SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
From Watermark Magazine, November 2003
A Tampa Bay writer's new book about last home of Marilyn Monroe offers a new view about the actress' mental state
John Sullivan (Watermark Magazine/November 2003)
TAMPA –More than 600 books have been written about Marilyn Monroe since her death in 1962. While most of them
have focused on the theories surrounding her apparent suicide at age 36, Tampa Bay author Gary Vitacco-Robles focuses
his new book on the actress' last home.
Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe's Brentwood Hacienda/The Story of Her Final Months reframes and redefines Marilyn
through the context of her efforts to establish a secure home following a childhood spent in a succession of foster homes.
The author theorizes that the actress was trying to correct her past by putting down roots of her own.
"Marilyn was a textbook example of how childhood neglect, sexual abuse and multiple placements in early childhood
can impact one's life," Vitacco-Robles, a licensed mental health counselor who works with abused and neglected children, said.
"She lived a very nomadic life as a child and that experience is what created her psyche. Buying her own home represented
grounding and stability that she had never known in her life."
In her brief life, Monroe lived in 57 different residences until, on March 1, 1962, she began making payments of $320 a
month on the first and only home that she would ever own independent of a husband. While the majority of her movie star contemporaries
preferred the mansions in nearby Beverly Hills, Marilyn chose the Spanish Colonial residence at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in
Los Angeles' upper-middle class Brentwood neighborhood.
Cursum Perficio is the Latin inscription on tiles adorning the front doorstep of this home, and its English translation,
"My journey ends," seemingly prophesized her death in the home just four months after moving in.
Vitacco-Robles contends that the home symbolized Monroe's unfulfilled dreams and unfinished life as its renovation was
incomplete at the time of her death from a sleeping pill overdose in August of 1962.
While several previous authors depict her final months as tumultuous, Vitacco-Robles provides evidence that suggests Marilyn
was trying to pull her life together and give it some personal meaning. During the spring and summer of 1962, Marilyn embraced
her newfound domesticity by pulling weeds in her garden, writing recipes in her copy of The Joy of Cooking and actually
using the pots and pans in her kitchen.
Vitacco-Robles' book invites the reader inside Monroe's private life through 120 illustrations and previously unpublished
photos of her hacienda and its contents. It offers images of the interior of the home including Monroe's art and decorations
as well as the furniture that was delivered just days before her death.
The book contains actual photographs of the house, interspersed with realistic renderings of the home by artist Brandon
Heidrick. The author divides the photos and illustrations with floor plans for each room and includes pictures of an architectural
model that depicts the entire property as it appeared in 1962. After she purchased the 2,300 square foot house, Monroe began
extensively researching authentic Mexican design, landscaping and furnishings in an effort to slowly transform it into the
home of her dreams. She arranged for an 11-day trip to Mexico where she painstakingly selected fabrics, tapestries, painted
tiles, pottery and art. Monroe met the native artists who had made by hand the objects that she would later display in her
"The decorative pieces that she purchased in Mexico went into storage after Marilyn died and went unseen for 37 years until
Christies New York auctioned them off in 1999," Vitacco-Robles said. "When revealed to the public at long last, these items
showed us that not only was she striving for authenticity but she also paid attention to the details of the culture."
Vitacco-Robles found a wealth of information by connecting with people who knew Marilyn personally or are collectors who
own various items that once belonged to her. Both Marilyn's first husband, James Daugherty, whom she married when she was
only 16, and her physician Hyman Engelberg, corresponded with the author regarding her life.
He was also able to track most of the furniture through the Nunez family who bought the home furnished from the late actress'
estate the year after she died and allowed the author to view the furniture as well as the catalogue when they auctioned the
furnishings in 1997.
"It was almost like archeaological research," Vitacco-Robles said. "I had access to her date book when it was auctioned
online and it listed her appointments, and things like who was coming to dinner and what would be served. Her day-to-day activities
were pretty mundane and domestic but she also had a library of over 400 books including Tolstoy, Camus -- works of classic
literature. Her books on philosophy and religion reveal a woman searching for meaning in life. I really think she was ambitious
One of the oddest connections that Vitacco-Robles discovered about Monroe's quest for a better self was her relationship
with her psychiatrist, Romeo "Ralph" Greenson. Greenson may have been trying to take control his famous patients life by encouraging
the purchase of the home due to its proximity to his home and office.
While Vitacco-Robles isn't the first person to suggest that Greenson also violated professional ethics, his own career
in the mental health profession provides a unique perspective on the impact not establishing personal boundaries can have
on a patient.
