Before there was Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, in an age before cellphones, Instagram, texting and tweeting, there was Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
“Marilyn,” David March said, “there’s a nice guy I’d like you to meet.”
“Are there any nice guys left?” she inquired.
To which he said, “The guy is Joe DiMaggio.”
At first Marilyn said nothing. And then, “Who’s Joe DiMaggio?”
He couldn’t quite believe what he’d just heard.
“Marilyn, you must be kidding. You’ve never heard of Joe DiMaggio? He’s the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth.”
And she asked, “Who’s Babe Ruth?”
A first-generation Italian-American, DiMaggio was the fourth son and eighth child born to Sicilian immigrants Giuseppe and Rosalie DiMaggio. His parents immigrated to America in 1898 and left behind their family in Isola delle Femmine, outside of Palermo, where the DiMaggios had been fishermen for generations. Settling in San Francisco, the DiMaggio family, father and sons, made their trade as fishermen and owned a local Italian restaurant. Even at the height of his popularity, DiMaggio’s parents faced prejudices against Italians as “alien” citizens, yet he chose to enlist in the Army in 1943.
Now, imagine Marilyn Monroe, the most beautiful and popular woman in Hollywood, even worldwide, falls in love, unknowingly, with America’s sports hero. She lives life with DiMaggio among a big family of Italian-American sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, many in the family restaurant business, some fishermen, and others play professional baseball for a living.
There are numerous books on DiMaggio and his sports achievements and career with the New York Yankees, and even more on Monroe’s career, movies, life and loves. However, author C. David Heymann chose to focus on the love and passion DiMaggio and Monroe experienced when first meeting, and how they were looking forward to settling into a family life, which they wanted so desperately.
Readers can sense DiMaggio’s traditional Italian family ideals on what a perfect marriage is and what role a woman played in the ’50s. As much as Monroe longed for the “traditional family life,” when they met, he was retired, and she was at the height of her career. He was her rock in facing the studio heads and the hangers-on who surrounded her lifestyle. But, giving it all up and walking away from it, how could she?
Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love is the real-life love story between this power couple living from San Francisco to New York, with stopovers in Hollywood and all over the world. Officially married only nine months, their love was eternal. Even divorce didn’t keep them apart, and he loved her until the day he died. Upon her tragic death, DiMaggio tended to all the details of her funeral and, for over 20 years, had red roses delivered three times a week to her burial location.
Barbara Ann Zippi is the executive producer and host of Ciao Bella Living Italian Style on Radnor Studio Channel 21