was. This particular story is about her friendship with Marilyn Monroe, but I will delve into her life and memory and bring more stories and features on her in the future. I want to thank Jeanne's son Brandon James and Jeanne's daughter Kellee Jade Campo for their assistance in this article. 

                               Jeanne Carmen on KCAL 9 News

Brandon James's book on his mother is available here:

     Brandon James and Kellee Jade Campo discusses their mother        and the book on her life.

Jeanne Carmen's Official Site:

                           Jeanne Carmen Compilation Video.

Don Wilson and Jeanne Carmen in North Hollywood.

1 comment: