Marilyn Monroe’s breathless rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to President John F. Kennedy has been remembered as both provocative and sensuous. However, actress Joan Copeland has recently offered a new explanation that clarifies why Monroe appeared so breathless at the 1962 performance.
The DailyMail reports that actress Joan Copeland, now 89 years old and Monroe’s former sister-in-law, shared her memories from the night of the performance. Copeland, who was in attendance that evening, said that Monroe did not perform breathlessly in hopes of appearing sensual on purpose, but rather that she was actually out of breath from getting lost back stage and was “running around trying to find a door,” even causing her to miss her cue.
Monroe’s breathy song to JFK further fueled rumors of infidelities between the President and the starlet at the time. Speculation surrounding the situation has lingered on ever since.
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Following Monroe’s performance, JFK came on stage and said, presumably sarcastically, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.” JFK was not accompanied by his wife Jackie for the May 19, 1962 performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden which honored the President’s 45th birthday which would occur ten days later.
Monroe’s voice wasn’t the only thing that captured the public’s attention that night. Her fitted, flesh colored gown adorned with 2,500 rhinestones and which showed most of her back didn’t deter the seductive connotations of her appearance. The dress has since become nearly as popular as the performance itself, and captured a staggering $1.26 million when it was put to auction in 1999 in New York.
Below, watch Monroe’s now famous ‘Happy Birthday’ song to President John F. Kennedy: