It's the dress that launched a thousand rumors; and it's in St. Augustine. Believe it or not.
The Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum on San Marco Avenue is displaying the iconic dress actress Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy on May 19, 1962. It was at a celebration — 10 days early — of his 45th birthday.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! paid a record $4.8 million for the gown in 2016 and proudly calls it "the most expensive dress in the world."
“This is the most famous item of clothing in twentieth-century culture,” said Edward Meyer, vice president of Exhibits & Archives for Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. Meyer, who has been acquiring items for Ripley’s for nearly 40 years, placed the winning bid on the dress. “It has the significance of Marilyn, of JFK, and of American politics.”
Other items from Kennedy’s birthday gala also will be on display, the museum said, along with other Monroe memorabilia.
The silk gauze Jean Louis dress is said to have 2,500 crystals and 6,000 hand-sewn rhinestones. It's been reported the dress was so form fitting that Monroe had to be sewn into it, which delayed her entry onto the stage at Madison Square Garden. She is said to have called it "skin and beads."
Woman's Day magazine said in September, "If the public did not already believe that the Hollywood sex symbol and the commander-in-chief were secret lovers, Monroe's sexy performance would make them the subjects of intense speculation for decades to come and lead to relentless tabloid reports filled with lies and doctored photos of the two of them together — especially since Monroe would die just months later."
A 2013 National Geographic story on Kennedy noted, "Monroe's famously sexy rendition of 'Happy Birthday' ... triggered gossip about the two having an affair [and] prompted Kennedy to back away from Monroe ... ." It said, "The movie star wouldn't take no for an answer, though, and reportedly called the White House numerous times in an effort to rekindle their affair, until the President finally sent a friend to dissuade her."