Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

By Maryrose Lane Grossman, Audiovisual Reference Archivist

On a whirlwind weekend visit to New York City for multiple political purposes in May 1962, President Kennedy celebrated not one, but two, birthday parties on May 19 (ten days before his actual birthday on May 29). The events of the weekend also included the dedication of the Penn Station South Cooperative Houses (an urban renewal project) and a rally at Madison Square Garden for senior citizens regarding medical care for the aged; the birthday festivities certainly stood out among them.

The first event was not only a birthday party but also Democratic Party fundraiser: New York’s Birthday Salute to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. Approximately 15,000 people attended the event, including many celebrities.

Renowned entertainers and creative artists from coast to coast (and beyond) were considered for the performance part of the program.

JFKPOF-108-002-p0004JFKPOF-108-002-p0004. List of entertainers and workers who participated in President Kennedy’s Birthday Salute, undated.

The Birthday Salute was a festive affair from start to finish.

JFKWHP-ST-212-10-62 (1)ST-212-10-62. View of Madison Square Garden during a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy, New York City, 19 May 1962.

The performers included:

Maria CallasJFKWHP-ST-212-12-62ST-212-12-62.  Soprano opera singer Maria Callas performs at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Shirley MacLaine and Jimmy DuranteJFKWHP-ST-212-9-62 (1)ST-212-9-62Entertainers Shirley MacLaine and Jimmy Durante perform at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: U.S.A.JFKWHP-ST-212-16-62ST-212-16-62. Members of the Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: USA dance company perform at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Ella FitzgeraldJFKWHP-ST-212-15-62ST-212-15-62Singer Ella Fitzgerald performs at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Harry BelafonteJFKWHP-ST-215-7-62ST-215-7-62. Singer Harry Belafonte (center) and an unidentified band perform at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Jack BennyJFKWHP-ST-212-14-62ST-212-14-62. Comedian Jack Benny performs at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Marilyn MonroeJFKWHP-ST-215-18-62ST-215-18-62.  Actor and singer Marilyn Monroe performs at a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Then came the diminutive cake!JFKWHP-ST-212-17-62ST-212-17-62. President John F. Kennedy attends a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute in his honor at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 19 May 1962.

President Kennedy concluded the program with remarks that included humorous musings, thanks to the event performers and organizers, and a discussion of policy issues.

So ladies and gentlemen, we are in your debt. And I think the way we can pay it is to do the best we can for our country and our people, and to commit ourselves to the great causes which lie before us.

JFKWHA-101-001. Remarks in Response to New York’s Birthday Salute to the President, 19 May 1962. Sound recording of President John F. Kennedy’s remarks at “New York’s Birthday Salute to the President” held in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Arthur Krim, an entertainment lawyer, part owner of United Artists, and head of the Democratic Party Financing Committee, co-chaired The Birthday Salute Committee with committee member Anna M. Rosenberg and worked with the White House to arrange the event. Immediately following the events at Madison Square Garden, Krim hosted a private party at his residence that was attended by many of the celebrities who had performed at the Birthday Salute.

JFKWHP-ST-A47-24-62 (1)ST-A47-24-62. President John F. Kennedy stands with organizers of a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner and birthday salute in his honor at Madison Square Garden, Krim residence, New York City, 19 May 1962. Left to right: Dr. Mathilde Krim; President Kennedy; and co-chairs of President Kennedy’s birthday salute, Anna M. Rosenberg and Arthur B. Krim.

Attendees included:

Diahann CarrollJFKWHP-ST-A47-15-62ST-A47-15-62. President John F. Kennedy visits with actor and singer Diahann Carroll during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Jack BennyJFKWHP-ST-A47-2-62 (1)ST-A47-2-62. President John F. Kennedy visits with comedian Jack Benny (left) and Eunice Kennedy Shriver (center) during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962. Also pictured: Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations, Larry O’Brien; comedian, Mike Nichols; and composer, Richard Adler.

Harry BelafonteJFKWHP-ST-A47-7-62 (1)ST-A47-7-62. President John F. Kennedy visits with singer Harry Belafonte and Julie Robinson Belafonte during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962.

Maria CallasJFKWHP-ST-A47-5-62 (1)ST-A47-5-62. President John F. Kennedy visits with opera singer Maria Callas during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962. United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, stands in center.

Jimmy DuranteJFKWHP-ST-A47-4-62ST-A47-4-62. President John F. Kennedy visits with entertainer Jimmy Durante (left, foreground) and Margie Durante (center) during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962. Composer, Richard Adler, stands at left.

Shirley MacLaineJFKWHP-ST-A47-17-62 (1)ST-A47-17-62. President John F. Kennedy (seated, back to camera) visits with entertainer Shirley MacLaine during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962. Also pictured: Mr. Krim; Jack Benny; Ethel Skakel Kennedy; Patricia Kennedy Lawford; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Jean Kennedy Smith; and Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations, Larry O’Brien.

Marilyn MonroeJFKWHP-ST-A47-8-62ST-A47-8-62. Steve Smith (brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy) visits with actor and singer Marilyn Monroe during an evening reception at the residence of Arthur B. Krim and Dr. Mathilde Krim in New York City, 19 May 1962.

The original negative of one of the best-known images from the Krim party–featuring Marilyn Monroe, President Kennedy, and Arthur Schlesinger–does not exist in our holdings. However, you may browse digital scans of other original camera negatives from this series, here.

A couple of weeks after the Birthday Salute, Special Assistant to the President, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., forwarded a newspaper article from The Village Voice that commented on the Birthday Salute.

JFKPOF-065a-003-p0106JFKPOF-065a-003-p0106 Memorandum from Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. to President Kennedy, 31 May 1962.

In his amusing article in the Voice, Andrew Sarris said the following about the birthday festivities:

I was entertained by the spectacle of the President of the United States being lovingly insulted by his subjects.  

JFKPOF-065a-003-p0107 and JFKPOF-065a-003-p0108.  Newspaper article, “No Biz like Show Biz, and No Prexy like JFK,” by Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice, undated.

 As the 103rd anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth approaches, we encourage you to explore these and other digitized materials related to his life, career, and times. Enjoy!

2 comments

  1. Lovely work as always. I didn’t realize the “party” was a dem party fundraiser. All the historical write-ups and video clips feature Marilyn singing. I would love to see clips of Jack Benny or Jimmy Durante, but no, no one ever shows that. Another example of how when one small piece of history is featured, the entire context is lost. Jack does look more than intrigued with Dianne Carroll (!) And in the photo where he is sitting, his back must have been killing him by that time of night.

    For his 103rd birthday I nominate a beautiful close up of that sweet photograph of him out west somewhere (in ’63?) with him hand feeding all the bread in the cabin to the deer. I have visions of him in heaven looking just that sweet, joyous, and peaceful. Not that he’s forgetting about us–he’d never do that.

  2. How come no one mentions Maria Callas? Everyone mentions Marilyn Monroe, but Maria Callas should be mentioned as an afterthought to the IRONY.

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