Marilyn Monroe's dress from JFK birthday performance up for auction

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The skin-tight dress Marilyn Monroe wore for her sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” before then U.S. President John F. Kennedy at a 1962 gala will go on sale at an auction in November, the company behind the event said on Wednesday.

Jean Louis designed the dress covered in sequins that Monroe, one of the 20th century’s most famous sex symbols, wore when she shed her fur coat in a splashy entrance at Madison Square Garden in New York.

With its color matching her skin tone, the dress, which was so tight that Monroe had to be sewn into it, gave the impression she was nude.

The breathless performance Monroe gave for Kennedy of the song “Happy Birthday to You” at the May 19, 1962, fundraiser for the Democratic Party 10 days before the president’s actual birthday is remembered for its sultriness and because it was one of her last public appearances.

The star of the films “Some Like it Hot” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” died of a drug overdose less than three months later.

Beverly Hills-based Julien’s Auctions will offer the dress for sale at an auction on Nov. 17 in Los Angeles, the company said in a statement.

The late fund manager Martin Zweig bought the dress in 1999 for $1.26 million at a Christie’s auction, said Darren Julien, president and chief executive of Julien’s Auctions.

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Zweig, who saw the dress as an investment, kept it in a climate-controlled display case mounted on a mannequin, Julien said.

His estate is offering the dress for auction and it is expected to sell for at least $2 million, Julien said.

“It’s like the equivalent of a Monet, just because of its historic significance and its connection to one of the most important actresses of our time,” Julien said in a phone interview.

Ironically, given her death later that year, actor Peter Lawford jokingly introduced Monroe at the New York event in 1962 as the “late Marilyn Monroe,” because she had a reputation for being tardy.

Monroe’s song was to mark Kennedy’s 45th birthday, which was to occur a couple weeks later. The president was assassinated the following year.

The dress is one of many items from Monroe’s life which Julien’s Auctions will offer for auction on Nov. 17 through 19. Monroe would have been 90 years old this year.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Alan Crosby