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Tuesday, January 16
'I'll never forget my honeymoon -- with the 45th Division'

Editor's note: is running excerpts from Richard Ben Cramer's Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life recently published by Simon & Schuster. This is the first of three parts from Chapter 15. The marriage of Joe and Marilyn begins to crumble as Marilyn's career soars.

At the Tokyo airport, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe could not leave the plane on which they had arrived. In the early winter darkness, five thousand Japanese fans -- mostly youngsters -- blew past the Japanese cops, stormed onto the tarmac, and besieged the Pan American Stratoclipper. U.S. Air Force MPs were called in to reinforce the police lines, but Mr. and Mrs. America were still pinned in the plane for forty-five minutes -- and thereafter could only debark through the rear baggage hatch.

(In point of fact, Joe probably could have walked down the main stairs, and emerged with nothing worse than an earache from the Banzai cheers. But Marilyn was scared by that crowd -- and with reason: "If she had tried to go through that mob," a Japanese police official told the International News Service, "they would probably have torn all her clothes off.")

The plans called for a cavalcade in open cars, down the Ginza, and on to the Imperial Hotel. But Joe had been down that road -- and after sixteen hours in a plane (and that airport scene), he didn't want any part of it. So he ordered the driver to take another route, and stiff the hundreds of thousands of fans who'd lined the curbs, and waited hours in the February cold. Joe only wanted to get to the hotel -- where, he was sure, they'd be safe. In the forty years since Frank Lloyd Wright designed that magnificent stone pile (and personally supervised its construction), the Imperial Hotel had withstood (without one broken teacup) an earthquake that leveled much of old Tokyo, and American bombing during World War II. But it would not survive unscathed the arrival of Marilyn Monroe. Two hundred Tokyo policemen guarded the hotel doors. But thousands of fans from the parade route had been denied their glimpse of the Honorable Buttocks-Swinging Madam (as Marilyn was known in the Japanese press) . . . and they could not be held back. They trampled through the koi ponds, broke the hotel's revolving doors, and -- when those were jammed -- crashed through the plate glass windows on either side. They were in no mood to be shooed away. They ringed the hotel, shouting her name into the icy night -- until Marilyn (a bit snappish herself, by that time) was forced to make appearance on a balcony ("like I was a dictator or something," as she said) to wave, and blow kisses -- by which gestures the crowd was calmed.

By that time she had to get ready for the press conference. More than a hundred Japanese and American reporters and cameramen were already jammed into a room at the hotel, waiting for her. In fact, they would wait two hours until the honored guest, in a clingy red wool dress, essayed her famous walk to the table and microphones.

"How long have you been walking like that?" one of the Japanese reporters called out.

"I started when I was six months old, and haven't stopped yet," she replied.

"Do you sleep naked?"

"No comment."

"We are told you do not wear anything under your dress," said another Japanese newsman. "Is that true?"

Marilyn grimaced slightly. This was supposed to be a press conference for her and Joe. But all the questions were for her -- and questions likely to provoke an explosion, later that night, in the suite of Mr. and Mrs. DiMaggio. In the meantime, Marilyn was assisted at the front table by Lefty O'Doul. Joe was lurking unnoticed, outside the ring of newsreel spotlights, in a corner of the room . . . as Marilyn favored the reporter with a smile, and lightly sidestepped. "I'm planning to buy a kimono tomorrow."

The big question from American reporters was whether she would visit the troops in Korea. War against "the Reds" had ended (at least the shooting had stopped) a few months before. But there were still a million American men, stuck (and as they feared, half-forgotten) in miserably makeshift front-line camps. There was no one they'd rather see than Marilyn Monroe. And the brass had promised, she would be invited. Marilyn had no snappy answer on that; in fact, she seemed torn and tentative: "I'd love to go to Korea, and have been waiting to go for a long time -- but I don't know if we'll have time on this trip." That was the only topic on which DiMaggio was quoted -- and the wire services promptly shoved him into a face-off with the brave boys who fought for Uncle Sam:

" 'How can we go to Korea?' DiMaggio asked newsmen. 'Marilyn doesn't have an act.'

