May 19

1962 Marilyn Monroe sings Happy Birthday

Marilyn Monroe was the quintessential Hollywood screen goddess. Some magical combination of voice and facial proportions made her a glamorous legend in her own time and allowed her particular beauty never to go out of style. She was used and abused by men and used and abused men in return. She had intellectual pretensions that were mocked at the time but which seem laudable today. Her three marriages were disasters, her alcohol and drug addictions were expensive for film makers and ultimately fatal for her.

On May 19, 1962 at a New York fundraiser for John F. Kennedy, who is alleged to have had an affair with the actress, Marilyn oozed on to the stage, took off her fur coat and revealed a skin-tight bedazzled dress that caused the audience to gasp. She grabbed the microphone and in a little-girl voice sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK, followed by her own version of “Thanks for the Memories”: “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.”

This was her last public performance. Within a few months, Monroe was dead, the victim of barbiturate poisoning.

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