The centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth is on Monday, and to mark the occasion, PBS stations are presenting “JFK: The Lost Inaugural Gala.” The program is a one-hour documentary about the parade of showbiz A-listers who threw a big bash for the then-incoming President on Jan. 19, 1961.
There had been previous star-filled inaugural galas, but nothing quite like this one. Led by Frank Sinatra, the evening featured Nat King Cole, Laurence Olivier, Harry Belafonte, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Gene Kelly, Milton Berle, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, and Bette Davis.
NBC - Telecast - Week - Production - Problems
NBC aired the telecast the following week, but the production ran into problems. The venue, the National Armory, was dark and cavernous, with so-so acoustics. That day, Washington was hit by a snowstorm, delaying the start of the ceremony by two hours. Merman showed up at rehearsal and couldn’t get back to her hotel to retrieve her evening gown. Instead, she had to sing in the clothes and coat she wore during the day.
“The Lost Inaugural Gala” features rare, restored footage from the evening, enough to make you wonder why NBC never aired it in the first place. An exclusive...
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