In August 1962, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home of a probable suicide -- lying face down in bed, nude, and with a telephone in one hand -- the news captivated America. But so did the star's funeral. Joe DiMaggio, Monroe's baseball star ex-husband, was in charge of arrangements and invited only 25 of Monroe's closest family and friends -- famously snubbing the Kennedys and Hollywood stars such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, whom DiMaggio held partially responsible for Monroe's death.
The service was performed at the small Westwood Village Mortuary Chapel, and DiMaggio asked Monroe's legendary acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, to deliver the eulogy. "Marilyn Monroe was a legend," Strasberg began. "In her own lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain...
"But I have no words to describe the myth and the legend. I did not know this Marilyn Monroe. We gathered here today knew only Marilyn -- a warm human being, impulsive and shy, sensitive and in fear of rejection, yet ever avid for life."
Now, 52 years later, a Miami Shores man is preparing to put the original manuscript -- the one actually read by Strasberg -- up for auction.
Seventy-year-old Reggie Weinberg, a former New York nightclub businessman, was given the typed script, as well as DiMaggio's guest list and a copy of the funeral's remembrance booklet, by his father, who had been DiMaggio's doctor. Weinberg told Riptide he was gifted the items in the late '60s or early '70s. Since then he's kept them locked up in a bank vault.
"My dad told me: 'This is for you. One day it'll be worth a big sum of money,'" Weinberg said.
For decades Weinberg mostly forgot about the memorabilia. Then a couple of years ago he began talking about Joe DiMaggio with a cousin -- who happens to be actor Shia LaBeouf's mother -- and realized what a catch he had. He contacted auction representatives, who have since authenticated all the items, even conducting date tests on the staples, and was told the set is likely very valuable.
"Number one, I'm 70 years old," Weinberg said. "I said, 'Well, why I am holding it?"
The eulogy manuscript, Weinberg said, is printed on an 11-by-14-inch sheet of paper and is off-white, except for some yellowing at the edges. It's rarely been touched in the five decades since Monroe's death. The set will be auctioned sometime in the fall, most likely in California and in conjunction with other Monroe pieces.
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Weinberg, who described himself as a loner who had gone through a hard divorce, declined to provide any kind of estimate as to how much the items might fetch, saying only that he "expects to be very surprised."
"I'll spend the rest of my life just with peace," he said of his plans for the money. "Those few people that are close to me, I'll probably give them gifts and things like that."