The Story of M
Young Marilyn Briggs left Westport to seek a new life in California. She found one in the movies-as Marilyn Chambers-but she never found the thing she wanted most.
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What drove Marilyn Briggs is a mystery, even to members of her family.
"Who knew?" says Bill Briggs. "I don't know that part of her character. I always just thought of her as my little sister. By the time she was starting to grow up, I was gone." As for their parents, "They were just in denial," Briggs says. "They considered her a showbiz personality, but they never talked about the seamier side."
Westport friends and lovers, however, noticed a pronounced neediness early on.
"She was the youngest of the three, her mother was a nurse and never home," says Darryl Manning. "You never had the sense that hers was a family that did things together. Because she was the youngest in a family where the parents weren't around, she probably craved attention."
Her father, William H. Briggs Jr., to whom she was close, had a reputation as something of a womanizer. That, and his well-known affair with a neighbor, may have played a role in his daughter's attention deficit. The president of Monroe F. Dreher, an advertising agency in Manhattan, Bill eventually left his wife for Betty Lou Fritchman, the mother of one Marilyn's classmates. He and Ginny divorced in the late '70s, long after Marilyn had left home and town. But in the early '90s, after Betty Lou died suddenly from a brain aneurysm, they remarried and moved to Oregon to be closer to their older daughter, Jann, and her children.
Cal Neff, who had graduated from Staples in 1967, remembers meeting Marilyn at a party at the house he was renting with other Westport friends on St. John's Place, near the downtown, in the late '60s, when she was a junior. The two had been drinking and smoking around a candle in the middle of the floor when, at one point during the night, according to witnesses, he started taking off her clothes and they had sex in front of the others there.
Neff and Marilyn went out together for a month or two. "She had an overwhelming need for attention, and great gobs of it," he says now. "I mean, she just doted on anyone who paid any attention to her at all. And, of course, it was inevitable that the male animal was going to look at something so young and nubile. Anyway, we went to a party one night, and she went off with somebody else, and that was pretty much the last time I was with her."
She was also competitive in seeking attention. "Once," remembers Miner, at the time Neff's roommate, "I came home to find Cal, who was dating Marilyn, supervising a weightlifting contest between her and my girlfriend. My girlfriend lost badly and was a little freaked out by how intense Marilyn had been."
A nationally ranked heavyweight lifter and legendary Westport bad boy from that era, Neff pulled his life together before it was too late. Twenty years ago, he moved to Thailand, where he currently lives and has a family. Like many others who knew Marilyn Briggs, his memory of her is warm but also tinged with regret.
"I thought she was absolutely magnificent," he says. "Her body was beautiful, and she was kind and she was good. She had a personality, a face that was beautiful but even more so it was animated and, you know, she was fun. But there was a sadness when she was starting to do this stuff. I never saw Behind the Green Door-I didn't want to see it-because I felt that there was more to her than that."
Recalls old friend Liz Boyd, "She was certainly Marilyn Chambers-it was almost like another side of her-but the Marilyn Briggs never changed and never went away, and she was probably one of the kindest people you would ever know."