‘Joe and Marilyn’ Author Roger Kahn Dies at 92

Roger Kahn, considered America’s greatest baseball writer, has died aged 92, the Los Angeles Times reports. His most famous book was The Boys of Summer (1972), in which he recalled his early days as a Dodgers fan. He also published Joe and Marilyn: A Memory of Love in 1986. The first stand-alone book on the explosive DiMaggio romance, it was a bestseller – although his portrayal of Marilyn was considered sleazy by some readers and critics, and her renewed friendship with Joe in her final years is omitted entirely.

“The problem with Joe & Marilyn is basically a problem with Joe and a problem with Marilyn. She slipped away, leaving friends who still protect her and others who gossip about her, and he has declined to speak from his heart.

As a young reporter, Mr. Kahn had an entire clubhouse of athletes, sitting in front of their lockers, day after day, telling their stories. In this book, subtitled ‘A Memory of Love,’ Mr. Kahn had to rely too often on second-hand stuff – the cottage industry of books about Miss Monroe as well as ‘people in DiMaggio’s close circle’ and ‘persistent reports’ and ‘stories’ and ‘legends.’

Roger Kahn did meet her once, at an impressionable age, during a publicity party for one of her movies. When he mumbled something about having covered the Yankees for a newspaper, she looked right through him, he recounts. That brief encounter inspired Mr. Kahn to describe her frequently as a sexually compelling woman, ‘that phenomenon of innocence and lust, blond hair and parted lips, the squirming nude on the calendar who aspired to play a Dostoevski heroine.’

He traces her path through the seamy casting calls, repeating the gossip that Marilyn did this or that for certain Hollywood figures, and repeating the saucy lines that Marilyn may or may not have said … Mr. Kahn also finds an ‘attractive, dark-haired New York lady who had dated Joe’ to tell this story: ‘Before we went out, mutual friends gave me a little list of things I was never to bring up. Marilyn, of course. Sinatra. The Kennedys. Johnny Carson.’

Toward the end, Mr. Kahn writes: ‘What went so wrong so quickly? He was neat. She was sloppy. He was repressed. She was hyperactive. Each was willful. Each had a temper. Each was a star. Stars in collision.’

At another point, Mr. Kahn defines the problem in rather turgid prose: ‘Exactly what happened to the abandoned child called Norma Jeane in the casual way stations where she had to live carries us onto the turf of novelists.’ The critic and observer in Mr. Kahn may sense that it is time to leave Miss Monroe and Mr. DiMaggio to the novelists and the poets.”

George Vecsey, New York Times, November 24, 1986

DiMaggio Doctor Pens ‘Tumultuous’ Memoir

Dr Rock Positano’s memoir, Dinner With DiMaggio – first announced back in 2015 – will be published in May, and is already attracting coverage in celebrity magazines and on gossip websites.

Marilyn’s relationship with Joe is the subject of a cover story in the current issue of Closer Weekly (USA only.) And Radar Online has claimed that their marriage ended because she was unable to have children. In fact, Marilyn left Joe because he was too controlling. While Marilyn certainly wanted children, she wasn’t ready during their marriage because of her burgeoning career.

“From Joe’s point of view, they didn’t stay married, because Marilyn was not able to have children. It was as simple as that,” Positano writes. “Joe wanted kids, and Marilyn could not have them.” However, when reporters at their wedding asked if they wanted children, Marilyn said “six,” only for Joe to interrupt, as if correcting her: “one.”

While Marilyn certainly wanted to be a mother – she suffered at least two miscarriages during her later marriage to Arthur Miller, and even considered adoption – I don’t believe it was a priority during her marriage to Joe. And such was Joe’s enduring devotion to Marilyn, I don’t believe he would have divorced her for that reason either.

62 Years Ago: Marilyn and Joe

This week marks the 62nd anniversary of Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio, on January 16th, 1954. Doug Miller looks back at their wedding in an article for the Major League Baseball website.

“‘Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio wedded the girl of his and many other men’s dreams yesterday afternoon in the San Francisco City Hall,’ read the newspaper story the next day in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by Art Hoppe.

‘Marilyn Monroe, who packs no mean jolt herself, said she was very happy. DiMaggio said he was also very happy. Also happy was the battery of columnists which has spent no little time in the past two years running down rumors that the two were already secretly married, were to be married, or were not speaking to each other.’

The report said that the location and time of the ceremony had been kept secret and ‘only about 500 people managed to hear about it in time to turn the corridors outside Municipal Judge Charles S. Peery’s court into a madhouse.’

