At 1.48pm on Thursday 14th January 1954 in City Hall, Municipal Judge Charles S. Perry proclaimed Joseph Paul “Joe” DiMaggio, son of an immigrant Sicilian born fisherman, and Norma Jean Dougherty, better known by her screen name of Marilyn Monroe, man and wife.
It was dubbed “The Wedding of the Century” by the American media. He was the recently retired “Yankee Clipper” who had led the New York Yankees to nine World Series Championships in his thirteen years as a major league baseball slugger and centre fielder. She was the beautiful screen actress whose career had taken off over the previous twelve months with the release of the films How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Niagara.
Although the couple had tried to keep the time and place a secret, a telephone call by Monroe that morning to her studio in Los Angeles announcing that she was to be married at 1pm, started a media feeding frenzy in San Francisco. In the event 500 people turned up, delaying the ceremony for over half an hour.
Monroe wore a dark brown, figure hugging, broadcloth suit with a white ermine collar and matching bouquet, whilst DiMaggio was equally smart in a blue suit and blue and white checked tie. They looked and said that they were very happy as press men clamoured for quotes and photographs.
Once he had cleared his courtroom Judge Perry was able to conduct the ceremony which lasted only two minutes, the end of which unleashed mayhem amongst the waiting press corps. The challenge now for the newly married couple was to effect a getaway! Attempts at escape via different floors only came up against a different crowd each time, and on one occasion they ended up in a cul de sac!
Eventually, they reached diMaggio’s blue Cadillac parked on McAllister Street and drove off to North Beach where, in front of the Church of the Saints Peter and Paul in Washington Square, they posed for photographs before proceeding to their honeymoon in Paso Robles. As divorcees they had been barred from marrying at what is known locally as the “Fishermen’s Church”.
Sadly, the marriage lasted only 254 days after Monroe filed for divorce for mental cruelty. However, they remained close, Monroe often turning to him in her darker moments and DiMaggio having six red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for more than twenty years. There were even rumours circulating when she died in 1962 that they had been thinking of getting married again.
There is a further melancholy footnote to that wedding day. In the post-ceremony chaos Judge Perry, to his eternal misery, had forgotten to kiss the bride!
My gratitude in particular to the later Arte Hoppe who reported on the wedding for the San Francisco Chronicle.