"Marilyn needed structure and boundaries because she probably suffered from Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality
Disorder, and Greenson's actions most likely hastened her dependence on him and thwarted her own independence," Vitacco-Robles
said. "She attended daily treatment sessions with the doctor in the study at his nearby home and she became very attached
to his family, often spending weekends there and cooking with them in the kitchen. To Marilyn, Greenson's home represented
the grounding and stability that she had never known in her own life, which may have contributed to her desire to locate a
hacienda remindful of the doctor's home. She also may have been seeking the parental figures that her schizophrenic mother
and the father that abandoned her weren't able to provide."
Another aspect of this spooky connection is that the 59-year-old woman that Greenson suggested Marilyn hire as a housekeeper
was Eunice Murray, the woman who had once owned the doctor's home. Allegedly, Greenson planted Murray in Marilyn's home to
keep an eye on his patient and give him total access to her life.
Vitacco-Robles' own fascination with Monroe began during his own adolescence in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was
later rekindled when he started working as a licensed mental health counselor. Today, he works with children who have survived
physical and sexual abuse or neglect, their families and youth with sexual behavior problems.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to Hollygrove Children and Family Services. As a
child, Marilyn was a resident of Hollygrove, formerly the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society.
From The Pasco County Citizen, March
Marilyn Monroe: Love Goddess or Domestic Goddess?
A new book explores her final months spent renovating a home.
FL, March 1, 2004)— Gary Vitacco-Robles, published by iUniverse, Inc., the leading provider of publishing technology
solutions for authors, announced today the release of the second edition of his book Cursum Perficio: Marilyn Monroe’s
Brentwood Hacienda/The Story of Her Final Months.
Cursum Perficio is the Latin inscription on tiles adorning the front doorstep
of Marilyn Monroe’s last home. The English translation, “my journey ends,” prophesied the screen actress’
death in the home at age 36. Cursum Perficio, the book, is author Vitacco-Robles’ exploration of Monroe’s
last home as a touchstone to her brief and extraordinary life.
”More books have been
written about Marilyn Monroe than any other entertainer,” claimed Vitacco-Robles. “Conservative estimates exceed
the six-hundred mark.” He depicts Monroe as domestic, contrasting with her glamorous and sexy screen image. “The
disparity between whom we assumed she was and who she really was fascinates me,” Vitacco-Robles continued.
The author contends
that a definitive testament of Marilyn Monroe’s modest nature, simple tastes and spirituality was her selection of a
house in which to settle in the months before her death. The Spanish Colonial hacienda symbolized Monroe’s unfulfilled
dreams and unfinished life. Its renovation was incomplete at the time of her death from a sleeping pill overdose in August
Cursum Perficio reframes and redefines Monroe through the context of her efforts
to establish a secure home following a childhood spent in a succession of foster homes and a nomadic lifestyle. The author
debunks myths about the troubled sex symbol and icon. Monroe pulled weeds in her garden, recorded recipes in her copy of The
Joy of Cooking, and actually used the pots and pans in her kitchen. She traveled to Mexico to research authentic furniture
appropriate to her home’s motif and hosted a birthday party on the patio for her psychiatrist’s daughter.
The biography explores the events during the actress’ last months, her daily routine,
state of mind, and plans to remarry her second husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Vitacco-Robles chose to avoid speculation
about the circumstances of Monroe’s death so prevalent in many recent biographies.
Cursum Perficio invites the reader inside Monroe’s private life through
120 illustrations and previously unpublished photos of her hacienda and its contents. It offers images of the interior, Monroe’s
art and decorations, and the furniture delivered days before her death. Actual photographs of the house are interspersed with
realistic renderings of the home by artist Brandon Heidrick.
Gary Vitacco-Robles is a
Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor in practice in Tampa, Florida. He works primarily with
children who have survived sexual or physical abuse or neglect and their families. Vitacco-Robles’ new perspective and
insights into the actress’s psyche is based upon his seventeen years of experience in the field of mental health. Vitacco-Robles
is donating a portion of the royalties to Hollygrove Children and Family Services, formerly the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society,
where Marilyn Monroe lived as a child.
is available in paperback or hardcover with a cover price of $20.95 and $31.95, respectively.
The paperback, ISBN 595010822, may be directly ordered through iUniverse at 877-823-9235 or www.iUniverse.com. It may also be ordered at Barnes and Noble Book Sellers and online through Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
The hardcover, ISBN 595749801, will be available in October.