The Byron Raphael Story
Elvis and Marilyn: The Untold Story
Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were two of the most famous entertainment personalities, if not "the" most famous entertainment personalities of the 20th Century. But, did they ever meet? And more to the point, did it go beyond just a meeting? The answer to both of those questions is yes! And Byron Raphael would know, because he was there when it happened. Byron was a William Morris agent who knew and worked with both Elvis and The Colonel (Parker). Marilyn Monroe was represented by the William Morris Agency.
For the first time ever, on record, you'll read about the details of the meeting between Elvis and Marilyn. This is a story that the L.A. Times does not have. This is a story that the New York Times does not have. This is a story that the London Times does not have. This is a story you won't see on Entertainment Tonight, 20/20, Extra, Access Hollywood, Primetime, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America or any top-rated talk-show or tabloid television show. This is a world-exclusive you will only read here.
This is: Elvis and Marilyn - The Untold Story.
Q - Byron, you talked a little about Elvis and Marilyn to Playboy in 2006. You said that Marilyn might have been interested in Elvis, but was put off by some of the guys surrounding Elvis. Is that correct?
A - That's right. That's where that Playboy story ended. When Gene Smith, his cousin and Cliff Cleaves, who was really his only companion before I came on the scene, those were the two that came to California with him when he first came here. Elvis was doing King Creole at Paramount at the time and he had gotten; he was actually drafted and had gotten an extension from the government, so that he could finish King Creole before he went into the service. But, he also had a dressing room over at 20th Century Fox where he also had a movie deal. Marilyn was gonna do a picture called Let's Make Love. I believe it came out in 1960. At that time she was there for either wardrobe tests or maybe they were changing directors. She was under contract with Fox all those years. We kind of urged Elvis to ask her out. He was very shy about it; afraid to get rejected because he wasn't used to getting rejected, because when we went over to the set to see Marilyn, she was just coming out Stage 23, I think it was, on the Fox lot and unfortunately Gene and Cliff just didn't make a very good appearance. (laughs) Elvis asked her if she would like to come to a party that he was giving the next night. She looked at the guys and said "I'm sorry. I can't, but thank-you" and kind of dashed away. That's where I left the Playboy story. I was going to do another story, another Playboy story about the date that Elvis and Marilyn actually had. That's really what I want to talk to you about, because they did have probably the most glorious one-night stand of all time, because that's what it turned out to be. It turned out to be a one-night stand where I delivered Marilyn. I picked her up from Shelly Winters' apartment. I remember it so well. Marilyn was married at the time. She was married to Arthur Miller, the playwright. Rumors were starting to flare that she was starting to have an affair with Yves Montand, the French actor who was gonna be her co-star in Let's Make Love. So, the marriage with Arthur Miller was not going well. But, as marriages go in those days, in New York, you had to be very careful, because there was fault divorces, rather than no-fault divorces. Adultery could not only mean money, but tremendous scandal. I picked Marilyn up 'cause I got a call from Elvis and I thought that was the end of the Marilyn thing, that day at 20th Century Fox. I got a call from Elvis about...I always remember 'cause I was having stewed prunes. I don't know why I was having stewed prunes. I was having stewed prunes that my wife had made at home and that's when the call came in. He said "Pick up Marilyn." I said "Really?" I remember almost distinctly; and this is fifty years ago or more. The address was in the 9000 block of Doheny Drive, right off Sunset Blvd. I went to the door about 7 PM. Shelly Winters opened the door. Now, she wasn't living with Shelly anymore. She used to live with Shelley. She would stay with Shelley when she came for short visits to the West Coast. At the time Shelley Winters was fairly attractive. She hadn't become that heavy-set character actress of A Place In The Sun. Still a very attractive young women. When she opened the door, I said "Hello, I'm Byron Raphael from the William Morris Agency. I'm here to pick up Miss Monroe." She yelled "Marilyn, there's a man from the Morris office here. Do you know anything about it?" Then there came Marilyn Monroe. It was a different Marilyn than I had seen at he set. All of a sudden she was extraordinarily beautiful. Not that there was anything wrong with her when she walked out (of the set). But, she had dark glasses on and she had some kind of a scarf over her hair when she came out of the Stage (23). So, I really couldn't see her. It was pretty difficult. But now, she was just absolutely, extraordinarily beautiful. She was a big movie star at the time, maybe bigger than Elvis was. At that time she was truly a movie star. Not a singer. She was a movie star. We got in the car and as we drove over to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, I remember her saying "You know, I was a client of William Morris also." She was not at the time. I said "I know. I know very well. We all wish you were still with us." She said "Well, I think you'll do very well there." And that was really the conversation that I had. I really don't remember much more because I was kind of in a daze. Driving. Slightly rainy. I didn't want to get into an accident. I remember thinking, my God, I don't want to get into an accident. The streets were slick and there were no seat belts in those days. But, things went well as we got into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Q - Some years ago, I interviewed a film producer by the name of Larry Buchanan. He knew Marilyn Monroe. He said she would only pursue men who could help her career out in some way. You said Marilyn was a big star when you drove her over to meet Elvis. Bigger than Elvis at the time. So, what could Elvis do for Marilyn Monroe then, at that time? What year are we talking about...1960?
