Excerpt: 'The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe,' by J. Randy Taraborrelli

J. Randy Taraborrelli reveals new information about the iconic star's life.

ByABC News via logo
August 24, 2009, 11:20 AM

Aug. 25, 2009— -- J. Randy Taraborrelli has had a long career writing biographies of celebrities, including Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra and Princess Grace.

In "The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe," he reveals information from newly released documents about her relationship with the Kennedy family, the identity of Marilyn Monroe's father and the half-brother she never knew. Taraborrelli also reports that Marilyn's mother, Gladys Baker, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and that Marilyn struggled with her own mental deterioration.

Read and excerpt of the book below and CLICK HERE for all of "GMA's" authors and excerpts at our special books page.

Marilyn Monroe.

The mere name alone represents different images for different people. For some, it suggests the absolute standard of female sensuality. Beauty. Grace. Sophistication. For others, insecurity comes to mind. Misery. Tragedy. However, in order to appreciate the complex and fascinating life of this enigmatic star, one must attempt to put aside any preconceived notions about her -- certainly no easy feat, considering her iconic status.

Perhaps the first step toward truly understanding Marilyn is to accept that all of the vivid images conjured by her name are true -- from the good to the bad, the glorious to the tragic. Indeed, she was a woman who enjoyed and suffered a wide spectrum of experiences, many that are well known and quite a few -- as you will read on these pages -- that have remained private and undisclosed until now. Still, her devoted fans have always felt that they've known her well. Some who admire her without reservation can be moved to tears by the memory of a certain, maybe haunting, performance she gave on film. They fall into a group of devotees who would sacrifice almost anything to have their idol back among the living -- only this time healthy and happy. To them, she is someone to be adored and placed high on a pedestal -- preferably in a pose befitting her cinematic royalty.

Others who are more circumspect view her as a spoiled Hollywood celebrity. They see her life as a cautionary tale of the dangers of excessive superstardom. To them, she is someone to be pitied as much as loved. Again, though all judgments and musings about her have an element of truth, there is a group I'd like to invite you to join with the reading of this biography -- the select group of people who simply want one thing: the truth.

To say that much has been written about Marilyn Monroe is an understatement if ever there was one. Yet during the time I spent researching this book, I was surprised by just how muddled and conflicting the previous accounts of her life have been over the years. I also learned that there are some intriguing reasons why many of the stories about Marilyn have felt at arm's length from her, as if her time on this earth had been viewed through a diffusion filter. For one thing, many fantastic legends about her have been accepted as fact.

Therefore, separating truth from fiction is not an easy task -- especially since a good deal of the fanciful tales about her were created by the lady herself! Then there's the residue of old Hollywood's public relations tactics. Some of those who were personally involved in Marilyn's life were products of a vastly different era. Once upon a time, there was a hands-off policy when it came to the images of celebrities, and there is to this day, among surviving members of that community, a feeling of reverence -- a respect for the way the studios wanted us to view movie stars ... From a distance.

However, Marilyn's presence, both onscreen and off, promised something quite different. She often appeared open and available, as if the answer to anything you wanted to know about her was just a question away. That, though, was an illusion. You see, Marilyn Monroe had a love-hate relationship with the truth, and at times with reality itself. It's no great mystery why she so desperately tried to avoid the truth. Often it was agonizing, unbearable, and, she hoped, escapable. Why? Because, Marilyn -- the picture of glamour and confidence to the outside world -- was a woman far more troubled than most people knew.

Though she would try to hide it from the world with her seamless portrayal of style and wit, those closest to her were privy to her deepest, darkest secret: She feared for her own sanity. Because her grandmother and mother were committed to insane asylums, Marilyn lived with the constant threat of impending madness. The often heartwrenching war she fought with her own mind has never, until now, been properly examined and presented. Thankfully for this biography, many of Marilyn's contemporaries were convinced to come forward and discuss the specifics of her secret battle. These interviewees, many in the twilight of their lives, were vital to the completion of this book.

In part, I believe their cooperation came with the realization that certain details of Marilyn's life had not yet been accurately revealed, and that the truth of her struggles would die with them. Much of what can be taken from Marilyn Monroe's story is inspirational. After all, she is a woman who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become not only adored and respected but also, arguably, the biggest movie star in all the world.

While a large part of her life was spent building and maintaining her career, in private Marilyn was passionate in her quest for family. She sought the permanency that the notion of a family promised. Sadly, it rarely delivered. Undaunted, she maintained close relationships with a mother who was constantly being institutionalized and a half sister the world didn't know existed. On these pages, you will read about those fascinating relationships for the first time, and numerous others that have been previously misunderstood. Marilyn also went to great lengths to identify and then meet her father. Indeed, her quest for genuine and meaningful bonding would continue throughout her life.

Perhaps the real story of this woman revolves around something she -- at her best -- possessed in great abundance: hope. She believed throughout her entire time on this earth that anything was possible, and she often proved just that. Those who find it difficult to read the unsettling details of her life outlined in this book should remember that, even toward the very end, Marilyn had moments when she believed ultimate happiness to be just within her grasp.

In fact, if there is one thing that set her apart from most people, it was her ability to maintain an urgency to the present moment. She believed that her "now" was more important than her past and future. Sadly, while she attempted to remain in the present, her past haunted her almost as much as her future frightened her.

Marilyn Monroe was so much more than just a famous movie star. She was a vulnerable soul, a generous spirit, and a brave soldier in a devastating battle with her own mind. Attempting to explain her difficult journey is the challenge I set for myself with this book. At the heart of the story, I discovered a very different kind of Marilyn, a woman far more complex and serious -- and maybe even tragic -- than the one I thought I knew.