Miller Time
By Grady Miller
Aug 17, 2013 - 12:49:25 AM

Much slimmer than met the eye.
HOLLYWOOD—It’s an aha moment to stand up against the glass and behold the mannequin wearing the brilliant green satin Pucci jersey and slimfit Capri pants, the actual jersey and pants that mature Marilyn paraded in photos, knees drawn up, her face lost in a wonderland of unspeakable allure. Faced by the real wardrobe, rarely seen in public, now on display at the Hollywood Museum (1660 N. Highland) until September 8th, I realized Marilyn was petite; her waist averaged a mere 24 inches.


Though she was larger than life, Marilyn was way thinner than most people imagine. They think by today’s standard she is “fat.” Voluptuous. Yes; Rubenesque. No. Blame those generous hips.


What did she do to maintain the hourglass on her 5’ 5 ½” frame? "I have been told my eating habits are absolutely bizarre," she confessed in a 1952 interview. "But I don't think so."


Marilyn’s diet and exercise routines were all over the place, according to Marilyn scholar, Elisa Jordan. What she ate depended on her finances, who her husband was at the time, her addictions, and whether she was dieting.

For breakfast in 1952, the breakout year she went platinum blonde: two raw eggs whipped in warm milk. "I doubt any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry," she told “Pageant.” She skipped lunch, and then for dinner, she would broil liver, steak, or lamb and eat it with five carrots. And she’d have a hot-fudge sundae for dessert.


Marilyn grew up during the Depression and World War II, when food and money were often scarce. Growing up in a series of foster homes, she lacked the opportunity learn about cooking, health, or proper nutrition from a mother.


When Marilyn was struggling for money in the 1940s, she couldn’t afford a well-balanced diet. Also, because she was modeling during this time she had to stay thin—often surviving on $1 per day by eating things like raw hamburger, peanut butter, hot dogs, chili, crackers, oatmeal, and orange juice. “Frankly I’ve never considered my figure so exceptional,” she later said. “My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat.”


During the 1950s, she was on and off diets. As the decade progressed, so did her drug and alcohol problems, which disrupted her eating patterns. During the ’50s, Marilyn’s weight would fluctuate accordingly.


When watching her figure, Marilyn ate a diet that similar to today’s high-protein/low-carb diet. She ate a lot of steak (sometimes for breakfast), eggs, liver, juice, grapefruit, and some greens. When she needed to lose some weight fast for a movie, she got a colonic—an intestinal cleanse that was supplemented by her healthy eating habits by stretching, jogging and lifting hand weights.


In the mid 1950s, Marilyn developed a taste for Italian food, thanks to her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. “In an effort to please Joe,” Jordan writes, “she experimented in the kitchen and began cooking simple pasta meals. The marriage didn’t last long, but the taste for Italian food did.” In the late 50s, her maid routinely prepared lasagna and spaghetti; Fettucine Leon and veal piccata were her favorite Italian dinner in the last year.


When she wasn’t watching her diet, she ate a screwball medley of things: hot dogs (her favorite snack), caviar, Mexican food and steak (her favorite, period). While filming “Let’s Make Love” in the late 1950s she ate a lot of spaghetti and lamb stew—often washed down with vodka and Champagne.


Marilyn’s weight hovered between 115 to 120 pounds, although during her marriage to Arthur Millershe ballooned, finally reaching about 140 pounds. Jordan speculates that this may have been caused by her unsuccessful pregnancies (three), the strain of Miller being investigated by the House of Un-American Activities, domestic bliss when first married to Miller or the stress of their souring marriage.


As with her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn tried to please Arthur with her culinary skills by attempting to learn some classic Jewish dishes.


A typical breakfast during 1961-62 might consist of egg whites poached in safflower oil, toast, hard-boiled eggs or a grapefruit. (She had her maid save the yolks to use in holiday pound cakes.) A typical lunch might be a broiled steak. She shed between 20 to 25 pounds and reported to work for “Something’s Got To Give” in 1962 looking fitter than she had in years. When she died, she weighed a lean 117 pounds, on a day when she ate only two egg whites and part of a grapefruit. Listen, baby, it ain’t easy keeping a star figure.


Grady Miller, the author of “Lighten Up Now” can be reached at Special thanks to Elisa Jordan:

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