Fifty years ago Marilyn Monroe sang a sultry version of "Happy Birthday" for President Kennedy during his birthday party at Madison Square Garden. It has since become the gold standard of the tune. Despite Monroe’s provocative delivery, nothing was ever written about a possible affair in the papers at the time. Only after both passed away did the speculation mount. In 1999, the skintight dress Monroe wore that night was auctioned off for $1.26 million.
As some presidents get older, they slow down. Not President George H.W. Bush. He has spent his 75th, 80th, and 85th birthdays skydiving. At 80 years old, he stopped doing the solo free-falls, and now is joined in tandem by a member of the Army’s Golden Knights. Bush has told reporters he plans to do it again when he hits the big 9-0.
Lady Gaga did her best to recreate Marilyn Monroe’s "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" moment when she serenaded Bill Clinton at his 65th birthday party last October at the Hollywood Bowl. The performance was part of an evening that also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Clinton’s foundation. It was a momentous night, and President Clinton later recalled, "I thought, 'My God. I get Lady Gaga, and I will have a heart attack celebrating my 65th birthday.'"
If anyone deserves two mentions on this list, it is President Clinton, who celebrated his 50th while in office. According to The Washington Times, Clinton staged his party at Radio City Music Hall and blew out candles on a 300-pound American flag cake. The evening doubled as a fundraiser, and Jon Bon Jovi, Smokey Robinson, and Aretha Franklin all performed.
Though not as grandiose as others, President Truman’s 61st birthday was a memorable one for him and the country. He marked the Tuesday by announcing the end of World War II, a timely and wonderful present, and the day has become known as "Victory-in-Europe Day," or VE Day.
On Aug. 4, 2011, President Obama became only the seventh president to turn 50 while in office. That night, he celebrated with 2,000 of his best friends — otherwise known as donors. According to USA Today, the first party, for 1,500 people, cost $50 and attendees heard music by Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock, and OK Go. The second and more exclusive affair for only 100 people was priced at a profit-clearing $35,800 per person.
On Feb. 6, 1987, President Reagan believed he was heading into a debriefing at the Old Executive Office Building when he walked into a room full of well-wishers and the Marine Band who surprised him with a rendition of "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Happy Birthday." According to the Milwaukee Sentinel’s account of the party, he mistakenly added a year to his age when he told the crowd, "Of all the 38 anniversaries of my 39th birthday, this is about the nicest." Except President Reagan had turned 76.
Long before email, Americans sent their birthday cards to their presidents the proper way, by telegram. When President Franklin Roosevelt turned 52 in 1934, he was flooded with 100,000 telegrams. Time says the longest reached 1,280 feet and was signed by 40,000 people — it took two days to transmit and two messengers to deliver it.
President George W. Bush turned 62 aboard Air Force One while en route to the 2008 G-8 Summit in Japan. The plane’s staff surprised him with a coconut cake and President Bush blew out the single candle. Members of the White House staff gifted him a small wooden boxed carved with his initials on top. This wasn’t just any box. CNN's Political Ticker writes that the wood came from an old Scarlett Oak tree that was planted on the White House lawn in 1892 by President Harrison’s great-granddaughter. (It stood on the lawn until it fell in 2007.)