The Night Marilyn Monroe Sang ‘Happy Birthday’ To JFK

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'A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left.'
It was 48 years ago today that Marilyn Monroe was literally sewn into a see-through gown and carried out to the stage of Madison Square Garden to serenade President John F. Kennedy for his birthday. LIFE photographer Bill Ray took this famous picture of Marilyn’s ass. And Hank Jones, the legendary jazz pianist who accompanied her breathy version of “Happy Birthday,” died on Sunday in New York at the age of 91. JFK and Marilyn Monroe didn’t make it nearly that long — she was found dead less than three months later, and his head was blown apart by assassins the following year.

Here’s the famous performance:

Jack Benny was there! So was LBJ! And so was, presumably, Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline, who maybe did not enjoy this musical sex performance as much as the tuxedo-clad martini-swilling boys did, on this spring night in Manhattan a half-century ago. []

PS — And here is Hank Jones at Carnegie Hall in 1994, playing “Willow Weep For Me” at the Verve anniversary concert:

About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne


Hey there, Wonkeputians! Shypixel here to remind you to remember our Commenting Rules For Radicals, Enjoy!

  • V572625694

    Gore Vidal says JFK used to like to hold chicks’ heads under the water in the tub while he fucked them. Camelot!

  • Way Cool Larry


  • Way Cool Larry

    Her ass looks really weird in that photo…

  • Troubledog

    Arlen Specter later explained, in his Single Woman Theory, that all the erections in MSG that night were caused by one woman.

  • Way Cool Larry

    “his head was blown apart by assassins”… the key detail here being the plural usage of “assassin”.

  • 23 Skidoo

    Her ass looks like you could slide it under a door in that picture.

  • GoinGreen

    Other than a little spatter on your dress, how did you enjoy the drive through our fair city, Mrs. Kennedy?

  • ManchuCandidate

    Ur, ask not what Marilyn Monroe can do foh you – ask what I can do to Marilyn Monroe.

  • freakishlystrong

    Richard Blumenthal was drinking dirty martinis, he remembers it well.

  • JMP

    Ah yes, two deaths that spawned a million conspiracy theories. Really, it makes so much more sense that the Secret Service or FBI would poison and murder a world-famous actress because she was sexing the President than a severely depressed prescription pill addict overdosed, either accidentally or on purpose.

  • Gorillionaire

    Ya know I’ve got Hank on a bunch of records in my house and have always dug his playing but I did not know until now that he did this gig. Thanks, Wonkette!

  • Barrett808

    Haven’t you heard? Specter’s Magic Bullet theory has been supported by recent scientifical research on TV shows, which makes it reality.

  • mumblyjoe

    [re=580714]Way Cool Larry[/re]: OHMYGOD WHAT DOES OUR WONKETTE KNOW??!!

  • Gratuitous World

    Then DiMaggio blackened the other eye. And the crowd roared…

  • seriesoftubescleaner

    Marilyn got noassatall disease…

  • Mr Blifil

    Phil Schapp just did a two day tribute to Hank Jones. I got to listen to a couple minutes of it. The end result was my determination that Hank Jones was “good.” Now that I know he also fucked Marilyn, he is upgraded to “god.”

  • ph7

    [re=580708]V572625694[/re]: I think Teddy tried that once, unsuccessfully.

  • Monsieur Grumpe

    I had a girl friend with a butt like that. She couldn’t sing either.

  • TGY

    [re=580725]JMP[/re]: You scoff, but the same guy killed Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith.

  • DeliciousWaffles

    Very unflattering photo. Marilyn had a big, round, Mix-A-Lot worthy Badonk. See “Some Like It Hot” for proof.

  • SmutBoffin

    [re=580711]Way Cool Larry[/re]: [re=580717]23 Skidoo[/re]: [re=580731]seriesoftubescleaner[/re]: Man, women were just shaped differently back in those days. The photos and measurements reported in, say, Playboy magazines constitute and important data set in assessing how cultural/sexual tastes have changed over the years.

    Someday, far in the future, people will look at Megan Fox or whomever and say*, “Why is she so weird-lookin’?”

    * By “say” I actually mean “type on internet poop-blog”.

  • WadISay

    [re=580708]V572625694[/re]: Perhaps this explains why one of JFK’s squeezes described the sex act as “the most exciting 20 seconds of her life.”

  • TGY

    Today, we are all tuxedo-clad, martini-swilling sex symbols sewn into see-through, skin-tight gowns. Also.

  • Scarab

    The secret to immortal fame is dying at the right time. If Jon Voight had died right after Midnight Cowboy he’d be in every nostalgia bar next to James Dean instead of the puffy, pasty mess he is now.

  • TGY

    [re=580739]DeliciousWaffles[/re]: Ah, yes, the famous Butt Conspiracy.

