Marilyn wasn’t the only celebrity in her marriage to have her own song.Hers was entitled Marrying/Carrying/Marilyn, suggesting all of America was married to the sex goddess. Although Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn didn’t wed until 1954 they were involved in a fairly tumultuous relationship for two years before that. Yet each decided their
union was strong enough to marry. This proved to be a disastrous mistake. Both Marilyn and DiMaggio had been married before they wed each other. DiMaggio was the conservative, jealous type: a possessive, Italian man with a very conservative, large immigrant family. Although they were well acquainted with Joe’s fame being due to an athletic talent, the family couldn’t quite understand Marilyn’s. They didn’t comprehend a woman who was famous for her blatant sexuality and her beauty. It isn’t likely they respected her for it either. Their attitude would have been one of wondering why Joe couldn’t get his wife under control. Marilyn’s life of course, was the opposite. She had no family and no one to express pride in her accomplishments. If she thought her husband would show pride in her career she was very much mistaken. For that reason, neither spouse understood the other. DiMaggio couldn’t understand why his wife, the sex goddess of the world who was wed to America, craved the spotlight. Marilyn couldn’t abide DiMaggio’s insistence on modesty and privacy. Marilyn was only 28
years old when they married. Her career had blossomed into major stardom and she was not about to hide away with her reclusive husband. It was sadly ironic that DiMaggio couldn’t associate his career a major public figure even though he had only retired the year he met Marilyn. Perhaps there was career envy between the two. After filming the flamboyantly sexual publicity scene for the Seven Year Itch in New York City, Marilyn joined DiMaggio at their hotel room and breathed, “do you know what it feels like to have 50,000 people cheering for you?” “75,000,” came the quiet reply and Marilyn was embarrassed.
Yet Marilyn was proud of her husband’s professional prowess. “Anything thrown in his direction he could hit,” she once giggled. The film’s parallel between a man and his troubled marriage couldn’t have been entirely lost on the unhappy pair. The history of the skirt scene is also interesting. George Barris, a photographer and friend of Marilyn’s, stated in an interview that a man named Sam Shur, also a photographer and an “idea man” for the film suggested, “why don’t you have her wear a frilly skirt and take her over where the subway grating is and we’ll have a fan underneath and blow up her skirt. It’ll be very sexy.” The director Billy Wilder told Marilyn the idea and not surprisingly, she responded, “sure! Okay!” Marilyn loved the idea of playing the Girl with the blowing white sundress.The scene was shot at 2:00 am at Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street. There are two versions of the incident where Amy Greene insisted she was present for the skirt scene.
Walter Winchell, a famous New York columnist also professed to being there and speaking with a very irate DiMaggio. It is highly unlikely that Amy Greene was in attendance. Marilyn hadn’t left for New York at this point in her career. Every time the white skirt went up over her head, the men at the front of the crowds cheered, “do it again! Do it again!” DiMaggio was trembling probably with rage and murmured to Winchell “you can see her … panties.” That was when DiMaggio turned to either Winchell or Greene depending upon who you believe (my vote’s with Winchell) and stated “I’ve had it!” Wilder filmed take after take. It was possible to see Marilyn’s pubic hair through the panties. Finally Marilyn commented to Wilder, “‘I hope you’re not doing this to show to your friends at a private screening!” The picture went all over the world and it was a scene that had become world famous,” Barris stated. But the damage to the DiMaggio marriage had been done.
Witnesses stated that almost immediately, the marriage showed signs of distress. The ink was barely dry on the wedding certificate and Marilyn left DiMaggio during their honeymoon in Japan to entertain American troops in Korea. Marilyn appeared onstage in freezing weather wearing a glittery, purple dress and later said, “I swear I didn’t feel a thing except good.” Soldiers had wired a telephone Marilyn used to an intercom and when she was heard to say, “do you still love me Joe? Miss me?” DiMaggio’s response was decidedly muffled. Allegedly, Joe was fanatically jealous of Marilyn and not just of men but of women as well. In fact, many of Marilyn’s friends found Joe to be highly irritated and angered over any signs of attention Marilyn received. This led to rumours that Marilyn was a lesbian, hence the reason Joe didn’t want her having friendships with women. Nonsense. If it was true that DiMaggio didn’t want her having relationships with women, then this is the sign of a very possessive man, not proof that Marilyn was bisexual. The relationship from the beginning was often overshadowed with Joe’s jealousy. According to an earlier interview, Marilyn stated that jealousy was, “like salt on steak, all you need is a little bit of it.” She got more than she bargained for.
