Before Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, there was another famous blonde who captivated a sports star’s heart – along with the rest of America.
Nearly 75 years before the Grammy Award-winning singer and the football tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs went public with their romance, the country fell head over heels for Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s union.
“The comparison is very similar,” Scott Fortner, who owns the world’s largest private collection of Monroe’s personal property and archives, told Fox News Digital.
“You’re talking about two high-profile couples,” he shared. “The difference is obviously that Marilyn was a film star and one of the most popular film stars of the day at that. And what’s a little bit different though, is that Joe was also a huge star in the world of sports.
“Travis Kelce is now more well known because he’s dating Taylor Swift, but before that, he wasn’t necessarily as well known. Whereas Joe DiMaggio, by the time he and Marilyn got together, his career had run its course. He had reached the heights and pinnacle of fame in the sports community, but he’d already retired when he met Marilyn. … He was already a sports icon in his own right.”
According to Fortner, Monroe and DiMaggio first met in 1952. At the time, the former Yankees slugger came across a photo shoot that featured the actress with another baseball player. He was intrigued.
After scoring the number for Monroe’s agent, the two stars went on a first date. Fortner said the attraction was “electric.”
“Marilyn didn’t really have that much of an idea of who Joe was,” said Fortner. “She wasn’t following sports. She was just really interested in her career at that point. So, she didn’t have that much of an idea of who Joe was or how famous he was.”
“She was insanely famous,” Fortner added. “During the ‘50s, she was in three high-profile films – ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ ‘Niagara’ and ‘How to Marry a Millionaire.’ And she had starring roles in all of them. They were all box office successes.”
And while Monroe wasn’t familiar with DiMaggio’s fame as a beloved American hero, “there was chemistry right off the bat,” he added.
The couple dated for just over a year and married in 1954 at San Francisco City Hall. But happily ever after wasn’t in the cards for the couple. Fortner noted that their marriage was “tumultuous at best” as DiMaggio struggled to navigate his wife’s fame.
“Joe was very traditional,” he explained. “He wanted a housewife that would be at home with him, cook for him — a traditional housewife. But Marilyn’s career was just starting to take off when they had just met. They both realized, but especially Marilyn, that it was just not going to work. They loved each other very much, but they were at different places in their lives. They each had expectations that were different, and they just couldn’t be met.”
While on their honeymoon in Japan, Monroe was asked to travel to Korea and perform for the armed forces staying there, History.com reported. Her unhappy new husband stayed behind. According to the outlet, tensions grew, along with Monroe’s sexy image, exposing cracks in their marriage.
The outlet noted that DiMaggio was on set when Monroe filmed her infamous subway grate scene for 1954’s “The Seven Year Itch.” As air blew up her white halter dress over and over, a crowd of male onlookers and press eagerly gathered around her. With each cheer from the audience, DiMaggio became irate. It was the final straw.
In her divorce filing, Monroe accused her husband of “mental cruelty.”
Fortner pointed out that, despite the breakup, the couple remained close until Monroe died in 1962 at age 36.
“I think Joe never stopped loving Marilyn,” said Fortner. “He was in love with her for the rest of her life and even the rest of his life. I think that what Marilyn saw in him was someone that she could turn to in times of need, somebody who offered her help, guidance, advice and stability. He was a figure and a force in her life, for the rest of her life.”
DiMaggio was Monroe’s date for the premiere of “The Seven Year Itch” in 1955, Fortner said. And they grew closer toward the end of her life.
“There were rumors that they were going to be remarried, but it’s never been verified or proven that that was going to happen,” he said.
When Monroe was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in 1961, it was her ex-husband who stepped in, secured her release and whisked her away to the Yankees’ Florida spring training camp, where she rested privately, History.com reported.
And when Monroe died of an apparent barbiturate overdose, DiMaggio arranged her funeral. Fortner said that, for the next two decades, until he died in 1999, he made sure roses were delivered to her gravesite weekly.
DiMaggio’s attorney, Morris Engelberg, claimed his last words were “I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.”
The fascination surrounding Monroe and DiMaggio’s romance has stood the test of time. The wedding ring DiMaggio gave Monroe, a diamond eternity band, sold at her estate sale in 1999 for $772,500.
Fortner said there are lessons the newest “it couple” can learn from Monroe and DiMaggio.
“I think what would be most important — and I feel that they’re probably both at a point where they recognize this — but they need to just accept each other and their situation and their relationship for what it is and not have expectations that somebody’s going to change,” he said.
“Ultimately, that’s what brought the relationship between Marilyn and Joe to an end,” he noted. “In the end, Joe wanted something that Marilyn was just unwilling to give. Whereas Travis and Taylor both have their own careers. They are both successful. And as long as they respect where each other is in their careers and their lives, that would probably be the best thing they can do.”
The romance between Swift and Kelce, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he “couldn’t have scripted,” has been the talk of the league this season, and her appearances at Chiefs games has generated intense interest from her legion of Swifties.
And while she has focused much of her attention on her boyfriend and the offense, Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton said the defense has begun feeling the love from Swift and her fans.
“I think she’s been great for Chiefs Kingdom and also just the sport of football,” Bolton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.