Jewish World Review June 29, 2000 / 26 Sivan, 5760
A bright moon and a
missing person on
CORONADO, Calif. I ended up late at night on
this little island -- on Orange Avenue, the island's
main street -- because of something I read in the
newspaper at dinner.
I had been over in San Diego, across the bridge. I
was in San Diego on business, staying at a Holiday
Inn, and when dinnertime arrived I looked out the
window and saw there was a Ruth's Chris
steakhouse next door. I recognized it right away; I
had eaten in this particular restaurant before, on a
previous California trip, so I walked over and
asked for a table for one.
I read the paper as I ate, and there was a story
about the American Film Institute coming up with a
list of the 100 funniest American movies of all time.
Maybe you saw the story; "Some Like It Hot" was
rated No. 1.
"Some Like It Hot," a 1959 comedy starring
Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis,
may or may not be the funniest movie ever made,
but every time I think about that movie I think of
one still photo. It is a photo that hangs on a wall.
The photo is of Marilyn Monroe getting ready to
shoot a scene. She doesn't look perfect, she
doesn't look impossibly glamorous, she just looks .
. . well, she looks like a woman at work. She looks
like a tired woman with things on her mind during a
difficult day at the office. She is standing on a
beach, in a white bathrobe, and I think it is the
single most haunting image of Monroe I have ever
I have only seen it one place -- on a wall on the
basement level of the Hotel del Coronado, where
the movie was filmed. The Hotel Del, as it is called,
has been the most famous building on Coronado
island since 1888, when the magical hotel was built.
I hadn't been there in quite a while -- but, alone on
this June night, reminded by the story in the paper, I
decided to go have another look.
Coronado was about 20 minutes away from the
restaurant where I was having dinner; I rode over in
a cab, and we crossed the bridge and drove onto
Orange Avenue, past the Coronado Public Library,
past the Dairy Queen, past two little drugstores,
past the Lamb's Theatre, past Bay Books . . .
Orange Avenue, now and eternally, feels like
America, 1957. What a strip of street. Makes you
want to stay there forever.
I got to the Hotel Del, paid the cab driver, and
started wandering around. The moon over the
Pacific Ocean was big and bright, lighting the red
roof of the hotel's old Victorian main building. I
walked down to the basement level -- which
includes a concourse of shops -- looking for
I didn't see her. There are confusing turns down
there, but I think I hit every hallway, and no
Marilyn. I knew this was the right place; I knew I
wasn't imagining the picture that was snapped when
she had filmed the movie at the hotel. But it just
I walked around the grounds, trying to get my
bearings; I cut through the weather walkway to the
newer oceanfront high-rise building, then went back
to Marilyn's basement. I looked everywhere,
turned every corner. Nothing.
Finally I ducked into a little jewelry shop, and the
woman behind the counter told me I hadn't
imagined it -- that haunting photo of Marilyn was
real. "The hotel is doing some construction," she
said. "I know the picture you're talking about.
They've taken it down for a while. They'll put it
back one of these days."
I tried to explain to her what it was about that
photo -- what it was that was so unforgettable --
and she said: "I know. I've seen it. I know."
The night on Coronado was lovely almost beyond
imagining, a night pretty enough to break your
heart, and I headed out by the ocean for a few
minutes and then decided to take a walk on Orange
It was almost silent at this time of the night; few
people were out. I passed the bank at the tip of the
street, then stopped to look at a little bakery that
was closed now but would be bustling with
customers in the morning. I don't know what it is
about that photo -- there is something in Monroe's
face, some secret I have seen only in one place,
only in that photo that used to hang on the wall of
the basement of the old hotel. . . .
I figured maybe I'd see it again some day; maybe
next time I came back. On Orange Avenue I
walked past a restaurant called Rhinoceros; there
were some tables on the sidewalk outside, but at
this time of night no one was sitting there. I tapped
my hand atop one of the tables, the one on the very
end. Some days are better than
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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