A - Yeah. "Love Me Tender" was out. "Loving You" was out. He was doing King Creole. I don't think there was anything they could do for each other, except there was an animal magnetism. I got to tell you, at the time Elvis got out of the Army, he was, he had to be one of the most handsome men that ever lived. His idol was always Tony Curtis. I don't know if that's ever been told. That's why he dyed his hair black. You remember Tony in his early Universal (Pictures) days had that jet black hair. Elvis admired him and that was really his idol. Elvis was just really a knock-out, handsome, handsome guy. Marilyn was as beautiful a woman as I'd ever seen. There was an animal magnetism. When we got up to Elvis' suite and he opened the door and we walked in, they, within minutes were in each others arms. Marilyn said, "You've done pretty good for a guitar player."
Q - And Elvis was not a guitar player.
A - No. (laughs) That was just a joke. He said "Well, I never knew a guitar player that was worth a damn." They were so perfect for each other. If they had been able to go out in public, which of course they couldn't, she was married and it never went more than that one night. But, they had to be the most beautiful couple in the history of show business. Maybe Tyrone Power and Linda Christian were certainly beautiful people, but Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe at that time were extraordinarily beautiful. You know, Elvis wore make-up. He wore make-up all the time.
Q - He did?
A - Yeah. He liked that look. When he would finish on the set, they would clean him up and then he would put make-up back on, what they called Indian paint in those days, which was a dark make-up which would make your skin one color. It would be just like porcelain. And Marilyn's skin was like that...without make-up. Marilyn didn't have a stitch of make-up, maybe a little bit of lipstick, but you could almost see through to her skin it was so clear. To answer your question, there wasn't anything any one of them could do. She lived with Johnny Hyde (a William Morris agent) who was about 5' 1", homely little guy, but a very important William Morris agent. He got her Asphalt Jungle, which was the picture that really...that baby doll scene with Louie Calhern, sitting on his lap. That really made her career take off. Before that, she'd done a little thing with Groucho Marx and a few other little parts. Johnny Hyde really went out of his way to convince the people over there at MGM who were doing Asphalt Jungle to use her. And they lived together. As a matter of fact, when Marilyn finally told him she didn't love him and she was gonna move out, he had a heart attack and died.
Q - I didn't know that was the cause of his heart attack.
A - Well, he might have had high cholesterol. We didn't know in those days. (laughs) But, he certainly had a broken heart. He died within two months of Marilyn leaving. Marilyn really tried not to break his heart, but she didn't love him. From everything I heard from all of the agents, that from the moment she left him, he was in the office maybe once or twice and did some business at home and then died within a couple of months. There's no question that Marilyn used him. He was a sharp guy. Certainly she would not have been attracted to him. But from what Bob Braun and Nat Lefkowitz, who were two very important William Morris agents at the time said at our meetings, Marilyn still gave him, even though she was using him, she was still true to him and made him feel good while she was living with him. The reason that I knew that Elvis and Marilyn hit it off is he laughed at her joke and they went into the bedroom and forgot about me. I didn't know if I was supposed to leave or what I was supposed to do. Elvis had a big suite, so I could lay down on the couch. I think by this time it was 8:30 PM, 9 PM. We'd been out at the studio all day. I was tired. About 8:30, 9 o'clock, Marilyn and Elvis walked out of the bedroom stark naked. I was married, but, I had never seen a woman totally nude that I didn't know, much less being Marilyn. Elvis ran around a lot in boxers. But, the two of them absolutely stark naked...her figure was so magnificent. I had never seen a woman that beautiful. I don't know if in those days she had breast implants or if that was just the way she was...but she was perfect. And so was Elvis. They didn't realize I was there. All of a sudden Elvis noticed I was there and Marilyn just laughed. Elvis said "Byron, I'll call you." And I knew it was time for me to go. So, I went back home and I waited. I didn't go to sleep 'til 2 or 3 o'clock, but he never called. So, either he sent Marilyn home in a cab or maybe Shelley came to pick her up, I don't know what happened. A couple days later I asked Elvis about Marilyn and I said "Boy, what a knock-out. She's fantastic." Were you happy? He said "Well, let's not talk about it too much. She's a little old for me." That's exactly his words. He didn't want to talk about it. Lamar Fike was with us at that time. None of the other fellas were. I asked Lamar if he knew anything about it and he said no. So, they talk about a one-night stand and that's what it was. They had this terrific sexual