Jim wed Norma Jeane, Arthur had four married years with Marilyn, Joe had the shortest marriage with his girl lasting just nine-months but Joe had longest goodbye.
Reams have been written about Marilyn and Joe – the irony is, you could barely fill a page from a notepad with Joe’s words – but words do not always tell a genuine story – actions really can and do speak louder and often tell a truer tale.
A photograph of Marilyn in the shortest of shorts, wearing high heels and a baseball cap, striking a pose, wielding a bat with two of DiMaggio’s old rivals whom he referred to as ‘bushers’ (second rate players) was Joe DiMaggio’s first step into Marilyn Monroe’s world – a move once taken, that would prove to change his life forever. Having taken the step he then proceeded to fall and for a big guy like Joe that was always going to be one powerful and painful experience.
Whilst there has been decades of talk about Marilyn’s last hours, the Kennedy’s, Dr Greenson & Eunice Murray, the Mafia, Frank Sinatra et al… it was Joe who was a consistent in the life of Marilyn Monroe. People breezed in and out, some pushed away others jumping – but from their first meeting in 1952 Joe was steadfast.
Many different sources claim that Joe and Marilyn had planned to remarry – that the wedding date was set for 8th August 1962 – the day that became Marilyn’s funeral date. How honest and reliable these sources were we are unlikely to know now, but some things we do know for sure, some things are documented, some things can be visually seen. For example during 1961 and up to Marilyn’s death – Joe had begun to take a higher profile in her life. Often taking up the position of surrogate husband – he was the only person there for her when she was placed into a mental institution by her then psychiatrist Dr Marianne Kris – her pleas for help to the Strasberg’s fell on deaf ears – for whatever reasons they might have had – but Joe heard her and he claimed her – interestingly enough as his ‘wife’. Joe did as she asked and removed her from the place that distressed her.
During 1961 their relationship continued to strengthen and grow – they took delight in looking after each other, according to Joe’s biographer Richard Ben Cramer in his book ‘Joe DiMaggio The Hero’s Life’ – Marilyn had said ‘To know that Joe is there is like having a lifeguard’ they spent time fishing in Florida looking like a very happy old married couple that were comfortable but still took delight and joy in each others company.
Things began to pick up a pace – Joe had mellowed to some degree, Marilyn was tired and depleted after making The Misfits and having to accept the end of her marriage to Miller. There were most definitely positive aspects to being with Joe and Marilyn appeared to be taking them on board. Being advised by her Doctor, Ralph Greenson Marilyn began a search for a home, for security and foundation. Whilst she was alive her income after expenses really didn’t amount to much considering the Star that she was – Joe loaned Marilyn the down payment of $10,000 on her Brentwood home.
Marilyn always kept Joe on his toes – he never really knew where he stood with her from day to day – in February 1962 Marilyn let Joe down – he flew out to L.A. and she flew out to New York knowing that he was flying to see her - two weeks later they did eventually get together and Joe took her to the airport at Miami – seeing her off on her trip to buy furniture in Mexico. Much to Joe’s consternation and anger Marilyn returned from her trip not with new furniture – that was to follow later – but with a handsome young Mexican screen writer Jose Bolanos!
After an award ceremony that Marilyn had attended with Bolanos she went to Dr Greenson’s house the next day and the psychiatrist put her under sedation. On arriving to see Marilyn Joe was told by Greenson that he felt in his wisdom that he should not bother Marilyn at this time. Joe was not about to be stopped from seeing her – especially as Marilyn was now aware that Joe wanted to see her and was becoming very distraught at being kept from him – full of determination eventually Joe left with his girl and took her back to the apartment on Doheny. Two days later he helped her move into her new home in Brentwood – on Fifth Helena Drive.
Bolanos soon returned to Mexico – Marilyn had off loaded him at the Beverly Hills Hotel and never came back for him!
This was a tumultuous period for Joe – Marilyn would show signs that she wanted to be with him but then she would fall back in with Sinatra and the Kennedy’s – it was difficult for Joe to keep a track as he was travelling world wide with his job at The Monette Company. Whilst working away in Europe he caught sight of Marilyn’s performance at Kennedy’s birthday party on 19th May at Madison Square Gardens – for Joe it amounted to a slap in the face he felt the familiar stab of jealousy, humiliation and pain – enough was enough. In London he spent some time talking with Nunnally Johnson who had been recently been dismissed as the writer on Marilyn’s latest movie Something’s Got to Give. Johnson told DiMaggio that Marilyn was in trouble, that she needed him, things were going badly for her on set, Joe replied ‘I can’t help the girl…’ stating forlornly that he’d ‘tried’
When the newspapers started to carry stories of Marilyn being ‘mentally ill’ and that it was ‘the end of her career’ Joe held back no longer he caught a cab for the airport, took the first flight direct to L.A. arriving at Marilyn’s house after picking up eight time zones so that he could get there the same day Marilyn simply looked at him as if he had lost his mind! A huge argument erupted and this preceded Marilyn’s trip to the plastic surgeon’s office the next day as Marilyn had feared she had broken her nose.
