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In May of 1962, Marilyn Monroe helped to
celebrate President John F. Kennedy's 45th birthday at a
spectacular party in Madison Square Garden. JFK's joke
about Monroe's "sweet and wholesome" rendition of "Happy
Birthday" was inspired not only by her scorching delivery, but
also by the skin-tight dress into which she had been sewn for
In 1999, the dress fetched over $1.26 million at a New York
auction. The explanation for this fantastic price lies
partly in the fact that Monroe wore it in her last important
public performance, and partly in the fact that it has come to
be seen as symbolic evidence of her sexual relationship with
Kennedy. While nothing about this affair appeared in print
while Monroe and Kennedy were alive, it is now routinely
reported as certain in biographical accounts of both figures.
For more information, visit
The Kennedys, American Experience, PBS.