After a two-year romance, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco on January 14, 1954. Sadly, they would part just nine months later in a blaze of recrimination and heartbreak. However, the couple remained friendly until Marilyn’s death. Joe was devastated by her passing, and sent roses to her grave each week for twenty years. He never remarried, and is the only one of Monroe’s three husbands never to discuss their relationship with the press.
This extract from my novel, The Mmm Girl (2007), revisits the day of their wedding, exactly sixty years later. Unfortunately the book is currently out of print, though I hope to rectify this at some point.
Joe held my hand as we got out of the car and climbed the steps of City Hall, a huge, domed building. The registrar met us in the lobby and led us to the elevator.
‘Have you been in the city long?’
‘I came before Christmas. Everybody knows us.’
On the third floor, we hurried to the courtroom. My stiletto heels clacked across the marble floor. A gang of reporters were waiting at the door, and the registrar was looking out, startled.
‘What are they doing here?’ Joe muttered, slamming the door.
‘I – I don’t know, Joe. The only person I called was Mr Zanuck.’
Sighing, Joe led me over to his friends, Reno and George; Lefty, his manager; Lefty’s wife, Jean; Tom, Joe’s older brother, and his sister, Marie.
‘Oh, you’re so lovely!’ Marie handed me three white orchids and touched my brown broadcloth suit and its ermine collar.
‘Thanks,’ I said, smiling. ‘I’m trying to break in a new hairstyle.’
My hair was very light platinum, and short curls framed my face.
‘Miss Monroe, would you mind choosing your vows?’
The registrar held out a file, and looked behind me.
Photographers had managed to somehow get up to peer through the high window, and the clamour outside now included thuds and bangs, as if chairs or people were falling over.
Judge Perry entered the court, and we took our places. Joe’s eyes never left mine as we spoke.
‘I, Joseph Paul DiMaggio, take you to be my lawful wedded wife, from this day forward…’
‘… to love and to cherish, until death do us part.’
We kissed, and the guests gathered around. The registrar asked us to sign the papers. I wrote my legal name, ‘Norma Jeane Mortenson Dougherty.’
As the doors were opened, I clung to Joe’s arm. We pushed through the crowd of pressmen and fans who now filled the hall.
Outside, we kissed some more and the press took pictures.
Reporters started asking questions, Joe answered for a couple of minutes, then Reno drove up in a blue Cadillac and we were off.