Marilyn Monroe was a movie icon that many thought was thrilled only by diamonds and finery. Yes, Marilyn did enjoy some of the finer things in life. However, she preferred the simple pleasures that the world had to offer. Though Marilyn was one of the world’s most beloved movie stars, she liked things that many everyday people do.
She may have wined and dined with other legends, but she was also a girl who enjoyed taking a walk alone, with a kerchief over her head, sunglasses on, in casual clothes, and without a stitch of makeup on her face. She was a woman who could easily relate to people and was often seen in photos with her arm around someone or placing her hand on them. She made connections with her fans easily. There have been many things written about her that are totally untrue. While many biographers focus on the negatives and myths of Marilyn’s life, they gloss over the positive things and nuggets of truth. Now, presenting some facts about Marilyn Monroe and some of Marilyn’s favorites will provide some balance.
The paradox in Marilyn’s life was that she never had a child of her own, yet she adored children and always yearned for a baby. She had close relationships with her stepchildren from her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Though Marilyn was pregnant several times, she miscarried her children because she suffered from endometriosis and ectopic pregnancies. Marilyn was often photographed cuddling with children she met on her movie sets as well as places where she was out and about. Marilyn adored the times spent with her child co-stars.
She enjoyed taking children out; author Dale Corvino tells a story about Marilyn having been his mother’s babysitter for an afternoon. When Marilyn visited San Francisco, and before she married Joe, she took his mother and her sister to an amusement park, Playland, with Marilyn enjoying the afternoon incognito with a scarf on her head. However, once the wind blew, her scarf took off and Marilyn and the children were mobbed, ending their Playland outing early. She took kindly to young fans especially who asked for autographs and pecks on the cheek. Marilyn also devoted time to visiting children in hospitals and participated frequently in charity events involving children.
Hand-in-hand with her love of children was Marilyn’s helping heart. She was a champion for charities. Marilyn was photographed throughout her career walking through children’s hospitals spreading cheer to young people. She toured an orphanage in Mexico shortly before her death and donated a significant amount of money to help. Organizations that benefited from Marilyn’s generosity and time included World Adoption International Fund, the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation (for which she rode atop a pink elephant in Madison Square Garden), the March of Dimes, the Milk Fund for Babies, St. Jude’s Hospital, and Toys for Tots.
She also kicked out the first ball at Ebbetts Field for a charity soccer game between the US and Israel. Marilyn donated several days of her time in Korea entertaining the troops which she referred to as “the highlight of my life.” Marilyn also spent time with soldiers at Camp Pendleton and visited soldiers in the hospital while she was in Japan, even lying on the floor while sporting her mink coat to talk to one who was suspended on his bed upside-down due to his injuries.
Marilyn Monroe was an animal lover. When she was a little girl she had her first pet, a dog that she named Tippy. Though Tippy was sadly killed one night in the neighborhood, it did not dim her hope to continue to bathe love onto animals and become a pet owner once again. Muggsie was a collie that was her canine baby with her first husband, Jim Dougherty. Her mother’s friend Grace Goddard also raised spaniels, and young Marilyn and Grace’s stepdaughter Bebe took a liking to them. Marilyn had a pet chihuahua named Josefa early in her career.
An interviewer during Marilyn’s rise to fame also quoted her as having had pet goldfish named Marmaduke, Mike, and Mo, to which she added that she loved the name Antonio, “but you can’t really name a goldfish that.” While with Arthur Miller they had a basset hound named Hugo, a parakeet named Butch, a Siamese cat named Serafina, and a horse on their Connecticut farm named Ebony. In her final years, Marilyn had a white Maltese dog that she named Maf. Maf was a gift from Frank Sinatra, and she named him “Maf Honey” or “Maf” for fun, because of Frank Sinatra’s suspected mafia connections.
While Marilyn Monroe has often been stigmatized as a “dumb blonde,” she was far from that. Though she did not complete her high school education, Marilyn held a lifelong quest for knowledge. Her library was reflective of that. Even in her earlier days as a studio contract player living in the Hollywood Studio Club, fellow female residents remembered Marilyn as toting her books around and that the books were one of the focal points of her room there.
In 1999, the books that Marilyn amassed were sold off at Christie’s Auction House along with many other pieces of her personal property. She was often photographed enjoying a good read. Among some of her favorite genres of books were poetry, classic literature, and politics. She enjoyed titles such as John Steinbeck’s Once There Was A War and Tortilla Flat, Albert Camus’s The Fall, and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.
Marilyn loved to cook and make dishes to please those she loved. Among some of her books sold at the Christie’s sale in 1999 were cookbooks which contained notes she personally scratched into them. Marilyn’s pots sold at Christie’s for over $25,000. When Marilyn was a young 16-year-old bride, before she was famous and when she was named Norma Jeane Dougherty, she reportedly made peas and carrots frequently because she enjoyed the color combination. Her husband Jimmie vacillated in later reports about her cooking, by some accounts stating she was a horrendous cook and by others that she was excellent at it and had mastered the art of cooking game dishes.