explosion. They were both such beautiful people. They didn't need each other. There was nothing Marilyn could do for Elvis. Nothing was gonna stop him. He was on his way up. Every record was gonna be number one. He was going to become immortally famous and so was she. And she was already a star. A huge star. But, they both knew they were not right for each other. First of all, Marilyn was married. Secondly, she was ten years older than Elvis. Elvis I think was 21 or 22. She was 32. Marilyn at that time was looking to become a serious actress. She wanted to be considered a great actress. Elvis to her, as beautiful as he was, was a kid. He didn't have the manners and the sophistication that attracted her to say Arthur Miller. That's why she married him even though sexually it didn't work. Yves Montand was much better for her. He was very sophisticated, very bright, but Yves Montand was married to Simone Signoret at that time. So, Marilyn's love life never clicked in all of her life. The DiMaggio thing...he was always upset with her, that she showed too much. He was embarrassed, Joe being a very private kind of guy who thinks that women should be in the kitchen and having children.
Q - And Elvis...
A - Don't forget Elvis had the same problems romantically that Marilyn did. He was never in love with Priscilla. He had to marry her. He wanted to be with the guys. He was living with her. And she was a young girl. The Colonel said "you gotta marry her." The real love that Elvis had was Anne Margaret. She said if you don't divorce your wife, I'm gonna leave. He couldn't divorce Priscilla because you couldn't do it in those days. After that he had a series of young girls that meant nothing, so neither one of them really found love and they were the two greatest sex symbols we ever had. I don't know of any two people who were glorified sexually by the world as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. They never found satisfaction. They never found their soul-mate. Either one of them.
Q - Call me naive, but how do you know the night you drove Marilyn over to see Elvis that they didn't discuss working on a project together?
A - Because Elvis never, never was allowed to do that. That was Colonel Parker's domain. As you know, Barbra Streisand made the mistake of going to Elvis in Las Vegas and talking about A Star Is Born. That's true. Which would've been a great role for Elvis, the role that (Kris) Kristofferson did. It finally would've been that dramatic role. But as soon as the Colonel knew that someone had gone over his head, he just said no, we're not interested. You're not naive. They might have talked about doing a picture together, but I doubt it. Elvis was always fearful about talking about movie projects. He would say that's the Colonel's job. And I don't think at that time Marilyn was interested in doing a picture with Elvis because he still was to her, immature and not proven as an actor. Probably she didn't even think of him as an actor. But, they had that animal attraction to each other and that's all it could ever be, because of the age difference and where they were going in life.
Q - Would any of the scandal magazines of the era have been tailing you when you drove Marilyn over to the hotel?
A - Very interesting. It's a good question. There were photographers by the lobby. They never allowed them inside. Constantly. But, that night, I pulled up in front of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the doorman was gonna take the car down to the garage and we walked in. Marilyn was not disguised. She was Marilyn Monroe. She didn't have dark glasses. She didn't have a scarf. She was Marilyn Monroe. We walked from the car to the elevator and there were no fans. There were usually fans that stood outside and looked up at Elvis' suite. I think it was the sixth floor. But, there was just nobody. No pictures went off. Now, how she got out and how she got back and whether it was four in the morning, I don't know. It was a rainy night and that kept the fans down because there were always fans. Elvis was there. But, it was never written about, that short walk from the front of the drugstore right next door, to the elevator was 100 feet or something. There were people there, but somehow no one ran up for an autograph. It was just one of those nights that we got up to the elevator and we went straight up and there was never a picture. Had there been a picture, it would've been a tremendous story and influenced Marilyn's divorce from Arthur Miller, which was gonna happen very soon. It would've been a shocker. And it would've been very bad for Elvis. Had Colonel Parker known that Elvis called me... One of my jobs was to be kind of a semi-spy and let the Colonel know if any bad characters were coming in. In those days the worst kind of character was marijuana. There was no heroin. Elvis didn't smoke marijuana. Some of the guys around, Nick Adams and Sammy Davis did. One of my jobs was to tell the Colonel if somebody was trying to convince Elvis to invest money in some kind of a deal. I think had I told the Colonel about the call I got from Elvis to pick up Marilyn, which I did, I think the Colonel would've said don't do it. I'm sure he would.
