This iconic shot of Marilyn singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy in 1962 is featured in ‘Bill Ray: A LIFEtime of Photographs’, a new retrospective at the Museum of Nebraska Art, reports Lincoln’s Journal-Star.
“‘It had been a noisy night, a very ‘rah rah rah’ kind of atmosphere,’ Bill Ray told LIFE.com. ‘Then boom, on comes this spotlight. There was no sound. No sound at all. It was like we were in outer space.’ Marilyn was onstage, taking off a white fur to reveal that utterly gorgeous, scandalous dress underneath. ‘It was skin-colored, and it was skin-tight. It was sewn on, covered with brilliant crystals. There was this long, long pause … and finally, she comes out with this unbelievably breathy, ‘Happy biiiiirthday to youuuu,’ and everybody just went into a swoon. I was praying [that I could get the shot] because I had to guess at the exposure. It was a very long lens, and I had no tripod, so I had to rest the lens itself on the railing, and tried very, very hard not to breathe.'”