On November 17, 2016, Julien’s Auctions, the world-record breaking auction house to the stars, will once again make history when it exclusively offers the Marilyn Monroe “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Jean Louis creation at auction. Julien’s Auctions will give collectors and fans from around the globe one of the most awe-inspiring moments in auction history when the gavel comes down on the final bid for this remarkable object.
On Saturday, May 19, 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 skintight, sheer, flesh-colored dress that sparkled with over 2,500 handstitched 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 rumors of an affair between the President and Marilyn.
Prior to the auction, the “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress will go on an exclusive world tour. The dress will exhibit at MANA Contemporary in New Jersey as part of the Exhibition “Marilyn: Character Not Image” followed by the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons (MOSI) in Kildare, Ireland before making its way back to the Julien’s Auctions Gallery in Los Angeles.
“We have had remarkable opportunities to offer unique objects related to Marilyn Monroe in the past,” said Martin Nolan, Executive Director of Julien’s Auctions. “To be part of the continued interest and excitement around this legend is always thrilling. This dress, this story, this momentous occasion represents a defining moment in history.