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.
The Birthday Salute was a festive affair from start to finish.
The performers included:
Shirley MacLaine and Jimmy Durante
Jerome Robbins’ Ballets: U.S.A.
Then came the diminutive cake!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!