Stanley Flink, Who Penned Marilyn’s First ‘LIFE’ Story, Dies at 98

Stanley E. Flink, the journalist and professor who interviewed Marilyn for her first LIFE cover story in 1952, died aged 98 in North Brantford, Connecticut on December 31, 2022, the New York Times reports. Born in New Jersey, Flink served in the US Army during World War II. After graduating from Yale University in 1948, he worked for LIFE magazine, profiling William Holden, Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst, Howard Hughes, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy over the next decade.

Published on April 7, 1952, Marilyn’s first LIFE cover heralded her as ‘the talk of Hollywood.’ Philippe Halsman’s cover photo has become of her most iconic images, while Flink’s profile features several of her most famous aphorisms (including an early version of her much-quoted line about wearing just a few drops of Chanel No. 5 to bed.)

“Because her movie role is always that of a dumb blonde, Hollywood generally supposes she is pretty dumb herself. This is a delusion,” Flink wrote. “Marilyn is naive and guileless. But she is smart enough to have known how to make a success in the cutthroat world of glamour. She does it by being as wholly natural as the world will allow.”

However, Marilyn’s excitement at getting her first LIFE cover quickly turned sour, as a photograph of her recently discovered nude calendar pose was also used to illustrate the piece. This was probably an editorial decision rather than the author’s (the scandal is not mentioned in his text – see here), but in a letter to Marilyn, her columnist friend Sidney Skolsky decried “that putrid Stanley Flink article.”

The article also enraged another of Marilyn’s admirers, as Flink’s son-in-law, Richard Gottlieb, wrote for Global Toy News in 2020: “If you want to find out why Joe DiMaggio picked him up by his lapels and threatened to throw him in the ocean, Google the words ‘Stanley Flink and Marilyn Monroe.'”

In 1958, Flink moved into television, working with as a writer and producer with Dave Garroway on NBC’s Today Show. He then moved to London in 1965, launching a British version of Playbill and writing Wildlife Crisis with the Duke of Edinburgh for the World Wildlife Fund. After returning to Yale in 1973, he headed the Department of Public Information and Alumni Communications.

By the 1980s he was also teaching at New York University, and was awarded the prestigious Yale Medal in 1994. He also published three books about journalism, the last published in 2019. Stanley E. Flink is survived by his wife of 47 years, Joy; his two children, Wendy and Steve; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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