During the 1950s, one of the most popular, trendy nightclubs in Los Angeles was the famed Mocambo. Located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, the Mocambo was the place to “see and be seen”, where glamorous A list movie stars gathered to hear big bands and headlining musical acts. But the Mocambo was also a racist club which refused to book black performers. That is, until the awesomeness that was Marilyn Monroe decided to do something about it, in support of her good friend Ella Fitzgerald.
Marilyn was at the pinnacle of her fame in the 50s. And clubs like the Mocambo relied almost exclusively on the attention brought by the presence of movie stars. It meant paparazzi, write ups in gossip columns, and tons of publicity. Marilyn Monroe personally called up the owner of the Mocambo and lobbied hard on Ella’s behalf. Marilyn made a deal with him, that if he booked Ella Fitzgerald for a lengthy stint that she would attend every night, sitting in the front row for every performance. The owner agreed. Ella Fitzgerald was booked at the Mocambo – the first black performer ever at the club – and Marilyn Monroe made good on her word. She was there every night that Ella sang, just like she promised, sitting in the front row.
Ella Fitzgerald never forgot what her Marilyn did for her, taking such a strong stand in an era still steeped in racial segregation. Marilyn Monroe was an avid supporter of the civil rights movement. She was many cool things that people don’t realize. And from this story, we see that she was clearly a fantastic friend. Girl power all the way!
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt; it was because of her that I played the Mocambo. 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 time. And she didn’t know it.” – Ella Fitzgerald
For today’s “Music Monday”, I’m going to do something I’ve never done on this blog before. With images and videos I never post the same thing twice. But today I will. This video has already appeared on Museworthy, and I’m bringing it back for an encore. Because it’s sooooo amazing. After Frank’s Sinatra’s introduction, sit back and enjoy the pitch perfect vocals, impeccable phrasing, musical artistry, and heartfelt sincerity of the great Ella Fitzgerald, or “Marilyn Monroe’s BFF”. To all the young American Idol generation female singers out there who obsessively clog up their melodies with filler, filler, and more filler, squeezing 800 syllables into one note, and screaming and shouting in a misguided attempt to be “expressive”, “interpretive”, and show “feeling”, take note of Miss Ella. THIS is how you sing a song. Prepare for chills.