Gawkers check out the giant statue "Forever Marilyn." The big
question may be: Is it cooler under her skirt or a good deal hotter?
Marilyn Monroe lives on
in statue controversy
By CHUCK McFADDEN
Its one of those iconic movie scenes that no one ever forgets. Marilyn Monroe is standing atop a subway grate in New York City. Along comes a subway train, theres a whoosh, and Marilyns skirt billows up, displaying those great legs.
The movie was The Seven Year Itch, released in 1955. It starred Tom Ewell along with Marilyn. I seem to remember that Ewells character didnt seem all that impressed at the sight. Strange.
Anyway, 57 years after the film was released and 50 years after Marilyns death, the Whoosh/Skirt thing is still, um, raising controversy. A 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn with her skirt blown upward reigned for almost a year in downtown Chicagos Pioneer Court before being dismantled into four pieces recently and trucked
cross-country to Palm Springs, where she will stay for at least a year. No word on where she will go after that. Backers of the Palm Springs site say Marilyn will be more at home there. Playland of Hollywood stars, and all that.
Designer Seward Johnsons 40,000-pound statue is uncannily accurate --white dress, blonde hair, Marilyn smiling. Its all very innocent and sunny. At the same time, though, it seems to me it would be a little creepy to be standing under the thing, looking up at Marilyns panties.
Joe DiMaggio, Marilyns husband at the time, was on the sidelines watching the scene being filmed, and was reported to be a bit upset about it. Maybe thats why Ewell seemed to be so noncommittal.
Some critics said the statue, titled Forever Marilyn, was sexist. A tourist website said it was the worst piece of public art in the world. Others asked what it was doing in Chicago when the scene was set in New York. But the general public seemed to like it.
Everybodys entitled to an opinion, says Melissa Farrell, executive assistant at the Zeller Realty Group, which commissioned the piece and owns Pioneer Court. Art is supposed to start a conversation and we like providing public art that does that, she added.
Farrell says Forever Marilyn has been a very popular 24-hour installation, drawing more than 40,000 gawkers per day.
Forever Marilyn indeed. Say Montgomery Clift Barry Sullivan Van Johnson or even James Stewart to someone under 40 and youre likely to draw a blank look. But mention Marilyn Monroe, and everyone knows who youre talking about. The sexpot of the ages. She still has it. Not too long ago, they made a movie about Marilyn making a movie.
My Week With Marilyn did pretty well at the box office, probably much better than My Week with Hedy Lamarr would have done.
I never thought Marilyn was much of an actress (and with that sex appeal didnt need to be) but she does surprise you. I have a CD that features her singing Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend and shes terrific. I thought someone had done an uncanny job of dubbing until I found out otherwise.
I dunno. In not an art critic. But I just got back home from a trip to Our Nations Capital, where there are lots of statues. And I gotta tell you, Marilyn sure beats a general riding a horse.
©2012 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. This column first posted June 18, 2012.
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