hedda rosten


Dear Norman [Rosten],

It feels a little funny to be writing the name Norman since my own name is Norma and it feels like I’m writing my own name almost, However— 

First, thanks for letting Sam[photographer and MM confidant Sam Shaw] and me visit you and Hedda [Norman’s wife] last Saturday. It was nice. I enjoyed meeting your wife – she seemed so warm to me. Thanks the most for your book of poetry—with which I spent all Sunday morning in bed with. It touched me – I use to think if I had ever had a child I would have wanted only a son, but after reading -Songs for Patricia – I know I would have loved a little girl just as much but maybe the former feeling was only Freudian for something…anyway Frued [sic] 

I use to write poetry sometimes but usually I was very depressed at those times and the few (about two) people said that it depressed them, in fact one cried but it was an old friend I’d known for years. So anyway thanks. And my best to Hedda & Patricia and you— 

Marilyn M. 

“I never went shopping with Marilyn, but my wife Hedda did on numerous occasions; I was often a beneficiary of her shopping sprees at holidays. I still have one of her last Christmas gifts, a snappy super-tailored button-down shirt, dark brown with a thin black parallel stripe pattern, which I continued to wear after her death. When it became frayed, I hand-washed it, prolonging its life and wear; it’s still with me, endlessly repaired. Some call it madness but I call it touch-memory. I still put on that shirt on special occasions. 

My wife reported that shopping with Marilyn was an adventure, whether on Fifth Avenue or Southampton (Long Island), where they’d try on dressed with gleeful abandon. Yes (but you must know this already), she often wore no underclothes, and startled the attendants upon disrobing. When they appeared uneasy at putting her tried-on dresses back on the racks, Marilyn simply purchased whatever she had tried on, all the while cheerfully keeping up the conversation.”

- Norman Rosten


Marilyn’s friendship with Norman and Hedda Rosten spanned the last seven years of her life.  They had originally been introduced via Sam Shaw.   One of the very first books I read was Norman’s Marilyn: A Very Personal Story back in the 1970’s and it remains a favourite to this day. It is always interesting to read stories about Marilyn from someone who truly knew her.  The Rostens were one of the few (outside of Lee Strasberg) remembered by Marilyn in her will. She left $5,000 for their daughter, Patricia’s education.