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Joe DiMaggio's FIRST wife

In the aftermath of Joe DiMaggio's death, next to nothing has been mentioned about his FIRST wife, Dorothy (nee Olson) Peck, who left a hole in our hearts when she departed this plane several years ago.

Her "screen credit" name was Dorothy Arnold. She was a blooming starlet at Universal when she met Joe and was swept into a marriage with little fore-thought and which she soon regretted! The first pre-requisite was that she depart "show-biz" and become totally subservient to her new husband. She acceded and became pregnant almost immediately, although Joe wasn't particularly pleased. Their son was born and Dorothy was required to leave him with "Grandma" DiMaggio while she was required to follow Joe hither and yon...even to training camp, because he wouldn't let her out of his sight.

Came the anathema to Italian Roman-Catholic Grandma, who defacto disowned both Dorothy and Joe, retaining control of Joe, Jr. Seldom was Dorothy allowed to see him until he reached an age when he could make periodic "sneak" visits to see his mother. But the years took their toll and a real mother-son relationship never materialized. Joe Jr. never mentioned his father to Dorothy, so what sort of quasi-relationship existed there was unknown to her. But (and Dorothy arranged it, because Joe constantly harassed her) Monroe entered the picture and Joe Jr. became quite close to his glamourous step-mother (while the short-lived marriage lasted).

I met Dorothy when I moved to the Palm Springs area in 1970. She and her (third, I think) husband, Ralph Peck, owned and operated a little steak-and-booze club called "Charcoal Charlie's" on the outskirts of Cathedral City (adjacent to Palm Springs). I worked for them from time to time as their lounge entertainer, and I LOVED it when Dorothy had enough under her belt to get up and sing to an adoring crowd. (Her trademark drink was Boodles' Gin Gibsons.) And I can still see and hear her strutting around the room singing "I'm Going Back" from "Bells are RInging". She really tore the place to pieces with that one!

Dorothy got a few spasmodic screen jobs during the years after I met her. The last being in MGM's "Lizzie" (a precurser to "Three Faces of Eve") wherein she played Eleanor Parker's mother. I think I counted three or four lines in that one. And even though she was playing a drunk, she was still gorgeous!

Those were glorious days for me! But they got even better. In following years, after Charlie's was razed due to a city "upgrade" our friendship became strictly personal and VERY family, literally. Talk about "GOLDEN YEARS"! Dorothy retained her beauty (a true peaches-and-cream complexion) up until the time of her demise (from pancreatic cancer) and those sapphire-blue eyes never lost their lustre!

And the STORIES she could tell! Tales of Walter Winchell, Bogart, Methot and Bacall, Kilgallen (who detested Dorothy because she suspected her husband, Dick Kollmar of having the "hots" for her, although everyone knew Kollmar was, indeed, a closet queen), Elsa Maxwell, Adela Rogers St. John, Anita Loos and lots of others I would have to search my memory to recall.

The last time I saw Dorothy was just before she fled to a clinic in Mexico. She had accepted her mortality and had to get away from Ralph, with his constant whining and boo-hooing. She needed solitude and privacy to prepare for a positive departure and Ralph's negativity was detrimental, to say the least!

We received word that Dorothy had left us only days later. And we are confident she had a direct flight to her own paradise! And trite as it may sound, she is still alive in our hearts!

Bob French


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DID YOU KNOW - Joe DiMaggio's estranged son John is the voice of robot Bender on Fox's FUTURAMA.




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