Norma Jean Mortensen was, in matters of personal hygiene, a slut.
She ate in bed and pushed the remains under the sheet; had irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence; rarely bathed; and preferred to sleep in the nude.
No big deal -- except that Norma Jean is, under the screen name Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood's epitome of all that is glamorous, desirable, sexy; the image of feminine perfection, irresistible to a long line of husbands and lovers, that included baseball legend Joe di Maggio and late President John F Kennedy.
An upcoming biography of one such rumored lover, Clark Gable, presents a less than flattering picture of the woman who made 'blonde' and 'bombshell' inseparable.
All talk of a torrid affair between the Hollywood headliners on the set of the 1961 film The Misfits (written by Monroe's then husband Arthur Miller as a Valentine present for her, and directed by John Huston), is rubbish, suggests Gable's biographer David Bret.
Media reports quote Bret, author of Clark Gable: Tormented Star, as saying that though Monroe was hot for her co-star, Gable did not reciprocate.
The Hollywood hunk, Bret says, had a fetish for cleanliness. Monroe, on the other hand, 'could not have been less fastidious regarding her personal hygiene.'
'Like Jean Harlow,' Bret is quoted as saying in the biography that hits bookshelves across the US in September, 'She bleached all her pubic hair and never wore panties. She suffered from what today would be described as irritable bowel syndrome.'
Bret goes on to demolish Monroe's image as the ultimate male fantasy, with descriptions such as this: 'She rarely bathed, slept in the nude and ate a lot in bed -- shoving what was left on her plate under the sheets before going to sleep.'
A 2006 survey coinciding with London Fashion Week named her the all-time style icon of the last century.
The Misfits was, in Hollywood iconography, noted for more than just the tale of a despairing divorcee in love with a cowboy. It turned out to be the last film Gable and Monroe acted in before their respective deaths.
Gable died of a heart attack two weeks after the film wrapped; Monroe committed suicide a year later. Third lead Montgomery Clift died of the accumulated stress of drug and alcohol abuse four years later. And Miller, who hoped with the script to take his relationship with Monroe to a new plane, ended up divorcing her some months later and marrying the film's cinematographer, Inge Morath.
Flatulence or no, the Monroe mystique lives on. At a recent auction, for instance, an Andy Warhol portrait of Monroe sold for $15 million -- a 60,000-fold jump over the original sale price of $250 when Warhol first exhibited it. Another in the series, Orange Marilyn, sold in New York last year for $16.3 million.
It is the story of the sublime and the ridiculous -- and Marilyn herself offered perhaps the best summation of her life and times, when she said 'Hollywood is a place where they pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul.'