Remembering Marilyn’s Artichoke Adventures

Writing for the California Sun, Noah Smith recalls Marilyn’s brief reign as the inaugural Artichoke Queen of Castroville in 1948 (and the festival is still going strong.)

“Few entertainers were ever more in demand than Marilyn Monroe.

However, when she was 22 years old, Monroe was not even the first choice to be the inaugural Artichoke Queen in Castroville, a farming community about 15 miles northeast of Monterey and a few miles off the coast.

What Monroe lacked in name recognition, however, she made up for in being available, and the honorary title was bestowed upon her this week in 1948.”

You can read more posts about Marilyn’s artichoke adventures here.

Remembering Marilyn in Monterey

Marilyn makes the cover of Carmel magazine’s Summer/Fall issue, with an article by Michael Chatfield about her links to the Monterey area inside, which you can also read here.

“Marilyn, like so many others then and now, succumbed several times to the tempting siren call of the Monterey Bay area. The Salinas Californian documented her first known visit of August 5, 1948: ‘…she came here to help promote a diamond sale at Carlyle’s Jewelers…’

The starlet stayed around for about a week, staying at the Jeffrey Hotel on Main Street. While here, she evidently made appearances at several service club luncheons. It was at one of those meetings that representatives of Castroville, an agricultural town 15 miles from Salinas that— then and now—specializes in the growing of artichokes, had the bright idea to make the ambitious future movie star the ‘California Artichoke Queen.’

A few years later, Marilyn returned to Monterey County, this time to do what she had set her sights on doing: act in a Hollywood movie. Some scenes for the 1952 potboiler Clash by Night were filmed on Cannery Row, then a still-bustling sardine-processing district. She was by no means the international superstar she was to become: Marilyn’s salary for this film was $500 per week.

Two years later—when Marilyn was a big star—she put in an appearance a little bit south of Monterey County. She and the Yankee Clipper tied the knot in a San Francisco civil ceremony on January 14, 1954, and proceeded south toward Los Angeles by automobile. The newlyweds spend their first night as man and wife at the Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo.

The next day, a reporter from the local newspaper spotted the celebrities having lunch at that establishment and phoned his newsroom to summon a photographer. San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune snapper Paul Nelson arrived on the scene and immediately spotted them. According to a November 13, 2013 story published by that paper (now the Tribune), Nelson said to DiMaggio, ‘I’m with the press. I would like to shoot your picture but I know you’re on your honeymoon. You name it.’

‘My wife doesn’t have any make-up,’ Joltin’ Joe replied. ‘I’d really rather not.’ And that was that. Respecting their privacy, Nelson retreated. What a contrast that story illustrates. In today’s tabloid press, the couple would probably have a name like ‘Marjoe,’ or ‘Monaggio’ and be relentlessly hounded by paparazzi.”

Thanks to Peter Gonzalez

Marilyn in Salinas, 1948

A newspaper clipping from an appearance by Marilyn at Carlyle’s Jeweler’s in Salinas, California, in 1948 (during her trip she was also crowned ‘Artichoke Queen’  in nearby Castroville.)

“In 1948, she came here to help promote a diamond sale at Carlyle’s Jewelers, 362 Main St. The store had hired a starlet named Noreen Nash, but Nash had to cancel.

So Monroe filled in.

On that trip, she checked into a room at the Jeffrey Hotel in the 200 block of Main Street.

Before her abrupt arrival, she’d been baking in the sun in Palm Springs. Her nose had burned. It had begun to peel. Still, Marilyn showed up. She stood behind the counter at Carlyle’s.

Patrons squeezed in. Marilyn flashed her brilliant smile. She chatted in an amiable way and autographed pictures of herself.

That day, the jewelry store sold lots of diamonds.”

The Californian

Last year’s collection of Marilyn’s writings, Fragments, includes a diary entry recording a bus journey to Salinas (though not necessarily at the same time.)