Joe left and went straight to New York broken hearted. It was a further two weeks before they made tentative moves towards each other again. Joe apologised and Marilyn said she understood and felt that Joe was right about so many things. Rapidly they picked up their relationship and Joe flew across the country again in late June and three times in July – eventually, it’s believed by some that he asked her to marry him and she said yes! Joe decided he was quitting the business and formally resigned – his leaving date being 31st July 1962. Flying back to New York he made arrangements to collect his things from the Hotel Lexington. He had a charity ball game to attend in San Francisco on 4th August with his brothers who had also been baseball players, Dom and Vince. It had been a long time since the three DiMaggio brothers had been together and the evening was a great success.
That night Joe couldn’t sleep.
Some time just before 8am his phone rang, it was Dr Hyman Engleberg with the terrible news - there had been an ‘accident’ Marilyn was pronounced dead, it was an overdose… they needed Joe to claim the body.
United Airlines agreed to hold the 9am plane but Joe made the airport on time. The newspapers later reported him to be ‘stooped by grief,’ ‘ashen’ and ‘silent’ When Joe boarded the plane he did not utter another sound until landing in Los Angeles, at almost eleven a.m.
Joe had the onerous task of identifying the body in the morgue – Looking at his girl laying there in death - DiMaggio made a noise in the back of his throat and turned away. He signed a form for her body to be released to WestwoodMemorial Park. When he did speak he was barely audible. Harry Hall drove him to the Miramar Motel, where Joe rented a room; they locked the door behind them. Joe sat down on the bed and Harry reported that out of Joe came a noise, like a roar from inside and then, with no words at all he doubled over in tears.
Harry and Joe did not leave the room for hours – no phone calls were put through and telegrams piled up. The one thing Joe did do was to send a wire to Marilyn’s half-sister Berniece Miracle, asking permission to make the funeral arrangements. Berniece had been out but late that day she heard the news and responded to Joe giving him her blessing and the power to bury his girl.
Whilst news of Marilyn’s death had not made the papers that Sunday morning – every radio station carried the story – talking about suicide or probable suicide, empty sleeping pill bottles… Joe knew in his heart this wasn’t true, they had each other to live for, life was full of promise, things were getting better, and there was a future.
Joe told Harry ‘they’ had killed her, and Joe told Harry who they were “the f*****g Kennedys” as Harry quoted him, further saying “Bobby Kennedy was the one Joe talked about. He hated him. And Sinatra – Joe cursed Sinatra, right that day, in the Miramar”
Late that Sunday afternoon Joe and Harry went to Marilyn’s house. The police were still at the scene and allowed them access to Marilyn’s bedroom. Going straight to her personal papers, Joe flipped through them hurriedly. He later complained to Harry that “her book” was missing. Joe asked the police if papers had been removed – they replied that no papers were removed, everything was examined at the scene whilst searching for a suicide note and that everything was left in place. Harry continued that “Joe kept looking for her book” Hall said “But it was gone. He was hot about that” Joe also searched hopelessly for her pearls, the ones he had given Marilyn in Japan as a wedding gift… he’d lost them too – stolen he concluded.
However, Joe did find a gift of his own during that sad and futile search in Marilyn’s house. He found in her address book a letter to him that she may have possibly started Friday or Saturday, it seems that she had been interrupted and had tucked the letter away – it read:
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, and..."
The letter was unfinished, what was to follow from the ‘and’? When did Marilyn write this? And why was it tucked away in her address book? Just more questions that will never now be answered.
Berniece arrived on the Monday and agreed with Joe that Marilyn’s funeral should be a strictly private affair. Along with Inez Melson they issued a statement they all signed.
“…Last rites must of great necessity be as private as possible so that she can go to her final resting place in the quiet she always sought…”
There would only be about 24 mourners apart from Joe, Berniece, Joe Jnr and Inez Melson. The people that attended Marilyn’s funeral were the people that had looked after her during her life; among them was her maid, housekeeper, secretary, driver, her masseur Ralf Roberts, Greenson and his family, her publicist, lawyers and her hairdressers and loyal makeup man, Allan “Whitey” Snyder.
