2.9
February 17, 2014

Photo: “Mocambo would not book Ella ’til Marilyn said she would reserve a table every night Ella performed.”

ella segregation prejudice jazz

How Marilyn Monroe & Ella Fitzgerald broke the Color Barrier at the Mocambo Night Club.

Photo: “Marilyn Monroe with Ella Fitzgerald at the Mocambo. A popular Hollywood night club at the time that would not book Ella because of segregation. Marilyn told the manager that she would reserve a front row table every night Ella performed there. Ella performed a week later. 1955.” (imgur.com)

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Ella later said. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

 

“If asked ‘Who played an important role in the musical career of Ella Fitzgerald?’ you might respond with names like Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, Norman Granz, and Dizzy Gillespie.”

The name Marilyn Monroe (who passed away 50 years ago this August), however, might not come to mind.

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