Marilyn Graces the Brown Derby

She had been many times before. To the Brown Derby, that is. During her more “hanger-on” days. When she was still nothing but a starlet at best, and an aspirant at worst. Well, “aspirant” tended to mean, let’s be honest, an escort. Paid to hang out with producers and other “behind-the-scenes” “talent” for cash, Marilyn was known to go beyond the requisite “company” description for a man she “kind of liked.” Or one she thought could further her career. That was the whole benefit of debasing herself to this glorified prostitute level. And if a man took her to the Brown Derby before they got down to brass tacks, all the better. For she could be seen by a new slew of potential clientele that might be interested in hiring her—whether for a part or for the part of paid escort. 

She had often wondered if her past in this capacity would ever come back to haunt her. But the studios were built to insulate stars from their own sordid history. To pad it from the public for the sake of keeping the myth of celebrity alive as much as for the benefit of securing big box office receipts. After all, this was still the era of audiences claiming to adore “wholesome” content. Or rather, that was what the government—a.k.a. the likes of Will Hays—wanted to reflect back to the U.S. despite its obvious hunger for sin, paired with a generally sex-starved nature. In such a Victorian milieu, Marilyn was to be an anachronism. And a Circe. 

But in 1953, The Seven Year Itch had yet to come out, and she was still somewhat safe from the wolves and the criticisms. She had the benefit of being in the “rising star” category. Which meant no one yet wanted to tear her down before seeing her fully ascend. For the most part playing “the curvaceous secretary” with a dumb blonde flourish, Marilyn’s most notable films up to this point had been NiagaraGentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. Were it not for these career-shaping roles, she could have easily been left to rot as a bit part actress. But Joseph Schenck, the man she was most frequently spotted escorting around town, would never have allowed that. He had too much “affection” for Marilyn a.k.a. wanted to stick his dick inside of her. 

She hoped he wasn’t there tonight, but then again, he had become quite decrepit. Even for him. Maybe he’d sit this little fête put on by Bob Hope out. One could only Hope, right? Regardless of the man with that last name being utterly hopeless in terms of having any compassion. Apparently, in order to be “America’s favorite funnyman,” you had to be a complete arsehole. Marilyn steered clear of him all night, save for the photo opportunity Hope was sure to secure. Apart from that, she mostly stuck by Slugger’s side (that’s Joe DiMaggio, to you). They weren’t married yet, but it wouldn’t be much longer. Despite her success as a star of the screen, Marilyn couldn’t help but see herself as settling down eventually in the ultimate twentieth century role: wife and mother. She just had to bide her time for a while before surrendering fully to this trope. She thought Joe might be patient enough to “give” her that time, but he wasn’t. He didn’t want the blonde bombshell, he just wanted the scared little girl he had fallen in love with. The one who didn’t care about the flashbulbs or the awards or the public praise. 

That night at the Brown Derby, it became clear that DiMaggio was starting to reconcile the fact that Marilyn was the more desirable, more well-known personality between them. Something that he would never quite get used to. Being the “big baseball star” that he was. But sex usurped sports any day of the week. And that was something Slugger was going to have to get accustomed to. If he wanted the relationship to endure…

Marilyn had ordered the Spaghetti Derby that night (long before Lucy Ricardo would immortalize the dish in a 1955 episode of the show called “L.A. At Last!”). Slugger was sure to condemn her for it, not only because it was an event with a pre-catered menu, but because he felt she was gaining too much weight and needed to “cool it” on her carbo-loading. She snapped back, “Call me Greta Carbo. ‘I vant to be alone…’ with my spaghetti.” He couldn’t help but laugh. She was frequently endearing to him that way, melting his otherwise cold, immoveable heart. He was starting to realize, however, that she had that effect on most men, and it made his blood boil. 

His jealousy reached such a crescendo that night that he forced them to leave the party early, citing some excuse about needing to wake up in time for a trip to Carmel they had planned. There was no such plan, but Marilyn partly wanted to hold him to the fake excuse. She did so love the sea. 

On the way out, a number of newspapermen were waiting to get their shot. It was at this moment that Marilyn’s shoe came off, and, as she bent over to pick it up, she revealed to them just enough of her backside beneath her form-fitting dress to showcase that she was wearing nothing underneath. And here everyone had thought it took an intense system of pulleys and levers in the shapewear realm to hold all that body together. But no, lo and behold, the front page of the paper the following morning revealed that Marilyn was the type of girl who favored going girdleless and pantyless.

Slugger could have killed her for the humiliation, but he also partly wanted to spare her the subsequent shame she would keep enduring if she went on as an unmarried woman. It was soon after that they were married, on January 14, 1954. In the dead of winter. But California didn’t much believe in winter, not even in San Francisco, where they tied the knot at City Hall. And Marilyn no longer believed in the existence of a man who would accept her as she was without trying to change or tame her. 

She married Joe because she knew he was right. It would protect her against the accusations that were soon to ramp up about her moral “looseness.” At the same time, she avoided the Brown Derby after that night as much as possible. For her, it could be traced to the instant DiMaggio felt he needed to cage her with marriage. And, truth be told, she didn’t laugh at all during that I Love Lucy episode when it finally did air. 

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