Thursday, 13 December 2012

RIP Hal Schaefer

I am very sorry to hear about the death of Hal Schaefer, respected musician, Hollywood voice coach and friend of Marilyn's.

Hal was a lovely man; a true gentleman and he helped me a lot with my book.  I really didn't expect him to - I had heard that he no longer spoke to authors, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway; write to him and see what he said.  I remember getting his reply very, very early one morning during the writing of the first edition of my book.  I was up with my daughter at about 5 am (her standard time to wake up when she was 2!) and there in my in-box was a lovely email from Hal, telling me that he never spoke to authors any more, but that something about my letter had intrigued him and made him want to talk to me.

I was really thrilled and we arranged for a time to speak on the telephone, which was just after he had taught a music lesson to one of his students.  When we spoke, I could really tell immediately just why Marilyn was so fond of him.  He was softly spoken, very intelligent, calm and just a really beautiful soul.  After the ups and downs she had encountered with Joe DiMaggio, it wasn't really a surprise to me that she had turned to Hal as he seemed to such a calm, reassuring presence, and I told him that on the phone.

I spoke to Hal on several occasions on the telephone and we corresponded by email too. During that time he told me about his CDs, which you can see here and order below.  One of his albums he was still working on when I first interviewed him was called 'June 1st' and he told me it would include music for Marilyn and his beloved wife Brenda on it.  I have added a link to that CD below.

I had such a great respect for him, because in spite of him being way past the age of retirement, he kept on going, working all the hours he could, doing what he loved.  I admired him so much for that.

During our interviews he told me that he'd really encouraged Marilyn to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, and made it clear to her that he would not suffer any of her lateness.  He wanted her at the lessons on time and prepared!  He also revealed everything about the Wrong Door Raid to me - the truth finally after all these years, and it became a really important part of the book.

It was hard during one part of the interview because I had read that when Marilyn cooled their friendship in order to try and make it work with DiMaggio (before the Wrong Door Raid, not after as some have reported,) Hal responded by trying to commit suicide.  This obviously is a terrible thing for a person to do; to be so desperate that they can see no way out but that.  I knew that while 1954 might seem a long time ago to us, it isn't so long to someone who lived through it and of course the memories of that event were still fresh in Hal's mind.  I had to tread carefully, but actually Hal made it very easy for me to talk about it.  He told me why he had done it; what happened afterwards and then that was that; we moved on and never spoke about it again.

Many people think that Marilyn was the love of Hal's life, and that after she left him, he never really recovered from it.  This is wrong and it was very important for me to get that across in the book.  Yes he did very much love Marilyn, but he lived a wonderful life after she left, so with that in mind, here is a section from my revised book, which explains a little about what Hal did after breaking up with Marilyn:

"Before Marilyn left for New York she had a few loose ends to tie up, including breaking the news of her departure to Hal Schaefer. He remembered: "Shortly after the Wrong Door Raid she went to New York to begin her new life, and that was the last time I ever saw her. She phoned me and said she didn't know how long she'd be there, but I never saw her again." 

But it wasn't all bad news for the respected vocal coach, as not long after he met the woman who was to become the love of his life: "I was extremely happy with my wife, Brenda - who shared the same birthday as Marilyn. Brenda was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was a remarkable woman."

After the first edition of my book was published, one of Hal's students emailed me to say thank you for presenting him exactly as he was - a respectful and decent human being. I am very, very sad to hear he passed, but he lived a very full, happy life and inspired thousands of people including myself, so his life was very much one of value.

Now he will get to see his dear wife again, and I'm sure at this very moment, Hal and all his old Hollywood friends are all gathered round his piano in Heaven, playing the numbers he so loved to play during his life time.

RIP Hal - you will never be forgotten and through your music, your memory will live on forever.


You can visit Hal's website here:

You can order his CD, 'Just His Own Sweet Self' here:

You can order the CD, 'June 1st' here:

You can read the New York Times' obituary for Hal, here:

And you can order 'Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed' here:

UK -


No comments: