5.19.2012

Saturday, May 19, 1962: 'Happy birthday, Mr. President'




A combination political fundraiser and birthday celebration is held in New York for President Kennedy. The highlight comes at evening's end when Marilyn Monroe, wearing a sequined, skin-tight dress, sings "Happy Birthday."

From The Associated Press:

President Kennedy packed Madison Square Garden Saturday night to knock $1 million off the Democrats' national debt and urge strong campaigning for the party in Congress this year.
The Garden was a sell-out for the huge "birthday salute" to Kennedy, and a great array of theatrical talent provided a two-and-a-half-hour long show for the celebration.
It came on the hottest May day in New York City history, when the temperature had risen to 99. Heat waves still rose in the Garden when, after a sultry rendition of "Happy Birthday' by Marilyn Monroe, the president remarked:
"I can now retire from politics."

Note: The full quote was "I can now retire from politics after having had 'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."

The bottom photo shows, from left, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Monroe, the president, and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., White House special assistant. Schlesinger, who would later write the books "A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House" and "Robert Kennedy and His Times," wrote after Monroe's death on August 5:

I will never forget meeting her at the Arthur Krim party following the JFK birthday rally at Madison Square Garden in May. I cannot recall whether I wrote anything down at the time, but the image of this exquisite, beguiling and desperate girl will always stay with me. I do not think I have seen anyone so beautiful; I was enchanted by her manner and her wit, at once so masked, so ingenuous, and so penetrating. But one felt a terrible unreality about her -- as if talking to someone under water. ... The only moment I felt I touched her when I mentioned that I was a friend of Joe Rauh. This produced a warm and spontaneous burst of affection -- but then she receded into her own glittering mist.

The passage is from the book "Journals: 1952-2000."

* Watch Monroe's performance: @
* Monroe interview in Life magazine (August 3, 1962): @
* Excerpt from "President Kennedy: Profile of Power" (Richard Reeves, 1994): @
* Excerpt from "John F. Kennedy: A Biography" (Michael O'Brien, 2006): @
* "JFK and Marilyn Monroe: The Story Behind the Image" (ABC News, 2010): @

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