Marilyn Monroe’s Westchester Wedding; Plus, More County Questions And Answers
Tom Schreck on Marilyn Monroe’s White Plains nuptials, Pound Ridge’s Native American history, and the perils of leaf-burning.
LA Times/Wikimedia Commons
Q: I’ve read that Marilyn Monroe got married to Arthur Miller in his Westchester County home. What can you tell me about it?
—Catherine Connolley, Ardsley
A: The couple didn’t actually get married in Arthur Miller’s home—Miller lived in Connecticut. And, not unlike the rest of Norma Jeane’s life, the story is a little complicated.
According to biographer Randy Taraborrelli, Marilyn found out about Miller’s intention to marry her during his testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (which, if you ask me, isn’t the most romantic way to propose marriage). Miller mentioned he was planning a production in England and he was going to travel with a woman he hoped to soon make his wife. That was news to the former Mrs. DiMaggio—and she wasn’t thrilled that it was broadcast without her permission.
On June 29, 1956, the couple held a press conference to announce their engagement just after a member of the paparazzi following them was killed in a car crash. Monroe was distraught over the tragedy, but that night the couple traveled to the White Plains courthouse and were married by a justice of the peace in a service that lasted less than four minutes. Two days later, a Jewish ceremony was planned at the home of Miller’s agent, Kay Brown, in Waccabuc.
Brown lived at what is now 122 East Ridge Road. About 25 guests attended the secluded and unannounced service. The couple separated less than four years later in 1960, after Monroe filmed The Misfits, which Miller wrote. Two years later the former Norma Jeane Mortenson died alone in bed of a prescription drug overdose.
Q: I’ve lived in Pound Ridge for (I can’t even believe it) 34 years now. I’ve always wondered, how did the town get its name?
—Kathy Riley, Pound Ridge
A: There are several theories:
1. It was the name of a Revolutionary War-era calorie-dense dessert served in the northeastern corner of the county.
2. It was the unit of measurement employed by the manufacturers of Ruffles potato chips.
3. It was an angry retort used by the early citizens of Bedford who lived by the ridge. As in “Hey, you don’t like my answers? Why don’t you go pound ridge!”
If this response has even made it passed my editors at this point, I probably owe you, my beloved readers, an honest answer.
The Native Americans who lived in the area during the 1600s—the Kitchawong, Siwanoy, and Tankiteke tribes—referred to their athletic/activity fields as “pounds.” Guess what? Right by where Pound Ridge lies today, there is the site of a former “pound,” set on a ridge.
Yup, that’s the real, honest-to-goodness truth. And if you don’t believe me you can go pound ridge!
Q: What’s the deal with leaf-burning being illegal? I have a very safe steel fire pit with a cover and there is almost zero chance of danger. Is this just another example of the state exercising power for no good reason?
—Jeremy Kaplan, Lewisboro
A: Slow down, Captain Conspiracy, and take a breath before you unfurl your “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
The Smokey Bear angle is only part of why burning leaves is illegal in New York State. Sure, in the wrong hands, burning leaves can pose all sorts of danger, especially for those who aren’t equipped with a really cool fire pit. Fiery embers floating through densely populated areas is not a good thing and, I don’t know about your neighbors, but I don’t want mine playing with fire.
Also, burning leaves emits a number of toxic particles and gases like benzapyrene, a known carcinogen linked to lung cancer. That’s bad enough, but it’s also true that the tiny particles contained in the smoke can accumulate in human lungs and stay there for years; that can lead to serious respiratory infections. And it’s worse if the leaves are moist when they’re ignited—wet leaves are known to release especially damning carcinogenic hydrocarbons.
So, they may only get your lighter when they have to pry it (and your leaf bag) from your cold, dead hands, but, in the meantime, think about your neighbors a little.