54 Years Ago: Diahann Carroll Remembers Marilyn

diahann carroll
Marilyn looks on as Diahann Carroll sings for the president, 1962

Although Marilyn’s performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 – fifty-four years ago today – has become legend, she wasn’t the only star that evening. Diahann Carroll, who sang at the gala’s after-party in the home of campaigner Mac Krim, recalled the occasion in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, reports the Huffington Post.

‘It was a very exciting night. Everybody in the world was there,’ Diahann remembered. ‘Marilyn was hysterical, but very good. It was good to watch her at work. I think we all enjoyed it.’ As for Kennedy, ‘he was extremely pleasant,’ she said. ‘He was a very entitled human being, but you had to forgive him for that.’

Diahann Caroll was previously interviewed by J. Randy Taraborrelli for his 2009 book, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe, telling him of her first encounter with MM in 1960, while singing at the Mocambo Club in Los Angeles. Diahann was then pregnant with her daughter Suzanne, and knew of Marilyn’s struggle to have children. “I took her hand and put it on my stomach and said, ‘You pat right there, sweetheart, and say a prayer and a wish, and I hope with all my heart that your dream comes true.’ She looked at me with tears in her eye, and said, ‘Oh, I do, too. I do, too.'”

They met again in Mac Krim’s apartment in 1962. ‘It’s certainly her beauty I remember most,’ she told Taraborrelli. ‘As I sang, I distinctly remember being somewhat distracted by her gaze. Her tragic beauty, so vulnerable … so lost.’

Friends Recall Marilyn’s Mystique

Marilyn by Harold Lloyd, 1953

In an article for LiveAuctionTalk, Rosemary McKittrick examines Marilyn’s enduring appeal, quoting friends and other celebrities, including actress Arlene Dahl, singer Diahann Carroll (who also performed at the Kennedy birthday gala), and actor Michael Shaw (who was interviewed for Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography of Monroe.)

‘ “I’ve never see anyone stop a room like that,” said actress Arlene Dahl. “People just wanted to stand near her, smell her fragrance, breathe the same air as she.”

“It’s certainly her beauty I remember most,” recalled songstress Diahann Carroll. “As I sang, I distinctly remember being somewhat distracted by her gaze. Her tragic beauty, so vulnerable…so lost.”

Her friend and acting coach Michael Shaw saw her arrive one day at Fox studio. Marilyn was wearing a pair of pedal pushers, flat shoes and a simple scarf. He said no one paid any attention to her because she looked like a 14-year-old kid. Then she went into her dressing room and said, “Well, time to put her together.” About 40 minutes later she came out and there was a total transformation. Marilyn Monroe walked out, he said. She was a knockout. ‘