Welcome to New York! Here you will embark on a journey through the glamour and beauty of some of the city’s most iconic hotels, as we trace the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe. While her career often led her to the sound stages of Hollywood, it was in the heart of New York City that she found solace, privacy, and a touch of home.
We are going to delve into the sanctuaries that Marilyn frequented, focussing solely on the hotels where she stayed during her life and illustrious career. And just to keep things concise, we’re sidestepping the hotels she merely visited for press conferences or public appearances.
As you’ll discover, each hotel carries its own narrative, offering more than just luxury accommodations. They were her retreats, her hideaways, and in some cases, the settings that bore witness to crucial chapters of her life. And for some of them, you could stay there too!
Sherry-Netherland Hotel (August 1952)
In August 1952, Marilyn Monroe appeared (and stayed) at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, as part of the press tour for her newest movie, Monkey Business.
While Marilyn may not have held top billing in the film, her star power was undeniably on the rise. This was particularly evident as it had recently come to light that Marilyn had posed for a nude calendar three years prior, a revelation that had only heightened her public profile.
Interestingly, Marilyn’s co-star, Cary Grant, had been interviewed at the very same hotel by the renowned columnist Earl Wilson. During this interview, Grant emphatically asserted that Marilyn had committed no wrongdoing in posing for Tom Kelley’s iconic photographs. Grant’s support for Marilyn further underscored the changing perceptions and attitudes towards her, solidifying her status as a Hollywood luminary on the ascent.
The hotel’s luxurious setting provided the perfect backdrop for her press appearance, and Marilyn charmed both photographers and journalists with her radiant presence.
Hotel address: The Sherry-Netherland Hotel, 781 Fifth Avenue
Trigger warning: Domestic violence
In September 1954, during the filming of The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn occupied a suite at The St. Regis Hotel where she is photographed several times in her room as well as during press conferences and interviews.
Marilyn’s husband, Joe DiMaggio, would later accompany her to the hotel. It is during this time, that rumours and speculations have emerged about potential domestic disputes that allegedly occurred after the filming of the iconic subway grate scene. It’s important to note, however, that no concrete or credible evidence has ever substantiated these rumours. Given the tumultuous nature of their relationship during that period, it’s conceivable that disagreements might have arisen. Nevertheless, any claims of domestic violence should be approached with caution in the absence of verified documentation or reliable testimonies.
Marilyn and Joe checked out of the hotel later that day when the subway grate scene was filmed and flew back to Los Angeles. They separated a few weeks later due to “mental cruelty.” The couple continued to see each other until the summer of 1955 and were officially divorced in October 1955 (a year after going to court).
Marilyn’s matchbook from the hotel sold at Julien’s Auctions for $1,600 in 2022.
Hotel Address: St Regis Hotel, Two East 55th Street, Fifth Avenue
The Gladstone Hotel (January – March 1955 and January 1958)
The beginning of 1955 marked a new chapter in Marilyn’s life, as she made the bold decision to leave Hollywood in her rearview mirror and set her sights on the East Coast. In New York, she unveiled the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions alongside her photographer, partner and friend, Milton Greene. Simultaneously, Marilyn dedicated herself to honing her craft as a committed student at The Actor’s Studio.
Despite their recent divorce, which was to be finalised the following October, Joe DiMaggio played a supportive role in Marilyn’s transition. He assisted her in moving into her apartment at The Gladstone Hotel, which she officially occupied on the 26th of January 1955. During this time, the pair was frequently spotted together in both New York City and Boston. However, both Marilyn and Joe consistently denied any plans for a reconciliation, despite their continued closeness.
Marilyn was photographed and filmed by fans on several occasions at the hotel capturing a “new” and glittering Marilyn.
Later in January 1958, she returned to the hotel for several days with her husband Arthur Miller despite having an apartment in the city. Invoices suggested they dined at the hotel as well as held meetings there.
Previous Address: 114 East 52nd Street, near Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue
The Ambassador Hotel (March-April 1955)
From March to April 1955, Marilyn stayed at the Ambassador Hotel. During her stay, she was photographed by Ed Feingersh as she got ready to attend the premiere of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as well as other events and during her day to day. It is those photos that are famous for showing both the glamour and intimate solitude of Marilyn’s life.
She also had a photo session here with Cecil Beaton in February 1956.
Waldorf-Astoria (April – Fall of 1955)
In 1955, Marilyn Monroe rented suite 2728 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. However, due to the cost of her lavish suite, Marilyn left the hotel. Some of Marilyn’s private thoughts were noted on Waldorf Astoria stationery including a list of her preferred directors (below). After living at the hotel, she moved into 444 Sutton Place which would be her primary residence until 1961.
Not only did she temporarily live in the hotel (which cost Marilyn Monroe Productions $1000 per week) but several events in her life and career took place here such as interviews, radio shows, The April in Paris Ball in 1957, the March of Dimes parade in 1958 and the after-party for The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957.
The Lexington Hotel (1960-1962)
The Lexington Hotel’s website and branding claim that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio resided there following their 1954 marriage while Monroe was filming The Seven Year Itch. This has even led to the dedication of a room named ‘The Norma Jean Suite.’ However, closer scrutiny reveals that this narrative conflicts with established timelines and available evidence concerning Marilyn and Joe’s whereabouts.
To begin with, Marilyn and Joe tied the knot in January 1954, while the filming of The Seven Year Itch took place in September of the same year. Therefore, the claim that they stayed at the Lexington Hotel during this period seems unlikely. Moreover, existing photographic evidence and records confirm that the couple stayed at the St. Regis Hotel, casting further doubt on The Lexington’s claims. As it stands, there is no substantiated evidence to suggest that they stayed at the Lexington Hotel during the 1950s.
However, it’s worth noting that Joe did indeed reside at the Lexington Hotel during the 1960s. Before a rebranding effort, the suite he stayed in was initially called the ‘Midfielder Suite’ in his honour, only to be later renamed. While there is no concrete proof that Marilyn ever stayed at the hotel, there is some indirect evidence linking her to the location. Ralph Roberts, her friend and masseuse, stated that he had accompanied her to the hotel on multiple occasions. Additionally, she left messages for Joe there several times.
In summary, while the Lexington Hotel does have some historical connections to DiMaggio and, indirectly, to Marilyn, its promotional narrative appears to be more fiction than fact.
Note: In 2022, I received an invitation to stay at the hotel at a preferential rate. I was open to accepting this offer, as long as the hotel could provide evidence to corroborate their claims that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had indeed stayed there during the promoted period. Despite their assurances, they failed to provide the requisite proof. Consequently, I had no choice but to decline the opportunity. The room is undoubtedly exquisite, and it seems plausible that Marilyn Monroe might have stayed there in 1961. However, I could not in good conscience accept the offer without factual confirmation of the claims being made.
Hotel Address: The Lexington Hotel, 511 Lexington Avenue