The reason?

‘Marilyn, it seems, had made the mistake of calling her studio in Hollywood [the day before the wedding] and letting it in on her plans to be married at 1 p.m. A studio official casually mentioned it as fast as he could to all the major news services.’

With that cat out of the bag, the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. were forced to host an impromptu press conference led by the hard-hitting question, ‘Are you excited, Marilyn?’

Monroe, the Chronicle wrote, giggled and said, ‘Oh, you KNOW it’s more than that.'”

Alistair Cooke on Marilyn and Joe

As reported by ES Updates earlier this year, Alistair Cooke at the Movies – an anthology of the eminent British journalist’s writings on Hollywood – is now available via Kindle as well as in print. The book includes two full pieces about Marilyn, and several other references. You can read Cooke’s obituary of Marilyn here.

Cooke’s first thoughts on Marilyn were broadcast on October 14, 1954, on his weekly BBC radio show, Letter From America, regarding her divorce from Joe DiMaggio.

“The Monroe-DiMaggio breakdown is easily dismissed as just another Hollywood marriage. It’s true enough that over twenty, thirty years Hollywood has developed certain mores and customs. And the world jumps to the conclusion that love and marriage in Hollywood constitute something like a religious heresy, a shameless cult mocking the true faith of marriage and children. I have no hesitation in saying that this is mostly moonshine and is brewed from a compound of ignorance and envy…

The gods and goddesses of the Greeks were not known much outside the Mediterranean, and were never seen in the flesh. But the mere announcement of Marilyn Monroe arriving on platform five would cause a riot anywhere in the world. She was mobbed on arriving in Tokyo last year more embarrassingly than she was on leaving San Francisco…

I don’t think there’s been so much talk, from the unlikeliest people, about a movie marriage since the Pickford-Fairbanks idyll as there has been the last fortnight about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. I hope I can get across to you that this marriage, when it suddenly burst upon the world – an elopement naturally – nine months ago, was equally a poetic event … She was a poor girl, an orphan, brought up in an orphanage, and towards the end of the war she was a war-factory worker – a tousled, cheerful, lonely working girl, pretty as a kitten. It is not hard for millions of such girls to identify with her.

So who did Rosie the Riveter marry? She eloped with one of the two or three greatest baseball players there ever have been; nobody but the Yankee Clipper himself … he met Miss Monroe over a plate of spaghetti on a blind date. And they eloped. The perfect fulfilment of two ambitions: the average American boy’s dream of being a baseball hero, and the girl next door’s dream of Hollywood.

So they moved down to Hollywood, and to Joe ‘down’ is the word, not only from his beloved San Francisco, but from any sort of life that made sense to him. He was suddenly surrounded by voice coaches and dancing teachers, and press agents, and telephone calls for publicity stills, for magazine covers, for calendars, for interviews … And the object of all this concern was a wife who worked hard in a calling where you go to bed at nine and get up for work at five in the morning. It was all hopelessly bewildering, and one day Miss Monroe announces, right upstairs, over your puzzled head, that she is going to file for divorce…

I tell you this story in its social outline and leave you to write your own moral. But don’t ascribe it to Hollywood, whose divorce rate is hardly higher than that of Bradford or Kensington. Put it down in an age of television, aeroplanes, publicity and universal movies to the overwhelming conspiracy of fame against two ordinary and engaging young people who pay a rather high price for the only extraordinary thing about them – her prettiness, and his old knack of hitting a ball into the grandstand.”

RUMOUR: Did Sinatra Propose to Marilyn?

Frank Sinatra with Marilyn in 1961

This year marks the centenary of another man in Marilyn’s life: Frank Sinatra. The anniversary is being marked by a slew of publications, including Sinatra: The Chairman. Second in a biographical series by James Kaplan, this tome is 992 pages long, and has been previewed in the New York Daily News.

“During Sinatra’s dalliance with Monroe, there are conflicting reports as to who wanted it more. Kaplan sides with Milt Ebbins, a talent manager, who claimed, ‘There was no doubt that Frank was in love with Marilyn.’

‘Yeah, Frank wanted to marry the broad,’ Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra’s chief henchman, said. ‘He asked her and she said no.'”

However, Kaplan’s claim that Frank wanted to marry MM – ‘to save her from herself’ – is nothing new. J. Randy Taraborrelli previously suggested this in his 1997 book, Sinatra: The Man Behind the Myth. Kaplan also speculates that others believed the opposite – that it was Marilyn who pursued Frank – but the sources for this allegation are not named in the article.

