cover image Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life

Richard Ben Cramer. Simon and Schuster Books, $28 (560pp) ISBN 978-0-684-85391-8

Much of the lowdown here about the ultimate American icon is controversial, but the extent to which it startles or shocks will depend on the reader's knowledge of DiMaggio (1914-1999), since rumors about him have been prevalent for years. Cramer's allegations are many. He documents how DiMaggio beat up Marilyn Monroe on at least three occasions, the most prominent time being the evening that Monroe filmed the famous scene with her dress flying up over her waist as she stands on a New York City subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. After Monroe's divorce from Arthur Miller, she and Joe had a rapprochement, and DiMaggio planned to remarry her on August 8, 1962Dwhich turned out to be the day of Monroe's funeral. Concerning the Mob, Pulitzer Prize-winner Cramer alleges that DiMaggio knew Albert Anastasia, Sam Giancana and Frank Costello. However, although DiMaggio accepted many gifts from them, it was the mobsters who courted DiMaggio, because of his stardomDas they also pursued SinatraDand not the other way around. (At one point, DiMaggio received a trust account at the Bowery Bank set up by Frank Costello that eventually netted DiMaggio over $1 million.) Morris Engelberg is now in the news almost daily and has made a second career for himself as the self-anointed longtime ""friend"" and trusted ""confidant"" of DiMaggio. Cramer alleges that Engelberg hijacked many of the products that DiMaggio autographedDworth well over seven figures. Cramer also focuses on what he says were Engelberg's efforts to ease DiMaggio out of this life with the help of morphine suppositories. The author of What It Takes, the epic history of the 1988 presidential race, has written a biography that will have people talking. (Oct. 17)