Marilyn Monroe and Santa Claus. (Los Angeles Times Illustration )
In the wake of "My Week With Marilyn," we now give you "My Christmas Eve With Marilyn," on the night a stranger suddenly showed up, unannounced, in Marilyn Monroe's Hollywood bungalow. The date: Christmas Eve, 1953.
I met Marilyn the way I meet a lot of amazing women, at 2 in the morning Christmas Eve, the men folk long retired. They would be up late wrapping the last presents and polishing off a bottle of Champagne. When I land in the fireplace like 300 pounds of wet cement, they jump with surprise, then run to hug me. Santa baby!
When I arrived, Marilyn had just had a huge fight over the phone with her boyfriend. Just the sight of me cheered her up, she said. As powerful and controlling as she could be, Marilyn was still in essence a little girl.
Who knew what potions she'd consumed to dull the pain, but I found Marilyn to be incredibly bright. As you probably know, much of my "magic" stems from my ability to slip through folds in the space-time continuum. Mortals have a hard time grasping it, as they do string theory, or the nuances of the Fed. Yet Marilyn got it right away.
I told Marilyn of how my sleigh would often ride along waves of antimatter as I passed through furious winter storms. The antimatter would rise up and strike the craft, forming a buoyant cushion that sped me on my way. It was similar to the drafting done by cyclists or race car drivers, except I was drafting on the aurora borealis.
To demonstrate the physics of it, I took a sheet of typing paper and folded it into a standard paper airplane. We went to the French windows of her bungalow, wide open on an unseasonably warm L.A. night, and with a flick of my wrist I sent the airplane off on the Pacific breezes. Up and up it went, looping and fluttering, dove-like and nearly alive. The little paper airplane looked caught in the glow of a stage light. "Where's it going?" she asked. "There," I said, nodding toward the full moon.
"You can send a paper plane to the moon?"
"Through the folds of space and time, anything is possible," I said. "Come on."
Back inside, I pulled out an old brass telescope and focused on the moon just in time to see the little paper plane touch down softly on the lunar landscape, kicking up a small talcum cloud.
"It's magic," sighed Marilyn.
"It's science," I said. "Sweet and simple science."
This night, in her Hollywood bungalow, there was chemistry at work as well — mostly in the form of fermentation. The world's most famous movie star talked me into a glass of wine — which I never do on Christmas Eve, never — then another one. She accidentally spilled half a bottle of a fine cognac down the front of my jacket, in what I later figured out was just a ploy to get me to take off my heavy coat. Soon, I was on the couch in front of the fireplace in my T-shirt.
I ask myself now whether any man — mortal or elf — could have resisted the overtures of creamy-delicious Marilyn Monroe, dressed as she was in a transparent negligee. At one point, she tobogganed off the couch on her perfect fanny, yelling "weeeeeeeeee...." Marilyn was one of those women who nibble and bite at their own lips. As Bing Crosby sang in the background, she leaned in....
Santa baby, I really do believe in you,
Let's see if you believe in me too.
I was just about to the point of no return when — KNOCK-KNOCK, HELLO! — in walks Joe DiMaggio, with that lousy Italian grin and his big arms spilling over with "please-forgive-me" gifts. Marilyn ran to him on her tippy toes, but it was still an awkward moment all around. I think DiMaggio sensed that something was going on, but what the heck, I was Santa, right? Even if I was half-naked in front of a fireplace with his future wife.
As Marilyn briefly excused herself, Joe and I faked some pleasantries. I asked what the Yankees might do with the recently acquired Jimmy Konstanty. He asked me about the space-time continuum. I gave him the short layman's version, but he got glassy eyed after about 15 seconds and headed for the good scotch.
Still, I will never, ever forget that night. Had DiMaggio not come along when he did, I'd like to think I would've come to my senses and left like a good elf should.
But on Christmas Eve, anything can happen — even for Santa.
"'Night, Furball," Marilyn said just before I flew back up the chimney.
"'Night, Snowflake," I said.