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Wedding day with Marilyn Monroe

Memoir writing class shares stories, memories, connections to the past

Created date

October 23rd, 2012

Stories abound regarding the loneliness that haunted the beautiful starlet Marilyn Monroe during her tragically short life. Even on January 14, 1954, hours before her wedding to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, she surrounded herself not with family and friends, but with strangers, all of whom helped her prepare for her big day. Luckily for Marilyn, she was in the good hands of Doreen Provost, manager of the bridal department at The Joseph Magnin Company, a high-end specialty department store in San Francisco. Doreen shares the story of the short time she spent with the Hollywood icon in a memoir writing group at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., where she lives.

My day with Marilyn

One morning, I received a phone call from a colleague in the women s clothing department, says Doreen. She said she had a woman with her who was getting married that day at City Hall who wanted to make sure she had just the right outfit. I agreed to come down and see how I could help. When I stepped off the elevator, I immediately saw Joe DiMaggio and thought, Wow! My father would be thrilled. Then I saw Marilyn. I remember she apologized for not going up to the bridal department, explaining that she could not wear white because she had previously been married. Instead, she had chosen a darling suit with an ermine collar. I thought she looked so pretty. Over the next hour, Doreen helped Marilyn select accessories for her wedding ensemble and was struck by the star s demeanor. People began gathering, not because of Marilyn, but because of Joe DiMaggio, says Doreen. He was the golden boy in his hometown of San Francisco. I remember Marilyn being very sweet but insecure, she adds. It was important to her to do right by Joe and his family. She asked me, Do I look like a bride? That really struck me. I felt sad for her because she had to rely on the sales lady and me on her important day.

A day in the life

The story of the time she spent with Marilyn Monroe is just one of many stories Doreen pens in her memoir writing class. Fellow Greenspring neighbor Marcia Boyles leads the memoir writing class and stresses the importance of writing about experiences that taught writers something, left an impression, or made a difference in their lives. Many years ago, I was watching theToday Show, and commentator Charles Gibson mentioned that some of Marilyn s personal belongings were being sold at auction, Doreen says. One of those items was the suit she wore on her wedding day. When describing the suit, Gibson mentioned that Marilyn had been too busy to choose what she wore that day and sent her publicist to pick out the outfit. That is not right, I thought. And it has bothered me ever since. I was there. And I know that it was very, very important to Marilyn that she select just the right suit. By writing about that day, I hope to share what really happened.

The start of something big

In fact, the desire to share personal reflections and stories is a growing passion at Greenspring. There are currently two memoir writing groups on campus one that meets in the evenings, and the other, which Doreen works with, that meets twice a month during the day. The Greenspring memoir writing groups are wonderful, says Doreen. They really fill a need for so many of us who want to write down our stories. Our goal is to provide our children and grandchildren with a connection to the past. In addition to writing her personal stories, Doreen and three other women from her group have recently written a book a mystery about a memoir writing group. She and Marcia also host The Book Babies, a monthly television special on Greenspring s in-house cable station. The series features a discussion of books written by fellow community members. When we started the series, we focused exclusively on memoirs, Doreen says. But as time has gone on, we ve branched out to include discussions with other authors who live here. My neighbors have such wonderful stories to share. And her neighbors aren t the only ones. It s funny, says Doreen. With all the wonderful adventures of my life, I haven t really thought too much about my day with Marilyn Monroe. It wasn t until I began writing my memoirs that it all came flooding back. My fellow memoir writers thought it was a fun story to share. Based on the reaction I ve received, I think they were right!