Oscars: Bandleader at First Governors Ball Reminisces on Parties, Marilyn Monroe

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Mickey Rooney and Marilyn Monroe with Ray Anthony (right)

Ray Anthony, 96, whose big band played the Academy's 1958 shindig, recalls the Rat Pack glamour of the era and a party with the starlet.

One entertainer from the 1958 Governors Ball who’s still with us is Ray Anthony, the dashing trumpeter whose 18-piece Ray Anthony Band provided the evening’s music. Now 96 and living in the Hollywood Hills, Anthony admits the particulars of the night are fuzzy — “We played so many different affairs back then” — but says he has nothing but fond memories of the era. 

A dead ringer for Cary Grant, Anthony was a favorite of Frank Sinatra’s and was good pals with Dean Martin (who danced the night away at that first Governors Ball) and the rest of the Rat Pack. (He later was close with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and appeared regularly on E!’s The Girls Next Door.)

When he wasn’t performing at A-list parties in his 1950s heyday, Anthony was recording music for 20th Century Fox Pictures (his rendition of “The Bunny Hop” has been featured on soundtracks from 1955’s How to Be Very, Very Popular to TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond).

On the Fox lot, he met a beautiful starlet named Marilyn Monroe. “We threw this big party for Marilyn at my house in the Valley,” recalls Anthony. “She was pretty happy about that. It probably helped a little bit with her fame.”

While the two were photographed together looking mutually enamored, Anthony says they were “just friends” who were “pretty busy at the time” focusing on their careers.

But he did woo another blond star — Mamie Van Doren, his wife from 1955 to 1961. Says Anthony of the Teacher’s Pet bombshell, “We had fun together.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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