Douglas Kirkland Remembers Marilyn in ‘OGGI’

The Italian weekly news magazine, OGGI, has a long history with Marilyn – and even devoted a special issue to her recently (see here.) Now OGGI has interviewed photographer Douglas Kirkland about his ‘evening with Marilyn’ back in 1961, less than a year before her death. The article first appeared in print on May 19 (Issue #20, with actor Gabriel Garko on the cover), and you can also read it in the original Italian here.

“‘I was a boy from Fort Earie, Canada, a town of 7,000 souls, famous – if you can say so – only because in 1952 Marilyn stayed there a few days on the set of the film Niagara, like the famous waterfalls which are just 32 kilometers away: at time, I was 17 and, like all teenagers in America, I dreamed of it at night. Nine years later, I was in the Hollywood photo studio, which I had rented for the occasion, waiting for her to open the door and materialise …’

In your book An Evening With Marilyn, you recounted the atmosphere of complicity and attraction that united you during the famous photo shoot. Did something happen between her and her?

People try to romanticise things, but no, nothing happened. Except for the incredible photos and the warm and beautiful sensations. All the while, the thought of my wife, my first high school sweetheart, and my three children waiting for me in our New Jersey home held me back. 

You write that at one point Marilyn invited you to lie down in bed next to her. Have you ever regretted not having seized that opportunity?

At 87, after all my life, it would be pretty pathetic if I thought about it again.

Did that photo shoot change your life?

I would say no. It may seem strange, but at the time that wasn’t a very important photo shoot. It became iconic later in the years to come.

Marilyn Monroe died on August 4, 1962, eight months after your meeting. Do you remember where she was when she heard the news and how she reacted?

I found out on Monday 6th August. I was in Paris and had just finished my photo shoot with Coco Chanel (see here.) I was on my way back to the hotel. I saw the poster of a newsstand, in large letters: ‘MARILYN EST MORTE!’ What did it mean? Was my Marilyn dead? Or maybe she was another Marilyn … I went to the newsstand and saw the headlines in the newspaper stacks. There were also photos. I remember that a thought began to buzz in her head: ‘No Marilyn, we will never do another photo shoot together. Me and you. Never again.’

Do you believe she committed suicide?

No comment.

Did you ever meet or see Marilyn with brothers John and Bob Kennedy?


Over the years, Marilyn’s relationships with Frank Sinatra, the mafia, the Kennedys have emerged … What really happened on the night of August 4th 1962?

I wasn’t there and I can’t know. And I don’t even care.

You said she met Marilyn three times and each time you were faced with a different person. Who was really Marilyn Monroe? 

There was something about her that touched me deeply: beauty, of course; but above all her vulnerability, which was her most attractive and seductive trait. But no, I don’t know who Marilyn really was. How could I know?”

Thanks to Gianandrea at Marilyn Monroe – Italia