A letter from Jean Kennedy Smith was found among Marilyn Monroe’s belongings after her death. Since it was just signed Jean Smith, without the Kennedy name, it was probably missed when Monroe’s home was scrubbed clean of anything that would tie Marilyn to JFK or RFK. In this opening paragraph I’ll summarize the revelation about this letter then explain it more in detail below.
By the summer of ’62 Marilyn had met Jean Kennedy Smith several times. On one of those occasions Jean had told Marilyn about the Kennedy family dinner discussions. Her mother Rose would pick a topic from current events, history or politics and every child would have to be able to contribute an “item” of interest about that topic.
Marilyn understood that with this note Jean was sending her a message. In a nutshell what she is telling Marilyn is this: The message is really from her mother Rose, and to date, her mother hasn’t commented on Marilyn’s visit to Hyannis Port, the gossip about JFK or her friendship with Patricia, but this talk of her and Bobby is a different story. Rose has began to pump her kids for information about Bobby and Marilyn, they have become the “new item” of conversation at the Kennedy family dinner table. Jean is giving Marilyn a warning that if her mom hears anything more linking Bobby and Monroe then Marilyn is going to have to personally deal with Rose Kennedy.
The Jean Kennedy Smith letter to Marilyn Monroe is a microcosm of the whole Marilyn mystery. It involves a Kennedy plus denial, distortion, misrepresentation, misunderstanding and a whole lot of erroneous speculation.
It’s often presented as a piece of evidence supporting a Marilyn Monroe and Robert F. Kennedy affair. It’s been used for that purpose since Monroe biographer Fred Guiles wrote about it in his 1969 book, Norma Jean. The truth is that it’s a very flimsy piece of evidence to prove an affair and many modern biographers point that out. But modern commentators still can’t get the story of this letter right. That’s why it’s a good microcosm of the Monroe mystery. The evidence is very ambiguous and open to interpretation. It’s likely Bobby was not having an affair with Marilyn when she died, but there’s an abundance of evidence that many people believed they were having an affair in the summer of ’62. Including Ethel Kennedy, according to Kennedy and Marilyn author J. Randy Tarraborrelli. You also have the fact that if the Kennedys and people like Pat Newcomb would just tell the truth you wouldn’t have sleazeballs and opportunists step in with bogus speculation. Monroe’s relationship with Bobby was completely something different than an affair, and that relationship is completely relevant to her death, but the gossip of an affair has completely distorted the perceptions of the circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s final months.
So what’s the story behind the letter? That’s the topic of this revelation. Fortunately there’s a person that can verify this revelation is accurate. The writer of the letter can tell us if my interpretation of Marilyn’s revelation is correct. Jean Kennedy Smith can verify what I’m about to tell you. Mrs Smith is the last sibling of JFK and RFK that’s still alive. She is the matriarch of the Kennedy family and probably has more important things to do than comment on this website but I’ll still put this out there. If Jean Kennedy Smith would like to comment on this story I’ll print anything she has to say.
I should point out that she has already made a public statement about this note. It was printed by the Washington Post in 1994.
It was that year (’94) that the letter was once again “discovered” and put up for auction. As for Monroe and Bobby Kennedy, the auctioneer billed it as putting “an end to decades of speculation as to whether a relationship existed or not.” The press gleefully ran stories that we finally had proof of a MM/RFK affair. Jean Kennedy Smith was Ambassador to Ireland at the time and she faxed a statement to the Washington Post that read, “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.”
Mrs Smith said the letter was “written in jest.” She didn’t elaborate as to what she was joking about, but there’s is an obvious admission that there is a subtext to this note. The subtext to the note is what we’ll explore in this revelation. Before we can do that it’s necessary to to determine the time this note was written. This aspect of the letter has confounded many biographers. Many authors have stated definitively that it was written just after Marilyn met Bobby at a Lawford dinner party on Feb 1, 1962. It actually was written in June of that year just before RFK visited Marilyn’s new home at the end of that month.
