1. Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe at Tiffany Club in 1954. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald are one set of friends with quite the unique story. In essence, it was really Monroe’s deep love for Fitzgerald’s music that connected the two women at all. Monroe was shocked when she learned that one of her favorite (and also one of the most famous) jazz clubs in L.A.– The Mocambo– wouldn’t let Fitzgerald perform due to her race. At this point, the year was 1955 and the likes of Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, and Lauren Bacall were all staples of the club. Using her celebrity for good, Monroe called up the owner of The Mocambo and demanded that Fitzgerald be allowed to perform.

Though the relationship between Fitzgerald and Monroe certainly has one of the more subtle connections to New York, the city nonetheless is what sparked the friendship. It was because of the time Monroe spent in the city– taking a hiatus from her home in Los Angeles– that she first discovered and fell in love with Fitzgerald’s music. As Michelle Morgan recounts in her work Marilyn Monroe: Private and ConfidentialMonroe’s vocal couch Hal Schaefer assigned Monroe to listen to Fitzgerald’s album in order to learn how to sing in tune. “This first lesson would lead to a life-long love of Ella’s music, which would eventually spill over to love for the artist herself,” writes Morgan.

Later, Fitzgerald recalls the feelings she had for Monroe and the part she played in forming Fitzgerald’s career:

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … 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. 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.”