"The response across the Sea of Japan from the troops in Korea was prompt:

" 'What does he mean WE? It's Marilyn we want. She doesn't need an act.' "

Lefty O'Doul would say, years later, that trip marked the first time Joe realized what a big star his wife had become -- she put DiMaggio in the shade, and that's when he turned surly. But Joe was well aware of Marilyn's fame. He just didn't like what she was famous for. What he learned on that honeymoon trip was how little influence he would have on the content of her stardom -- and how inessential to it he was. His mood did not improve the next day, when a U.S. Army officer came to visit at the suite, to press upon Miss Monroe an invitation to Korea, from General John E. Hull, commander of U.S. forces in the Far East. Actually, what made Joe sour was Marilyn's excitement. Joe was going off to coach baseball at the training camps for Japan's Central League. And Marilyn had it all figured: she could go to Korea then -- wouldn't that be perfect?

They were all yelling at me at the top of their lungs. I stood smiling at them. It had started snowing, but I felt as warm as if I was standing in a bright sun. Even the snowflakes falling on my bare arms felt warm.
Marilyn Monroe on performing before the troops in Korea.

"Go if you want to," DiMaggio said. "It's your honeymoon."

So it was. And within days, she got her shots and papers (an ID card that missed the point, entirely: "Mrs. Norma Jeane DiMaggio," it read) . . . and she was on her way to Korea, with a piano player and Mrs. Jean O'Doul.

By that time, her excitement was almost wild. From Seoul, she was choppered to her first appearance -- a remote and primitive mountainside tent camp, habited by the men of the First Marine Division. As her helicopter swooped in, banking over the steep ground, Marilyn was thrilled by what she saw. Thousands of men had come out to see her. They were standing on an open slope, all looking up, waving and cheering. She shouted to the pilot to circle low, so she could wave to the boys. Two soldiers in the belly of the chopper slid the main door open. And she shouted to them to hold her feet, as she slid out the door on her belly, to hang in midair over the gimballing ground, waving and blowing kisses while the men below screamed their delight. Four times she circled that mountainside, till the Marines were in a fever for her -- a fever that matched her own.

On the ground, she changed (in ten minutes!) from her flight jacket and combat boots into a plum-purple cocktail dress and stiletto heels. She parted the burlap curtains and fairly sauntered to the front of a plywood stage, to caress the waiting microphone, and breathe in her baby voice a greeting to the boys who were whistling and cheering. Marilyn was unaccustomed to live performance. On a movie set, the idea of facing the cameras could immobilize her with panic, and she'd break out in hives. But she loved her power to provoke want in men -- and this was the tops -- she was without fear. To the accompaniment of an upright piano, she sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" -- and the boys went crazy. The Marines were dressed in hooded parkas and boots. Marilyn's silk dress was held up by thin spaghetti straps. Her shoulders and arms were bare. That didn't matter. To the consternation of the general in command (who feared a riot), she followed up with a Gershwin tune -- "Do It Again."

Oooohhh, do it again.
I may say, no, no, no, no --
But do it again.
Oooohh, no one is near.
I may cry, oh, oh, ohhhh --
But no one will hear.

As she recalled for Ben Hecht in her memoir:

"They were all yelling at me at the top of their lungs. I stood smiling at them. It had started snowing, but I felt as warm as if I was standing in a bright sun. Even the snowflakes falling on my bare arms felt warm.

"I've always been frightened by an audience -- any audience. . . . My stomach pounds, my head gets dizzy and I'm sure my voice has left me. "But standing in the snowfall facing these seventeen thousand yelling soldiers, I felt for the first time in my life no fear of anything. I felt only happy. . . . I felt at home."

For four days, the Marilyn Monroe show traveled by helicopter, airplane, and Jeep. She didn't see any of Korea -- from one landing field to another, as she remembered -- but at ten camps, she did see (by Army estimate) a hundred thousand American men . . . and she loved them all. She could never forget; it was the boys in uniform -- thousands of letters from Korea to the studio -- who convinced Twentieth Century Fox to give her a chance, her first good parts. Now she could return the favor. One party at an officers club turned into such a bacchanal that Marilyn tried to cut a cake with a bayonet -- and put a pretty good cut in her wrist instead. Then, of course, a surgeon was called -- and for Miss Monroe, it was a surgeon general -- who treated the gash, and then gave orders that the drunken party never had occurred. The newspaper Stars & Stripes was ordered to spike the story. Those in attendance had to surrender all photographic film -- which was duly burned.

