Marilyn Monroe, Hal Schaefer, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra and the wrong door

The New York Times published an obituary for Hal Schaefer today.  I had never heard of him, but this picture caught my eye.

This is Mr. Schaefer with Marilyn Monroe in 1953.

Hal Schaefer was a vocal coach, arranger and jazz pianist.  According to the Times

In his professional life as well as his personal one, Mr. Schaefer was often the least famous person in the room; his musical career was substantial but largely uncelebrated. A former prodigy who was inspired by the clean, tumbling melodic lines of Art Tatum, Mr. Schaefer played with big bands led by Benny Carter and Harry James and was the accompanist for Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine, Vic Damone and other singers. Before he was 21 he led a trio that performed at the intermission of Duke Ellington concerts.

He was also an arranger and a modern jazz composer and for more than 50 years performed and recorded as a soloist and as a leader of small ensembles and jazz orchestras.

“A romantic with a rhythmic soul,” John S. Wilson of The New York Times called Mr. Schaefer after a performance at the Kool Jazz Festival in New York in 1982. “Mr. Schaefer is very much a mainstream pianist, but he has his own way of looking at the mainstream, enlivening the relatively standard repertory that he played with fresh and entertaining ideas.”

Mr. Schaefer probably made his biggest imprint as an arranger and vocal coach in Hollywood, where he often worked with the choreographer Jack Cole. He coached Monroe through “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” her signature number in the 1953 movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (he arranged the music as well), and Jane Russell, who also starred in that film. He also worked on other movies with Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Grable and Judy Garland. He wrote film scores for “The Money Trap,” a 1965 police drama with Glenn Ford, Elke Sommer and Rita Hayworth, and “The Amsterdam Kill,” a 1977 thriller with Robert Mitchum.

But Schaefer was also involved in an incident involving DiMaggio, Sinatra, and Monroe.  According to his obituary

On Nov. 5, 1954, not long after Marilyn Monroe filed for divorce from Joe DiMaggio, DiMaggio was having dinner with Frank Sinatra when he heard, probably from a private investigator, that if he went to a certain apartment house on Waring Avenue in West Hollywood, he’d find her in the arms of another man.

There are different accounts of what happened later that night, but what is certain is that a party of men, including DiMaggio and Sinatra, showed up at the address and someone broke down the door of the ostensible love nest, terrifying the woman who lived there, Florence Kotz — sometimes identified as Florence Kotz Ross — who was in bed by herself.

“Mrs. Ross was fast asleep about 11 p.m. when five or six men suddenly battered down the back door to her apartment, tearing it from its hinges and leaving glass strewn on the floor,” The Los Angeles Times reported, adding, “A bright flash of light was shone in her eyes and she was confronted with a number of men, some of whom seemed to be carrying an instrument which at first sight she believed to be an ax.”

The incident, which came to be known as “the wrong door raid,” resulted in a lawsuit filed by Mrs. Ross against Sinatra, DiMaggio and four others, which was settled for $7,500. And where was Monroe?

Los Angeles Times story from June 2, 1957 had an account that was similar.  But added this detail.

The men fled and Ross reported the incident to police as a burglary. Then Confidential magazine published a story about the raid in its February 1957 issue, touching off the Legislature’s investigation of scandal magazines and private detectives.  Ross learned the identities of the raiders when one of the private detectives, Philip Irwin, told the story to the investigative committee and the grand jury.

Sinatra received similar treatment when he was served with a subpoena in Palm Springs at 4 a.m. on Feb. 16, 1957, and he filed a complaint with the LAPD about the incident. Although his testimony was contradicted by others, Sinatra was adamant that he remained in a Cadillac parked outside the complex during the raid.

Private detective Barney Ruditsky, Irwin’s boss, testified before the grand jury that Sinatra and DiMaggio remained outside while he and Irwin broke down the door. During the investigation, Irwin testified that he had been beaten up by six men after he told an official of the State’s Bureau of Private Investigators and Adjusters his version of the raid. He also testified that he hadn’t sold the details to Confidential magazine.

In September 1958, the “wrong door” lawsuit against DiMaggio, Sinatra, Irwin, Ruditsky, Patsy D’Amore and John Seminola was settled for $7,500 ($53,739.63 USD 2006).

And where was Monroe during all of this? Next door, visiting girlfriend Sheila Stewart Renour at 8120 Waring.

Wrong.  Monroe was, Schaefer claimed, with him.

A female friend of hers claimed at the time that they had been together that evening, but years later, Hal Schaefer, a jazz pianist who was also Monroe’s vocal coach and who had become her confidant and romantic partner, admitted in interviews that he and Monroe were trysting in an apartment just a few yards away.

“We were very close to making love; I don’t remember the stage we were at, but I would say half-dressed,” Mr. Schaefer recalled. He added: “And all of a sudden for some reason, Marilyn got these vibrations, and we went over to the window and saw this group standing across the street, one of whom was Joe DiMaggio and another was Frank Sinatra. They all came en masse and broke this door in, demolished it. We scrambled to get out the back way, and we made it, luckily.”

Frank, Joe and their pals got off easy even for accounting for inflation.  And we are left with this interesting story told by a man who once loved her.

Wrong_door_8122

The wrong door.

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