Marilyn Monroe ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ Dress Sells For $4.81 Million

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, but her star power has only increased over the decades. The dress that she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy in has sold for $4.81 million Thursday evening at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles, and it was purchased by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The auction runs from November 17 – 19, and many of Monroe’s personal items are being auctioned.

Marilyn wore the dress at a Madison Square Garden fundraiser and birthday celebration for Kennedy on May 19, 1962. It was created by Academy award-winning designer Jean Louis, noted the Irish Times. The full-length gown is nude-colored, made of silk gauze, and covered in thousands of rhinestones and crystals. There were no zippers on the dress and Marilyn was, literally, sewn into it. When she arrived on the stage, she was wearing a fur coat which she removed to reveal what was underneath.

The president’s brother-in-law, Peter Lawford, served as master of ceremonies at the celebration. When introducing Marilyn, Lawford made a series of jokes about her lack of punctuality and introduced her as “the late Marilyn Monroe.” After she sang “Happy Birthday” to Kennedy he stated, “Thank you. I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.” (The celebration was a pre-birthday one as Kennedy’s birthday was on May 29 — not May 19.)

Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” dress is the most valuable piece of clothing ever owned, and it could sell for $3M https://t.co/RSP9qphNEt pic.twitter.com/SqKw6ONbVf

Monroe’s rendition of the song and the dress she sang it in were considered both sexy and provocative. It was rumored that Marilyn had a brief affair with Kennedy. Later, it was confirmed that she indeed had an affair with Robert (Bobby) Kennedy, the president’s brother and then Attorney General of the United States.

The performance was Marilyn’s last and on August 5, 1962, she was found dead from a barbiturate overdose. In the fall of 1963 Kennedy was assassinated. The actress later became a pop culture icon, and the dress is part of American history.

It was previously auctioned in 1999 through Christie’s Auctions in New York City and then sold for $1.26 million, per the Los Angeles Times. The latest auction in which the dress fetched almost $5 million was presided over by Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien’s Auctions.

Marilyn’s personal items have been auctioned off on previous occasions, but Julien’s Auctions is unique. It includes items that were once the mega star’s from three collections. Property from the Collection of David Gainsborough-Roberts includes personal clothing, film costumes, and jewelry.

More property from the estate of Lee Strasberg features Monroe’s personal items and documents. A third collection from the life and career of Marilyn Monroe highlights items that were originally sold at a Christie’s Auction in 1999 and a previous Julien’s auction in 2005.

How the Strasberg collection came into being is an interesting story. Lee Strasberg was Marilyn’s acting coach, friend, and confidante. It was Monroe’s desire that her personal effects be given to friends and family, but Strasberg stored them in his attic. At the time of Marilyn’s death, Strasberg was married to Paula Miller, who was also Marilyn’s good friend. Miller died in 1966.

In 1967, Strasberg married Anna Mizrahi (now Strasberg) who never knew Marilyn. When Strasberg died in 1982, Anna inherited the Monroe estate. Anna hired CMG Worldwide to market Monroe’s image. Anna later sold the remaining part of the Monroe estate to Authentic Brands Group for over $20 million, per an NPR report. Anna was the keeper of the “Happy Birthday” dress until she commissioned Christie’s to auction it in 1999.

The Marilyn Monroe auction is both live and online. The admission price is $25 per ticket, and 100 percent of the admissions proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Downtown Women’s Center, an organization that helps women who live in poverty.

[Featured Image by Dan Callister/Getty Images]