Another night, another officers club: the Signal Corps had hooked up a call to Japan -- so Marilyn could talk to her husband -- and both ends of the call would be broadcast over loudspeakers. "Do you still love me, Joe?" Marilyn's voice cooed over the camp. "Do you miss me?" And then the voice of DiMaggio -- rather curt, it was thought. "I do. Yeah." Joe did not appreciate being a prop in her show. But Marilyn was in her glory. She would call it the greatest experience of her life. ("This is what I've always wanted, I guess.") . . . And as she told one crowd of frenzied men: "I'll never forget my honeymoon -- with the 45th Division."

By the time she got back to Joe and Japan, her fever was real. Doctors would call it pneumonia. But Marilyn was still exuberant. She had to tell Joe how wonderful it was. They loved everything she did! They loved her! Thousands of men, screaming her name. . . . "Joe, you never heard such cheering."

"Yes I have," he said.

For the rest of that trip, there were rumors of roaring fights in their Imperial Hotel suite. Marilyn very seldom emerged. The story in the papers was about the pneumonia -- Marilyn had been ordered to rest. Still, more than one observer wanted to know what happened to Miss Monroe's hand -- which was bandaged and held by a splint. Maybe it was that bayonet gash. Marilyn never talked about it.

She and Joe flew back to America, where she'd spend four days in Marie's care on Beach Street -- and thereafter, when they flew to L.A., Marilyn looked to be in radiant good health. Mr. and Mrs. DiMaggio checked into the Beverly Hills Hotel -- and right away, Marilyn phoned her friend Sidney Skolsky, to come visit. She wanted to tell Sidney about the honeymoon -- and what a dear Joe had been. "Wonderful and considerate," was how Skolsky quoted her. "I've never been so happy." Then, she went on at considerable length about how she sang to the boys in Korea.

As Skolsky wrote in his memoir, Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood: "After a while Joe excused himself and went downstairs to have a drink with one of his baseball cronies in the Polo Lounge. As soon as Marilyn and I were alone, she dropped a bombshell.

" 'Sidney?'

" 'Yes.'

" 'Do you know who I'm going to marry?'

" 'Marry? What're you talking about?'

" 'I'm going to marry Arthur Miller,' Marilyn said.

"I looked at her as though she were crazy.

" 'Arthur Miller! You just got home from a honeymoon. You told me how wonderful Joe was, how happy he made you, and what a great time you had! Now you tell me you're going to marry Arthur Miller. I don't understand.'

" 'You wait,' Marilyn said. 'You'll see.' "

Despite Joe's brave assertions about San Francisco being "headquarters," he was a Hollywood householder within a month of the honeymoon. He and Marilyn rented a "Tudor cottage" on North Palm Drive, Beverly Hills -- eight rooms, one reserved for Joe Jr., and a couple of extra bedrooms in case "little baseball players" happened to come along. Mrs. D. told Sidney Skolsky how she positioned Joe's favorite chair in front of the TV in the living room. Skolsky also got the exclusive on how she liked to iron Joe's shirts. (But just in case she didn't have time, there would be a house staff of three.) The truth was, for both her and Joe, there was little time for anything except her career.

Charley Feldman had opened negotiations with the studio -- he said the news was good. Zanuck would drop Pink Tights. He wanted Marilyn to sing and dance in the Irving Berlin musical There's No Business Like Show Business. And after that, there was an even more tantalizing prospect: Feldman himself was going to produce a movie version of The Seven Year Itch -- with the great Billy Wilder directing -- and he wanted Marilyn to star as "The Girl Upstairs." In the meantime, Twentieth Century Fox would grant Marilyn her new contract -- with a limit of two pictures a year. Fox would buy Horns of the Devil (whether or not Miss Monroe did the film) for $225,000. And they were close to capitulation on the "target price" for any new picture. It was a measure of DiMaggio's influence (Feldman wouldn't even report to "the girl" unless Joe was in town and could come along) that the "target price" was a hundred grand.