In his 1992 biography of MM, Donald Spoto argues that Frank was ‘apparently the more smitten’ in their on-off romance. Milton Ebbins told Spoto that in 1961, Sinatra failed to show up for lunch with President Kennedy at Peter Lawford’s home, because Marilyn – who was briefly Sinatra’s house-guest in Los Angeles – had gone out without telling him.

‘It wasn’t worry for her safety,’ Ebbins recalled, ‘he was just that jealous of her whereabouts! To hell with the president’s lunch!’

Joe DiMaggio with Frank Sinatra, 1958

In Sinatra: The Chairman, Kaplan repeats the long-held assertion that the romance ended after Marilyn grew closer to her ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. This led to a rift between Joe and Frank, ending a long friendship. However, Marilyn told reporters that there was ‘no spark to be rekindled’ with DiMaggio.

After Marilyn died, Frank was furious that Joe did not invite him to the funeral. Kaplan reiterates the long-held rumour that Sinatra – along with the Lawfords, Ella Fitzgerald, and even Mitzi Gaynor – were turned away from the ceremony. However, contemporary news reports did not mention this at all.

So did Sinatra propose to Marilyn? Based on all available evidence, I think not. Although Frank may have entertained thoughts of marriage, I don’t believe Marilyn was ready to commit herself. And after his failed marriage to another Hollywood beauty – Ava Gardner – I suspect he wasn’t about to risk more heartache.

Perhaps the last word should go to legendary columnist Liz Smith, who knew Sinatra well:

“I would take issue with some of Kaplan’s observations about Ava Gardner and particularly Marilyn Monroe — believe me, if Sinatra really proposed to MM and she refused him, it wasn’t because she was ‘saving’ herself for re-marriage to Joe DiMaggio. But in the face of the rest of this compelling book, that’s real nit-picking.”

‘The Marilyn Monroe Marriage Guide’

At first glance, Marilyn might seem an unlikely example to follow where marriage is concerned. Indeed, she was already heading for her first divorce when this magazine promo was shot by Richard C. Miller in 1946.

However, Darla Carmichael was inspired by Marilyn’s relationship pattern – and so far, it seems to be working out rather well…

“I had a long-term marriage plan. The perfect, glamour woman I was to become needed not one, not two, but three marriages. I had studied up long and hard on starlets and famed women and determined that following in the steps of Marilyn Monroe was the way to go for me. The first marriage had to be a hormonally-driven, youthful mistake that would start and end quickly. For me, this turned out to not be a marriage, but a long, co-habitating engagement, which definitely fit the bill.

The second was to be a sign of maturity. It was supposed to be a marriage that would seem like the right thing to do at the time because of a need to just settle down already. It would be a backlash to hard partying, a string of anti-commitment relationships and something that would transition into full adulthood. That, it did, indeed.

The third marriage, though, was always meant “for keeps.” It would be when after all the world went crazy around me and I was ready to just be me. I would find someone who was perfect. It would be someone who had both bad and good in common, but with enough differences to forever keep things interesting. There would never be one thought of it being a mistake or impulsive or temporary. It would be the one person who I would be happy and fulfilled living the rest of my life with. And, well, I think my plan (though vaguely idiotic and very naïve looking back on it) worked out pretty well. I managed to follow it to a tee without really trying.”

Dating Tips From Jackie and Marilyn

“No serious interests, but I’m always interested…” – Marilyn Monroe, when asked if she was dating or in love.

“Jackie had more men per square inch than any woman I have ever known.” – Letitia Baldrige

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe were two of the most famous women of the 20th Century, and even today, their celebrity and glamour is so absolute that they are still known by their first names, ‘Jackie’ and ‘Marilyn.’

Marilyn and Jackie were World Class when it came to interpersonal relationships. And you can bet that neither Jackie nor Marilyn ever fell into the demeaning He’s Just Not That Into You single-gal construct that has been mythologically created today. Whether dating, navigating marriage, dealing with a director or meeting Nikita Khrushchev, Marilyn and Jackie always had the upper hand in relations with the opposite sex.

Pamela Keogh, ‘How to Love Like Jackie O and Marilyn Monroe’

Read more about love and marriage, the Monroe/Bouvier way, from Pamela Keogh, author of the newly-published book, Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?

View book trailer here