N E W Y O R K, Aug. 9, 2000 -- Joe DiMaggio died with Marilyn Monroe’s name on
his lips, according to the Hall of Famer’s lawyer and confidant.
“I’ll finally get to see Marilyn,” DiMaggio whispered.
Morris Engelberg, who was at the Yankee outfielder’s bedside when he died, recalled DiMaggio’s last words in a story in Vanity Fair magazine.
It was not the first time DiMaggio had said that, Engelberg said Tuesday from his office in Hollywood, Fla.
“We were sitting together in the patio one night, talking about his illness, and he said, ‘I don’t feel bad about dying. At least, I’ll be with Marilyn again.’”
Engelberg scoffed at a New York Daily News report quoting a hospice worker who said DiMaggio had no last words when he died of lung cancer at 84 in March 1999.
“Of course, there were, and that’s what Joe told me,” Engelberg said.
He said DiMaggio never stopped loving Monroe even after their nine-month marriage in 1954 ended in divorce. In Engelberg’s view, the actress may have been the only person DiMaggio really loved.
The list of people DiMaggio hated, according to the Vanity Fair story, included Frank Sinatra, Presidents Kennedy and Clinton and Robert Kennedy.
The article, featured in the September issue of Vanity Fair, was based on a series of interviews with Engelberg.
Portrayed as a Loner
DiMaggio is pictured as a brooding, parsimonious loner who held grudges and demanded strict adherence to rules.
“Never mention Monroe, Sinatra or the Kennedys,” was one of the rules.
DiMaggio blamed Monroe’s drug and alcohol addiction, and her death from an apparent overdose, on Sinatra and the Kennedy brothers, Engelberg said.
DiMaggio believed Sinatra introduced Monroe to the Kennedys in return for possible political favors, and he despised John and Robert Kennedy to the point that he saw something deserved in their assassinations, according to the article.
Clinton was another president on DiMaggio’s enemies list, Engelberg said. The baseball great detested the president for everything from Whitewater to his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the magazine reported.
Refused to Shake Clinton’s Hand
DiMaggio declined to shake Clinton’s hand when the two were at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 1995 to see Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games. And when Clinton called the hospital during DiMaggio’s fatal illness, the call was not put through.
Engelberg said one reason he granted the interview to Vanity Fair was to dispel stories that he made money from the deals he arranged for DiMaggio.
“I opened my books to show that. I could have made millions, but I couldn’t charge him,” Engelberg said. “I wanted to be his friend.”
Another reason, Engelberg said, was to perpetuate DiMaggio’s name among a new generation of fans.
“I don’t want Joe to become another Lou Gehrig. None of today’s kids knows who Lou Gehrig was,” Engelberg said. “I want Joe DiMaggio to become another Babe Ruth when it comes to recognition.”
Plans to Write Book
Engelberg said for the same reason he hopes to write a book about DiMaggio. He said he has taped material for about 350 pages.
“Believe me, it’s not to make money,” Engelberg said. “I will donate about 25 percent to a charity, and taxes will grab more than 40 percent. I want the book so my grandchildren can read it and love Joe DiMaggio the way I do.”
DiMaggio’s net worth grew to about $15 million from the $200,000 to $300,000 it had been 16 years earlier when Engelberg took over his business affairs.
Yet, DiMaggio never could overcome the memory of growing up poor in San Francisco.
He stocked his refrigerator with doggie bags from restaurants, Engelberg told the magazine. The story also recounts that DiMaggio loved getting things free, whether it was an apartment with hundreds of thousands of dollars in furnishings or packs of cookies he crammed into his pockets when in an airline lounge.
DiMaggio was reluctant to turn on the air conditioning or take the Mercedes given him by the Yankees to a car wash. He did his own vacuuming and laundry, and he liked getting beat when someone else reached for the check.