A wonderful story about the inspiration and support of one another.
Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is well known and beloved by millions of music lovers all around the world. Although, only a few know about how Marilyn Monroe supported her to define her career.
In the 1950s many African-American musicians faced significant adversity because of their race and as a result they got refused to perform on the most popular stages. Despite of her unique talent, Fitzgerald was no exception, either. She was not allowed to sing in Hollywood’s most prestigious nightclub, Mocambo. In the club where Frank Sinatra made his LA debut in 1943, and was the favorite place of celebrities like Charlie Chaplin or Humphrey Bogart.
Harsh tongues rumor that the obstacle was not her race but rather her appearance. Even according to Marilyn Monroe’s biography the club manager did allow performers in his club before Ella, regardless of their skin color, including Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt, he just didn’t think Fitzgerald was glamorous enough to show to the audience.
However, according to chicagojazz.com, when she was touring in Dallas, police went as far as to rush into the backstage and arrest her band members, Dizzy Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet. When Ella got to them they audaciously dared to ask for an autograph.
What we can take as a fact is that in the 50’ black musicians very often were limited to performing only in small nightclubs across the USA. Many of them even had to use the back doors when entering the estabilishments.
Anyway, Marilyn Monroe had already been a big fan and a good friend of Ella, and she had a brilliant idea on how to help her. She called the owner and told him that if he let Fitzgerald in, Marilyn would be going to the club every night. The owner knew that the press would go crazy about this, so he said yes. This simple call changed Fitzgerald’s career’s direction to a new and blooming one. Ella immediately got booked by Mocambo and Marilyn was sitting at the front table every single night.
Fitzgerald never had to go back to small clubs again, and she was openly grateful for Marilyn for this for all her life.
Monroe had been inspired by Fitzgerald long before this call. She persistently practiced singing since she was young, and according to rumors, her teacher advised her to keep listening to Fitzgerald’s records, like a hundred times in a row. She actually became a good singer, although, she got much more attention with her dress-lifting blast, her relationship with President Kennedy and the famous birthday song, or her marriage with DiMaggio.
Marilyn Monroe had an extraordinary personality, Ella Fitzgerald had an extraordinary voice, and they strengthened each other in an admirable way. The world would be poorer without them, as they are both timeless.