Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Marilyn Monroe, Tom Towers & the Magazine Mystery

In March of 1976 I returned the "U.F.O." motion picture script to Tom Towers and he sent the postcard shown, acknowledging receipt. I also sent him some of my previous writing, mentioned briefly.

When I wrote an updated piece on the movie, entitled "Unidentified Flying Objects: Accidental Epic," for the International UFO Reporter (published by the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies), Vol. 30 #2 (2006), a non-UFO mystery was described. In the film, reference is made to the April 7, 1952 appearance of LIFE Magazine on newsstands featuring an incredible article suggesting that UFOs may be extraterrestrial. The cover depicts President Harry Truman (see Tom Towers holding an issue).

Trouble is, the real April 7 LIFE carried actress Marilyn Monroe as a cover model (see). Why the change? My suspicion is that a competing studio had Monroe under contract at that time during her exploding career and United Artists and/or the producers didn't want to lavish free publicity on the competition. I suppose a case could also be made that Greene simply wanted to emphasize the importance of the UFO subject with a sober "presidential" mood rather than (let's face it) a Hollywood glamour fantasy.

Speaking of Monroe and Towers, I'm indebted to researcher Barry Greenwood for passing along a great anecdote he discovered on the Internet recently. I'm taking the liberty of quoting directly below from famed Hollywood writer James Bacon and a column he wrote for a publication and/or Web site entitled Beverly Hills [213], an edition from sometime in 2002. Bacon and Towers, both in the news business in Los Angeles back in the fifties, knew one another, and here Bacon shares an amusing story that sheds a little light on Tom Towers as rascal and practical joker (this will come as a surprise to those who believe Tom was as stuffy and stiff as his acting seemed in "U.F.O."):

Another place where I wore my black suit was at Cedars of LebanonHospital in the late 1950s where a small army of media were herded intoan anteroom by a stern, elderly public relations lady. The Berlin Wall was nothing compared with this dame who treated us like pupils in her third grade class.

We waited for hours while on the fifth floor lay *Marilyn Monroe* with a mysterious illness. She had entered the hospital after a weekend party where she danced with *Clark Gable*, between marriages at the time. Was there a romance in the works between the King and Queen of Hollywood?

To heighten the suspense, we saw a huge basket of red roses arrive with a note that said: "To Marilyn, with love." It was signed "Clark."

Unromantic me. I guessed they had been sent by *Harry Brand*, director of publicity at 20th Century-Fox, where both Marilyn and Gable were making pictures.

Soon after the flowers arrived at the reception desk, on inspiration walked in-*Tom Towers* of the old /Examiner/ with his right arm in a cast.

Tom's deadline for a morning paper was hours away so I called him aside and updated him on what was happening. Then I asked him to follow me to the elevator. We passed a young intern to whom I gave five bucks for temporary use of his stethoscope. Interns are notoriously underpaid so he handed me the stethoscope and told me to leave it with the nurses on the fifth floor. I, in my black suit, and Towers, in his cast, went up to the fifth floor. We marched down the corridor unmolested. At the nurse's desk, I stopped and said, "Where is Miss Monroe's room. I am one of her doctors and since I happen to be in the hospital with another patient [pointing to Tom's arm in the cast], I'd like to drop in on her."

The scam worked beautifully. The head nurse even escorted us to Marilyn's room? I was Doctor Bacon. Towers was all ham.

"Doctor Bacon," he told the nurse as we walked down the corridor, "has just returned from Mozambique, where he single-handedly conquered theTse-Tse fly epidemic."

It broke me up-and the nurse, too, who said, "You reporters are terrible."

Our little game was up. If I'm ever asked to help write a journalism textbook again, I am going to add, "Avoid collaborators who overact."