Friends and colleagues of Marilyn said that Joe was overtly domineering, highly critical and violent to Marilyn throughout the entirety of the relationship. Regardless, they continued to claim that they still loved each other. Sex between the two however was never a problem. Marilyn once commented to a friend that “Joe’s biggest bat isn’t the one he uses on the baseball field.” She told Lena Pepitone, her New York City maid, that if sex “was all there was to it, we’d still be married.” Amy Greene, stated she asked Marilyn“why did you marry Joe?” and Marilyn replied, “he was great in bed….that was all those two had in common. Everything else is made up.”
About the take for the Seven Year Itch Amy Greene elaborated, stating, “Joe wasn’t having fun. I was standing next to him and the man is turning as white as snow….conservative, Italian man [he was having] none of that whatsoever. He started to tremble. Then he grabbed my arm and, very big hands, very strong hands, and he grabbed my arm I said ‘Joe, it’s going to be okay. Don’t worry about it. It will be a funny scene in the movie. He said ‘funny? She’s showing her panties…and he said to me, ‘I can’t take it anymore’…through clenched teeth he said, ‘will you tell her I’ll see her back at the hotel!’ This was quite an irony, considering Jo escorted Marilyn to the premiere of Itch, looking pleased and proud to have his beautiful wife on his arm. Perhaps all was forgiven, if not forgotten, by then.
DiMaggio announced his retirement at age 37 on December 11, 1951.When remarking on his retirement to the Sporting News on December 19, 1951, he said I feel like I have reached the stage where I can no longer produce for my club, my manager, and my teammates. I had a poor year, but even if I had hit .350, this would have been my last year. I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game, and so, I’ve played my last game. Torn between the game and retirement DiMaggio decided to settle down with a woman who was ready to do the same with him. There are two stories as to how DiMaggio and Marilyn met. One states that DiMaggio had seen a publicity photograph of Marilyn with Chicago White Sox players Joe Dobson and Gus Zernial, and he had tracked her down from there. Another states that in his quest for a woman a mutual acquaintance in the film industry arranged it after DiMaggio selected Marilyn from a stack of beautiful starlets he was interesting in meeting. “She just clammed up over dinner,” Anthony Summer quoted a dinner guest in his biography “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe”. Initially Marilyn didn’t want to meet DiMaggio:she had no interest in athletes and she assumed he would be a flashy type with slicked hair and a flashy suit. “I had thought I was going to meet a loud, sporty fellow,” she said later. “Instead I found myself smiling at a reserved gentleman in a gray suit, with a gray tie and a sprinkle of gray in his hair. There were a few blue polka dots in his tie. If I hadn’t been told he was some sort of ballplayer, I would have guessed he was either a steel magnate or a congressman.” It’s easy to imagine what DiMaggio saw when he met Marilyn.
After dinner Marilyn left with DiMaggio and the two walked quietly along a beach, talking about private matters. It was during this evening that DiMaggio became infatuated with her, if not in love. At first Marilyn wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with DiMaggio but he doggedly persisted and she decided to give him a chance. Their relationship was fraught with problems almost from the beginning, mostly stemming from the public nature of Marilyn’s career. A shy man, DiMaggio shunned publicity and the press, while Marilyn’s career thrived on it. DiMaggio disliked the hustle of Hollywood; Marilyn was caught up in it. DiMaggio protected Marilyn to some degree: the studio executives, the phony hangers-on, the snide remarks in the press about her acting abilities. He could not understand her devotion to such a distasteful business. Complicating the issue was the change in Marilyn’s status from the time of the initial meeting through their serious courtship. At the beginning of their romance, Marilyn was still played minor or secondary roles. In the aftermath of the nude calendar story and throughout the production of Niagara, the publicity surrounding Marilyn rapidly increased. Yet for all DiMaggio’s objections about Marilyn’s career he was also interested in forwarding her financial renumeration. He felt Marilyn was grossly underpaid compared to what Fox was making from his wife. It was he who argued for an increase in her salary and Marilyn was able to command $100,000.00 per picture after they were wed rather than her usual paltry $50,000.00. That doesn’t sound like much but $100,00.00 today is approximately $5 million or so. Even this amount was pitiful compared to Elizabeth Taylor’s $1 million per film (about $10 million by today’s currency) but it was a leap for Marilyn.