Q - I'm sure the guys from the "Memphis Mafia" are gonna read this and say Elvis never talked about the incident to us. You're telling me Elvis never spoke about the night he spent with Marilyn Monroe to anyone?
A - Lamar Fike said to Alana Nash (author) that Elvis turned Marilyn down. So, he admitted that he was not there that night. But, he admitted that something was happening. The other guys said no, it never happened. But Lamar, who was the first guy there; well, I was the first guy. There was no Lamar. When I got there it was just before the Army. There was no Joe Esposito or Marty Lacker or Sonny and Red West. They were not there. There was just Gene and Cliff and myself. But, Lamar admitted that. They turned it around because they always protected Elvis, but that was good. I don't mean to say Marilyn turned him down. She certainly did at the beginning. No question about that. And Lamar knew that. And so that's what he says today. But, he denies that they had an affair because if they had had an affair, it would've had to be Elvis to break it up. The other guys didn't know. Once Elvis got out of the Army, he started to acquire an entourage. And once that happened I went back to William Morris, because he didn't need a friend. And that's what I was in the beginning. Somebody to get young girls for him. Somebody of his own age, 'cause I was exactly Elvis' age, that was not from the South, that he could talk to a little bit. And also because I was a William Morris young agent, it didn't look like I was there to spy on Elvis. But, once the entourage came, I went back to William Morris. So then my days of being close to Elvis were gone. And as a matter of fact, so were the Colonel's, because there was no socializing and it gradually became a situation as the years went on that Elvis and the Colonel stopped talking. The guys like Joe Esposito and Marty Lacker and Gene Smith's cousin Billy (Stanley), they want the world to think that they were the ones with Elvis when first came to Hollywood, because they're so territorial they feel the part of the social glamour that was Elvis Presley reflected on them. So they want people to think they were there with Elvis when he came to Hollywood. But, it's really not true. That's why they try to dis-credit me. They couldn't do it too much 'cause there were too many affidavits from the Colonel that included me and talked about me, that can't be faked. You can't fake that type of typewriter. They don't make that type of typewriter anymore. And the Colonel's signature was on them. In fact, they wrote a letter to Playboy saying none of it's true, but Playboy refused to print it. If you noticed, they never printed any letter from Elvis' friends denying it, although they wrote it. Elvis' guys wrote it, denying that I even worked for Elvis and the Colonel.
Q - I believe somewhere on the web, I saw an interview with a Memphis Mafia member who said "Who is this guy Byron Raphael? I've never heard of him!"
A - I wouldn't go out and publicize the fact that I was working for the Colonel. I would've been fired. Elvis didn't do interviews. Neither did the Colonel. Neither did I. But the most important reason they say that is they were not there. The problem that they have and the reason they're protective is; Colonel Parker, Tom Diskin, Trudi Forsher, Elvis' secretary, Gene and Cliff are all dead. So, the only person, it's a little scary, that was left from the original group, the original people around Elvis when he first arrived in Hollywood, is me. See, there's nothing they can do about that. There's one other guy, Trudi Forsher's son, Jim Forsher, who is a professor at the University in San Francisco, who remembers so well and has sent me the documents that his mother kept which included me. He remembers. He will verify. He was eight years old and to him, I was like an idol. His mother is Elvis' secretary and here I am a young man hanging out with Elvis. His memories of that are very clear. Billy Stanley claims that he was there. When Gladys Presley died, Vernon re-married to a woman by the name of Dee Stanley. So, Billy became his step-brother. But, when I was there, Gladys was very much alive. So, people who say they were there, are lying. I understand their lie, because they did spend most of their life with Elvis. I was there for three years, four years. They gave up their wives, they gave up their lives to be with Elvis. So, I understand why they want to say they were there all the time. During the really great years when he first exploded, I was the one who was there. There was no Joe Esposito. Lamar did come the second year. Even Alanna (Nash) when she would talk to him, he would say "Say hello to Byron for me." There was no way he could deny it. In fact, he didn't want to deny it, up until the Playboy story came out. He didn't like that so much. But, the other guys just weren't there.