It’s generally assumed that Marilyn Monroe began an affair with Robert F. Kennedy the night she sang Happy Birthday to JFK, or shortly thereafter. In actuality there never was an affair and this time period was the beginning of a rift between the two. Bobby had told her she would be OK in coming to New York for the birthday gala/fundraising event and she ended up being sued by her studio for breach of contract. He had told her that because the Kennedy family had friends on the board of 20th Century Fox, he could smooth things over with her studio. She was then fired. That was how their mini-feud started but what really ticked her off was hearing that Lee Remick was cast to replace her in the film. Marilyn was well aware of the rumors about RFK and Remick, and wondered if RFK had a role in getting her the job. You see, Remick was already a sore point with Marilyn. She had gotten film roles Marilyn wanted in the past and she did a movie with Montand right after the whole Let’s Make Love fiasco. In a word, Marilyn was pissed. The whole Kennedy family found that out after she declined a Robert and Ethel Kennedy sponsored party with the famous “twinkle” telegram. Despite her anger and disappointment the two were able to patch things up, mainly through a few telephone conversations. A renewed friendship developed. Knowing he had a trip planned to LA near the end of June she invited him to see her new home.
So when Marilyn finally decided to come back around and bury the hatchet with Bobby it was big news. The two became a “new item” of conversation at Kennedy family dinner discussions. That’s the first level of subtext in the JKS note, but it also goes deeper. What’s usually ignored in the discussions of this note is that the youngest Kennedy sister is writing on behalf of Rose Kennedy, Jean and RFK’s mother. Marilyn could read between the lines and deduced that either Rose Kennedy or Jean was sending her a message.
In Marilyn’s mind that message was “Bobby was off limits and if Rose Kennedy hears anything more about “Bobby and Marilyn” she’s going to call Marilyn onto the carpet for a little face to face chat.”
That’s a lot to read into one little note that was written in jest, but Marilyn thought that was probably the gist of what Jean Kennedy Smith was saying.
Let’s break the note down into parts and explore each sentence. The original wording of the note is in bold, followed by my commentary. The front side of the note is pretty straight forward, it reads:
“Dear Mar l yn
That’s how it looks in the note. It’s obviously written to Marilyn, probably in haste. People rarely point out that the informal way the letter is addressed, just using Marilyn’s first name. This betrays an already established closeness between writer and addressee. The Kennedy family and their spokespeople have always downplayed the connection the family had to Marilyn but this note proves that Marilyn and Jean had some past history, were on friendly terms and knew each other well enough for informal communication.
– 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.
The letter begins: “Mother asked me to write and thank you.” Rose Kennedy had a staff that wrote thank you notes. A family as important as the Kennedys would want to keep up appearances and a formal thank you note would have been more appropriate. The informal nature of the thank you is already a notice that there’s more to this note than what’s on the surface. It’s designed to get Marilyn’s attention. She never had a conversation with Rose Kennedy, it was a little presumptuous for her to communicate this way.
Consider the words “sweet note” and “very cute.” At first glace they seem harmless. But would Rose Kennedy think anything Marilyn Monroe did was “very cute.” The rumors surrounding Marilyn and JFK had started before Kennedy became president. If Rose Kennedy is using the words “very cute” to Marilyn it’s likely she saying “listen sweetie, your cutesy routine just doesn’t work on me.” The other issue this first line brings up is – when did Marilyn write the ‘sweet note to Daddy?” Many say it was right after Marilyn spoke to Joseph Kennedy in Feb 1962. Bobby had called his father and told him he was standing next to Marilyn. He handed Marilyn the phone and she said a few words to Papa Joe. (It should be pointed out this was not a discussion. Joseph Kennedy had had a stroke by this time and couldn’t speak. Why would she send a note after that phone call? What was she going to say? “It was nice speaking at you on the phone.” She had said everything there was to say, she said hi, and wished him a speedy recovery (and joked about Bobby’s dancing). I think she wrote the “sweet note” right after sending the telegram to the RFK’s declining the party. Marilyn wanted Joe, whom she had meet at Hyannis Port, to know that her temporary problems with Bobby had nothing to do with the rest of the family, Marilyn actually believed that Joe, Jack, Bobby, Pat and Jean (and the rest of the family) were all her friends.
So now we get to the reverse of the note and finally get to the real message:
Understand that you and Bobby are the new item!
So and so are an item. That’s the way I’ve always heard it. When people talk about an affair between two people isn’t the slang term “an item?” But, before we get to the (not so) juicy “new item” comment, it should be pointed out that there is no I or We in front of the word understand. People often misquote or misrepresent this entire line, and it starts with adding an I or We to the text.
