It all starts with a woman named Inez Melson. If you’re not familiar with the Marilyn saga it’s likely a name you’ve never heard of. In the early fifties she was Marilyn’s business manager. She was one of the first people called after Marilyn died and she ended up with a couple of filing cabinets full of Marilyn’s stuff. Among Marilyn’s possessions she found a letter from JFK’s and RFK’s sister Jean Kennedy Smith to Marilyn. She explained in a later interview she kept the letter to use against Robert Kennedy should he run for president. Her misinterpretation of the letter has played a big part in the myth that Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe had an affair. When Monroe’s first major post-death biographer, Fred Guiles, interviewed her she told him of the letter and convinced him that the small note was not only proof of an affair, but also that the Kennedy family knew (and approved!) of the affair. Guiles didn’t name RFK in his 1969 book but it’s clear that’s who he’s talking about. Guiles wasn’t the first to put the MM/RFK affair into print but his was the first mainstream endorsement of the myth. The world has never since been able to shake this mistaken notion. Why is that? Because at the time of Monroe’s death there was already rumors of an affair between the two. Twenty and thirty years after the fact people remember these rumors and now repeat them as fact.
The Jean Kennedy Smith letter to Marilyn Monroe in the 60's and 70's
"Nasty" Inez tells her version:
Notice how she changes the wording (and meaning) from "the new item" to "an item."
Inez Melson isn’t reading the letter to the interviewer, she’s paraphrasing based on how she interpreted the note. She begins by saying “Well I’ll tell you a little story about that since Bobby Kennedy is now dead but I am just nasty you know but I had made up my mind that if he got the nomination for President…” What she doesn’t say is that is exactly what happened in 1968, just when Fred Guiles was writing his biography, Norma Jean.
Inez Melson had an ax to grind, all based on a misinterpretation of the letter. Changing the wording to “an item” instead of “the new item,” changes the meaning of the note to better fit her preconceptions. Notice also how the transcriber of this interview had typed the word “You” before the word “understand,” then crossed it out and typed “We.” In the wording of the note the sentence begins with the word “Understand.” Ironically, saying “You understand” may be closer to the true intent of the message within the letter. It’s an admonition urging Marilyn Monroe to take note. “You should understand that you and Bobby are the new item of conversation around here,” may be the true message of the letter
What does the letter actually say? Here's the note reproduced exactly as it appears:
The Jean Kennedy Smith letter to Marilyn Monroe in the 80's, 90's and now
In the 1980’s Anthony Summer included a photo of the note in his book Goddess. In the 1990’s the Jean Kennedy Smith letter was again “discovered” when it went up for auction. Here’s an article from the Washington Post that includes that includes a comment from Jean Kennedy Smith about the letter to Marilyn Monroe:
Jean Kennedy Smith’s Stamp of Disapproval
Expectedly, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith is not at all pleased about a recently revealed 30-year-old letter from her to Marilyn Monroe, alluding to Monroe’s relationship with her married brother Bobby Kennedy. The letter, hand-written on the Kennedy’s Palm Beach stationery around ’61, reads: “Dear Marilyn … understand that you and Bobby are the hot item! We all think he should bring you with him when he comes back east.” Yesterday, Smith faxed us a statement from Ireland: “The suggestion that the letter verifies an affair is utter nonsense. … I am shocked anyone would believe such innuendo about a letter obviously written in jest.” Bobby and John F. Kennedy’s relationship with Monroe during JFK’s presidency has long been the subject of speculation — and family denials. Odyssey Auctions will offer the letter and other previously unseen effects from the Monroe estate in Hollywood this weekend.
Source: Washington Post, 1994
Note in the article above how the wording is now "the hot item."
Strangely, in 2010, J. Randy Taraborrelli seems to want to cast doubts on the authenticity of the letter by suggesting it’s possible it’s a forgery! He must be unaware Jean Kennedy Smith has already issued a statement about the letter. Or, is it because it fits the general theme of his book which is to downplay the role of the Kennedy family in her life and exonerate any fault of the Kennedys in Marilyn’s death.
If there is any doubt that the handwriting matches check out another Jean Kennedy Smith letter, this one to Peter Lawford:
In one of the most recent biographies of Marilyn, author Keith Badman once again changes the wording of the doc. He repeats the same mistake as in the Washington Post (“the hot item”) and also adds the word “I” before “understand.” Why can’t Marilyn Monroe chroniclers get one simple note right? How can we rely on anything they say? If you wonder why Marilyn scholarship can’t figure out the exact circumstances of Marilyn’s death you should wonder no more.
Jean Kennedy Smith
In 2016 the Jean Kennedy Smith letter to Marilyn Monroe was sold by Julien’s Auctions for $28,000.
Here’s how Julien’s described the letter:
A single sheet of stationery listing an address in Palm Beach, Florida, with autograph notation in blue ink on recto and version reading in full, “Dear Marilyn – Mother asked me to write and thank you for your sweet note to Daddy – He really enjoyed it and you were very cute to send it. / Understand that you and Bobby are the new item! We all think you should come with him when he comes back east! Again thanks for the note. / Love, Jean Smith.” Jean Smith is one of nine children to Rose and Joseph Kennedy and sister to John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and four other siblings.
7 3/4 by 5 3/4 inches
PROVENANCE From the Estate of Lee Strasberg