Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Christie's auctioned the message from Monroe to DiMaggio, written during their marriage.
Another sign that Joe DiMaggio carried his love for Marilyn Monroe long after their brief marriage has revealed itself, courtesy of an auction of baseball memorabilia at Christie’s this month.
Among the items that sold in “Home Plate: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia,” which took place Dec. 15-16 at Christie’s New York, was Lot #152, a wallet and its contents that once belonged to the New York Yankee legend. The circa-1954 wallet, embossed with DiMaggio’s initials in gold, contained business and membership cards, foreign currency and other items any man might commonly carry in his daily life – but a dry-cleaning receipt, folded in quarters, was unquestionably the key attraction. Discovered on the back of the receipt – which was dated Feb. 1, 1954, from Canyon Cleaners on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles – was a note scribbled from Monroe to DiMaggio during their nine-month marriage, evidently following an altercation for which the actress takes responsibility.
"Dear Joe, I know I was wrong!” Monroe wrote. “I acted the way I did and said the things I did because I was hurt – not because I meant them – and it was stupid of me to be hurt because actually there wasn't enough reason – in fact no reason at all. Please accept my apology and don't, don't, don't, don't be angry with your baby – she loves you. Lovingly, your wife (for life) Mrs. J.P. DiMaggio.” On the front of the receipt she had simply written, “Please read this.”
The receipt appears to have been folded and unfolded numerous times, to the point that the paper had separated along the folds. While it could have been restored, Christie’s experts said they preferred its original condition. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine how many times DiMaggio may have pulled Monroe’s note from his wallet to re-read her message of contrition to him, until the paper was almost in tatters.
The wallet and its contents easily ranked high among the auction’s highlights; Christie’s representatives called it a “stunning personal time capsule.” Estimated to sell for between $50,000 and $100,000, the final hammer price on Lot #152 was $425,000.
It’s the latest, and perhaps final, chapter in one of Hollywood’s most captivating romances. Monroe and DiMaggio were married on Jan. 14, 1954, at San Francisco City Hall; the high-wattage couple met in 1952 after the 38-year-old Yankee slugger, who had retired six months earlier, asked a friend to set them up on a dinner date. At that time the 26-year-old Monroe was on the cusp of superstardom, appearing in both Monkey Business and Don’t Bother to Knock that year.
But fast-forward to their wedding, and by then Monroe had starred in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, all released in 1953. The wedding of the Yankee Clipper and the world’s most sought-after screen goddess attracted a frenzy of press that never seemed to abate – throw in DiMaggio’s desire for a low-key home life and Monroe’s schedule, which included a performance for American soldiers in Korea during their honeymoon in Japan, and the marriage seemed troubled from the start.
A now-famous blowup followed in September 1954, while Monroe was starring in The Seven Year Itch. DiMaggio visited the New York City set as she filmed the iconic scene over a subway grate, and he watched as onlookers and media, the latter reportedly invited by director Billy Wilder, went crazy as hot air from the subway blew up the skirt of his wife’s white Travilla halter dress. Monroe filed for divorce the following month, citing “mental cruelty.”
Monroe married Arthur Miller in 1956, while DiMaggio never remarried. When Monroe and Miller divorced in 1961, it’s rumored that Marilyn reunited with the baseball great, but 18 months after her divorce from Miller, on August 5, 1962, Monroe was dead of an overdose. DiMaggio planned her small and private funeral, and his reaction at her service was splashed across the front page of the New York Daily News on Aug. 8, 1962: “Joe Whispers ‘I Love You.’”
Stories conflict about DiMaggio’s wish to send roses to her grave in the years after her death – according to the florist, he stopped in 1982, reportedly because the presence of the roses caused a sensation at Monroe’s resting place, while other stories suggest that the roses continued until DiMaggio’s death from lung cancer in 1999. His longtime lawyer and friend, Morris Engelberg, told Vanity Fair in 2000 that DiMaggio’s final words were, “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
My Story, the unfinished autobiography Monroe dictated to journalist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Ben Hecht, was first published in 1974, but the anecdotes seem to have been compiled during her marriage to DiMaggio (an illustrated edition featuring images of Monroe from the Milton H. Greene archives was released in 2007). In My Story, Monroe talked – gingerly, she admitted – about the mutual attraction she felt with her then-husband. “The truth is that we were very much alike,” she said. “My publicity, like Joe’s greatness, is something on the outside. It has nothing to do with what we actually are. What I seem to Joe I haven’t heard yet. He’s a slow talker. What Joe is to me is a man whose looks, and character, I love with all my heart.”
With a well-worn folded note discovered in his wallet, it seems that DiMaggio agreed.