Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, January 14, 2008

A Wedding Anniversary

One of those "This Day in History" items recalls that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married on January 14, 1954 and brings back a flood of memories.

I met DiMaggio soon after their divorce the next year, when Marilyn came to New York and Joe, still in love with her as he would always be, confided how happy he was that she was getting away from "that Hollywood crowd."

Five years after Marilyn’s death, the story I wanted as a magazine editor was Joe’s. He had arranged her funeral, kept it private and was still sending flowers to her grave three times a week but had not said a word about her.

He invited me to his New York suite at cocktail time and poured a drink. There were half a dozen men there, and it became clear he wanted me to sit at the edge of his circle, listening to locker—room banter, while he eyed me once in a while, freshened my drink and made up his mind about talking to me.

He was a matador surrounded by his entourage. Two men in business suits came in for a Polaroid picture. With DiMaggio’s arms draped over them, years fell from their middle-aged faces. They were boys in the embrace of their boyhood hero. It recalled Gay Talese’s Esquire piece about Joe’s honeymoon with Marilyn. She went to Korea to entertain American troops. He stayed in Japan, and when she came back, Marilyn told him about her reception by 100,000 servicemen: “Joe, you never heard such cheering.” “Yes, I have,” he said.

The evening ground on, the friends chattered, Joe said little. Finally I asked, “Could we talk?“ “Tomorrow morning,” he said. “Come up about ten.”

When I arrived, he was packing his bags. I talked as he kept putting shirts, socks and underwear into a suitcase. He never looked up.

I told him I didn’t want to intrude, but it was my job to ask if he would ever say anything about Marilyn. If he did, he could trust me to make sure it came out right.

He was still staring into the suitcase, but I could see his eyes clouding. His jaw muscles tightened. For a long minute, he was silent.

“I could never talk about her,” he finally said in a choked voice. “Never.”

He never did.

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