A Peek Inside the Little Black Books of Pop Culture Icons

The words “little black book” conjure all kinds of salacious ideas about jet-setting playboys and Hollywood madams. The earliest black book may be Harris’ List of Covent Garden Ladies — a directory of 18th-century prostitutes working in London that sold thousands of copies annually. Since then, the little black book has evolved into more of a straightforward address book. Depending on your style, it can be a free-form collage of facts and memories about those you meet, or a rigid, alphabetized list of names and numbers. We recently spotted Marlon Brando’s little black book on Tumblr, which we feature after the jump. Fascinated by the handwriting, worn pages, and contents, we went searching for other black books kept by pop culture icons. See what fascinating observations, secrets, and contacts we found hiding between pages, below.


Marlon Brando

In 1949, Brando left his little black book on New York’s Barrymore Theatre stage during a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. It was never returned to him, despite a poetic plea hand-scrawled inside by the actor: “On bended knee I beg you to return this. I lost eight others already and if I lose this I’ll just drop dead!”

Image credit:  Harry Ransom Center
Image credit: Harry Ransom Center


Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn’s little black book reads like a who’s who of old Hollywood, with ex-husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller listed, as well as pals like Jack Lemmon, Montgomery Clift, John Huston, and Henry Fonda. Frank Sinatra won multiple spots in Monroe’s personal Rolodex.




hugh hefner

Hugh Hefner

If books could talk… Lucky for Hef, his can’t since he wrote some of it in a special code. Also spotted are personal observations dating back to 1953 from the early days of Playboy magazine.




Elvis Presley

The King’s personal address book showed he kept in close contact with stars like Frank Sinatra, June Carter, Bing Crosby, and Milton Berle. Elvis also jotted down personal notes (knowing what cigars Colonel Tom Parker enjoyed was important), and collected business cards and studio pamphlets in his little black book kept from the 1950s through the early ’60s. The black leather three-ring binder of typed and handwritten entries was frequently updated by his Los Angeles secretary Trude Forsher.



Judy Garland

The entertainer used a standard Eaton’s At-A-Glance Tel-Address book circa 1965, but nothing between the black covers and alphabet tabs was ordinary. Around this time, Garland’s handwriting became increasingly erratic, but the ballpoint entries reveal the names of numerous stars in her midst with Eddie Fisher, Liberace, Steve McQueen, and hairdressers Jay Sebring and Vidal Sassoon among them.



Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s little black book doesn’t look particularly exciting at first glance, but upon closer inspection there are a few amazing entries casually written inside. Hendrix was a big fan of Sly Stone, whose name appears in his listings. Also spotted is Stax Records — the Memphis record label Hendrix probably crossed paths with during his days in the King Kasuals with bandmate Billy Cox, who would later join him in The Jimi Hendrix Experience.



Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy’s personal black book has hand-written annotations, some added by his wife — which one, we’re not certain. He appears to have been a meticulous record keeper.



John Wayne

John Wayne’s 1976 address book — the same year as the rugged western icon’s final film — shows the actor surrounded himself with incredible people and the stars of his time. The book contains decades of contacts from Tom Brokaw, James Cagney, and President Jimmy Carter to Clint Eastwood (essentially his successor), Debbie Reynolds, and Donna Reed. His collection of everyday contacts provides an intimate account of his daily life. There’s something reassuring about imagining the Duke dropping off his dry cleaning and getting his Jacuzzi replastered. His inclusion of Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors proves even a rhinestone cowboy needs his stylist at his fingertips at all times.




Ron Jeremy

The porn legend’s schizophrenic black book — which is really just a binder full of loose leaf paper (or is that a binder full of women?) — looks like a disorganized mess, but Jeremy actually created his own annotated social graph from the mishmash of names and numbers. Sure, it probably only makes sense to him, but it’s still interesting to note the level of insane detail. Apparently “The Hedgehog” primarily organizes his contacts by the location he jots them down, with pages dedicated to various cities and physical locations.



Steve Rubell

The Studio 54 co-owner’s black book contains disco glitter (we’re guessing) and names of New York’s 1970’s elite like music producer and promoter Sid Bernstein (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks) and publicist (currently for Morrissey) Susan Blond of Interview magazine fame.