There was one problem: Fox wouldn't budge on creative control. Zanuck had approval on all Fox pictures -- including scripts, directors, cinematographers -- and that wasn't going to change. Marilyn would have to compromise, too. And so she did. She told Feldman she would only demand approval on her drama coach (she still wanted Natasha) and her choreographer. They were largely symbolic demands -- to recognize her control of her own performance -- even Zanuck would have to see that. And as a gesture of her goodwill, Marilyn signed as a client with Famous Artists, so when a new contract came into force, Feldman would finally make some money, too.

Arthur Miller! You just got home from a honeymoon. You told me how wonderful Joe was, how happy he made you, and what a great time you had! Now you tell me you're going to marry Arthur Miller. I don't understand.
Sidney Skolsky on a revealing conversation with friend Marilyn.

Marilyn was back in business, and her business was being a great star. At a press conference to celebrate her return to the studio, Marilyn said her representatives were still "working out details," but she expected to sign her new contract soon. To a question about married life, she said: "Ballplayers make good husbands. Joe and I want a lot of little DiMaggios." As the L.A. Times reported, that made the studio executives wince -- but the reporters stood to applaud her. Then Marilyn swept off to Dressing Room M -- the best and biggest on the lot, on the ground floor of the Star Building. As Barbara Leaming reported, in Marilyn Monroe, it was actually a suite, with a parlor in front -- table lamps, and crimson upholstery on chairs fit for Queen Anne herself -- and inside, a grand dressing space with full-length wall mirrors, and "a spacious dressing table . . . adorned with a small framed photograph of Joe . . . and littered with countless tiny prescription bottles from Schwab's." It was bigger than some apartments she'd rented, only a couple of years before. But it was like them in one regard: someone had been there before. Marilyn had inherited Dressing Room M -- from (she shoulda known) Betty Grable.

Show Business was scheduled to start filming at the end of May. But Marilyn's second honeymoon at Fox would not last that long. On May 5, Feldman sent to Palm Drive the studio draft of her new contract. All the money was there, the limits on pictures . . . but Marilyn ripped through the document, looking for her guarantees on creative control. There was not a word. They were not going to give her anything -- no Natasha, no choreographer -- not even a nod of respect. They were treating her like the dumb blonde she played in the pictures they picked for her. To Marilyn, it was an affront, an attack -- not just on her present and future, but on everything she'd already done. They were desperate to prove that they were the ones who'd made her a star. Well, she would show them -- they were mistaken.

And then, Feldman also made a mistake: he recommended she sign it. His point was simple -- and in a way, correct. In practice, she would have the control she sought. If the studio wouldn't give in on coach or choreographer, she could go back to her old tricks, simply fail to appear. Meanwhile, he said, he'd stay on it -- maybe in the future, they could win an (oral) understanding, that in case of dispute Miss Monroe would have her way. Feldman didn't realize, at that moment, that he and Marilyn didn't have any future.

But the worst mistake was Joe's: he also said she ought to sign up. But he hadn't Feldman's gift of patter. Joe simply said the money was right. And for the rest, what the hell was the difference? For Marilyn that was confirmation of everything she'd feared. Joe had no respect for who she was. When he said he would help her get what she wanted, the only thing he meant was the money he wanted. At that point, she also knew, there was no future for her with Joe.

What he knew was, suddenly, she was spending all her time at the studio -- with her handsome, dark-eyed voice coach, Hal Schaefer. She said she had a lot of work, to prepare her numbers for Show Business. But shooting hadn't even begun, and Marilyn was never home.

When the filming started, that was even worse. Wardobe assistants coming to the house, and hairdressers, publicity men . . . and Joe's pet peeve, Natasha Lytess, who'd sit all night in the house on Palm Drive, ordering Marilyn around -- like she was the husband. And going over those stupid lines -- over and over -- it drove Joe crazy. He couldn't even hear the ballgame on TV. What kind of a home was that? Marilyn had told Joe she'd never trust Natasha again. But the minute she started another picture -- bang -- Natasha was back, and lording it around his house.

