Throughout the 1960’s Rizzo’s work mainly focused on portraits, with none more famous than the shoot he did with Marilyn Monroe in February of 1962. At first the shoot was very much a ‘mission impossible’ affair, with a friend of Rizzo’s who was an acquaintance of Marilyn’s agent, Arthur P. Jacobs calling him to discuss organising a shoot. Jacobs informed the friend that this request was ‘impossible’, and the message was relayed back to Rizzo, but determined he still hoped for a chance even though Marilyn was tied up in a number of personal affairs. These included moving house, her daily sessions with Dr Ralph Greenson, and also a pending trip to Mexico to - among other things - purchase furnishings for the new property she was relocating to on
5th Helena Drive, Brentwood. Eventually, contact was made with Rizzo’s friend once more from Jacobs, informing them that Marilyn had agreed to the shoot and to relay this message to Rizzo, who was ecstatic at the prospect of working with Monroe.
The meeting was not without its conditions, though. Firstly, Rizzo was refused his request to conduct the shoot in the morning when the light would be at its best. Jacobs was adamant this request was too much, and informed Rizzo that it was not possible. It had to be an afternoon shoot or nothing at all. Rizzo agreed, and the meet was set for two days later at a friend’s house. Rizzo waited and waited, but no Marilyn. He was called by Jacobs and told that she was not feeling well and would not be able to attend the shoot. Rizzo was dejected, but understood if Marilyn wasn’t feeling well, then she wasn’t feeling well and patiently waited for her at the same location the next day.
Again, he had a long wait until Marilyn breezed in at 6pm. Sadly for him; this was just for a face-to-face apology she felt Rizzo deserved. “I’m sorry, I’m so tired. I’ll be here tomorrow, I promise,” she told him kindly before honouring him a little kiss. This kiss melted Rizzo, and he told her fondly “For you, I would wait a week.” This was perhaps not the best thing to say to a woman who was renowned for her lateness (as she once said herself – “I’ve been on a calendar, but never on time!”) but true to her promise Marilyn arrived the next day when she said she would, and what would turn out to be one of the last ever professional photo shoot with the star commenced.
Rizzo commented that Marilyn had applied her makeup herself, and even though he honestly admitted that he thought she’d made ‘a bit of a hash of it’ (to use his very words), she was still luminous to his eyes and his lens. He commented that looking at her was like looking at all of the world’s most beautiful women at once, all rolled into one person. Rizzo also commented that he thought Marilyn had an air of underlying sadness about her. “I could sense how distraught she was at this last meeting, but we still took the photos. She trusted me, we knew each other and that is so important, trust is the most important thing of all,” Rizzo said of the shoot in an interview years after Marilyn’s death.