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Sunday, January 19, 2020

"THE NATIONAL ARMORY WAS DARK & CAVERNOUS WITH SO-SO ACOUSTICS"

KENNEDY INAUGURAL GALA VIDEOTAPED BUT NOT TELECAST

Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On January 19, 1961, the Inaugural Gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy was held at the National Armory here in the national capital city.

The gala was produced by Kennedy friend and political supporter Frank Sinatra who described his role as "the most exciting assignment of my life."
Mr.  Sinatra was assisted in the production by JFK brother-in-law Peter Lawford.

Joseph Kennedy, Sr., the President-elect's father, paid for the performance to be videotaped but a planned NBC telecast of the tape had to be cancelled because "the National Armory was dark and cavernous, with so-so acoustics."

PBS, however, telecast the restored video as "JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala" on the centennial of JFK's birth, May 29, 2017.  The original videotape had been stored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Carl Anthony says that the 1961 Inaugural Gala..."featured not only a wide variety of types of entertainment but performers more diverse than ever before."*

The Gala, which was delayed because a snowstorm hit Washington that day, included the music of Leonard Bernstein's Orchestra.  The President-elect and Vice-President-elect entered the Armory to the strains of "Anchors Aweigh." 

Ted Johnson writes that there had been no previous star-filled Inaugural Ball "quite like this one."  In his article, Johnson quotes Todd Purdum saying...

"President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, especially, wanted to show that this would be a different era from the stodgy Eisenhower administration."


*The cast included....Laurence Olivier, Ethel Merman, Bette Davis, Frederic March, Sidney Poitier, Anthony Quinn, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Gene Kelly, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Durante, Harry Belafonte and Milton Berle.

SOURCES

"JFK''s 'Lost Inaugural Gala':  How Sinatra Created Showbiz's Biggest Political Night," by Ted Johnson, May 27, 2017, VARIETY, www.variety.com/

"The Inaugural Gala That Was," CarlAnthonyonline.com, January 18, 2013.

www.sinatra.com





President and Mrs. Kennedy
Presidential Inaugural Ball
January 20, 1961
Photo by Abbie Rowe
National Park Service Image