Joe and Marilyn Never Could Say Good-Bye


In the end, it all came down to Joe. The 1954 marriage of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio lasted only nine months, but when Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home in 1962, it was DiMaggio who identified her body. He also planned her funeral: According to Joe and Marilyn, a juicy new book by C. David Heymann, DiMaggio warned beforehand that if “any of those fucking Kennedys turn up…I’ll bash in their faces.” As Monroe’s casket was closed, he whispered to her, “I love you, I love you.” DiMaggio even had half a dozen long-stemmed roses delivered twice a week to her crypt for decades. Their marriage was brief, but their love affair endured.

SHOP_Joe-and-Marilyn“Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio retired in 1951 at the age of 36, after leading the New York Yankees to nine World Series championships. In 1952, obsessed with a publicity photo of starlet Marilyn Monroe posing with a baseball bat, DiMaggio used his connections to arrange a meeting. She insisted on a double date and arrived 90 minutes late. David March, the other gentleman in the party, noticed that at the sight of the 25-year-old bombshell, “you could almost hear Mr. DiMaggio going to pieces.” After dinner DiMaggio and Monroe drove around Hollywood and Beverly Hills for hours. Monroe wrote in her memoir that “scores of men had told me I was beautiful,” but when DiMaggio complimented her it “was the first time my heart had jumped to hear it.” Marilyn invited Joe to spend the night, and the couple would be together, off and on, for the next 10 years.

Between that first date and their marriage on January 14, 1954, Monroe’s career exploded with the release of Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. She may have dutifully copied down Mama DiMaggio’s lasagna recipes, but Monroe had no intention of giving up her career. During their honeymoon, in Japan, DiMaggio quickly learned what it meant to be married to the most famous woman in the world: The press there called him Mr. Marilyn Monroe and the Forgotten Man.

I’ll give you five minutes to get her out here, or I’ll tear this fucking place apart brick by brick.

DiMaggio declined to accompany his new bride on a USO trip to entertain the troops in Korea, where the soldiers’ adulation thrilled her. Still giddy from the attention, Monroe gushed to the Yankee Clipper, “It was so wonderful, Joe. You’ve never heard such cheering!” “Oh yes I have” was the only reply he could muster. But Monroe’s exposed panties were soon the last straw. Thousands of men gathered on a Manhattan street corner to watch Monroe and her costar, Tom Ewell, film The Seven Year Itch in September 1954. Take after take, the wind machine blew, the skirt lifted, Monroe cooed (“Isn’t it delicious?”), and the panties were flashed. Director Billy Wilder saw the “look of death” on DiMaggio’s face. Joe and Marilyn divorced three weeks later.

Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller in 1956, but their five-year marriage was not a happy one. While filming The Misfits, in 1961, she screamed at Miller, “You’re an evil bastard! I should’ve stayed with Joe.” DiMaggio now played the role of guardian angel to his ex. When Monroe wanted out of a psychiatric hospital, she called DiMaggio. She was released after he told the terrified staff, “I’ll give you five minutes to get her out here, or I’ll tear this fucking place apart brick by brick.”

A bittersweet passage in Joe and Marilyn may explain why DiMaggio carried a torch for Monroe for the rest of his life. While he was sifting through his late wife’s correspondence one day, the book recounts, “Joe’s face suddenly brightened. He’d come across a short letter Marilyn had recently written to him but never mailed: ‘Dear Joe, If I can only succeed in making you happy—I will have succeeded in the biggest and most difficult thing there is—that is to make one person completely happy. Your happiness means my happiness. Marilyn.’” DiMaggio never remarried. When he died, in 1999, his last words were “I’ll finally see Marilyn again.”

Photo courtesy of Everett