John Seward Johnson, the sculptor who created a 50 ft. likeness of Marilyn, has died aged 89, the Desert Sun reports. The artist, whose grandfather founded the Johnson & Johnson empire, began a highly successful career in sculpture in 1980. ‘Forever Marilyn’ was first unveiled in Chicago in 2011; after touring the U.S. and Australia, it is set to return to Palm Springs later this year (and a number of smaller replicas are also on display across America.)
Plans to bring Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, to Palm Springs are now in motion, the Desert Sun reports.
“‘Forever Marilyn,’ the popular 26-foot-tall statue of actress Marilyn Monroe that was on display in downtown Palm Springs from 2012 to 2014, will return to the city permanently, Mayor Robert Moon and Councilman J.R. Roberts said Wednesday. The city has not officially announced Marilyn’s return and has not finalized details on when it expects the statue back and where it may go, but Roberts said both a new downtown park and Town and Country Center were options.
‘Marilyn has become somewhat of an icon for Palm Springs and some love her and some not so much, but at the end of the day she’s become part of our brand,’ Roberts said. ‘And she was discovered here poolside in Palm Springs,’ he added, referring to a legend that she was first scouted by a talent agent in 1949 at Charles Farrell’s Racquet Club compound.
The statue, created by Seward Johnson, first came to Palm Springs as part of a loan arranged by the Sculpture Foundation, an organization the artist founded to promote public art and sculpture. In 2014, the 16.5-ton stainless steel and aluminum sculpture that depicts the screen legend from a scene in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch, was shipped to New Jersey for a retrospective on the artist’s work. It was later exhibited in Connecticut and the Australian city of Bendigo.
Since ‘Forever Marilyn’ left, PS Resorts, a nonprofit group that aims to boost tourism in Palm Springs, has been working to bring the Instagrammable icon back to downtown. City Manager David Ready couldn’t confirm exact details about the statue’s cost, but said it was estimated to be more than $1 million. Moon said the city is ‘not putting any funds’ into the acquisition of the statue.
Moon said he knew the idea to locate the state in the center of Town and Country would be controversial. ‘Some people are going to love it and some people are going to hate it,’ he said in his State of the City Speech, noting the statue would be several feet higher than the Town and Country roofline.
Since the statue left Palm Springs, various plans have been discussed to bring it back and install it at a temporary location; one proposal would have seen the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians host it at the tribe’s casino at Calle Encilia and Andreas Road. That plan never came to fruition. Another plan is to locate the returning Marilyn in a new downtown park envisioned for a plot across from the Palm Springs Art Museum. The park has been in the works for years but has yet to come to fruition.”
One of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculptures is currently greeting visitors to Reading Public Museum in Pennsylvania. (As reported last month, another of these statues is now in the foyer of the R.W. Norton Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana.) And it’s not the first time an iconic Monroe image has come to Reading. Back in 2012, a screening of My Week With Marilyn at the Goggleworks cinema was accompanied by a guest appearance from Monroe collector Gene London, who brought along Marilyn’s dress from The Prince and the Showgirl (one of several copies made, as she wore the same dress for most of the movie.)
Thanks to Eiji Aoki
The world’s media has been eager to report on the alleged controversy caused by the summer-long installation of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn‘ at Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut. The sculpture, inspired by the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, shows Marilyn’s dress blowing in the wind – and its placement has her rear end facing a local church.
Although the headlines would have us believe that the church’s response has been one of puritanical outrage, the reality is more nuanced – with even the harshest critics stating that it wasn’t Marilyn herself that they found distasteful, but the overtly sexual way in which she is depicted.
“I just find the position to be offensive,” local resident Lorri Tamburro told the Stamford Advocate. “I looked at it and it was, in my eyes, very disrespectful. I think because with what I saw with all the little kids looking up, the height is ruining it. It’s ruining beautiful Marilyn.”
Parishioner Jean Meyer, however, felt differently. “You’re going to have different opinions on it, but you have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “There are bigger issues to worry about,” said another church member, Maureen Matthews. “But I’ll be interested to see how people talk about it on Sunday.”
“It is art and we don’t believe it’s offensive,” said Sandy Goldstein, who helped to organise this year’s ‘Art in Public Spaces’ exhibit. Pointing out that many nude female statues can be seen in Europe (including near churches), she added, “We absolutely mean no disrespect to the church.”
“The issue is, why that statue?” Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman of the First Congregational Church wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “Marilyn Monroe was an artist deserving our respect. Why appropriate her image in this way. Is this the best we can do?”
In a report for HuffPost, Carol Kuruvilla spoke with Yonkman:
“He said he understands the statue is a ‘piece of art’ that is ‘designed to make the viewer uncomfortable … It makes me uncomfortable,’ Yonkman told HuffPost in an email. ‘The question for each one of us is, What will you do with your discomfort? I am choosing grace.’.