DiMaggio began taking Marilyn out on a regular basis. He believed they were involved in an exclusive relationship but Marilyn’s behaviour suggested otherwise. She had a multitude of affairs during the two years they dated, and possibly an affair with the President while still married to DiMaggio. During a weekend filming Niagara, Robert Slatzer, a screenwriter, director and producer, wrote a highly dubious auto-biography of his experiences with Marilyn entitled The Marilyn Files. There are two versions as to how the marriage came to an abrupt end. Slatzer claimed they were wed during the filming of the movie in 1953, but Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox had it annulled, concerned about Marilyn’s professional reputation (can’t blame him for that).Riiight. In another version, Marilyn changed her mind about Slatzer (finally, she came to her senses) and the two went to the lawyer who had wed them to destroy the wedding certificate that hadn’t yet been processed (don’t you love how there is no wedding certificate to present in order to verify this “happy union)? It was also rumoured that he and DiMaggio competed for Marilyn’s affections that entire year. Marilyn, seriously, what were you thinking? I won’t throw my hat into that ring but there may have been a brief fling. Why Marilyn would have a fling with the fat, distinctly unattractive Slatzer is anyone’s guess, especially since she was already a major star.
The story goes that on October 4, 1952, Marilyn and Slatzer supposedly spent the evening drinking champagne and talking before they decided to take a drive to Mexico’s Rosarita Beach. According to Donald Wolfe, the two suddenly decided to get married after having drinks at the Foreign Club in Tijuana. Slatzer and Marilyn ran into an old acquaintance named Kid Chissell who agreed to be a witness at their wedding. Can’t you just picture Chissell giggling behind his hand during the supposed ceremony? Slatzer also wrote the biography The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe and again insisted he wed the movie star. Personally I think he invented that nonsense to sell his books. The marriage could not be independently confirmed. Well, what a surprise. As for the wedding certificate, Slatzer conveniently explained he and Marilyn burned it to eradicate proof of the marriage. Slatzer missed his calling. He should have been a comedian.
President JFK was rumoured to have continued his involvement with Marilyn during the year she was Mrs. Joe DiMaggio. There are differing stories as to when Marilyn and Kennedy became involved but over the years, at various times and locations, he was photographed with Marilyn, and in particular at his brother-in-law Peter Lawford’s house. This is a distinct possibility. JFK certainly was tight-lipped on the subject and did his best to remain highly discreet. Since he had nothing to gain and a lot to lose if his wife discovered legitimate proof that he was sexually involved with Marilyn, there is nothing to argue against this claim. It has been documented in confidential files that Marilyn and JFK were indeed seeing one another during that time period.
In his autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando claimed he met Marilyn Monroe at a party where she played piano, unnoticed by anybody else there, and they had an affair and maintained an intermittent relationship for many years. Whether or not this was in 1954 is difficult to determine. Brando claimed he received a telephone call from her several days before she died. This is possible since Lena Pepitone in her biography Marilyn Monroe Confidential wrote that one afternoon in 1962 when Marilyn was feeling especially down, she told Marilyn “why don’t you call your friend Marlon Brando? You like talking to him.”
DiMaggio began to seriously court Marilyn during the filming of Niagara. He must have appreciated her nude calendar. Marilyn was aware of their differences: DiMaggio was a shy man who avoided publicity. She was a movie star who courted the press. There were many other opposites. There were also positives in the relationship or they wouldn’t have married. They loved one another very much but DiMaggio ignored their obvious differences. Marilyn claimed she married DiMaggio because he was “very good in bed.” I doubt that was the only reason. Marilyn Monroe was once described by a lover as “a lousy lay”. It’s quite possible this was the case. She once stated to Dr. Ralph Greenson that men“expected bells to ring and whistles to whistle, but my anatomy is just like any other woman’s and I can’t live up to it”.
DiMaggio and Marilyn’s ceremony was plain and relatively private as far as celebrity weddings go. At DiMaggio’s insistence she wore a modest brown dress that buttoned to her neck. He insisted Marilyn would always wear conservative clothing when they were alone. Marilyn made a serious of phone calls she considered to be important. Several paparazzi and members of the public attended and pictures of the happy couple reveal DiMaggio was so exuberant, for once he didn’t mind posing for pictures and speaking to fans.. Marilyn stated “I want six [children]”. When DiMaggio had enough, he took Marilyn by the arm and they drove off in his car. After the divorce, Pepitone alleged that Marilyn told her “You know I really didn’t want to marry him. In the picture where my arms are on him I was really pushing him away.” Nine months later, she did just that.
Mental Health and Marilyn
Not only was Marilyn’s career a strain on the new union her mental illness, manic-depression (bipolar disorder today) caused many problems for her personally and professionally. She was seeing psychiatrists on a regular basis; possibly she took lithium and perhaps a combination of other drugs for her MD. Lithium is an old drug; it is a salt. It can be very effective for some people yet ineffective for others. Sometimes a lack of affect and interest in social activities has been noted in people who suffer side effects since lithium particularly suppresses mania. In that case, the patient often stops taking the medication. This also happens when patients improve as they believe they no longer need their medication. In Marilyn’s case lithium was the main drug used in treating manic-depression. There wasn’t the variety of newer, more effective medications available today.