So who is it that understands? Is it just Jean? Is it Jean and her mother? We know from the first side Jean is writing because her mother wants her to. So does Jean “understand” the two are the new item because her mother had just told her? Or is Jean discretely telling Marilyn her mother has heard gossip about the two of them? Even if “the new item” only means something like “the new topic of conversation,” isn’t she telling Marilyn people are talking about her and RFK and those conversations have reached the Kennedy homestead?
Let’s now take a look at how this “new item” comment gets distorted. When Inez Melson, (Monroe’s former business manager) talks about finding this letter in an interview for a British TV show, she changes the wording (and the meaning) to “an item.” Another time this “new item” phrase gets distorted in when the letter went up for auction in 1994. The word “hot” was added to the text, so now the sentence reads “you and Bobby are the hot new item.” This new version was reprinted by the Washington Post and has found it’s way into biographies about Marilyn as well as books about her death. The wording is not “an item” and it’s not “a hot new item,” and it’s a shame that people that write Marilyn books can’t even get simple facts correct.
We all think you should come with him when he comes back east! Again thanks for the note. / Love, Jean Smith
The line begins “We all think.” Is she still speaking for her mother? Is she now speaking on behalf of both parents, or is “all” the entire family? Regardless, she’s telling Marilyn that they think she should come with RFK when he comes back east.
In June, 1962 RFK had left DC and was working his way west across the country speaking with local law enforcement in Chicago, Denver and then LA. After a stop in LA he would work his way back east making stops at different cities along the way. Smith refers to this trip with the words “comes back east.”
So why would Marilyn “come with him” while he works his way back to DC? The answer of course is that she wouldn’t. It doesn’t matter when the note was written, there was no time that Marilyn would come back east with Bobby. It would be highly inappropriate even if you assume they were just friends, and it becomes absurd if you think they were having an affair. It just doesn’t make literal sense. This line has to be the thrust of the jest. So what does it mean?
Here’s what Marilyn first thought:
Rose Kennedy knew Marilyn was a smart cookie and would understand the message in the note.
And that message was something like this:
Rose is saying”
“I know about your time at Hyannis Port and your instant friendship with my husband.
I ignored the rumors about you and Jack.
I tolerate your “friendship” with Patricia.
But if I hear one more word about you and Bobby you are going to have to deal with me.”
At least that’s how Marilyn read it when Bobby handed it to her when he visited her home on June 27, 1962. Bobby told her Rose caught wind of his visit to LA and her home just before he left and had sent Jean to meet with him so he could hand deliver the thank you note to Marilyn. Then he told her something that completely changed her view of the letter. He said Jean had written the front side of the note then she showed it to her mother for approval. The sentiment on the reverse was all Jean. Marilyn noticed the way the front was written, there is a blank area in the bottom corner, right where a person would sign a note, it made sense that the reverse was probably written later. This told Marilyn the real message was from Jean and forced her to reevaluate the intent behind the note.
Think about the “new item” comment one more time. The reason there is not an I or We in front of the word Understand is because Jean Smith is telling Marilyn to understand. That first word could be replaced with “you should understand,” or “take note,” or you should be aware that.” Any one of those re-wordings is a better way to understand the word understand. Understand?
I hope now you can reread the opening paragraph with a new understanding of the message that Jean Kennedy Smith was sending to Marilyn Monroe.
By the summer of ’62 Marilyn had met Jean Kennedy Smith several times. On one of those occasions Jean had told Marilyn about the Kennedy family dinner discussions. Her mother Rose would pick a topic from current events, history or politics and every child would have to be able to contribute an item of interest about that topic. Marilyn understood that with this note Jean was sending her a message. In a nutshell what she is telling Marilyn is this: up until now, her mother hasn’t commented on Marilyn’s visit to Hyannis Port, the gossip about JFK or her friendship with Patricia, but this talk of her and Bobby is a different story. Rose has began to pump her kids for information about Bobby and Marilyn, they have become the “new item” of conversation at the Kennedy family dinner table. Jean is giving Marilyn a warning that if her mom hears anything more linking Bobby and Monroe then Marilyn is going to have to personally deal with Rose Kennedy.