He kept a framed photograph of his hero, Benito Mussolini, on his massive desk and had his office decorated to look like Il Duce’s.The reporter James Bacon, fresh out of Chicago, was assigned to cover Hollywood for the Associated Press back in 1948. He used to fire people all the time—usually on Christmas Eve.”Henri Soulé, the owner of Le Pavillon and La Côte Basque in New York, detested Cohn and considered him a déclassé Hollywood hood.
“We started with Mae West, Jean Harlow, Marilyn, then Kim. It’s a terrible comparison, but it’s like betting on the Kentucky Derby.
That fourth horse, I think can do it.”The next girl to walk through Cohn’s door was Marilyn Novak, a shy, plump, large-boned 20-year-old from Chicago with no acting experience but a breathtaking face. Since there was already a Marilyn, the first thing that had to go was her name.
But, in 1957, she fell in love with Sammy Davis Jr., who, with his immense popularity, was breaking the race barrier of a firmly segregated entertainment industry.
Sam Kashner chronicles the backlash against their affair, the alleged Mob hit ordered by Cohn which forced Davis to marry black singer Loray White, and the heartbreaking coda to the romance that Hollywood forbade.
He had created the notorious second skin glittering with sequins that Marlene Dietrich wore for her nightclub premiere in Las Vegas in 1953; he would also sew Marilyn Monroe into the sequined formfitting gown she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to John F. Novak was installed at the Studio Club, a curfewed dormitory for young starlets where Cohn could have his expensive new possession watched around the clock—even tailed by studio detectives to make sure she didn’t follow the wayward path of Rita Hayworth. At some point in the transformation of Marilyn Novak, her studio-assigned publicist, Muriel Roberts, dreamed up an all-lavender scheme and insisted that they rinse her hair with a pale lavender tint.
The studio had wanted a gimmick to distinguish its blonde from the many other new platinum blondes on the block: Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Diana Dors, Joi Lansing—all outsize girls signed to compete with Marilyn Monroe and built like the decade’s big Chevys and Buicks.
She balked at being renamed “Kit Marlowe,” and, incredibly, she won that battle.
They compromised on “Kim” Novak—the name of the son of her Chicago friend and business manager, Norma Herbert, then Norma Kasell.
He was still smarting from having let Marilyn Monroe slip away: unimpressed by her beauty, he had neglected in 1948 to renew her initial six-month contract.