The Presidency: Happy Birthday

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The figure was famous. And for one breathless moment, the 15,000 people in Madison Square Garden thought they were going to see all of it. Onto the stage sashayed Marilyn Monroe, attired in a great bundle of white mink. Arriving at the lectern, she turned and swept the furs from her shoulders. A slight gasp rose from the audience before it was realized that she was really wearing a skintight, flesh-toned gown. Then, in a sincere, Campfire Girl voice, Marilyn sang: Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday Dear Mister President—Happy birthday to you! This was a $3-to-$1,000 rally in anticipation of President Kennedy's 45th birthday this week. In the world of entertainment, everybody but everybody was there (except for a few old-hat Republicans like John Wayne). Maria Callas crescendoed, and Harry Belafonte sang Michael Row the Boat Ashore. Said Jack Benny to Jack Kennedy: "The amazing thing to me is how a man in a rocking chair can have such a young wife." Said Kennedy to Benny, who is 68, going on 39: "I'm very glad you could come to a birthday party for an older man." The President assured his audience that his father's "All businessmen are s.o.b.s" dictum did not apply to show business. But it was Marilyn who was the hit of the evening, and Kennedy plainly meant it when he said, "I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way."

No Dior. Actually, the advent of his birthday left the President in rather good shape for retiring—if he should want to.

Under provisions set up by his father years ago, the President and his brothers and sisters have each received the income from $10 million trust funds since they were 21. At 45, the President would come into an undisclosed part of the principal.

But Kennedy was obviously not in a retiring mood, and proved it during his White House reception for Ivory Coast President Félix Houphouet-Boigny and his stunning wife, Marie-Thérèse. There, Kennedy mixed politics, protocol and humor. Seated between Mme. Houphouet-Boigny and Mme. Ernest Boka, wife of the Ivory Coast Supreme Court Chief Justice, he regaled both women in his Boston-accented French. He even inquired about the designer of Mme. Houphouet-Boigny's dress; informed that it was by Balmain, Kennedy observed that this would disappoint Dior.

No Equal. For an after-dinner treat, there was a performance of Aaron Copland's ballet Billy the Kid. The guests went home still chuckling over Kennedy's graceful tribute to Houphouet-Boigny which was coupled with a comment about his own political situation. The Ivory Coast President, said the host, was certainly a distinguished individual, "and I am not alone referring to the fact that in a free election he was elected by 98% of the voters of his country—a record which has not been equaled recently in the United States, and from all I read, will not be."