Ask people what they know about Marilyn Monroe and most answers revolve around her sexual icon image, the short lived marriage to Joe DiMaggio, the most legendary “Happy Birthday” performance in American history to President John F. Kennedy to the indelible image of the gust of wind lifting her dress. So who knew she was a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement?
Leave it to the beauty of the Internet to uncover a story that would normally fall under the radar. Pending you’ve ever paid attention in class during Black History Month or even done reading on your own of American culture during the 1950’s, the name Ella Fitzgerald rings a bell. Regardless of how first-class her talent was, Fitzgerald still suffered from the same injustices so many minorities faced during the time period. Mocambo, was the premiere nightclub in West Hollywood, refused to allow Ella to perform there because of her race. In a dope and revealing quote, Ella revealed the story of how a furious Monroe essentially strong armed the club to recognize the error of their ways.
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt…it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild,” said Fitzgerald. “The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”