For reasons beyond my control, I need to switch hosts for this blog.  The migration will involve considerable messiness — probably a bit of a gap in posting and a new look for the site.  Categories for older posts and my list of favorites sites will not move with the old content.  Old comments will move but the names of the authors of the comments will not.  I’m sorry about this and want to you to know that I appreciate each and every reader who has left a comment in the past, even though all those old comments will become anonymous on the new site.

It will undoubtedly take me a while to learn how to format the blog at its new host, and it may be somewhat chaotic, visually, until I do.

It will all sort itself out in time, I’m sure — meanwhile join me in a stiff Rum Coco and let the night of the iguana begin to spin out of control!


On the right above is Asama Al-Assad, trophy wife of Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria.  God knows how much money she has made from allowing herself to get hosed on a regular basis by this human reptile, but as she watches her husband butcher more and more unarmed civilians, more and more women, more and more children, I wonder if she has dark nights of the soul, trying to decide if the deal she cut was really worth it.

Sure, she's been featured in fashion spreads in Vogue magazine, but she will live the rest of her life with the stench of innocent blood in her nostrils, the indelible stain of Bashar's touch on her skin.  How much money and celebrity is a lifetime in hell really worth?


In 2008, Rick Santorum said that Satan was destroying America through, among other things, rock concerts.

We all know that the nation is full of demented zealots like Santorum — you can find them in cults, in private militias and in churches throughout the land.  What's surprising, and frightening, is that there are enough demented zealots in the Republican party to make one of their own the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President, at least in current national polls.

In 1971, Levon Helm, a member of The Band, sang in the concert recorded and released as Rock Of Ages:

Some people like to say
It's the Devil in my soul
But that a bunch of shit,
I just want to rock and roll.

Amen, brother.


This is
a most unusual book — one that could only have been created in the Internet age.

In 2003, a group of contributors to an online discussion group about Marilyn Monroe formed a splinter group devoted solely to a discussion about the details of her death — The DD (or Death Discussion) Group.  The core of the group was made up of non-experts on most of the issues involved, though a couple of them had professional credentials in related fields and some of them spoke to people directly involved in incidents surrounding Monroe's death.   All the members of this core group were fair-minded, intelligent and articulate individuals.

Basically what they decided to do was examine the available record (suspiciously incomplete) without fixed preconceptions, with a civil regard for all opinions, and then apply logic, basic common sense, to the myriad of contradictory, outrageous and patently false things that have been reported and written about Monroe's death.

They functioned in a way like an ideal jury, careful to distinguish between evidence that seemed reliable, evidence that derived from biased or unreliable witnesses, and sensible conclusions that could be drawn from the totality of the evidence.  They reached consensus on a number of key issues, though there were always dissenters, were split on other key issues, and offered no final conclusions, of the sort that might be be considered “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a court of law.

What David Marshall, the founder and moderator of the group, has done in this book is to provide a lengthy record of the “jury deliberations” — rational and respectful exchanges that at the very least make clear what is known, what is not known and what might be intelligently concluded.  Unless some of the missing evidence is brought to light, this will remain the final word on the death of Marilyn Monroe and the mystery that still surrounds it.

For the record, they offer convincing arguments that Monroe's death was set in motion, during the afternoon preceding the night she died, by a visit (or some other communication) from Robert Kennedy telling Monroe that she had to break off all relations with him and her brother, the President Of the United States, due to salacious rumors about those relations beginning to surface openly in the press.  The Kennedys had earlier made a similar break from Frank Sinatra, a friend and supporter, due to rumors about his involvement with organized crime.   The group concludes that Monroe had at least one sexual encounter with JFK, which initiated the rumors. but in all likelihood none with Bobby.  She was, however, a friend and confidante of both, at least in her own mind, and emotionally devastated when she learned they wanted to cut her out of their lives.  (Sinatra's reaction to being dumped was similarly intense, though his devastation took the form of violent rage and an enduring bitterness.)

The group members offer convincing arguments that Monroe was not murdered (by the Kennedys or anybody else) — that she died from an overdose of barbiturates, administered either accidentally by one or both of her primary physicians, by her housekeeper and minder, or by herself . . . or deliberately by herself, in a genuine suicide attempt or in the hope and expectation of being rescued, which had become one way she tried to reach out for help and attract sympathy.

That's it — two distinct probable causes of death, neither of them terribly sensational, except for the role of the Kennedys in setting off the emotional turmoil that led to the tragedy, and in organizing a cover-up about that role which has left significant gaps in the record of what actually happened, thus rendering Monroe's death perpetually open to wild and usually irresponsible speculation.