Even after Natasha left, late at night, Joe would be seething. Let Marilyn say one thing wrong, and he'd go off like a Roman candle. Sometimes, he'd get up and storm out, go into town, just get the hell away. If he didn't, he'd start yelling -- and Marilyn would run upstairs to cry and hide. She was scared of Joe when he got like that. She'd lock herself in a bedroom . . . and phone Natasha. As the coach would recall, in an unpublished interview (later quoted by one of Marilyn's biographers, Dr. Donald Spoto), Marilyn might call two or three times a night when she felt in peril. She would call ". . . at two or three in the morning that spring, when DiMaggio was being so filthy to her, when he beat her. She couldn't stand being treated that way. I talked to her for hours, until my hand was clammy on the telephone."

And after that, Marilyn would gulp down pills to get some sleep before her early call. Show Business was the first film on which colleagues reported that Marilyn was "dazed," unable to remember lines, or speak them clearly. Sometimes, in the mornings, Natasha, Hal Schaefer, or her makeup man, Whitey Snyder, would have to march her around her dressing room -- walking her, like an overheated horse -- for an hour, or two, until her head cleared. Even then, it was anybody's guess whether she could make a scene work on film. The delays made everybody else half-crazy -- and Marilyn was so apologetic, she pressed harder. By late June, she had collapsed on the set.

The studio publicity mill covered with the tired tale of Far East Pneumonia (Miss Monroe, the press releases now claimed, had never quite recovered) . . . but the sickness that beset Marilyn had less to do with her lungs than her heart. She felt trapped in her marriage, at that studio, and in that stupid movie. (No, she wouldn't sign her contract -- not even if she had to sit idle for four years.)

She found solace in the coaching and company of Hal Schaefer -- who was gentle with her, and thought she was wonderful. (Now he was helping not only with her movie songs but also songs she was recording for RCA.) . . . In the course of that summer, by Schaefer's account, she sought solace in his bed, too. DiMaggio's jealousy was so apparent it made the papers -- as did Schaefer's awkward protest (which was, alas, not much of a denial): "It's ridiculous," said Schaefer, "that Mr. DiMaggio could be any more jealous of me than he is of other people working with Marilyn." That only fueled Joe's other suspicions.

He seemed to resent anybody she was with. Even with girlfriends, Marilyn conspired to meet them away from home, or get them in and out of the house while Joe was away, so he wouldn't get mad. Sometimes, it seemed to her, weeks would pass and she wouldn't see anyone. But Joe would still be mad about something, and he wouldn't talk to her either. One time, she invited an old friend, Brad Dexter, to come to the house for dinner -- maybe she and Joe could have a friend together. She'd met Dexter years before, on her first good movie, The Asphalt Jungle. He was a man's man -- a poker player, a racetrack fan, a friend of Sinatra's -- she thought Joe and Brad might get along. But as Dexter remembered, he was in the house with Marilyn when Joe walked in, and it was obvious DiMaggio only wanted to know what the hell Brad was doing with his wife. As Dexter said, the whole house went creepy with DiMaggio's suspicion. "So I pretended to have another appointment, and I didn't stay to dinner."

Marilyn kept herself going with the thought that soon she would fly to New York, for location shooting on her next picture, The Seven Year Itch. Strange to say, it was New York (Joe's town) that came to stand in her mind for freedom -- escape. She was working, secretly, on a plan to get away to New York for good, and leave all her troubles behind: this picture, this studio, and Hollywood itself -- with the house on Palm Drive, and the prison of her marriage. New York was where her new friend, Milton Greene, a still photographer, wanted to help her set up her own company -- Marilyn Monroe Productions. (That was the only way she'd have real control.) . . . New York was where Lee Strasberg coached the nation's great actors, at the legendary Actors Studio. (His wife, Paula, had stopped by the set of Show Business -- and told Marilyn that she'd be welcome to come and study anytime.) . . . And New York (this was the most secret part) was also home to a man Marilyn had met more than four years before, but had never forgotten -- America's most celebrated playwright, Arthur Miller.