  • SayItWithWookies

    [re=580708]V572625694[/re]: Given that JFK had serious back pain most of his adult life to the point that he wore a brace, I’m betting the kinks were a little more low-key and that the ladies did most of the work. But like Vidal, I wasn’t there either, so who knows.

  • BklynIlluminati

    Old mom ass. She was rode hard and put away by then anyway. But so was JFK.

  • ella

    I read somewhere that Jackie totally stayed away from that shindig because she was no fool.

    (And from the factoids I learn by following Ebert, Jackie died on this very day. 1994)

  • Josh Fruhlinger

    I had never actually watched that — Jesus, what a weird thing that was. Do you think everyone in the room knew they had screwed — is that why their was all the laughing and clapping at random times? And why doeds she flail her arms around with her fists clenched at the end?

  • Capitol Hillbilly

    [re=580739]DeliciousWaffles[/re]: or capri pants in “The Misfits”

  • An American in Toronto

    [re=580753]Scarab[/re]: Totally. And James Dean would have probably starred in “McMillan and Wife” if he’d lived.

  • widget09

    Oh what a night, it was late December, back in sixty three!
    What a lady, what a night!

    Name that tune.

  • Cape Clod

    [re=580753]Scarab[/re]: I sort of get the feeling that the same could be said for Al Pacino if he passed away right after “Dog Day Afternoon.” He would have been remembered as an actor known for his remarkable subtlety instead of an easily parodied ham.

  • libwakman

    Is Marilyn Manson to Obama what Marilyn Monroe was to jFK?
    Intelligent deep thinking Teabaggers need to know.
    Hahaha..I said intelligent & deep thinkers in the same sentence as Teabaggers.
    Oh Hahaha ha.
    and ha.

  • Wonderman

    She needed the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” on the podium? I thought she was one of the SMART blondes.

  • JMP

    [re=580753]Scarab[/re]: Just compare the modern Rolling Stones and Who to Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix; they would probably be just as pathetic now had they lived. Case again: Bob Dylan, who’s still putting out new music as good as he ever was.

    Hell, dying relatively young and allegedly pretty made the death one woman, who had no discernible talent and became rich and famous by marrying into an irrelevant anachronistic institution, the biggest funeral spectacle I’ve ever seen; and to this day many still laud her as a great woman, despite her complete lack of accomplishments in life.

  • GoinGreen

    December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)

  • Marlowe

    So what did Elaine May and Mike Nichols do at the performance?

  • 13ollocks To The Rules

    I know she was only 36, but that pic makes her look like a little old lady – there’s a decidedly more flattering pic from the same event at the bottom of the her Wikipedia entry.

  • joementum

    I like how they pulled her from the stage before Mr. President got up there. No pix together, please.

  • Buttery1000

    I’ll just wait until the embellished FOX TV docudrama about the Kennedys airs for the sexier version. Kthxbai.

  • RoscoePColtraine

    Marilyn, honey, you’re flat.

    How many guys ever got to tell her that?

  • Lascauxcaveman

    [re=580791]Capitol Hillbilly[/re]: That one brings back a lot of memories. What a weird little movie probably Clark Gable’s best turn. (Not saying much, I know).

    But by the time the MSG “Happy B-Day” clip was filmed, Marilyn had been a serious alcoholic and junkie for quite some time, not eating right, and the ample acreage of her heinie was probably getting droopy and the dress was just not sewn up the right way, so yeah, it looks all wrong on her.

  • Dashboard_Buddha

    Ummm, she has a sort of unattractive back…not backside, but back. Is that a spot where her spine caved in?

  • populucious

    [re=580842]joementum[/re]: Yes, I find that a bit disturbing…please cut away the cameras while we drag the bag offstage…nothing to see here folks…

  • Way Cool Larry

    [re=580728]mumblyjoe[/re]: Wonkette knows all

  • snoidoid

    [re=580711]Way Cool Larry[/re]: Ass? How about that elbow?

  • TimeCubist

    [re=580735]ph7[/re]: I’m gonna tell Denby.

  • Lionel Hutz Esq.

    Little Known Fact: Arlene Specter carried out the hit on Marilyn Monroe for RFK, as she had JFK’s real birth certificate.

  • germansteel

    It would be interesting to know whether JFK took that dress off her from the top down or the bottom up. Did Gore Vidal ever say?

  • neoplatonic

    [re=580817]JMP[/re]: Don’t think that too many regard her as a great woman, but as an interesting one; who, despite having “no discernible talent[s],” left a major mark on 20th century American culture. Is that right, or wrong? We can discuss, passing electronic notes back and forth on the intertubes.

    Also: Hellooooo, nurse!

  • Troubledog

    [re=580735]ph7[/re]: OH SNAP that’s a zinger. Well played.

