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President Kennedy Chats With Marilyn Monroe and Other Attractive People

JFK and Marilyn Monroe

White House photo by Cecil Stoughton

This photo of President John F. Kennedy with actress Marilyn Monroe may be the most famous shot of JFK chatting up an actress. The photo was taken at a private house party after Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy birthday, Mister President” moment at a 1962 fundraiser in Madison Square Garden. That’s JFK at center, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy at left, and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. having the absolute time of his life at right.

But thanks to the JFK Library and its excellent website, we now have many photos of President Kennedy chatting with handsome entertainers of all kinds. Let’s take a look.

President John F. Kennedy talks with actress and singer Julie London at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Sheraton Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. Official White House photo by Abbie Rowe.

White House photo by Abbie Rowe

Here’s President Kennedy meeting Julie London (later star of TV’s Emergency!) at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Nothing inappropriate here, of course, but Kennedy’s reputation for womanizing offers an interesting subtext for these photos. Perhaps he’s just doing his presidential duty, after all.

President John F. Kennedy talks with guests at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Sheraton Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. (L-R) actor Ralph Bellamy; President Kennedy; actress Dorothy Provine.

White House photo by Abby Rowe

Actress Dorothy Provine takes her turn with the Prez. (Provine is dressed as Pinky Pinkham, her character from the TV show The Roaring 20s.) Kennedy’s good — always eye-to-eye contact. Unlike some politicians we could name.

Departure of guests following a luncheon in honor of Prince Ranier III and Princess Grace of Monaco (actress Grace Kelly). L-R: First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; Prince Ranier; Princess Grace; President John F. Kennedy. Standing in doorway: White House Secret Service agents Win Lawson (center) and Bill Payne (right). West Wing Entrance, White House, Washington, D.C.

White House photo by Abbie Rowe

Here’s JFK with an even more famous blonde, Grace Kelly. But this is an official state visit with spouses present: Jacqueline Kennedy and Prince Rainier of Monaco, respectively. They aren’t even shaking hands. Of course, possibly Kennedy was put off by Kelly’s insane hat.

President John F. Kennedy’s Personal Secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, greets entertainers, Judy Garland and Carol Burnett, during their visit to the White House. Left to right: entertainer, Danny Kaye (mostly hidden on edge of frame); staff member in Mrs. Lincoln's office, Priscilla Wear (seated in back); Ms. Garland (shaking hands with Mrs. Lincoln); Ms. Burnett; Mrs. Lincoln; unidentified (in back); White House Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger; Special Assistant to the President, Dave Powers (back to camera); Military Aide to the President, General Chester V. Clifton. Mrs. Lincoln's office, White House, Washington, D.C.

White House photo by Cecil Stoughton

President Kennedy wasn’t the only one shaking hands. Here’s his loyal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, shaking hands with superstar Judy Garland as comedian Carol Burnett looks on. What I like about these celebs-at-the-White House photos is that everybody is happy to see everybody. The glamour goes both ways. “You were in ‘The Wizard of Oz?’ That’s amazing. We’re leading the free world here.”

Celebrities line up in the Oval Office with JFK

White House photo by Cecil Stoughton

Of course, Garland met President Kennedy as well. Judy Garland was only 4’11” tall, it turns out; John Kennedy was 6’0″ tall, and Carol Burnett has him matched in her heels here in the Oval Office. Hard to believe from looking at them here, but Garland was also five years younger than JFK.  She was born in 1922, he in 1917. (Yes, that’s Danny Kaye at right.)

 President John F. Kennedy chats with United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, opera singer Maria Callas and two unidentified men at a birthday party held for the President by Arthur Krim at Krim's New York apartment. 19 May 1962.

White House photo by Cecil Stoughton

Here’s President Kennedy with opera royalty, Maria Callas. This is at that same crazy party with Marilyn Monroe, from May 19, 1962. UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson is at center in the background. I like the glow of celebrity in this photo, with everyone bearing in on Callas. She’s got the aura.

President John F. Kennedy chats with mezzo-soprano opera singer Grace Bumbry following her performance at a dinner in honor of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson on February 20, 1962.

White House photo by Robert Knudson

Speaking of opera singers, here’s President Kennedy chatting up mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry in the East Room of the White House after she sang at a dinner in honor of Vice-President Lyndon Johnson in 1962. The who’s who of figures in back include Speaker of the House John W. McCormack, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (turning away at center) and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Abraham Ribicoff.  It was quite a party, but all these people are now dead. Except for Bumbry, who was 25 at the time. She received Kennedy Center Honors in 2009.

President John F. Kennedy speaks with singer Harry Belafonte and Julie Belafonte at a birthday party held for the President by Arthur Krim at Krim's New York apartment on May 19, 1962.

White House photo by Cecil Stoughton

Let’s end on this shot of JFK chatting with Julie Belafonte, wife of singer Harry Belafonte (who’s right behind them). This is that same cocktail party after “Happy birthday Mister President”!  The event was at the apartment of Democratic bigwig Arthur Krim.

What an era that was, when the president would just go to someone’s apartment and mingle after an event. No wonder John Kennedy met so many attractive people.

See still more photos of John F. Kennedy »

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  • “It was quite a party, but all these people are now dead.” One of the sharper lines I wrote in 2015.

    • Ed Miller

      “Sharp”? “Inaccurate” is more apt.

      • Thanks for the reply! I won’t argue that it’s a brilliant line, but I *will* argue that it’s accurate.

        Abe Ribicoff, Earl Warren, John McCormack — all those guys have been dead for decades now, along with President Kennedy. To have been significant enough to be invited to the White House in 1962 you probably had to be aged 35 or more, which would make you 90 or older now. And if you were 50 or older, as most of them were, that would make you 105 now.

  • Ed Miller

    That’s Diahann Carroll with JFK and Harry Belafonte, NOT Mrs. Belafonte.