• Stacya Shepard Silverman

Part 30: When Norma Was Nineteen

"Is this too strange for a Father's Day post?" I asked my husband.

"Well, it's all strange," he said.


I had discovered a page, mixed in with other loose pages in my father's journal, and I wasn't sure what to make of it.


My father told me a lot about his life, both my parents did. They both lacked "filters", although my father could keep a secret better than my mother could. I think all the moving around made them both lonely and isolated. I know I felt that way. Dad never mentioned anything about this story in his journal, and I was shocked when I read it.


This single page of Riley Shepard's personal diary has only been read by a few people in my close circle, and much discussion ensued.


"Is this true?" friends ask, eyes wide.


"I don't know," I say. I don't know what's true anymore.


I've decided to re- type in my father's words (his words are in bold and italics) and then post a photograph of the page.


NORMA JEANE MORTEENSEN aka NORMA JEAN BAKER, NORMA JEAN DOUGHERTY, MARILYN MONROE....she had brownish hair until 1946, when she dyed her hair and became a blond...in 1946 she was 19..........................


She was married at 16, divorced at 19 and trying to be a model, but had no money and no portfolio.....Joseph Jasgur, a photographer for the HOLLYWOOD CITIZENS NEWS who had his own studio made hundreds of photographs of her, which she used gratis and eventually got a movie contract, becoming a star at 20th-Century Fox........


I met her in 1946 when I made a trip to the coast to make several recording sessions. I took her to dinner and then to bed, and she stayed with me at my hotel four four days and night, when I had to return to New York.

Next time I saw her she was already a star and was trying to learn more about acting at Acot's Studio in N.Y.C. She pretended she didn't know me and I played along. She was dating baseball player named Joe DiMaggio at the time. Later, she masrroed him.


I left a few typos in, (his extra spaces) and "four four days and night", and "later, she masrroed him" instead of she married him. I like the non-word masrroed. It sounds dangerous. I've become attached to my father's typos, as if they have some secret meaning.


Here is the original page:


I read this page over and over when I first came across it, thinking back to our talks about movies when I was a kid. Dad always said Marilyn Monroe was a serious artist, and many times he noted what a shame it was that so many in the public only saw her as a sex symbol. He wanted me to know she was smart and dedicated to the craft of acting, and had sought out the best acting teachers. Dad spoke of Laurence Olivier's distain for her during the movie they made together, and he said it was because Olivier wanted his then wife, Vivian Leigh, cast in her role.


Since I'm back to work, I'll be posting bits and pieces I've come across that don't seem to fit anywhere else.


Whenever I feel a little guilty about posting my father's private recollections, I remember something he used to say to me. Since it's Father's Day, here's some of Riley's fatherly advice.


He'd often say, "Listen, kid, don't do anything you wouldn't want to see printed on the front page of the newspaper."


He didn't know about blogs.


Here's my mother's painting of Riley from around 1978.(I think...maybe later.)


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©2020 by Stacya Silverman.

All photos on this site were taken by Thomas Schworer or David Hiller unless otherwise noted.