Marilyn and Ella

Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald fans probably know this story, but for those of you who don’t….. In the early to mid 50′s Ella Fitzgerald was reaching the height of her great career. She was already one of the top selling jazz artist in the world at that time, but was having trouble getting booked at some of the bigger and more popular nightclubs. The Mocambo night club in East Hollywood, a white’s only club, was the most popular dance spot around but would not book Ella because she was black. Marilyn, who adored Ella and her music, called the manager and demanded that they book Ella immediately. Marilyn told them that she would sit front row every night Ella would perform which would give the Mocambo great publicity due to Marilyn’s superstar status at the time. The manager of the Mocambo agreed and Ella became the first black performer to ever appear in the nightclub. Marilyn and Ella would remain close friends until Marilyn’s death.

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe listening to jazz at Hollywood's Tiffany Club in 1955

Ella told the story in an August 1972 article in MS magazine: “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 (who had refused to book Fitzgerald because she was black), 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. 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.” – Ella Fitzgerald

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One Response to Marilyn and Ella

  1. LiSyao says:

    This story is partially false. Ella’s race didn’t have anything to do with not getting booked. Other black entertainers had performed there before, as the owner welcomed black entertainers. However, he didn’t think that Ella looked glamorous enough to draw crowds. That’s when Marilyn stepped in and said she’d sit front row if Ella got booked.

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