Happy Birthday, Mr. President
"Happy Birthday, Mr. President" is a song sung by actress and singer Marilyn Monroe on May 19, 1962, for President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday, 10 days before the actual date (May 29).
Monroe 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 snippet from the classic song, "Thanks for the Memory", for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy.
Thanks, Mr. President
For all the things you've done
The battles that you've won
The way you deal with U.S. Steel
And our problems by the ton
We thank you so much
Afterwards, as an enormous birthday cake was presented to him, President Kennedy 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.
The performance was one of her last major 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 and Caroline.
President Kennedy's birthday celebration was held at the third Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, and more than 15,000 people attended, including numerous celebrities. The event was a fundraising gala for the Democratic Party.
Monroe's dress was made of a sheer and flesh-colored marquisette fabric, with 2,500 shimmering rhinestones sewn into it. The dress was so tight-fitting that Monroe had difficulty putting it on; she wore nothing under it. It was designed by Jean Louis.
Peter Lawford was at the event that night to introduce Monroe. He made a play on the actress's reputation for tardiness by giving her a number of introductions throughout the night, after which she did not appear on stage. When Monroe finally appeared in a spotlight, Lawford introduced her as the "late Marilyn Monroe". Monroe peeled off her white ermine fur coat, revealing the dress, and the audience gasped.
Monroe's iconic dress was made by designer Jean Louis and originally cost $1,440.33 (equivalent to $9,342 in 2018). The dress sold in 1999 at an auction in New York City for over $1.26 million (equivalent to $1.82 million in 2018). Canadian Billionaire Jim Pattison subsequently purchased the dress on November 17, 2016, at a Los Angeles auction for $4.8 million.
Madonna made a famous parody of the song on Saturday Night Live during the 1990s, singing "Happy Inauguration, Mr. President" (season 18, episode 11), singing to President Bill Clinton (played by Phil Hartman), who had recently been elected, his wife Hillary Clinton (played by Jan Hooks), and their daughter Chelsea Clinton (performed by Julia Sweeney).
In the 1992 film Wayne's World, Mike Myers imitates the song as his character, Wayne, while Wayne's girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is on the phone. In 1994, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) reenacts Myer's scene in Leon: The Professional. At the time, she had never seen Marilyn Monroe's performance.
Spice Girl Geri Halliwell performed the song in 1998 for Prince Charles' 50th birthday celebration, replacing the line "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" with "Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness".
In an episode of Breaking Bad, Skyler White sings the song to her boss Ted Beneke for his birthday.
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