In her leaner starlet years when funds were tight, Marilyn would cook lightly for herself and drink black coffee. While with Joe DiMaggio, she learned from his sister Marie more about cooking and enjoyed grilling steaks for Joe. Matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, and stuffed cabbage were among some of her culinary creations when she was married to Arthur Miller. A recipe that has gone viral was one found among Marilyn’s paperwork for a special poultry stuffing that was in her handwriting. The recipe was likely one that she learned from Joe’s sister, as it is written on paper from a San Francisco business and has elements of San Francisco including sourdough bread.
Long before it was en vogue, Marilyn was spotted out and about exercising. It was not uncommon for her to be jogging through the back alleys of Beverly Hills as the sun was rising. Additionally, Marilyn was known to engage in calisthenics to keep her body in shape, using barbells and other free weights to stay curvy. While she lived on Catalina Island with first husband, James Dougherty, who was a physical-training instructor, Marilyn worked out with one of the trainers and took Muggsie for walks to stay in shape.
Riding bicycles, walking, and romps on the beach were other favorite activities Marilyn did to stay in shape. She confessed to a 1952 LIFE interviewer that she worked out 10 minutes every morning with small weights. She started her workout after brushing her teeth and washing her face and engaged in what she coined a “bust-firming routine.” Her routine consisted of moving her arms in a circular motion.
Marilyn always had an interest in plants and had a green thumb. She was photographed in her earlier days in Hollywood tending to her plants in her apartment. Plants and horticulture interested her as well as books of that genre. Her hat for gardening was something that sold at the Christie’s Auction among her final effects.
On the morning that she died, some plants and flowers were delivered to her residence. She had ordered from Frank’s Nurseries and Flowers only a few days prior. She had planned to have them planted around her property to brighten it up for a special event a few days later, a remarriage to Joe DiMaggio. Begonias, Valencia oranges, Mexican lime, and other plants were categorized on the receipt that was delivered to her home on August 4, 1962. Sadly, after her death, photos depict the plants still in their pots on her property and yet to be planted.
Marilyn fell in love with New York, having visited there several times prior to moving there and leaving Hollywood at the end of 1954. When she died in 1962, she was technically a New York resident though she had her home in California as well an apartment on East 57th Street near Sutton Place. She absolutely loved what New York had to offer.
She kept her home in California so she would have a place to stay when she was back in California creating movie magic rather than staying in a hotel. She stated in an interview that she planned to retire to Brooklyn. Marilyn loved exploring the shops, stopping in local restaurants to eat or sip on a cup of coffee, grabbing food from street vendors, spending time in Central Park, sitting in Sutton Park at the end of her block, visiting art galleries, and hopping in cabs to travel to various destinations throughout the Big Apple.
2Foods and Champagne
Marilyn was spotted throughout her career in photos indulging in various food stuffs. There are photos of her eating a hot dog with sauerkraut, biting into a burger, savoring some ice cream, being fed some cake by servicemen, and chomping down on some ribs, just to name a few. She told an interviewer in 1952 that she started each day with a glass of warm milk with a beaten egg followed by a multivitamin. She typically would also eat a grilled steak which was one of her favorites. She admitted to her interviewer that a piece of meat such as steak, lamb, or liver, was what she dined on for lunch and dinner, with carrots on the side.
Marilyn also craved New York deli-style foods and, when she was in Los Angeles, she often dined at Canter’s on Fairfax. Shortly before she died, her housekeeper Eunice Murray would poach egg whites for Marilyn with safflower oil, then save the yolks for pound cake. But Marilyn altered her diet following surgery to remove her gall bladder in 1961. Many of her favorite foods were washed down with champagne, since Marilyn was a huge fan of champagne and her absolute favorite was Dom Perignon. This was something she ordered on a regular basis and kept her home stocked with.
1Walks in the Woods
When Marilyn first arrived in New York, one of her interviews was with journalist George Carpozi. He learned that Marilyn enjoyed walks in the woods, so the interview took place on a walk in Central Park. When she stayed with photographer Milton Greene and his family in Connecticut, she often walked through the woods surrounding their home. The woods were not something brand new to Marilyn when she moved into the New York area. During her first marriage, she often enjoyed fishing expeditions with husband Jimmie, which was an activity the two enjoyed together on their honeymoon.
She also enjoyed wooded walks with Joe DiMaggio during their first of two honeymoon getaways. One of the treasured photos of Marilyn enjoying the woods surfaced in 2009 when LIFE was digitizing its images and photos sitting in the file from 1950, and images of Marilyn as a young starlet were among them. Then 24, she was referred to as a “hot tomato” and photographer Ed Clark took photos of her throughout wooded areas of Griffith Park. These photos reflect a young woman who was comfortable in nature including laying across a log bench. “Who the hell is Marilyn Monroe?” his editors asked before shelving the photos. Only two years later, the starlet who was an unknown made the cover of LIFE as “Marilyn Monroe: The Talk of Hollywood.”