  • TubeCity

    According to the interview with the photographer excerpted under the photos at the link, the people there were abuzz about this confirming the rumors of an affair.

    But I question, sadly, whether Ms. Monroe was naked under the dress. The other photo that he took clearly shows panty lines, and for granny panties, no less.

    However, the photo mentioned above at the Wikipedia page shows little evidence of a bra, only pert, beautiful breasts.

    48 years later to the day, I must praise her breasts. And comic talent. RIP.

  • NopantsMcGee

    Wow. I never knew so many people despised MM this way. Up ’till now I thought the conventional thought was she led a kind of tragic life died too young, was depressed/addicted and used by a faceless profit-hungry Hollywood conglomerate of amoral producers and other executives.

    But, I see now that was all because her ass was flat and she had funny looking elbows.

    I suppose the next topic could be: Kitten-Stomping: Messy Time-Waster or Environmentally-Friendly Floor-wax?

  • charlesdegoal

    About thirty years ago I went to a party at a music producer’s apartment on Central Park West and Hank Jones was there playing the piano while everyone was chatting away. I told Jones I had heard him play at a JATP concert in Europe, in the fifties. I think he liked that. Jazz. Good music, not just entertainment.

  • Voyou Charmant

    [re=580708]V572625694[/re]: Wow. I’m more Kennedy-esque than I thought!

  • PlanetWingnuta

    [re=580753]Scarab[/re]: you forgot conservatard too.

  • PlanetWingnuta

    [re=580817]JMP[/re]: Why must you bring up Sarah Palin!!!! Stay on Topic!!!!!!!

  • proudgrampa

    Speaking as a guy whose first masturbatory fantasy was Marilyn, all I can say is that she had a fine ass and even finer boobs. God, I miss her!

  • Tundra Grifter

    [re=580753]Scarab[/re]: You forgot “right-wing” in there. Off-the-Mark was having quite the bromance for him when he (O-t-M) was pushing one of those wing nutz’ marches on DC where 20 people showed up.

    And half of those were probably lost tourists.

  • Tundra Grifter

    [re=580801]Cape Clod[/re]: Sorry – his performance at the end of “Donny Brasco” deserved an Academy Award. And what about “Glengarry, Glen Ross?”

  • Tundra Grifter

    [re=581010]proudgrampa[/re]: Just for you:

  • proudgrampa

    [re=581029]Tundra Grifter[/re]: Thanks, Tunny. That was beautiful! I just don’t understand anyone who thinks she’s not gorgeous.

  • Smoke Filled Roommate

    [re=580790]Josh Fruhlinger[/re]: It was code to her dealer that she needed some bennies stat.

  • magic titty

    [re=580735]ph7[/re]: Jesus that’s funny.

  • plowman

    What did DiMaggio tell Marilyn wit’ two black eyes? Nuthin, he he already told da bitch twice!

  • Extemporanus

    Jesus Christ everybody, would it kill you to get off Marilyn’s ass long enough to pay a few repects to the late, great, irreplacably important American musician, Mr. Hank Jones?! He was smart. He was classy. He was, in a word, jazz.

    Fucking ingrates…


    Arlene Spector is totally my new drag name!

  • AutomaticPilot

    [re=581076]Extemporanus[/re]: Welllllllll…. he’s no Lynerd Skynerd…

  • Extemporanus

    [re=581136]AutomaticPilot[/re]: [re=581076]Extemporanus[/re]: Even without the typos, my comment did come across as rather retarded.

    But seriously you guys, Hank Jones was just really, really good, every day, for more than seventy years: born in turn-of-the-century Mississippi; started performing at age 13 after his family moved to the marginally-less Jim Crow-ish North; played with literally everybody — from Eckstine to Hawkins to Parker to Roach to Sinatra to Carter to Cobb to Krall; had two brothers (Elvin & Thad) who are musical legends in their own right; and married a woman named Theodosia, who was by his side when he died.

    Fucking Theodosia, people!


    Also, “Freebird”.

  • Mr Blifil

    [re=581147]Extemporanus[/re]: Well, in fairness, he did mar his career somewhat by agreeing to be the house pianist on Hee Haw during the 70s.

  • Witsendnj

    Her elbows look old.

  • J

    Hmm, wait a minute, wait a minute….isn’t it a little suspicious that Hank Jones died on this anniversary? Mafia? CIA? Frank Sinatra,Jr.? I’m guessing one of them!

  • Extemporanus

    [re=581156]Mr Blifil[/re]: Hey, it was an honest mistake that could’ve happened to anyone — he searched the world over and thought he found true love, but they met another and *PLHBBBT!* he was arrested, charged, and convicted of first degree sexual assualt for looking at a white woman.

  • Ken Layne

    [re=580938]charlesdegoal[/re]: Now that sounds like a good night, even though you had to go to a party held by a music producer.