As you may know, Marilyn Monroe was discovered by David Conover, a photographer who had a fishing lodge on Wallace Island, just north of Salt Spring. In the book I describe their off-and-on relationship, which lasted for nearly two decades – and the B.C. island he reportedly bought for her as a gift. (At left is a photo of Conover visiting Marilyn on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, provided by his son, who runs a B&B near Kamloops.)
One thing I wasn't able to squeeze into the book, however, is what every tabloid reader wants to know: what was the bombshell like in bed? The cliché is that Marilyn was about as amorous as a sack of pea gravel. But in his 1981 memoir, Finding Marilyn, Conover put the star in a whole new light. At nearly every opportunity Marilyn threw herself at him – and Conover (who was married) often rebuffed her advances with a decorum that verged on the hilarious.
Here, for example, is an excerpt from Conover's diary, describing the night after his first photo shoot with Marilyn in Death Valley in 1945:
.... Is there something wrong with me? No, I said, it just wouldn’t be right. Why? she asked. I stammered that I would be taking advantage of the situation, that I don’t want to. I don’t want or need any favors. She broke into laughter and sat on the bed beside me. Shutterbug, you’re so funny. When two people are together night after night, no one is doing anybody else a favor. She dropped the big white beach towel around her breasts and put her arms around me and kissed me and whispered, let’s do what comes naturally. We did.In 1953, Conover visited Marilyn's room in the Banff Springs Hotel, while she was filming River of No Return.
I knew that Marilyn had developed the habit of walking around a room nude. Now she slipped off her robe and stood in front of a full length mirror. She cupped her breasts, studied them with an expression of uncertainty, and asked, “Are they too large?”He sees her again at a hotel bar in New York, in 1962.
“Heavens, no,” I reassured her. “They’re perfect.”
“Believe me, I don’t try to seduce every man I meet. I only like having sex with men I care about. It’s more meaningful, not just an animal thing. You really try to satisfy the other person. Besides, it’s the nicest way I know to get to sleep. Don’t you think so?”Not even James Bond can maintain that kind of cool.
I agreed, with some reluctance.
“Come on,” she said gleefully, jumping to her feet. “Let’s go to my apartment and enjoy ourselves.”
“Wait,” I said. “Sit down. I haven’t finished my drink.”