Revisiting Marilyn’s Salinas

YouTuber Stanley Foss has revisited Marilyn’s February 1948 trip to Salinas, California. The Hotel Jeffrey on Main Street, where she stayed for a week, is now an office building; and the Santa Lucia Inn, where she was crowned ‘Artichoke Queen’ by Stanley Seedman, president of the California Artichoke Advisory Board, is now a senior living centre.

Foss claims she was also treated to a sermon from the Reverend Ed Bowling about the spiritual life of her hero, Abraham Lincoln, and dined at Cademortori’s Italian restaurant (now Tarpy’s Roadhouse.) Seidman’s wife has recalled that their two-year-old son played on Marilyn’s lap that evening.

The next day, she arrived at Carlyle’s Jeweller’s on Main Street – where a mortgage company now stands – for a diamond promotion. She had been invited after another starlet, Noreen Nash, declined. (Noreen was the wife of Dr. Lee Siegel, who became Marilyn’s studio physician at Fox. After his death, she married actor James Whitmore, who had appeared in Marilyn’s 1950 breakthrough, The Asphalt Jungle.)

Although not yet well-known – except, perhaps, to fans of her pin-ups – Marilyn attracted a huge crowd. One of the photos she signed that day was auctioned for $37,500 in 2011. She had brought along 200 copies, and a woman can be seen holding one in a photo from the event.

That evening, Marilyn raffled off a Coronation diamond ring at the Vogue movie theatre, and received her second title – Diamond Queen of Salinas. (Stanley Seedman’s brother Jim was more impressed by her plunging neckline.) Although the rest of her itinerary is unknown, more photos were soon ordered and Foss claims she signed over 1200.

In nearby Castroville, where an Artichoke Festival is held annually, Marilyn’s original Artichoke Queen sash is displayed inside the Chamber of Commerce. Another Castroville venue, the Francos Norma Jean’s Club (formerly a restaurant, now a LGBTQA- friendly nightspot) is also Monroe-themed.

In 1951, while filming Clash By Night in Monterey, Marilyn caught a Greyhound bus to Salinas, and wrote about the trip in her journal. The extract is published in Fragments, the 2010 collection of her personal notes and poetry. Today, a large mural of Marilyn and her artichokes is displayed in the town’s John Steinbeck Centre.

One further note: in the video, Foss states that Marilyn had made only one movie at the time, playing a switchboard operator in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947), a musical comedy starring Betty Grable. Although Marilyn spoke about it in a radio interview, she has not been identified in the final cut.

However, she did play small parts in two minor films, Dangerous Years and Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, before being dropped by Fox in 1947. The former was released shortly before Marilyn visited Salinas, and the latter would follow in March 1948 (though her part was mostly cut.) By then, Marilyn had landed the lead role in another B-movie, Ladies of the Chorus, over at Columbia Pictures.

You can read more about Marilyn in Salinas here.

Thanks to Olivia at Marilyn Remembered