January 20, 1961…President Kennedy Inaugurated; “Camelot” Begins
Today, I am going to tell you a story you have never heard. It would be best if you watch this short clip fist to set the mood. The second half is especially rich for those of us who remember these years.
On November 8, 1960, Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy was elected President of The United States. A month before, on October 6, 1960, “Camelot” made it’s world debut in Toronto for a month of preview performances. In the first week of November, the show moved to Boston for another month of previews, where more revisions were made to the performance as it headed to Broadway.
This is where President Elect Kennedy and his wife Jackie first saw the show, and given copies of the original cast recording by his friends Alan Lerner and Fredrick Loewe. Kennedy and Lerner had gone to prep school together.
On December 3, 1960, “Camelot”, the most anticipated new musical in years, opened on Broadway at The Majestic Theater starring Richard Burton and Julie Andrews. On it’s way there, it had gone though a lot of revision and the stress of reworking the play had put both Lerner and Loewe in the hospital with a heart attack and ulcer. The difficulty got them the cover of Time Magazine the second week of November with the lead story, “A Rough Road To Broadway”. On the cover of Time the week before, and the week after…JFK.
Who can forget the night Marilyn Monroe sang to the President at his 45th birthday at Madison Square Gardens? The next year, Learner and Loewe gave JFK his last birthday party at The Waldorf Astoria.
According to Ted Kennedy, only family and few close friends knew that JFK was actually a very good singer. At The White House, he would occasionally sing along with songs he and Jackie played before going to bed. The singing was occasional, but listening to music at the end of the day was a ritual that helped ease the pressures of the job, and some of his physical pains.
A week after his death, Jackie Kennedy gave an interview to Life Magazine. In it, she said that her husbands all time favorite song was “Camelot”, and went on to quote their favorite line…
“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot”.
She ended the interview with these words…”There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot.”
The sense of loss felt by the public and the association between the song and the show was evident to all as “Camelot” toured the U.S. in the months after JFK’s death. When the houselights came up following the “Camelot” finale, the audience was often crying en masse.
There is detail on the photos, so please click on each. Enjoy and please share this! -Bobby Ellerbee