Marilyn Monroe and her summers on LI
There she is on Tobay Beach, not yet a star, posing in a swimsuit. There she is again, in Port Jefferson, during her secret courtship with Arthur Miller. And there she is, tragically, in an East Hampton ambulance tearing across 106 miles from Amagansett to the since-demolished Doctors Hospital on the Upper East Side, where she would lose the baby she was carrying.
Marilyn Monroe, who died 50 years ago next Sunday, spent some of her most idyllic and terrible times on Long Island, where residents remembered her fondly. "When I was a lifeguard, I dug Marilyn Monroe's Land] Rover out of the sand," Herb Mulford, whose father was an East Hampton town supervisor in the 1940s and '50s, recalled in 1991. "She was very thankful."
Monroe's first foray to Long Island was likely Tobay Beach, where Andre de Dienes snapped famous pinup pictures of her while she was in New York to promote her 1949 movie "Love Happy." Then in 1955, famed photojournalist Eve Arnold shot a series with Marilyn in the hamlet of Mount Sinai -- capturing the iconic image of her in a playground, engrossed in James Joyce's "Ulysses."
"We worked on a beach on Long Island," Arnold wrote in a letter years later. "I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up. . . . She kept 'Ulysses' in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it -- but she found it hard going. . . . When we stopped at a local playground to photograph, she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her."
After Monroe became involved with the married Miller in 1955, the two would rendezvous at locales including playwright and poet Norman Rosten's summer cottage in Port Jefferson, and at her acting teacher Lee Strasberg's place on Fire Island. But her most lasting presence here came in the summer of 1957, after she was the new Mrs. Miller and the couple had rented Jeffrey Potter's Stony Hill Farm in Amagansett. They stayed in what Jeffrey's son, Job, later explained was "the caretaker's house," called Hill House.
"Marilyn was outside in a polo shirt and shorts," Newsday reported that long-ago summer, "and there was very little that was typical about her. She did something for the polo shirt and shorts."
Monroe "was lovely, feminine and sweet," Job Potter once recalled of that summer when he was 6. "I sold her some Girl Scout cookies," as a way to visit her. "My sister had some left over."
But her time on the East End also saw sadness. At 11 a.m. on Aug. 1, 1957, Monroe was rushed to Doctors Hospital in Manhattan with symptoms of a miscarriage; it turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. "The baby was unsavable," a hospital spokesman said. Marilyn's physician, Dr. Hilliard Dubrow, reported that the 31-year-old had been "five or six weeks pregnant."
After a week's recovery, she returned by limousine to Amagansett on Aug. 10. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband had written something for her: A heartfelt sign on the front door reading, "Welcome home, Marilyn."
At least for that long summer, Long Island was home.