Happy Birthday Mr. President: Remembering Marilyn's Stunning Performance on JFK's Birthday
Everyone held their breath as the night Marilyn Monroe seductively serenaded John F. Kennedy for his birthday.
In May 1962, John F. Kennedy headed to New York's Madison Square Garden to celebrate his birthday with a cozy 15,000 or so guests. Hollywood heavy-hitters were there, including some of the performers for the night, like Ella Fitzgerald and Henry Fonda. Marilyn Monroe was also on the bill. There were already rumors swirling that Kennedy and Monroe were having an affair, but there was an unwritten rule with the press back then that you didn't report on such matters. The speculation only added to the tension in the air. Noticeably absent that night was Jackie Kennedy.
Monroe's legendary tardiness was made a running joke throughout the program and she was nowhere to be found four to five hours into the program. Peter Lawford—a member of the Rat Pack, JFK's brother-in-law, and the MC for the night—introduced her onstage three times before she finally appeared. Lawford would say, "Mr. President, the late Marilyn Monroe"—which feels ironic now, as Monroe would die three months later, a suicide at 36 years old.
In reality, Monroe was backstage literally being sewn into the now infamous, skin-tight gown with 2,500 rhinestones. She wore nothing underneath. A gasp let out in the audience when she appeared onstage, just as JFK's birthday cake was being wheeled out. Then everyone held their breath as she seductively serenaded the President.
After her sultry rendition, Kennedy took the stage and declared, "I can now retire from politics after having Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."