Marilyn was also prescribed barbiturates including Nembutal and Seconal. Barbiturates are a central nervous system depressant and can cause anything from mild sedation to complete anesthesia. Combined with lithium (if indeed Marilyn was using lithium) it is little wonder Marilyn became depressed toward the end of her life. Her depression may not have simply been due to personal and professional difficulty, but also side effects from a heavy combination of depressant medication. Today barbiturates have mostly been replaced by benzodiazepines, because they are significantly less dangerous in terms of overdose.
Certainly Marilyn’s illness caused the marriage great stress, especially if she was experiencing depression. Her insomnia may have continued during this time and this would make Marilyn sluggish during the daytime. Her emotional state would have fluctuated, making her unpredictable. In Summer’s biography he described a scene in San Francisco where Marilyn fled down a road weeping, DiMaggio in pursuit. Some fishermen nearby saw them and looked away. More than once DiMaggio helped her to get released from mental institutions. In 1961 Marilyn was hospitalized at the Payne Whitney Clinic, in what was then a brutal environment for the mentally ill. Very disturbed people were kept under shockingly strict conditions. Marilyn managed to make a phone call to DiMaggio who flew to the Upper East Side of Manhattan and got her released. Later Marilyn comment to Susan Strasberg “I know I have my problems but those people are really crazy”. DiMaggio came to Marilyn’s aid in terms of hospitalizations and various situations related to her mental health many times, so much so that Summers wrote eventually even “he’d had it”.
The DiMaggio Divorce
The filming of The Seven Year Itch was a major hurdle in the marriage. The skirt scene over the subway enraged DiMaggio but Marilyn insisted on doing it. Another significant obstacle was when Marilyn walked out on their honeymoon in Japan to entertain American troops in Korea. Soldiers had wired a phone Marilyn used to call DiMaggio to an intercom and when she asked “do you still love me Joe? Miss me?” the answer was very muffled. Marilyn claimed that DiMaggio hit her and when she arrived on movie sets she often had bruises on her back. The makeup woman would apply foundation to cover them up. Whether or not this claim was true has never been verified. I have my doubts since on the day she died, Robert Slatzer claimed she contacted him by phone to tell him Bobby Kennedy had visited her home and had beaten her and pushed her around. The last thing Bobby Kennedy would have done would be to beat up Marilyn Monroe. He wasn’t a man who hit women and, of all women, he certainly wouldn’t have abused Marilyn Monroe.
Eventually Marilyn had enough of DiMaggio’s supposed temper and jealousy, and in October 1954 she announced that she and DiMaggio were going to divorce. The two appeared at a court for a divorce hearing on October 27. Marilyn claimed that she wanted a divorce on the grounds that Joe was mentally cruel to her. “Our marriage wasn’t a happy one, we’d only been married 9 months unfortunately. I don’t know what else to say.” They had only been married for nine months. It was a difficult time for Marilyn in the press: DiMaggio had plenty of fans, most of whom blamed Marilyn for the divorce. Anthony Summers, the author of “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe,” claimed a fan of DiMaggio’s passed Marilyn a piece of toilet paper with the word “whore” written on it in fecal matter. Although the divorce was ultimately granted, DiMaggio refused to give up on a relationship with Marilyn. However, DiMaggio’s ongoing involvement with Marilyn was a mutual affair. The night they divorced she spent the night in his arms, comforted by him about the dissolution of their marriage. Marilyn herself was a self-contradictory, complicated person.
Joe himself had a string of romantic involvements, although these began (and ended) after the divorce from Marilyn. Among his conquests off the field in 1956 was Lee Meriwether, a former Miss America. She won the crown with a Marilyn Monroe act (probably not the one with the white sundress). She played Catwoman in the television Batman series. It was speculated that DiMaggio was “very close to marrying” Miss America 1957 Marian McKnight (apparently he liked beauty queens) but she denied it. Ouch. Whether true or not, DiMaggio was linked to Marlene Dietrich (apparently he liked movie stars too), the gorgeous Cleo Moore (pictured right) who bore a striking resemblance to Marilyn, and 1970 Miss Virginia Elizabeth Ray. By then DiMaggio was 64 years young; she was about 23. He obviously didn’t realize he was well past his prime. Perhaps DiMaggio was titillated by Rays’ involvement in a searing sex scandal in 1976, that ended the career of U.S. Rep Wayne Hays (apparently DiMaggio likes sex scandals but not those that involved Marilyn). During that time, Hays admitted, her job duties were providing Congressman Hays sexual favors. “I can’t type, I can’t file, I can’t even answer the phone,” (unless DiMaggio was at the other end of it). Years later, DiMaggio was involved with Morgan Fairchild. Ick. He really needed to have another look at Marilyn Monroe’s nude photos.Clearly, DiMaggio didn’t become a monk after Marilyn’s death but that’s understandable. Somehow life has to go on.