The crucial gap in the record involves the list of her phone calls on the day she died, which was confiscated from the phone company within hours of her death being reported to the police and never seen again — something that would have required intervention from the highest levels of the local or national government.  It is extremely unlikely that local officials would have undertaken such an unusual, and illegal, intervention without direction from federal authorities in Washington, and then only to protect figures of unique power and prominence.  It's unimaginable that Chief William Parker, the redoubtable and notoriously incorruptible head of the LAPD, would have ordered such an intervention just to protect Monroe's doctors, for example, or any of her Hollywood associates — he would have had to be convinced that issues of national security were involved.

The unanswered questions are frustrating, but this book gets you as close to the truth as it's now possible to get.


Howard Hawks might seem the least logical choice to direct a 50s musical.  The Freed unit at MGM was setting the standard then, and Vincente Minnelli was setting the standard for the Freed unit, with his baroque visual style, lush and mannered.  His mobile camera and long takes made the camera itself a performer in the show, a sort of contrapuntal melody line that worked in concert with the music and the dance choreography.  Even Freed directors who lacked Minnelli's visual inventiveness tried to approximate it, at least in the musical numbers.  Hawks, by contrast, had mastered a no-nonsense visual style that never called attention to itself.  The impeccable craftsmanship of this style had an elegance and virtuosity that equaled Minnelli's, if you did pay attention to it, but Hawks worked hard to make sure that no one would.  He wanted it to serve the story unobtrusively, so you never quite knew why his movies were so appealing and effective.

Miraculously, the Hawks style worked perfectly in one of the best of all 50s musicals, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  The film was tricked out in bold Technicolor, which provided the surface glamor people expected in a musical, and helped disguise the simplicity of the camera work.  In the musical numbers, impeccable shot sequences covered the performances expertly, with brilliantly timed cuts that kept up the momentum Minnelli and the other Freed directors achieved through long takes.

This was an advantage to Hawks because his stars, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, were not virtuoso musical comedy performers, trained in vaudeville or on the Broadway stage, as so many of the MGM musical comedy stars had been.  Short takes allowed Monroe and Russell to achieve perfection in brief segments, even as Hawks's shot sequences gave the impression of a complete and coherent performance experience.  Yet you never sense, as you do in modern music videos or musicals, with their nervous, nearly hysterical cutting, that the editing is meant to distract you from the limitations of the performers.  The editing of the musical numbers in Hawks's film has a stately rhythm and assurance that make it seem inevitable and seamless.

The film as a whole has this same feel of seamless momentum — the gags are delivered clearly and fast and then replaced by new ones.  They sparkle and amuse all the more for not overstaying their welcome.  Indeed, it's clear that Hawks wasn't trying to make a musical at all — he was trying to make a comedy with musical numbers in it, and he made sure that the musical numbers concentrated on wit and humor, to keep the tone of the whole film consistent.

In the end, this strategy is every bit as exhilarating as the expressionistic bravura of a Minnelli or a Berkeley.  It's hard, however, to think of any other director besides Hawks who could have pulled it off, which makes Gentlemen Prefer Blondes a most singular achievement in the history of Hollywood musicals.


Marilyn Monroe was buried in this Pucci dress which she had worn at a press conference in Mexico City (above) six months before she died.  It was chosen by her half-sister and two of her assistants.  Her personal make-up man came in to prepare the body for burial, as he had promised he would.  It was a difficult task, due to the damage done by the autopsy.  Monroe's breasts had been mostly done away with, for example, so the dress had to be stuffed to restore a semblance of the legendary bust, and the corpse was also fitted with a wig, one Monroe had worn in her last uncompleted film, to cover incisions made in the skull.

Dust to dust — even for the most beautiful among us.


My first novel Bloodbath is now live in the Kindle Store on Amazon, which means that if you’ve got 99 cents to spare you can buy it at the link below:


You don’t need a Kindle to read it — there are free Kindle reading apps for most computers and portable devices which you can download here:

Kindle Reading Apps

If you do own a Kindle and you’re a member of Amazon Prime you can download the book FREE for the next three months.

As for the book . . .

A neo-noir pulp thriller — short, violent, dirty and cheap.  Tim Holt is a battle-scarred vet, now a soldier of fortune working the darker byways of Latin America in 1954.  When a job in Guatemala goes way wrong he’s thrown together with a beautiful young woman who, like him, is bent on revenge — but the cost of it is going to be higher than either of them could possibly imagine.

“A seriously done and well done pulp novel — it’s a good read.” — Charles Ardai, founder and editor of Hard Case Crime

Included is a preview of the second Tim Holt adventure, Blowing Cool, due out this fall.