Once asked by a reporter what she wore in bed, the late actress Marilyn Monroe was said to have replied, “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”
Last week a bottle of Chanel perfume believed to have been owned by Hollywood’s famous blonde bombshell was found during repair work in the basement of Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.
The perfume, along with numerous other items, was found during reinforcement work in the housekeeping section, when a worker broke through a false wall, revealing a rattan chest believed left behind after the demolition of the old Imperial in 1968. That building, designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, had opened on Sept. 1, 1923, the day the Great Kanto Earthquake struck.
According to Nacio Cronin, the Imperial’s director of international public relations, Monroe and her husband, New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, who had married just two weeks earlier, arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on February 1, 1954, and spent several nights in the Imperial’s VIP suite.
The bottle, which still holds a small quantity of perfume, was sewn into a faded cotton pillowcase to which a blue paper report slip bearing the housekeeper’s name, suite number and the date Feb. 5, 1954, was fastened with a rusty pin.
Monroe, who suffered chronic endometriosis, had requested a masseur be sent to her room. She was treated by the late Tokujiro Namikoshi, founder of modern shiatsu.
Afterward, Namikoshi reportedly told one of his students that his patient wore “nothing but Chanel No. 5,” thereby confirming the legend with his own nose.
Namikoshi, who was 49 at the time of his encounter with the starlet, admitted Monroe’s complete lack of attire made it “difficult to concentrate” on his work, and he eventually used his handkerchief to cover portions of her body while applying finger pressure. Monroe soon fell asleep.
“While it’s entirely likely this indeed was the perfume Miss Monroe slept in during her stay at the Imperial,” Cronin explained, “it’s going to be difficult to prove, as the bottle was wiped clear of fingerprints, probably by the housekeeper.” He added that while no correspondence has yet be found on file, hotel management would have “almost certainly” wired Monroe for instructions on where to send it.
Monroe’s uninhibited endorsement of Chanel No. 5 was said to have contributed to its wide popularity.
Cronin told The Japan Times the old chest contained a “treasure trove” of items left behind by other celebrities, including two starched shirts and two monogrammed handkerchiefs that appear to have belonged to Wright; a walking stick believed left behind by actor Charlie Chaplin; a corncob pipe owned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur; a saw used by the famous magician, Ching Sing Foo, used to saw a woman in half; and a British diplomatic pouch, with royal seal, containing a riding crop, mask and leather whip.
While the Imperial intended to make “diligent efforts” to contact the rightful owners of the items, or their heirs, Cronin noted it would probably be “difficult, if not impossible” to track them down. When asked if the hotel knew who had left the diplomatic pouch, Cronin declined further comment.
Please note the date of publication…. Happy April Fool’s Day!
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