Our June 25 blog — When You’re a Star, You’re a Star — displayed a wonderful photograph of the 20th century’s two most famous Italian-Americans, and we asked you to identify each and tell something about where they were when photographed and why.
Faithful reader Patricia Nolan-Hall surmised correctly that the pair photographed was Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and Young Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra. The occasion, she guessed, was a charity baseball game in the 1940’s. She pretty much nailed it on all counts.
The photograph was actually taken in March of 1949, at Yankee Stadium in New York City. It was so early in the baseball season that year that one suspects the occasion was indeed an exhibition game probably for some charitable cause.
DiMaggio and Sinatra are all smiles.
The good cheer didn’t last through the next decade. A fascinating article in June 14’s The New York Times (Sports Section) by Michael Beschloss supplies the backround.
In two words — MARILYN MONROE.
DiMaggio officially became the second of her three husbands in January of 1954, five years after the Yankee Stadium photo was taken. By the following November, the marriage was souring (it lasted until October 1955) and the Yankee Clipper was already on the outs.
At about this time, he and Sinatra were dining at an Italian restaurant in Hollywood. (They were still regular pals.) Their meal was interrupted by a call from a private investigator reporting that Marilyn at that very moment was entertaining a man in her apartment.
DiMaggio and Sinatra bolted from the eatery and headed for her apartment house.
Then the huge “Oops” moment occurred.
Someone — there is no certainty as to exactly who — kicked in the door of one of the apartments and barged in with flash camera at the ready. But there was no sign of an illicit assignation in progress. Only a shrieking woman, an office secretary by trade, in her bedclothes.
(The upshot was that the terrified woman successfully sued DiMaggio, Sinatra, the private dick and three other confederates, and won a nice out-of-court settlement.)
Witnesses later reported that an argument broke out between DiMaggio and Sinatra outside the apartment building following what came to be called “the Wrong-Door Raid.” Speculation was that Sinatra was treating the debacle with insufficient seriousness.
DiMaggio, who could be a hard man and not one to forgive easily, was furious. Really mad.
His fury was further stoked when scandal sheet Confidential magazine got a hold of and published the story. DiMaggio was embarrassed as well as angry.
And then there were reports after DiMaggio’s marriage crumbled that his ex-wife had taken up with — Frank Sinatra. (According author Carl Rollyson’s new book, Marilyn Monroe: Life of the Actress, Sinatra was Monroe’s first choice for the Tony Curtis role in 1959’s Some Like It Hot).
After the botched raid, reports Beschloss, DiMaggio scarcely spoke to Sinatra…When Monroe died in 1962, the distraught DiMaggio barred him from her funeral.