On a chilly November morning, Jean Bruno turns up in her attorney’s office wearing a mischievous grin and a wildly colorful jacket screened with Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn Monroe. Today she means business — her lipstick rouge rubbed all the way into her cheeks, her blond hair whipped perfectly into a crest, like a dollop of butter. It seems almost strange to see her outside the walls of her Snyder Avenue home. But it is somehow fitting that today she’s shuffled out to a Center City high-rise only to deal with the past.
Jean’s brother Michael, her only sibling, died in 2000; her mother, Sue, died this past July, meaning the final dispensation of her father’s fortune is under way. But according to Jean, an independently managed trust fund that she says should total at least $1.2 million holds only $650K. Jean is due half of whatever money’s available; the other half goes to her brother’s heirs.
Then there is the matter of Marilyn Monroe.
One day, when Jean was around 18, she found her mother sitting in front of a mirror, trying on jewelry. The jewels, Sue told her, had once belonged to Monroe. They included sapphire and diamond bracelets, aquamarine rings and emerald earrings. Jean’s father, Sue said, got them from Joe DiMaggio; the retired baseball great and by then heartsick ex-husband of Monroe had a friendly relationship with Philadelphia’s godfather. If the story Jean tells is true, it seems DiMaggio sold the blond bombshell’s baubles to the mob boss under the agreement he could buy them back if he and Monroe remarried. “My mother told me that all the jewelry would be mine when she passed,” Jean says.
But just as the old order of the Philadelphia mob broke down with the passing of Angelo Bruno, so did the order of inheritance. The pain this causes Jean is apparent when she sits down gingerly at a conference table across from her small, balding, mild-mannered attorney, Frank Baldwin. According to Baldwin, since Sue Bruno made no specific documented provisions to award the jewelry to Jean, the jewels — or the proceeds from their sale — will be divided between Jean and her brother’s heirs, unless she fights for them.
“Of course she wanted me to have the jewelry, Fraaaank,” says Jean, dragging his name out like a six-year-old child in full whine. “I’m her daughter. It’s the Italian way!”
But evidently it was not her mother’s way. In this context, the colorful jacket is both a flag of mourning and a sagging metaphor: What Jean Bruno wants is not more money or even Marilyn Monroe’s jewelry, but what those things represent. What she wants, even now, is her father.