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Freeze Frame: The True Story Behind Marilyn Monroe’s Famous ‘Happy Birthday to the President’ Performance


Behind the enduring legacy of the deceased Marilyn Monroe is a series of legends and stories that have since formed a life of their own.

One of them is the 60-year conspiracy involving the late actor and former Miss. The alleged affair of President John F. Kennedy.

It was 1962 and Monroe captivated the world with her breath-taking, frequently quoted performance of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for the 35th POTUS.

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Actress Marilyn Monroe sings "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy
Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962. (Bettmann Archive)

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The Some like it hot the icon is celebrating Kennedy’s 45th birthday, albeit a week early, and wearing a rhinestone-encrusted dress has recently been brought back into the pop culture fold by none other than Kim Kardashian.

Both the dress and the song outlasted Monroe, becoming more and more famous almost when she died prematurely just three months later.

Monroe was invited by Democrats to a fundraiser at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, an event that preceded the President’s important birthday.

“Now I can retire from politics after being able to sing Happy Birthday to me in such a sweet and wholesome way.”

She was introduced by Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Peter Lawford, to perform in front of thousands of people.

Perhaps on a strange hunch, Lawford described her as “the late Marilyn Monroe”, only referring to her being late to the stage.

Before starting her song, Monroe stripped off her white fur coat to reveal the iconic flesh-colored dress, leaving the audience gasping in awe.

Monroe wore the iconic dress at the after party. (AP)

As she sang to the president, a giant cake was brought into the room and Monroe encouraged the room to sing the final lines of the song. Happy Birthday.

After her glamorous performance, the president shed some light on Monroe’s sex symbol status in his thank-you speech.

“I can now retire from politics after being able to sing Happy Birthday to me in such a sweet and wholesome way,” he joked.

It marked one of Monroe’s last public appearances before her death on August 4, 1962.

It also led to the star being fired by 20th Century Fox for her performance that allegedly violated her film contract.

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Monroe’s performance has now become irrevocably ingrained in modern popular culture, with countless parodies, references, and impressions found in film, television, and music. .

In 1998, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell performed the same song for Prince Charles’ 50th birthday – singing “Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness” instead.

The song also inspires a new wave of conspiracies regarding Monroe and Kennedy’s apparently scandalous love affair.

Marilyn Monroe
Monroe died in 1962, just a few months after her performance. (Getty)

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After celebrating his 45th birthday, Kennedy retired to his room at New York City’s famous hotel, The Carlyle. It is said that he later joined Monroe.

It has long been theorized that secret tunnels were built to allow Monroe and Kennedy to meet in private.

According to legend, Carlyle had a system of underground tunnels that allowed the rich and famous to go in and out of the hotel undetected.

Carlyle has never confirmed or denied these rumors.

Other celebrities accused of using the “secret tunnel” include Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana.

Another theory regarding Monroe and Kennedy is the rumor since the disturbance that the government orchestrated her murder to cover up the couple’s affair.

Conspiracy theories aside, Monroe’s songs and costumes – besides her political issues – will endure a long period of notoriety.

Monroe with US President John Kennedy and US Attorney General Robert Kennedy in 1962. (Getty Images)

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While it is still hotly debated, the late iconic actress’s friends and associates still insist there is a real love story between Monroe and JFK.

James Spada, Monroe’s biographer, said: “The Kennedys can’t risk this coming out because it could bring down the president.” Person in 2012.

“But the cover-up designed to prevent anyone from finding out that Marilyn had close ties to the Kennedys was misinterpreted as a cover-up that they murdered her.”

However, a friend of Frank Sinatra, who runs in the same circle as Monroe, said she was always careful to never cross the line openly.

Tony Oppedisano said in 2021: “She doesn’t plan to break up [the president’s] marriage, so she won’t let it go that far, even if she feels deeply.”

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