Marilyn Monroe - Ms. Misunderstood

In 1953, I was working myself through Fordham University. My routine was very simple. I’d come down from school at the end of the day and check in as master control director at the network – an impressive title that meant I “directed” the station breaks (a job nobody else wanted) -- and make my way to my tiny corner office.

On one particular afternoon, I arrived at my office to find a big crowd gathered around my desk. A woman by the name of Virginia Graham was conducting an interview with an actress who was going to star in a film called “The Seven Year Itch” – a Billy Wilder picture also staring Tom Ewell.  Her name was Marilyn Monroe.

Now I, of course, had heard of Marilyn Monroe, but I was so focused on the demands of my job that nothing “clicked” at that particular moment. The name didn’t generate any particular sensation of excitement or arousal or even interest. I just wanted my earphones. They were in my desk. But I couldn’t even get near my office…and the plan was to also use it for a press conference immediately following the interview. How was I going to work with all that going on?

I did not feel inclined to push my way into that teeming mass of reporters just to get a set of earphones…especially since she was sitting on my desk, famous legs and all. So I fought myself free of the crowd, borrowed a set of earphones and went to work.

Later that night, during a three hour layover between the network and the stations, the office staff were still buzzing about the fact that Marilyn Monroe had been in for an interview. I was finally back at my desk downstairs, studying for my Philosophy final which was to take place at 8 the next morning.

Wrapped up in the texts, lecture notes and crib sheets strewn across the entire surface of my desk, I barely heard the click, click, click, click of the high heels in the hall.

“Excuse me…” a soft feminine voice purred.

I looked up into the face of an angel. Marilyn Monroe at 7:30 in the evening.

Wow. Boy. Those eyes really took the sting out of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Heart pounding, I managed to squeak out a “Yes?”

She said, “I was here earlier today for a press conference...”

“I… know….”

“…and I left my makeup kit underneath your desk.”

Sure enough…there in the dark recess was a suitcase. I reached in, grabbed it and walked around the desk to hand it to her. She came forward and scanning the mass of papers and text on my desk asked,

“What are you doing?”

“Studying for my final exam,” I replied.

“What subject?”

“Philosophy.”

“Oooh. Philosophy. You’re studying Philosophy?”

Yes, said I, pulling myself together, “I’m a student at Fordham University.”

“Will you tell me a little bit about Philosophy?”

“Suuuure. Right now I’m studying St. Thomas Aquinas – the 8 proofs for the existence of God.”

She got visibly excited. ”You can prove that God exists?”

“Well, yes I can.” I replied, overflowing with hubris and testosterone. “As a student of Aquinas you can do that.”

She leaned in, looking over my shoulder, almost resting her chin there and said:

“Tell me about them.”

“Well,” I began, “The order and beauty of the universe…the effect can never be greater than the cause….”

I dutifully rendered all of the rational proofs for the existence of a supreme creator, at the same time realizing that under the hypnotic spell of this vision I was doing some of the best studying of my young life.

Studying for my final with Marilyn Monroe.  

She loved philosophy…had a thirst for knowledge. Our impromptu session went on much too long, considering that I should have been upstairs getting ready for the 11 O’clock news.

The phone rings. “Hi, Frank. This is Phil Mazzola at the front desk. Yeah…you know…I’m kind of embarrassed to ask…but …..do you….have MARILYN MONROE in your office?”

I said “Yeah Phil, I do.” 

There was a long silence, punctuated by an almost whispered “I’ll be a sonovabitch. Her car has been waiting for her, you know.“

“Oh, yeah. We lost track of the time. Could you call upstairs and tell them I’ll be right up for the news…and tell her car she’ll be right down.”

Phil kind of stuttered something unintelligible. It ended in “OK.”

Marilyn was startled out of her philosophic reverie “Oh I’m so sorry, Frank.”

I deepened my voice…”No, no, no…it’s all right…Marilyn. Why don’t you get your bag and I’ll walk you down to your car.”

Before I left my desk, I realized that I was not going to get any more studying in before the exam. I picked up my book, closed it, and handed it to Marilyn, saying “I want you to take this as a gift. 

“Oh no, no, Frank. I couldn’t do that.”

“Sure you could…Marilyn. I’m done with it. Just take this as a gift from a fellow student of philosophy.”

“Well, all right. That’s so generous of you. I will. Thank you so much, Frank.

We took the elevator downstairs, walked to the front door and there standing with his foot against the wall was Joe DiMaggio.

Joltin’ Joe…and he’d been waiting for her all this time.

“Oh Joe. I want you to meet my new friend, Frank Maguire. He’s been teaching me  philosophy. “

I’ve often wondered what he thought when he heard that.

He shook my hand, I told him what an honor it was to meet him. I was a kid born in NY -- a devoted yankee fan -- and this was JOE DIMAGGIO – one of the greatest Yankees ever to play the game.

They got in the car. And just before she got in, she came over and gave me a hug and planted a soft kiss on my cheek. And off they went into the night.

Almost immediately, the whole network was talking about the “thing” that Frank Maguire had with Marilyn Monroe

…and I did absolutely nothing to dispel or correct any such talk.

Two days later, there  was a note on my desk from the telephone operator:

“FXM (me) call M. Monroe.”

So I did.

Marilyn answered…”I haven’t been able to put this book down. Do you have any more?” I can’t go out in the day time. Im sitting in this apartment and I never have a chance to go out and get anything that I really want to read. Do you have any more philosophy books I can borrow?”

‘Course I do, Marilyn. I’ve got a ton. I’ve been studying philosophy for four years.  How do you want me to get them to you?

Well I live on…”

I interrupted her in mid sentence.

“Marilyn.…everybody knows where you live. Sutton Place and 57th Street. When would you like me to bring them to you?”

She said… “Saturday morning…10 o’clock? Too early?”

“Not at all.”

Saturday morning, I got up and threw on a pair of Levis and a pullover sweater and drove to Marilyn’s apartment on Sutton Place armed with two bags full of philosophy books. I walked in, was greeted by the doorman --”You must be Mr. Maguire.” – and he sent me up to her penthouse suite.

Marilyn opened the door in a white t-shirt and jeans. A t-shirt and jeans never looked so good. She gave me a hug.

“Let’s make you some coffee, Frank.”

I said “Thank you” and watched her walk into the kitchen.

That first Saturday morning our philosophy workshop lasted until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Marilyn was so thirsty for knowledge…asking questions and endearingly marveling at the answers. I was, as they say, ”smitten.”

Every Saturday for the next 18 months we spent time together in Marilyn’s Sutton Place penthouse apartment. I got to know this fragile, misunderstood beauty very well and we became close friends.  Marilyn was so much more than the image portrayed by the media – and my heart still quickens when I think of her. Thank you, Ms. Monroe.

There’s often more to each of us than is readily evident or represented by a third party. More than meets the eye. What’s inside -- behind the curtain of casual acquaintance or overblown celebrity – is the truth of each of us. The heart and soul. Take the time to find that truth…to connect with the meaning, the motivation, the substance. Make time to know as many people as you can. They’ll often surprise you…and delight you…and move you. Just as Marilyn did me.