Within hours of Joey’s departure, I was drunk. All I cared about was escaping the pain. Running away always seemed to be a solution, like when I was a little girl and ran to the arms of the eucalyptus trees. I threw clothes into a suitcase and got a cab to the bus station, where I boarded a Greyhound for New York City. Why New York? Who knows?
Two days later, disheveled, hungry, and with little money, I checked into a sleazy hotel in New York City. In sheer panic, I called my supervisor and quit my beloved job, pretending a lengthy family emergency.
Just prior to my entering the six-week stewardess training program, I had begun dating a handsome man sixteen years my senior. We were introduced by a mutual friend. Bill held a Bachelor of Science degree and was a showroom manager at the Miami Playboy Club. Suave and debonair, he began pressuring me to marry him within weeks of our initial meeting. Although he was thirty-six, he had never married. I took his interest in me to be true love. I did not return his attention with a feeling of “love,” but I was interested in his seeming maturity, self- assurance, and sincerity. I had half-heartedly considered his offer, pondering if after my first marital experience I would ever feel comfortable with a man of worldly experience.
Considering the lack of viable options, I called Bill and agreed to marry him. After explaining the whole incident about Joey’s visit, getting drunk, and fleeing to New York, he seemed quite amused, even glib. He immediately planned to fly to New York—where he was originally from—and gather me up to save me from myself and my penniless predicament.
Bill said, “Don’t worry about a thing, Honey, being a stewardess is nothing more than being a waitress without the tips. I’m glad you got out of all that nonsense. Now we can settle down and get started on making a family. I’ll fly up tomorrow and you can meet my family. As soon as we get back to Miami next week, we’ll get married. I’ll take care of everything, you just relax and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Hanging up the phone, I asked myself why I didn’t feel relieved. If anything, I felt a million times worse. Oh God, oh God, what have I done? It was clear that I wasn’t capable of taking are of myself, which caused a feeling of self-hatred so deep within me that I felt as if my insides had just been branded with a hot poker. Now I would have another new boss. I knew he would rule my life, but I felt that I deserved this fate. I buried my throbbing head into my pillow and sobbed myself to sleep.
Bill flew to New York and rescued me, just like the scenario that had played itself out weeks prior to my marriage to Joey. Then, it was Joey who came to Los Angeles; this time, it was Bill who came to New York. On neither of these occasions did I want to get married, but, driven by shame and alcohol-influenced decisions, I succumbed. I didn’t know it then, but this time, my decision to have Bill rescue me in the form of marriage was like choosing to die by fire versus dying by hanging.
My decision was born out of a defeated form of survival. The barely hanging on form of survival. I could never have imagined the peril and the terror that that single decision would put into effect for decades to come. Even my snarled, drunken insides screamed at me not to choose another marriage as a solution to my current crisis, but by then I was beyond defeated, which only left grasping.
Without a single internal resource left to draw upon, I sold my soul for the illusion of safety. Just as I had done so long ago as a hungry child by allowing touching in exchange for candy, I bartered for a piece of sustenance and paid the price in desolation.
Years later, I would learn how Joey handled his grief later that night after we said good-bye. He stumbled (accidentally?) onto a houseboat in Miami where Larry King was broadcasting a nighttime radio show, and he spilled his guts to King. The following interview was mentioned in Larry King’s memoir, then reprinted in Richard Ben Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life.
Joe Jr.: “I never knew my father. My parents were divorced when I was little and I was sent away to a private school. My father was totally missing from my childhood. When they needed a picture of father and son, I’d get picked up in a limo and have my picture taken. We were on the cover of the first issue of Sport magazine when it came out in 1949, my father and me. I was wearing a little number 5 jersey. I was driven to the photo session, we had the picture taken, and I was driven back. My father and I didn’t say two words.
“I cursed the name I had, Joe DiMaggio Jr. While at Yale I played football—I deliberately avoided baseball—but when I ran out on the field and they announced my name, you could hear the crowd murmur. When I decided to leave college and join the Marines, I called my father to tell him. You know, you call your father when you make life-changing decisions like that. When I told him, he said, ‘The Marines are a good thing.’ And that was it. There was nothing more for either of us to say.”
“DiMaggio, Jr. said the closest he’d ever been to his father was in the car on the way to Marilyn Monroe’s funeral in 1962. He said his father had always gone on loving Monroe and that he loved her, too . . .”
It has been widely reported that Joey D. did not see his father in the last years of Joe Sr.’s life, and was left the relatively small sum of $20,000 in the will.
Joey finished his life living alone in a junkyard trailer in northern California. Within six months of his father’s death, Joey, at fifty-seven, was dead from years of drug and alcohol abuse.