It’s hard to believe that June lst marks the75th Anniversary of Norma Jeane Baker’s birth. Born in a Los Angeles charity ward, Norma Jeane began her career as a model, and later changed her name to a more magnetic-sounding moniker, Marilyn Monroe. It has been well over three decades since the infamous Marilyn has passed yet still, her mystique continues to mesmerize millions of fans. Even the hippest among us are captivated by this luminescent beauty who exuded innocence and sexuality at the same time. Throughout her 36 years-and long after her death-Marilyn’s private life has always been a topic of public interest. Her three marriages (the first when she was only 16) and multiple affairs were no secret. Less well known, however, was the screen legend’s enduring infatuation with Gotham. Marilyn loved everything about the city, and the city returned the affection. New Yorkers immediately wrapped their collective arms around that amazing frame and never let go. Locals can thank Columbia Pictures for introducing Marilyn to Manhattan in August 1949, when the studio brought her there to promote the Marx Brothers’ comedy, Love Happy. That summer, the Big Apple was baking, and the brutal heat wave made the 23-year-old starlet hot under the collar. It seems she’d assumed that, like LA, New York must be cool year-round, so she packed only woolen clothes. Fortunately, a resourceful publicist emerged as her hero by bringing a wispy dress to her room at the Sherry Netherland Hotel, which she wore for the rest of her visit.

by James Spada


Three years later, Marilyn returned to Manhattan to promote Monkey Business, a 2Oth Century-Fox comedy co-starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. By this time, Marilyn’s career was on a rapid ascent and gossip columnists began linking her romantically to New York’s favorite son, Yankee outfielder Joe DiMaggio. Their every move was chronicled, from Toots Shor’s and El Morocco to The Stork Club, which are all long-closed. Never publicityshy, Marilyn held a press conference to stop the speculation. The move was a success as she charmed the proverbial pants off even the most hard-boiled reporter. In 1954, DiMaggio hit the biggest homer of his life by taking Marilyn’s hand in marriage in his hometown of San Francisco. A few months later, with the honeymoon barely a memory, the couple checked into New York’s St. Regis Hotel for an extended stay while Marilyn filmed Billy Wilder’s comedy, The Seven Year Itch. For the movie, some exteriors were shot in front of an Upper East Side apartment house at 164 E 61st St. In exchange for granting the crew permission to shoot on his premises, the building owner was paid with a case of Scotch whiskey. The location shoot attracted a huge crowd, but that was nothing compared to the thousands of paparazzi and oglers who gathered outside the now defunct TransLux Theater (E 52nd. & Lexington Ave.) during the wee hours and witnessed a stellar moment in motion picture history: The bombshell struck a provocative pose above a breezy subway grate, and her white pleated skirt (created by Hollywood costume designer, William Travella) billowed up around her waist. Perhaps the only onlooker who wasn’t wowed was her husband. In fact, DiMaggio was livid, and he felt his new wife was making a “spectacle” of herself. “Joltin’ Joe” (as Yankee fans affectionately called him) left for Los Angeles in a huff, convinced that Marilyn would never quit the biz and settle down. Three weeks later, after only nine months of wedlock, the couple filed for divorce. Although she was now considered the biggest star in the world and a first-rate comedienne, 20th Century Fox continued to cast Marilyn in one-dimensional dumbblonde roles. Frustrated, she broke her studio contract and took refuge in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria. There, she announced her desire to be taken seriously as an actress: “I don’t want to play sex roles anymore. I’m tired of being known as the girl with the shape.” Soon, Marilyn, moved into a swanky apartment at 2 Sutton Place and began her quest for intellectual and artistic excellence by studying with famed acting coach Lee Strasberg, head of the prestigious Actors Studio. Still, she maintained her sense of humor and continued to be seen around town: dining and sipping Dom Perignon (1953) at Sardi’s, The 21 Club, and The Four Seasons. And wherever she went, a media blitz followed. At Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey Circus (in Madison Square Garden), for example, the grandstands went wild as a scantily-clad Marilyn rode a “pink” elephant during a shed that image forever, Marilyn scoured Greenwich Village bookstores for volumes Miller suggested she read-Leaves of Grass, The Prophet, Letters to a Young Poet, The Little Prince. Marilyn revered her husband, as well as his home in Brooklyn Heights. She walked arm-in-arm with the playwright around the tree-lined neighborhood and listened intently to his boyhood memories. Having been abandoned and abused as a child, and shuttled between 10 sets of uncaring foster parents, the new Mrs. Miller adored her husband’s warm family. “Brooklyn became Nirvana to her,” said a friend, Norman Rosten. “It was her true home.” The pair later moved into a luxury apartment at 444 E. 57 th St., and locals often saw them strolling or bicycling around Central Park. Photographers show Marilyn rowing a boat on Central Park Lake, riding uptown on the Lexington Avenue subway, and leaning into a convertible to kiss hubby before heading to the midtown stores. Shopping with Marilyn, recalls her Brooklyn friend and part-time secretary Hedda Rosten, was “an adventure.” She was famous for sweeping into her favorite stores-Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bonwit Teller (now the site of Trump Tower)-and trying on dress after dress. Saleswomen were aghast when the star disrobed. There was Marilyn Monroe in the flesh- sans underwear.”Those lines and ridges in undergarments-girdles and bras are unnatural-they distort a girl,” Marilyn said of her decision to go without. Store staff often objected when she wanted to return those clothes to the rack. So Miss M simply bought them all. After her five year marriage to Miller ended, Marilyn bought a home in LA but kept her E. 57th St. flat, saying she was “sewn into” the fabric of the cityscape. A year later, Marilyn was back in New York making an appearance in Madison Square Garden. But this time, instead of riding atop an elephant, she was on stage in a glittery, flesh colored Jean Louis gown, singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy-her final New York performance. Three months later, Marilyn Monroe died in her LA home. Thank you for the memories, Norma Jean. New York will never forget you.

She struck a provocative pose above a breezy Midtown subway grate, and oglers glimpsed a stellar moment in motion picture history.
benefit. Between press frenzies, Marilyn strived to improve her acting. With the help of Strasberg, she gave one of her finest performances ever in the film-version of William Inge’s play, Bus Stop. By 1956, her social circles were far more highbrow than those she left behind in Hollywood, and she met and married a member of the liberal New York intelligentsia-playwright Arthur Miller. Defending Miller’s decision to take her hand in marriage, Marilyn remarked, “He wouldn’t have married me if I had been nothing but a dumb blonde.” Desperate to

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