She couldn't let anybody know what she was dreaming up. (Skolsky was the one exception -- he wanted to produce The Life of Jean Harlow as the first film for Marilyn Monroe Productions.) . . . On the set at Twentieth Century Fox, Marilyn had to act like the only thing she cared about was finishing her picture. (So she could get on to the next one, The Seven Year Itch.) . . . With Feldman, she couldn't have been friendlier -- they never talked anymore about her contract. (She sent him on a fool's errand to get her loaned out to Samuel Goldwyn, to star with Marlon Brando in the film version of Guys and Dolls.) . . . And with Joe, if she talked about the future at all, it was just looking forward to the next vacation. (It was always "when this picture's done" or "after the next picture.")

But it may be that she told the truth to Hal Schaefer. (If she escaped to New York, she would leave him behind, too.) Or Schaefer may have sensed her slipping away. Or maybe it was true (as it was later reported) that Schaefer was being followed, and threatened in anonymous telephone calls . . . anyway, something made him desperate. On July 27, Hal Schaefer was found unconscious on the floor of his bungalow at Fox, with his stomach full of sleeping pills and Benzedrine (all washed down with a draught of typewriter cleaning fluid). He would barely survive -- he would never regain his health entirely -- and while he lingered in the hospital, his most frequent visitor was Marilyn Monroe. She didn't make any secret of that. Joe's impotent jealousy was discussed around Hollywood -- and richly enjoyed.

That was another strange twist: just as Marilyn was plotting to leave Hollywood in her dust, the luminaries and powers of the town had decided that she was one of their own -- a sweet girl and a great star . . . and the only thing wrong with her was her husband. Joe's contempt for the movie folk was well known; and now it was matched by theirs for him. By August, several industry columnists had mentioned Marilyn's hospital visits to Hal Schaefer -- and some pointed out that Joe DiMaggio had never even paid one visit to his wife on the set during the entire production of There's No Business Like Show Business.

So, just before the film was wrapped up, on August 27, Joe paid a visit to the soundstage. He said Marilyn wanted him to come and watch. (And of course, Georgie Solotaire had to come with him.) That was the day for shooting Marilyn's big production number, "Heat Wave" -- and if she had asked Joe to watch, that was an uncharacteristic miscalculation. Over and over, Marilyn writhed through the number, in her plumed headdress and a costume that was so elaborately skimpy that even her fans would be embarrassed for her when the film came out. DiMaggio wouldn't have to wait. He was embarrassed right away -- standing in the shadows, sweating in his perfect blue suit . . . and muttering audibly about the assholes who made his wife look like a slut. When Marilyn saw him there, she seized up, forgot her lyrics, got her feet tangled, and fell on the floor. Technicians rushed in to pick her up, and make sure she wasn't hurt. Assistants fretted over her, patching her makeup, fixing her hair . . . and then, at the urging of publicity men, they led her over to Joe -- Could we get a photo? But DiMaggio refused to be photographed with her. She wasn't properly dressed. (Later he was glad to pose with her co-star, Ethel Merman. That was different. The Merm was a friend of Georgie's. And anyway, she was a great star.)

When Show Business was finally finished, at the end of August, it turned out Marilyn wouldn't have any time for vacation between films. She had to fly to New York, right away, to begin The Seven Year Itch. Maybe that's the way she wanted it. She was flying toward a future that only she knew about -- her great escape. Alas, four days later, DiMaggio would follow her across the country. And that was another mistake.

Click here for next excerpt.

From JOE DIMAGGIO by Richard Ben Cramer. Copyright ® 2000 by Richard Ben Cramer. Reprinted by persmission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Richard Ben Cramer is the author of the bestselling What It Takes: The Way to the White House, which was acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written on American politics. His journalism has appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Time and Newsweek. His dispatches from the Middle East for the Philadelphia Inquirer won the Pultizer Prize for International Reporting in 1979. with his wife and daughter, he lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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