DiMaggio: Setting the Record Straightby Morris Engleberg, Marv Schneider
Widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Joe DiMaggio transcended sports and was a true American icon. Beyond his public life in a New York Yankee uniform and his glamorous if brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe, DiMaggio was an intensely private individual who rarely, if ever, revealed himself to biographers attempting to tell his life
Widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Joe DiMaggio transcended sports and was a true American icon. Beyond his public life in a New York Yankee uniform and his glamorous if brief marriage to Marilyn Monroe, DiMaggio was an intensely private individual who rarely, if ever, revealed himself to biographers attempting to tell his life story. Until now. Morris Engelberg, DiMaggio's closest friend and confidante over the last 16 years of his life, had rare access and insight to the man behind the legend. Teamed up with longtime AP journalist Marv Schneider, Engelberg corrects inaccuracies in recent biographies of DiMaggio and reveals the true, inside story of the great "Joltin' Joe."
- MBI Publishing Company
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Joe DiMaggio was in love with Marilyn Monroe until the moment he died. He took his last breath fully expecting to meet her in that other world, which he was certain existed. "I'll finally get to see Marilyn," were his last words.
It was a glamorous love story, sounding more like fiction than truth: the great sports legend and the sex goddess, two world-renown celebrities, becoming part of each other's lives. It was true, all right. Marilyn was the Great DiMaggio's only love, the one who reached deep into his soul, where he kept his emotions under double lock. For the last thirty-seven years of his life, he ached at the thought of how close they had come to remarrying, only to be thwarted by her death. The date of their second marriage was set: August 8, 1962. But the kiss he gave her that day was far different from the one he had hoped for. That was the date Marilyn Monroe was buried. Joe leaned over her casket, sobbed that he loved her, and kissed her cold forehead.
The story of Joe and Marilyn was fascinating enough by itself, with their fame and their respective hangups. But add to the mix such other players as President John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, and mobster Sam Giancana, and the story took on a dimension almost beyond imagination. Given the people involved, it was perhaps inevitable that fiction and hype would be intertwined with the truth.
Even something as basic as the first meeting of Joe and Marilyn has been recounted in several variations. Norman Brokaw, board chairman of the William Morris Agency, which represented Marilyn, claimed he introduced the couple. Brokaw's uncle, Johnny Hyde, was the William Morris vice president whosigned Marilyn when she was still known as Norma Jean Baker. He set out to make her a star. "He also was madly in love with her," according to Brokaw. It was the young nephew's job to get Marilyn some attention in newspapers and magazines. Inadvertently, he brought her to the attention of Joe DiMaggio. In Brokaw's version of the first meeting, he took Marilyn to the Los Angeles television show "Lights, Camera, Action," and then to lunch at the Brown Derby, where the crowd invariably included anyone in Hollywood who was famous and hungry. Bill Frawley, a Brokaw client and the actor who played Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy," was having lunch with DiMaggio. He came to the table and said Joe D. had noticed Brokaw's very noticeable dining companion, but was too shy to approach her. "He would like to meet the young lady," Frawley said. Brokaw told him they would stop by before leaving.
"'Who's Joe D.?' Marilyn wanted to know when Brokaw told her who wanted to meet her. She may have been the only one in the Brown Derby, Hollywood, or even California who did not know about DiMaggio. He was in the first year of his retirement. "I explained that he was a famous baseball player, right up there with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig," Brokaw said. "But Marilyn knew nothing about baseball, other than that it involved a ball and a stick. I told her that he had been married to actress Dorothy Arnold and that he probably would ask for her telephone number."
Joe was very charming when Marilyn and Brokaw stopped at his table. He said something complimentary and added, "I've known Norman a long time, and he's a good friEND You are in very good hands." Brokaw said that the next day Joe called her for a date. Brokaw was among the first to know, since at the time Marilyn lived at his grandmother's house, 718 North Palm Drive, and so did Johnny Hyde.
Version No. 2 of the first meeting is the one that appears in most Monroe and DiMaggio biographies because it is the one that was offered by Marilyn's public relations people, and she went along with it. In that telling, agent David March arranged a date at the Villa Nova restaurant in Los Angeles after DiMaggio had seen a publicity photograph of Marilyn and American League slugger Gus Zernial swinging a bat together. At least four of the biographers had the same story-that Marilyn was late for the 6:30 p.m. date, and March summoned her by phone. Either that was what they were told by Marilyn's public relations woman, or they copied from each other. "I guarantee you it's not true," Brokaw said. I agree with Brokaw. If it were true, Marilyn would have been history, because being late to meet the Great DiMaggio was an unpardonable sin.
Version No. 3 is the one that DiMaggio told me, Joe Nachio, and his own son, at different times. It's the one I have regarded as the true one, because I never knew DiMaggio to lie to me in all our years together. Joe said he was at Roosevelt Raceway, a harness-racing track on Long Island, with Edward Bennett Williams, the Washington attorney and his close friEND It was the spring of 1952. Joe must have been out only for an evening of dinner and conversation, because he never bet on a harness race. (He was the most suspicious man I ever knew and harness racing was constantly under suspicion.) Not interested in the trotters and pacers pulling men in sulkies, DiMaggio scanned the crowd in the dining room and his gaze stopped at, in his words, "this beautiful blonde with big eyes and big bosoms." He wondered who she was, and Williams told him. DiMaggio remembered seeing her in the photo with Zernial, and she looked even better in person. Williams introduced them, at DiMaggio's request, and he invited Marilyn to join him and Joe for dinner at Toots Shor's the following evening.
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