Photos from the Vault

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe's Central Coast honeymoon

In this Jan. 14, 1954, file photo, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wait in Judge Charles Perry's chambers for their marriage ceremony in San Francisco.
In this Jan. 14, 1954, file photo, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wait in Judge Charles Perry's chambers for their marriage ceremony in San Francisco. The Associated Press

Where would Joseph and Norma Jeane honeymoon?

The wedding ceremony was performed in his hometown’s City Hall.

After they left San Francisco they headed back to her workplace, near Los Angeles. The Jan. 14, 1954, ceremony would have been little noticed except it was the union of the most iconic athlete of his generation and the most iconic actress of her generation.

You know who.

Joe DiMaggio had retired from a Hall of Fame baseball career two seasons earlier and was ready to settle down. Norma Jeane Mortenson — better known as Marilyn Monroe — was a movie star on her way to even greater fame having just finished “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and How to “Marry a Millionaire”. Ahead of her would be “Some Like It Hot” and “The Seven Year Itch.”

They spent their honeymoon night in Paso Robles at the Clifton Motel (now apartments) and stopped for lunch at the Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo the following afternoon.

» Related: Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, the world's first 'mo-tel'

The then-Telegram-Tribune ran a two-day-old photo taken just after the ceremony from the wire service NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association). The photo has an identical pose as The Associated Press photo seen here, though they are different moments and slightly different viewpoints.

One can imagine the couple briefly posing for jostling photographers, standing shoulder to shoulder, Joe’s eyes darting warily around the room, Marilyn with a bright smile and making eye contact with each camera in turn.

A comparison of the photos shows the introverted ballplayer did not love the spotlight the way his movie-star bride did.

Telegram-Tribune photographer Paul Nelson was sent to get a picture and a story when the couple arrived in San Luis Obispo; they were published Jan. 16, 1954.

DiMag Sends Nelson Back to the Bushes

This is why there is no picture of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in the Telegram-Tribune today.

Shortly before 2 p.m. yesterday Richard Birchall, who handles classified advertising, was eating lunch in the Motel Inn. Marilyn and Joe came in and sat down at a nearby table.

Said Birchall, “You’re kind of lost, aren’t you? Nobody seems to know where you are between here and San Francisco.”

Said Joe, “No, but it won’t take them long to catch up.”

Joe was right, in a limited sort of way.

Birchall phoned the office, and the message was flashed to editor Bob Goodell. He looked around the office. The only photographer in sight was Nelson. He made a snap decision.

He sent Nelson.

With the newly married couple at the Motel Inn there was naturally only one place for Nelson to go. He went to the Ranchotel. Marilyn and Joe, he was told at the desk, were not there.

Back at the office with the news that the DiMaggios, man and wife, were not to be found, he was told that they really were in town — at the Motel Inn. This time he went to the Motel Inn.

Marilyn and Joe could be seen through the front window eating at a table in the corner. Life can be simple.

The photographer hitched his rig together, and just to make sure he pulled out the slide before he went into the building. That blasted slide had ruined so many good pictures. It wouldn’t ruin one this time, no sir!

As the photographer appeared in the archway, DiMaggio looked up and saw the camera in the photographer’s hand. At the sight of the black box he looked like he had been hit between the eyes by Feller’s fastball. The photographer approached the table. Joe busily concentrated on the job at hand, which was eating.

The photographer cleared his throat. While he was clearing it he remembered many things. He remembered that Joe, who is naturally shy and hates publicity, always has been most generous with the press.

Further, he has proved himself a gentleman, with the press and others, all through the difficult business of trying to promote a romance with the most publicized young lady of her generation.

Said the photographer, “I’m with the press. I would like to shoot your picture but I know you’re on your honeymoon. You name it.”

Joe looked at his plate, and then at his wife, and then at the photographer. Finally he said,

“My wife doesn’t have any make-up. I’d really rather not.” Said the photographer, “I understand. But can I stand back there (gesturing) and just shoot you with your wife’s back to the camera.”

Said Joe, “We’ve had so much of this. I’ll appreciate it very much if you won’t shoot us at all.”

The photographer had them dead to rights. He could have snapped the picture and run.

But when Joe put it that way there was only one answer. The photographer took his little black box and left them to their honeymoon.

So we don’t have a picture of Marilyn and Joe today.

• • •

The “Wedding of the Century” would end in divorce in less than a year. It was the second marriage for both.

Marilyn Monroe would enter a third marriage to playwright Arthur Miller lasting five years. Though their lives would follow different arcs, Marilyn would — at times of crisis — turn to Joe as a dependable friend.

When Marilyn died in 1962, Joe stepped in to manage funeral arrangements and had a dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for 20 years.

Joe DiMaggio never remarried. When he died March 8, 1999, DiMaggio whispered the last words, “I'll finally get to see Marilyn.”

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