Ella & Marilyn

The Mocambo wasn’t interested in Ella Fitzgerald singing there.

The nightclub on Sunset Boulevard – and it was the nightclub – was the place anybody who was somebody went. Bob Hope played it, Sinatra made his debut there, Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor were often in the audience.

But in 1955, owner Charlie Morrison wasn’t giving Ms. Fitzgerald the time of day. Race was certainly a reason, though Eartha Kitt had sung there. Rumor also was that Mr. Morrison didn’t think Ms. Fitzgerald was glamorous enough to take the stage.

And this was when Marilyn Monroe put in a call to Mr. Morrison.

Ms. Monroe was big in 1955. Big deal, big money, big press. And she was a big fan of Ms. Fitzgerald’s.

Ms. Monroe was only a so-so singer herself. And she hadn’t been much of a jazz lover. But at the first lesson she had with her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘ vocal coach, he told her, Buy yourself Ella Fitzgerald Sings George Gershwin. Listen to it 100 times. Ms. Monroe bought it. She listened to it. And she liked the woman behind it.

When she heard Ms. Fitzgerald couldn’t get into the Mocambo, she called Mr. Morrison.

Book her immediately, Ms. Monroe told the nightclub owner, and I’ll be there every night.

Mr. Morrison did. Ella Fitzgerald blew the roof off the Mocambo. And Marilyn Monroe watched her do it every night from the front table.

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