The Wrong Door Raid There must have been something to reports of DiMaggio’s jealousy. In November 1954, while still wed to Marilyn, Joe and his friend, Frank Sinatra, were allegedly involved in the raid of Florence Kotz’s home. Kotz was an American costume designer on Broadway and in film. While Kotz was sleeping, two men broke down
her door and barged into her apartment taking photographs of her as she lay in bed screaming. Minutes later the men scrambled back out of the door, purportedly in a state of confusion. Later it emerged that the men who broke into the apartment were Joe and Frank, who were looking to catch Marilyn with a lover in the apartment. However, the two had accidentally gone to the wrong place. At the time of the break-in, Marilyn was in another apartment in the same building having dinner with friends. The blundered escapade was nicknamed “The Wrong Door Raid” and Joe and Frank found themselves in court for illegal entry and destruction of private property. For his part, by photographing Marilyn in an adulterous situation DiMaggio could have stopped the divorce. Because of the darkness in Kotz’s apartment, a lawyer argued that the identities of the men were not certain and the case against them quickly faded. Joe and Frank denied their guilt and the case was eventually dropped. But Kotz sued the men anyway and received an out-of-court settlement for the trouble. The settlement, at least, was all very hush-hush.
Marilyn now realized the extent to which her husband would go to get her back. She continued to maintain a friendship with him, even though they still harbored love for one another. Yet even then, Marilyn also secretly had her eye on someone else. Still, we see photographs of the two throughout the rest of her life as old friends and confidantes. They spend time privately bathing on a beach, having dinner together in her New York City apartment, even spending Christmas together in 1961. Some witnesses, including Marilyn’s maid for 6 years, Lena Pepitone, claimed Marilyn and Joe were preparing to remarry during 1962. Pepitone also claimed that after the Miller divorce, Marilyn and DiMaggio lived together again. If Jealousy and possessive had shadowed their union, clearly it was an issue that had been dealt with to their mutual satisfaction. Lena Pepitone, Marilyn’s New York City maid, in her book Marilyn Monroe Confidential claimed by now Marilyn and Joe were again living together yet there is no evidence to substantiate this claim. During this supposedly idyllic time in their lives, DiMaggio was alarmed at how Marilyn had fallen in with people he felt detrimental to her well-being. Val Monette, owner of a military post-exchange supply company, stated that DiMaggio left his employ on August 1, 1962 because he had decided to ask Marilyn to remarry him. The biggest tragedy in this scenario was that within 3 days of Marilyn’s consent to remarry DiMaggio, she would be dead. Instead of marrying Marilyn on that date, DiMaggio was burying her instead.
When Marilyn committed suicide on August 4, 1962 (or 5th), no one must have been more shocked and devastated than DiMaggio. The love of his life was dead and he had no idea she was so depressed she was about to kill herself. Think of the guilt and grief DiMaggio suffered! He might have berated himself for not allowing Marilyn to discuss her affair with JFK and the pain she felt from his cool dismissal. DiMaggio took over funeral arrangements for Marilyn. The viewing was very private and perhaps only 15 people were invited to attend. DiMaggio refused to allow anyone in the Hollywood industry to attend her funeral. He refused anyone he felt had misled and hurt Marilyn, “especially those damned Kennedy’s.”
DiMaggio’s Last Years
In the 1970s, long after Marilyn’s death, DiMaggio became a spokesman for Mr. Coffee and would be the face of the electric coffee makers for over 20 years. He appeared in a toy commercial for Lionel Trains. In 1972, DiMaggio became a spokesman for The Bowery Savings Bank. With the exception of a five-year hiatus in the 1980s, DiMaggio regularly made commercials for the financial institution until 1992. In 1995, still a fine cut of a man at 80 years old, DiMaggio appeared before hundreds of people who stood and cheered for the “Yankee Clipper” for several minutes. DiMaggio was still the biggest baseball legend in America for many.
DiMaggio never stopped loving Marilyn. He would send a half-dozen red roses delivered three times a week to Marilyn’s crypt for 20 years. He refused to talk about her publicly or otherwise exploit their relationship. In spite of all the women he became involved with, DiMaggio never married again. Marilyn was irreplaceable. When he died, his last words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”