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'Norma Jean' Tells Story of an Affair

November 18, 1989|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The world knew her as Marilyn, the legendary blond bombshell with the breathy voice and the wiggle in her walk who heated up the silver screen during the Eisenhower years.

Ted Jordan knew her as Norma Jean, a voluptuous teen-age model who, he says, became his lover in 1943 and remained a close friend through her meteoric rise in Hollywood to her mysterious death in 1962 at age 36.

It's the off-screen personality that retired actor Jordan, a resident of Leisure World in Laguna Hills, captures in his book "Norma Jean: My Secret Life with Marilyn Monroe" (Morrow; $18.95).

Jordan's portrait of Monroe is not a pretty picture.

According to his account of the much-written-about actress, she occasionally earned extra cash by picking up men in hotel bars when she was a teen-ager married to James Dougherty, who was in the merchant marine. She was a sexually uninhibited woman who had intimate relations with both men and women and ruthlessly used the proverbial casting couch to her advantage. She was introduced to "uppers and downers" in the '40s by Jordan's uncle, nightclub entertainer Ted Lewis, who kept her supplied with pills in exchange for sex. Always insecure, she became increasingly depressed and dependent on drugs and alcohol in the last few years of what Jordan calls "the Greek tragedy of her life."

Jordan, who was prompted by previous Monroe biographies, particularly those claiming that she was murdered, began writing his book in 1982. According to the various conspiracy theories, Monroe was murdered by the CIA or Jimmy Hoffa or the Mafia because of her relationships with John and Robert Kennedy. Jordan, who says he received a phone call from the actress the evening she died, does not believe anyone killed her: "She killed herself."

"I had read most all the books" about Monroe, said Jordan, 65, "and I saw all this crap written about her, mostly from people who never knew her--especially Norman Mailer. His book was so inaccurate. I said: 'I'm going to sit down and write a book about the girl that my brother remembers meeting, that my mom--God bless her--still remembers meeting, and write the true story about her.' "

However, a review of a previous edition of the book published in England raised questions about the accuracy of some of the dates and alleged incidents in the book such as Jordan saying he had a one-night fling in 1946 with actress Lupe Velez to make Monroe jealous when Velez actually died in 1944. Television's "Entertainment Tonight" also took a critical assessment of "Norma Jean," raising similar questions and interviewing friends of Monroe who say Jordan never knew the actress.

For his part, Jordan said, "I'm not asking anybody to believe me, but I can tell you that there are a lot of people alive today that know about my affair and knew me when."

Jordan, who was born in Ohio, said that he was a 19-year-old struggling actor working as a lifeguard at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1943 when he met the 17-year-old fledgling model.

Norma Jean then bore little resemblance to Marilyn, the soon-to-be manufactured screen legend.

At that time, according to Jordan, she was a pretty "but far from beautiful girl. She had mousy, kinky hair. She had eyebrows that were straight across; they weren't arched. She had an under bite, she had a mole--a seed wart they call it--and she was very unkempt. She was very filthy about her body."

But her body, which Jordan still describes in crudely appreciative terms, made men's heads turn. In his book, he says she "positively radiated sex."

"I mean once you saw her, you never forgot her," he said, conceding that his initial interest in her was based on "strictly a physical attraction."

Monroe had joined the Blue Book Modeling Agency, which had an office at the Ambassador Hotel. Jordan remembers seeing her do her first swimsuit photo session next to the pool at the hotel.

"She couldn't act, she couldn't stand, she couldn't look at the camera," he said. "You would never say this girl is ever going to amount to anything. Absolutely never. She never would have made it the way she was. I mean, it was a different person."

Jordan said that when he asked Monroe out for a date, she seemed unimpressed until he told her that his uncle was the entertainer Ted Lewis, who was appearing at a local nightclub.

By their fourth date, Jordan writes, they had become intimate--a scene Jordan re-creates in lurid detail in his book. They fell in love and, Jordan says, he wanted to marry Monroe, but her desire to make it in Hollywood was all-consuming--to the point, he writes, that when she became pregnant by him she had an abortion because the studios wanted "nothing to do with starlets who were mothers."

"When I first met her, she was a very naive--I thought--overdeveloped young girl for her age," he said. "Not too intelligent, not too much upstairs. Yet she could outwit you or outsmart you if she wanted to. You'd never think so being around her, but she could.

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