American Icons

It began magically as a public romance and ended tragically as a public romance. Joe DiMaggio, the king of baseball, and Marilyn Monroe, the queen of the movies, were introduced to each other by a mutual friend and had their first date in a popular New York restaurant. Neither took to the other much, until Mickey Rooney ambled by the couples' table and starting paying homage to great DiMaggio. Marilyn Monroe, a young starlet on the way to fame herself, was instantly impressed and captivated by the power of Joe DiMaggio's mystique, several years after he had retired from baseball.

Joe DiMaggio was the father she never knew, the strong, silent man who encouraged her. He only delighted in her successes, he was such a star himself, that he hardly neeeded to steal any of her limelight (Allen 175). It was a cross-country romance, well-documented and followed by the American public, who were simply astounded by the celebrity relationship. But the public's relentless desire to know everything about the couple's personal life arguably caused the relationship to diminish.

While on their honeymoon in Japan, Marilyn was asked to entertain the U.S. troops in Korea. She left her new husband in search of fame, yet Joe understood her passions, the demons within in her that drove her to be the best. When she returned she exclaimed, "Joe, Joe, it was wonderful, the troops loved me. You have never heard such cheering."

HIS RESPONSE: "Yes, yes darling, I have."

Yet, he didn't resent her fame, or her success. What he could not do was separate the fact that the actress performing the rituals demanded of her by her profession, the woman that every man in America wanted, was also his wife. On October 5, 1954, just 274 days after they were married, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio divorced. Yet, Joe DiMaggio, the man who needed no one, was still in love with Marilyn Monroe, the woman who needed everyone. They remained close friends after the divorce. When Marilyn Monroe suddenly died in 1962, it was rumored that DiMaggio was just about to ask her to remarry him. He immediately took care of all of the funeral arrangements, deciding that Marilyn would be buried with dignity, free of the hysterical commotion usually associated with rites for Hollywood idols (Allen 197).

Lois Weber Smith, Marilyn Monroe's press agent, offered some insight to Joe and Marilyn's rocky yet loving relationship-"I don't think Joe was right with what he did with the funeral, but I know that she cared very deeply for him in the last years. He was a solid guy, very dependable, very helpful to her. For a while, when they were married, Marilyn had the idea she could have both lives, the private and the public. She deceived herself in that. She couln't keep them separate. The press wouln't allow it. They were both too big, too famous, too much a part of America to disappear when they weren't working. I know he loved her. I'm convinced of that now. I know in her way she loved him too. He was kind and generous and strong. It was almost as if Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio met at the wrong time in their lives."

The relationship between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe was complex and complicated, but that is exactly why the American public was so intrigued by it. America's ideal hero, strong, rugged, quiet, troubled, married to America's feminine ideal, beautiful, talented, and sexually appealing. It was a perfect match destined to fail, but somehow, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe managed to love one another. Marilyn Monroe loved people, and she loved life. Joe DiMaggio just couldn't accept her as the love object for every other man in the world. Joe DiMaggio had his pride, a trait the ancient Greeks referred to as "man's tragic flaw." His quest for perfection in every aspect of his life drew him to Marilyn's magnanamous persona. Yet his pride did not allow him to accept the results of his wife's charisma and charm.

It very well might be the match of the ages, a romance that will go down in history as the most magical ever. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe provided Americans with a real life fairytale. Unlike most fairytales, it did not end "happily ever after." Yet, it ended in classic Joe DiMaggio fashion, the aching lover mourning for his beautiful bride. It's the stuff heroes are made of...

Humble Beginnings| Becoming a Yankee| The Streak| Marilyn Monroe| Yankee Days| Being Joe DiMaggio| The Toast of the Town| The End of an Era| Has Joe D. gone anywhere?| The last inning