Following this week’s news that a statuette of Marilyn has been sawn off the Four Ladies of Hollywood gazebo on the Walk of Fame, Deadline reports that a suspect has now been arrested. If the name Austin Mikel Clay sounds familiar to you, he was also alleged to have taken a pick-axe to Donald Trump’s Hollywood star last summer.
But whereas the prior incident could be read as a political statement of sorts, the theft of Marilyn’s sculpture may be little more than mindless vandalism or another publicity stunt. And while this arrest raises hopes of the statue’s recovery, there are also concerns that its forcible removal may have shattered this local icon.
Surveillance footage from the night of the theft posted by NBC Los Angeles showed two suspects leaving the scene (one was wearing a backpack), and heading to a nearby hotel, where they met with two more suspects.
UPDATE: Clay has now been charged with property theft and vandalism, to which he pleads not guilty. Although police say they found evidence that he was behind the theft when searching his home in Glendale, the statue has not yet been recovered. ‘Looking back at the (security) video, it would be reasonable that the statue broke and could be in multiple pieces,’ LAPD detective Douglas Oldfield said.
When it comes to public art, it seems that some folks just can’t keep their hands off Marilyn. This isn’t the first theft – in the past few years, we’ve reported stolen statues in Auckland, New Zealand; Devizes, UK; a Warhol screenprint in Staten Island, NY; and a mural in Victoria, Canada – and it probably won’t be the last, but it’s surely the most egregious yet. Created by Catherine Hardwicke and unveiled in 1994, the ‘Four Ladies of Hollywood‘ is a gazebo entry to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, upheld by four movie queens of multi-ethnicity (Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna May Wong and Dolores Del Rio), and topped by a gilded, miniature Marilyn ‘weathervane’ with her skirt blowing, à la Seven Year Itch.
Whether this heinous act of vandalism was perpetrated by a misguided fan or professional art thief, I urge them to return it immediately. Marilyn’s image is synonymous with Hollywood history and however much some individuals may want to have a piece of her, this work of art belongs to all of us. You can watch a TV news report here.
“LAPD detectives, including a forensics expert, and the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived at the scene at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway to assist LAPD with the investigation … A ladder was hoisted up above to allow the forensic scientist to climb to the top of the crime scene.
‘I am calling this the great Marilyn caper of 2019,’ said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. ‘We have a witness who saw someone climb this structure and saw off the statue at the top and it’s a Marilyn Monroe image.’
‘It’s not okay to come and vandalize public art,’ O’Farrell said.
LAPD Hollywood division detective Douglas Oldfield said forensics already found some evidence in the case.
‘We got a few prints with our experts up there,’ said LAPD detective Douglas Oldfield. ‘We noticed the suspect used the Ws as footing. It [the sculpture] means something to the community and we’re going to investigate this to the best of our ability.'”