The Last Birthday

The date was May 19, 1962, ten days before his 45th birthday, President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at Madison Square Garden and more than 15,000 people attend, including many celebrities. I twas a fundraising event for the Democratic Party. Collectibles and artifacts from this historic event are among the most coveted of all John F Kennedy collectibles.

The Last Birthday

The date was May 19, 1962, ten days before his 45th birthday. President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at Madison Square Garden and more than 15,000 people attended, including many celebrities. It was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.

Marilyn Monroe—introduced by Kennedy brother-in-law Peter Lawford— sang the traditional "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics in a sultry, intimate voice, with "Mr. President" inserted as Kennedy's name. She continued the song with a short melody from the classic song, "Thanks for the Memory", for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy.

Afterwards, as an enormous birthday cake was presented to him, JFK came on stage and joked about Monroe's version of the song, saying, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way," alluding to Marilyn's delivery, skintight dress, and image as a sex symbol. Monroe's dress was noted for being made of a sheer and flesh-colored fabric with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had to literally be sewn into it; and she wore nothing under it.

This was one of Marilyn Monroe’s last public appearances before her death less than three months later on August 5, 1962. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who rarely attended Democratic Party events, spent the day at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show with her children John-John and Caroline.

On May 29, 1963, John F. Kennedy was 46 years old. JFK’s last birthday was classic ‘Camelot’; His last birthday celebrations – and there were three of them – were full of glamour and all the glitz and ‘Hollywood’ that gave his administration that nickname. The first party was a Democratic Party fundraiser, New York’s Birthday Salute to the President”. It was held on May 23 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with guests paying $1,000.00 to attend. JFK noted in his remarks that his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was ‘down the hall receiving an annual ‘man-of-the-year’ award from the steel industry. Making a joke of it and alluding to the US Steel Crisis of 1962, Kennedy told the audience that “Last year I won the award and they came to Washington to present it to me, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let them in…”

Then on May 29, his staff threw him a birthday party in the White House mess hall (left). Photos showed a relaxed chief executive, wife Jacqueline at his side, bantering with his officials while opening presents (he received a shillelagh, among other things). The assembly toasted his health with champagne glasses. That night Mrs. Kennedy hosted a private birthday celebration on the presidential yacht "Sequoia." invitations were sent out by Jackie’s social secretary, Letitia Baldridge, and requested attendees to wear “appropriately festive yachting suit and dress."

The guest list was a glimpse of Washington gone by. It included family (Robert and Edward Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and their spouses), Hollywood (actors David Niven and Peter Lawford and spouses), and Kennedy pals (Sen. George Smathers and wife, and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and his then-wife Toni) along with old buddies (LeMoyne Billings, Paul Red; Fay,)…. 27 people in all.

By all accounts, the party was a great success. The menu was high 1960s – crabmeat appetizer, followed by roast beef, noodle casserole, and asparagus Hollandaise. And of course, many fancy desserts. “There were plenty of toasts, and after birthday cake at the dining table (left), the president opened presents in the aft salon. Then the dancing started. They were doing the twist, the cha-cha, and everything in between. I don’t think I’d ever seen the President and Mrs. Kennedy having more fun”, noted Secret Service Agent Clint Hill in his memoir, “Mrs. Kennedy and me”. 

Thank you to Harvey Goldberg for this interesting article that first appeared in the Official Newsletter of the Kennedy Political Items Collectors organization. For join the organization contact Mr. Goldberg at heg1@verizon.net

 

John F Kennedy Madison Square Garden Birthday  John F Kennedy at his Last Birthday Party   Dinner Party before Madison Square Garden Party

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  1. Happy Birthday Mr. President
    $2,295.00

    This is the rare program from one of the iconic events of the Kennedy era. The four page program from the birthday celebration at new York's Madison Square Gardent to celebrate the birthday of John F. Kennedy. The event was held May 19, 1962 and features a star-studded gala and fundraiser for the Democratic Party. During the program Marilyn Monroe sang her now infamous rendition of Happy Birthday to the President. Monroe died just a few months later, making this one of her last performances. We acquired this program from a woman who actually attended the event and saved the program allthese years. The event included such famous personalities as Jack Benny, Ella Fitzgerald, Danny Kaye, Henry Fonda, Maria Callas, Peggy Lee, Peter Lawford and., of course John Fitzgerald Kennedy and many more. The display includes a photo of President Kennedy and another of Marilyn Monroe along with a silver commemorative plaque. Other programs alone and unframed have sold for considerably more. Truly an excellent opportunity to acquire this rare and historic program professionally matted and framed and ready to displayed proudly in your collection or library. Only the second of these rare programs we have ever had in stock in the last 39+ years. This item is part of the FramedPresidents (TM) series of one-of-a-kind professionally framed historical items. Each are matted and framed with archival quality glass and acid free matting to help preserve and protect your investment for years to come
  2. Rare Happy Birthday Mr President - Madison Square Garden Handbill Flyer
    $795.00

    The most famous performance of the classic "Happy Birthday" song was arguably delivered by America's sex symbol fo the times- Marilyn Monroe - to one of the most popular U.S. presidents in the world's most famous arena. This is one of only a handfull of these invitation flyers for the event that we have ever seen in the last 43 years. The flyer advertises "New York's Birthday Salute to President Kennedy." This is the world-famous event in which Marilyn Monroe squeezed into ther fabulous dress and sang "Happy birthday, Mr. President." She is advertised on the bill among many other A-list celebrities such as Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Maria Callas, Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Henry Fonda, Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Durante. Her performance lives on as one of the most memorabile events in history. These flyers are even more scarce than the programs and tickets to the event. Another of these flyers sold for $6,255.59 at auction, which we feel was considerably higher than it's true value although we certainly can appreciate the rarity of the item. Also the tape marks on the edges (see the condition description below) certainly is another reason why we are pricing this iconic item for less. Comes with our 100% guarantee of authenticity

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