Joe phoned Whitey early Tuesday morning, when Marilyn’s body arrived at WestwoodMemorial Park. Reminding Whitey of the promise he made to Marilyn after she had her appendectomy, she made Whitey promise that whenever she died, he would do her makeup. That he would make her look as beautiful and as much of a star as he made her look in her films.
Joe said to him during the call “you promised. Will you do it, please? For her?” Whitey understood and replied “I’ll be there, Joe”
Whitey kept to his word, he and Marilyn’s wardrobe assistant (Whitey’s wife-to-be) Marjorie Plecher, worked on Marilyn with great love, care and respect, restoring her after her autopsy ordeal, into the beautiful image that was Marilyn Monroe. With a wig that she had worn for The Misfits, a chiffon scarf around her neck, her favourite green Pucci dress that she loved – she lay in the bronze casket that Joe had bought and was as beautiful as ever. Joe sat and stared at his girl as Whitey and Marjorie left – the hardest job they had ever done in their lives or ever would, now completed.
When they returned Wednesday morning to make sure their work was perfect and to make any last minute adjustments, they found Joe – sitting in the same seat they had left him in – he had spent all night gazing at her face, talking to her, praying for her and crying. That morning, he did not leave her side until it was time for him to get dressed for the funeral.
According to Joe’s biographer Richard Cramer The funeral was scheduled for one o’clock that afternoon – Wednesday 8th August, 1962 – the day Joe and Marilyn would have been remarried. Obviously there is a lot of controversy around this statement as some people believe this to be true – others simply don’t. It also has to be taken into consideration that Berniece, Marilyn’s closest relative gave Joe permission to organise the funeral and she agreed with Joe’s choices, there was a familiarity and understanding between them that would certainly suggest Joe was the most important person in Marilyn’s life at this time – he effectively became her next of kin – however, truth in a forthcoming marriage or not, Joe was with Marilyn on this day and it would be the most momentous day of Joe’s life and in some ways it was the day Joe had his girl to himself from that day on – no one could take away his memories or do any worse than already had been done.
Joe and Joe Jnr rode to the chapel at the Westwood memorial Park in a mortuary limousine. Junior was smart in his Marine dress uniform, Joe in a charcoal gray suit. In the limo, Big Joe started crying again – and without a word, he reached out, took Junior’s hand and held it all the way to the chapel. Joe Jnr would later say it was the closest he had ever got to his dad.
There was a great deal of anger at Marilyn’s funeral – both within the funeral party itself and anger outside, the crowds were gathering and many people that knew Marilyn felt they had a right to be there Joe’s answer was to snarl “tell them if it wasn’t for them, she’d still be here”
In the chapel one of Marilyn’s favourite songs tumbled from the organ, Judy Garland’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the Wizard of Oz filled the air. Joe requested that Lee Strasberg deliver the eulogy, he did initially ask Carl Sandburg but he was unfortunately forced to decline due to ill health. As Strasberg came to the conclusion of his beautifully scripted speech he spoke the final words “I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes, but in that peculiar way she had of turning things around so that they face reality – I will say au revoir. For the country to which she has gone, we must all someday visit”
As the mourners filed past Marilyn’s open casket for one final au revoir… Joe lingered until they had each had their moment – and then before the casket was closed, he bent over her and placed three roses in her hands, sobbing aloud with his last kiss, he told her “I love you. I love you. I love you”
After the funeral Joe stayed in LA for a couple of days before moving on to Mexico, the papers were bursting with Marilyn, with questions and suppositions, at least he felt in Mexico he couldn’t read the newspapers and understand the news – he had to escape. On the Friday before he left, he stopped by the cemetery one more time, he had already arranged for flowers to be delivered to her crypt, twice a week – roses, symbolising their love, Marilyn’s favourite flower, he always sent her roses when she was in hospital – he would fill the room with them. Marilyn had asked him for roses – she wanted him to leave roses just as William Powell had for Jean Harlow after her untimely death in 1927 aged just 26. It’s funny the things you say… and the things people remember…
Joe went on to spend the next 47 years living without his girl – he never recovered from her death, never remarried or shared his life with another woman, he channelled his energy into making money and keeping his baseball name flying – he focussed solely on building his wealth, which at the end of the day was a poor substitute for living without the love of his life but it was something he could hold on to. He never sold Marilyn down the river, never debased her memory and always kept a dignified silence. Joe Dimaggio died in March 1999 and his own funeral at his request was a small (50 close friends and family) private invitation only affair.
Joe once said “Hey, wait a minute. They gotta know I was here!” We know you were here Joe - you won’t ever be forgotten!