Happy Birthday - Marilyn Monroe style: Song of the Day for May 19
Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Bobby Darin and Maria Callas sang. Shirley McClain, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, and Henry Fonda entertained. But it was Marilyn Monroe who didn't just steal the show, she made John F. Kennedy's 45th birthday celebration on May 19, 1964 a part of presidential lore when she sang, "Happy Birthday."
Fifteen thousand people attended. Actor Peter Lawford, the president's brother-in-law, was the MC and made a running joke of Monroe's reputation for tardiness. He would announce her entrance, and there would be no Marilyn. Finally, she came out in a white stole and a $12,000 dress. When she removed the stole the audience gasped.
Time magazine wrote, "the figure was famous. And for one breathless moment 15,000 people in Madison Square Garden thought they were going to see all of it." A Canadian billionaire purchased that dress in 2016 for $4.8 million.
Jackie Kennedy wasn't at the televised party. She was livid the next day, blaming Robert Kennedy for inviting Monroe to sing. The event only raised more rumors of an affair between Kennedy and Monroe.
Did they have an affair? Historians are divided on the question.
Kennedy and Monroe would never see each other again after his birthday serenade. She died that August from a drug overdose. He would be assassinated three months later.
Song of the Day is created by Sheldon Zoldan, and produced by Pam James for WGCU.