By Heidi Simmons
Marilyn Monroe is Back in Town and She’s Bigger Than Ever!
Monroe stood 5 feet 51/2 inches, weighed 125 pounds. Her measurements were 36, 23, 37. She was constructed of sugar and spice and everything nice. That was in 1962. Today you can find her in Palm Springs standing at the corner of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive at 25 feet tall and weighing nearly 35,000 pounds. Her measurements are 163, 104, 168 and she’s constructed of stainless steel and aluminum.
This stunning, realistic, pop art sculpture, appropriately titled “Forever Marilyn” is by installation artist Seward Johnson. The moment is from Billy Wilder’s film Seven Year Itch, where Monroe’s character stood over a subway grate, to feel the cool breeze. When the underground train passes, the wind blows her dress in a swirl around her hips as she tries to hold the garment down. Her look of ecstasy captured in the iconic image by photographer Bernard of Hollywood is beautifully realized in the towering figure. What makes the scene especially provocative is, before that moment in the film, Monroe’s character has innocently told her married neighbor, “When it’s hot like this, do you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox!” So, was she wearing panties? Here is your chance to satisfy any lingering curiosity.
For the next year Forever Marilyn will be on display in the public park that was once the Bank of America building and you will be able to discreetly (or not) look for yourself.
It is wonderfully appropriate that she arrived here when she did. June 1 would be Monroe’s 86th birthday. August 5 is the 50th anniversary of her death. Monroe’s escapades in Palm Springs are legendary. It is said that Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe was discovered by talent agent William Morris himself at Charlie Farrell’s Palm Springs Racquet Club.
Eric Meeks, author of the upcoming book Best Guide to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes Ever, said Monroe had two Palm Springs’ addresses. “The home she supposedly owned was on Via Alta Mira in the Movie Colony and she rented a house in 1961 on North Rose Avenue in Las Palmas.”
The Terra Cotta Inn, located on East Racquet Club, a clothing optional resort today, was formerly called the Monkey Tree. Tom Mulhall, the hotel’s owner since 1994, claims that room 34, the only room with a private rear entrance on to a back alley, was used by President Kennedy to have his affair with Monroe. “When we bought the hotel, Albert Frey (Architect of the Terra Cotta Inn) came by and told us about how JFK and his brother, with the help of the secret service, were able to come and go through the private entrance. That’s how Kennedy was able to have the affair with Marilyn.”
It is easy to imagine that if Monroe were alive today, she would have possibly made Palm Springs her retirement home like so many other celebrities.
The traveling installation breaks down into three parts — legs, skirt and torso — for transportation. But the coming together of Forever Marilyn in Palm Springs was more than flatbeds, cranes and Bondo.
The initial idea of bringing Forever Marilyn to Palm Springs started in January of this year. Jerry Sanfilippo, a part time resident of Palm Springs and Chicago, told his friends Brian Vatcher and Mark Jones, Palm Springs businessmen, that the Chicago sculpture should visit Palm Springs. Vatcher and Jones then brought Paula Stoeke on board. Stoeke is the Director of The Sculpture Foundation, a nonprofit organization that owns Forever Marilyn. They then went to Councilman Paul Lewin who immediately saw the vision and shared their enthusiasm. Tim Ellis of P.S. Resorts got involved and the project came together. It happened in less than five months and for under $100,000 dollars — all from private funds.
Forever Marilyn’s presence in Palm Springs has already generated millions of dollars in global media attention and in turn, will bring welcome revenue to the city as a 24/7 visitor point of interest. What a serendipitous confluence of opportunities and timing that has brought the larger than life Monroe back to Palm Springs. I think Marilyn would be proud.