View from Lodi, CA: Marilyn, Assorted Hollywood Stars, And Me
April 18, 2003, 05:00 AM
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In an effort to distract readers from Iraq, April 15th, the California budget crisis, Laci Peterson and sundry other depressing news items [Joe's note to VDARE.Com readers: "totalization," "regularization," driver's licenses, matricula cards, in-state tuition fees, free heart transplants] today's column refers you to a February 18th New York Times story titled "A Boy's Film of a Day with Marilyn Monroe" by Jesse McKinley.

As the story goes, Peter Mangone, a 14-year-old Marilyn Monroe fan, knew that the love of his teenage life was living at the Gladstone Hotel in Manhattan during her divorce proceedings from Joe DiMaggio.

Mangone, a kid from the Bronx, hung out in front of the hotel everyday hoping for a wave, a nod or - if he really got lucky - an autograph.

Monroe must have noticed him and admired his tenacity because one day, just as she left the hotel for a big-time shopping spree, she signaled for Mangone to join her and her friend Milton Greene.

As very good fortune would have it, on that particular spring day in 1955, Mangone carried an eight-millimeter camera.

Mangone spent the day filming Monroe, dressed in a black cashmere suit, at distances of five or six feet. In the background were the vintage 1950s trappings: men in fedoras, women in crinolines, and Checker cabs.

Walking backward along the New York streets, Mangone captured Monroe in classic glamour shots. But he also caught her yawning and cleaning dirt out of her eyes.

After the film was developed, Mangone whiled away many a day watching his own handiwork at his Bronx home.

Said Mangone, "Once you saw her, once your eyes fixed into her, she was burnt into your head. I haven't been able to look at a woman the same way since."

About three years after Mangone's day with Monroe, the unthinkable happened. The film was lost. Fifty years passed before Mangone's brother found it tucked away among some family possessions.

Imagine spending 50 years telling people about the day Marilyn Monroe invited you to join her at Saks. Even your dearest friends would be hard pressed to believe you. Others would certainly ridicule you for outlandish story telling.

Then, presto, one day the film—which you always claimed existed—appears. What a glorious moment of vindication!

Of course, the Magone-Monroe story could only have happened in the 1950s. Today, if you lurked around Jennifer Lopez's mansion, you would be arrested for stalking before nightfall. And none of Lopez's dozen bodyguards would let you within 50 feet of her.

But take it from somebody who grew up in Hollywood during those same 1950s. In those days many of the stars were accessible—if you played your cards right.

Many a trip to Beverly Hills ended up with some primo autographs.

My mother, then in her 30s and quite a dish, went up to all of the stars. "Oh, look," she would say, "there's Gregory Peck. Let's go say hello."

Once face-to-face with Peck, my mother could really turn on the charm: "I can't tell you how much I love 'Gentleman's Agreement.' It is just my favorite movie of all time."

Peck had certainly heard this all before. But as I mentioned, Mom was a looker. And she had personality to burn. Within minutes, Peck was signing personalized autographs at a rapid clip.

Although I was too young to totally appreciate my experiences, I met many of Hollywood's most famous by tagging along with Mom.

My biggest star moment, however, came when my father and I were window-shopping on Rodeo Drive. We were the only customers in a swank men's haberdashery on Rodeo Drive.

The proprietor, paying us no mind, had correctly sized up my old man as a penurious sort who was not going to spend ten cents.

Suddenly, the owner uttered one word: "Sinatra!" He raced to open the door and quickly locked it behind him.

Sinatra, renown for lavish spending, walked past the display cases. "Send me three dozen of the white shirts; two dozen of the blue. Don't forget to monogram the cuffs. I'll take two dozen assorted silk ties, too."

The owner couldn't write fast enough. When the burst of ordering ended, Sinatra realized that two other people were in the store.

Now it was the old man's turn to talk smooth. He told Sinatra about what fans he and Mom were and how many albums they owned.

Every word was gospel. Mom and Dad had danced to Sinatra and romanced to Sinatra.

Dad must have caught Sinatra on a good day. Or maybe Sinatra just wanted to get out of that locked store.

Whatever it was, Sinatra finally interrupted the gushing to say, "I'm at the Palladium this week-end. I'll leave your name."

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.