A photo of Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, who can resist? I picked up the book immediately at the local library here in San Francisco, when I saw it on display. The photo cover has Monroe leaning toward DiMaggio as if she is whispering in his ear very intimate!. The book entitled "Joe DiMaggio - The Long Vigil" by Jerome Charyn provides lots of insight and information about the All-American sports star and his even more legendary movie star wife.
I think Charyn seeks to understand the legend and America's fascination with him as a sports celebrity, especially at a time when celebrity was more glamorous and perhaps a bit more wholesome than it is now. For sports fans, especially those who love baseball this book has lots of historical references. For those who are enthralled by Hollywood and of course with the Marilyn Monroe mystique the book satisfies that "hunger for more" gossip type of material.
While I respect Charyn as a writer for he has written many books and is well established, I am skeptical if any of the "gossip"like material is all that factual. I am doubtful that the sources of the gossips and tidbits of juicy tattle-tale accounts are 100 percent factual.
I am not saying that Charyn is fabricating anything. As a journalist I am only being cautiously skeptical and less naive to believe everything I read. As alluring as rumor, gossip and legend might be I try to see things factually.
Did DiMaggio and Monroe really love each other as much as the public thought they did? Was Monroe unfaithful to him? Was she a victim of fame? Did she really intend to commit suicide or was she murdered? These are speculative questions that have been asked over and over.
This book while very well written is Charyn's perspective. It is his take on the legend of Joe DiMaggio. I know very little of "Jolting Joe." For my generation only knows DiMaggio as "Mr. Coffee." The man who promoted America's first name-brand coffee maker for home use.
When I was a kid in the 1970's that was a luxury item. Now coffee makers are everywhere and a percolated coffee is long gone, thanks in part perhaps to ad campaign that DiMaggio was a part of.
But the early part of DiMaggio's career and even that of Monroe, I was not even born yet. Charyn gives details based upon his memories of that time. Even the familiar references that have become so much a part of popular American culture are fading now as the world moves further along into the 21st Century.
Some of the material Charyn talks about is unpleasant. And even if it is true I would like to think of the two legends simply as one who was in movies lighting up the screen and the other was on the baseball field inspiring the fans in the stands.
For really, in real life DiMaggio and Monroe were only human. But I think it is actually the spirit of baseball and the magic of movies that actually fascinates people much more than simply the problems and frailties of the individuals.