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TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER: ‘Joe and Marilyn’ a heartbreaking love story with a slice of culture and sports

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“Joe and Marilyn”

Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.

That’s apparently, according to headlines, what your favorite star thinks of her first, third and next husband — who happens to be the same man. It’s kinda silly. You can practically set your calendar by their splits and reconciliations. You shake your head.

Can’t live with him. Can’t live without her. It happens, as you’ll see in the new book “Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love” by C. David Heymann.

The first time Joe DiMaggio met Marilyn Monroe was on a blind date. He’d began “thinking” about Marilyn once he saw publicity photos of her with another ball player, and he asked a friend to set them up. She pretended not to know who the great Yankee ballplayer was. He sat mute nearly the whole evening.

And yet, Marilyn (born Norma Jeane Baker) thought he was “different” and wanted to spend more time with him. He was equally smitten and, on an after-date drive, he opened up to her like he’d never done with any other woman. He was reserved and gentlemanly. He called her again the morning after, and romance blossomed.

But there were problems. Joe “didn’t know if he could deal with her voracious appetite for public exposure.” For Marilyn, being center of attention was as necessary as oxygen and, though she said she wanted to settle down and “have a boatload of babies,” she was, down-deep, not willing to give up her career.

Part of the problem, Heymann says, is that there were “two Norma Jeanes” — a little girl who craved love, and a mercurial and complicated woman who’d do anything for the limelight — even if it meant sleeping around.

Another part of the problem was that Joe was hot-headed and controlling. He grew to detest publicity, and resented that his star had fizzled while hers was rising. Marilyn was more famous than he, and it rankled Joltin’ Joe aplenty.

She called him “Pa,” and warmly embraced the son he mostly ignored. He advised her in the career he hated. They fought, reconciled, fought more, and wed in early 1954.

It was a marriage that wouldn’t last the year.

Let’s start here: I liked “Joe and Marilyn.” I really, really liked it because, while rabid fans of either DiMaggio or Monroe won’t find much new here, I did and I liked the way it was presented.

The late author C. David Heymann was, in telling this long, scandalous saga, balanced and informative without being sensational. Readers become privy to private issues, as well as behind-closed-doors activities that led to even more issues, yet we come to see the deep devotion that lingered for the lifetimes of DiMaggio and Monroe, even though they clearly couldn’t ever live together.

That makes this an excellently-heartbreaking love story, a juicy gossip piece, a slice of culture, and sports — all rolled into one. And if you’re a fan of those, of DiMaggio, Monroe, or Hollywood of yore, then “Joe and Marilyn” is a book you really can’t be without.

“Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love,” by C. David Heymann, copyright 2014, Emily Bestler Books, is 438 pages and sells for $27.

Contact book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer at www.bookwormsez.com or at bookwormsez@gmail.com.