The iconic “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress will be on display for press only on September 22, at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey. Media will get a sneak peek at this remarkable object along with sketches and never-before-seen artwork by Marilyn Monroe.
The items will go to auction later in Los Angeles in November. Martin Nolan, Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions will be on-site to talk with press about the items on display and talk about the defining influence this dress and this performance has had on pop culture today.
In 1962, at a Democratic fundraiser and early 45th birthday celebration, President John F. Kennedy took his seat in Madison Square Garden anticipating what has now become one of the most iconic moments in entertainment and political history. In front of 15,000 guests, many of them celebrities, actor Peter Lawford was about to make an introduction that would change the course of pop culture and Presidential folklore forever.
Under a bright spotlight, the legendary Marilyn Monroe walked on stage and peeled away her white ermine fur coat, revealing a skin-tight, sheer, flesh-coloured dress that sparkled with over 2,500 hand-stitched crystals. The custom Jean Louis creation was so tight-fitting that Marilyn wore nothing underneath and had to be sewn into it last minute. Original sketch illustrated by Bob Mackie. When Marilyn appeared and the dress was finally revealed the entire audience gasped.
After Peter Lawford introduced her as the “LATE” Marilyn Monroe, she flicked the microphone and began to sing “Happy Birthday Mr. President” in her trademark sultry, sexy voice with original lyrics she wrote herself.
However, it was her intimate tone and projection of the words “Mr. President” that would stun the audience, excite the press and become a milestone in popular culture. The song and performance were remembered for many reasons, not the least because it was one of her last public appearances before her untimely death less than three months later.
Sadly, President Kennedy died a year later and that infamous night at MSG was the last known time they saw each other. The rendition by Marilyn remains one of the most famous, delivered in her halting, breathy tone. All in all, it lasted approximately 30 seconds, but more than five decades later, it remains the most famous version of “Happy Birthday” ever.
The dress, the performance, Jacqueline Kennedy’s absence and photographs from the evening would spark ravenous rumours of an affair between the President and Marilyn.