Yonkman said he and his congregation, which is part of the progressive mainline Protestant denomination the United Church of Christ, don’t plan on taking any action about the placement of the statue. Instead, they want to use it as an opportunity to connect with their community.
The church has been planning to host a Pride event in Latham Park to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. ‘Marilyn is a gay icon, so it turns out that this may be a fortuitous coincidence,’ Yonkman wrote.”
Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, Forever Marilyn, is coming to Latham Park in Stamford, Connecticut this summer, as part of an outdoor art exhibition, Seward Johnson: Timeless, as Annette Einhorn reports for Hamlet Hub. You can read more about the exhibit and other events (including a screening of The Seven Year Itch at the Avon Film Centre on June 7) here.
“The installation will begin on Monday, June 4 when a crane will lift the 26-foot, 30,000 pound Marilyn, in various parts, high into the air before she is assembled in place in Latham Park in Stamford Downtown. The opportunity to capture photos of the flying sculpture parts; legs, torso, skirt, will be from 10:30am to 2pm.
The monumental Forever Marilyn, sponsored by Avon Theatre Film Center, from the Icons Revisited Collection, is just one of 36 sculptures that will be on display in Stamford Downtown. 35 life-size, realistic sculptures from Seward Johnson’s Celebrating the Familiar series will also be on display as part of UC Funds presents Timeless – The Works of Seward Johnson for the Summer of 2018. Installation of the life-size works begins May 30.
The exhibition will kick off with an opening night celebration on Wednesday, June 6, hosted by Stamford Downtown. The event will be held at the Palace Theatre at 61 Atlantic Street from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Trolley tours are set to run throughout the evening, offering guests a chance to view many of the sculptures.”
Marilyn’s iconic role in Some Like It Hot is referenced in Georgian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s The Confession, which has just premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, as Daniel Hensel reports for Michigan Daily.
“The Confession follows a preacher, Giorgi, and his assistant, Valiko, as they fill in at a church in a town after the local preacher dies. They bring with them American DVDs and a projector to show in the church, believing that if the townspeople come for the movies, they’ll come to church.
The film series begins with Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder classic with Marilyn Monroe, leading a number of the villagers to note that one of the women in the village, a music teacher named Lili (Sophia Sebiskveradze, My Dad’s Girlfriend), looks an awful lot like the blonde bombshell herself. And sure enough, though she is far from identical, Lili’s styled platinum blonde hair makes a compelling case. Lili and Father Giorgi become friendly, with the preacher encouraging her to come to a confession, where she notes not her sins but rather her place in the village: since her husband’s death, many men lust after her, but she’s not interested in loveless sex.”
Meanwhile, Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, is featured in Angels Wear White, a new film from Chinese director Vivian Qu, the Straits Times reports.
“The sexual assault of two 12-year-old girls sets off a harrowing chain of events in the film Angels Wear White (2017). Despite the premise, there is nothing lurid or sensationalistic in Chinese film-maker Vivian Qu’s second directorial feature.
In the film, contemporary society is fraught with dangers and temptations for the young given the corrupting force of money. Qu says: ‘When everything is up for sale, how can a young girl find the right answer for herself and move forward? This has all gotten a lot more complicated.’ She was calling from London where the film was being screened at the BFI London Film Festival.
Qu notes that there are seven female characters in her film, including a giant statue of screen legend Marilyn Monroe. Though they are at different stages of life and have different attitudes towards it, she is essentially writing about women.
But it is not a reductive portrayal along the lines of ‘men are bad and women are to be pitied’. Qu says: ‘We are already in the 21st century, and yet the value of women is something that has not been been really thought about.'”
A large sculpture of Marilyn, currently on display outside the Cairo Opera House, has stirred up controversy, reports Egypt Independent. Recreating the famous ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch, Ehab al-Asyuti’s sculpture seems derivative of Seward Johnson’s ‘Forever Marilyn’, and some observers have deemed her likeness less than flattering. But while she probably won’t be replacing the Sphinx anytime soon, Marilyn has made quite the comeback – her films were banned in Egypt after she married Arthur Miller and converted to Judaism in 1956.
In August, it was rumoured that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, would be making a permanent return to Palm Springs. This was recently confirmed by the Desert Sun: however, plans for a temporary home at the Spa Casino as soon as November have been scrapped, and the statue will now take up residence at a new downtown park, close to the city’s art museum and due for completion sometime next year.
Following the recent news that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn‘, may soon make a permanent return to Palm Springs, another more spurious story has emerged. Last week, it was widely reported that Marilyn’s former home in Palm Springs had been burgled. However, while Marilyn visited the resort many times, there is no evidence of her ever living there. Bruce Fessier has investigated the rumour for the Desert Sun.
“Aftab Dada, a hotelier and head of the P.S. Resorts organization charged with finding ways to attract tourists to Palm Springs, says [the statue] may be placed in front of the Spa Resort Casino before hopefully landing in the downtown park being developed near Desert Fashion Plaza, where it attracted voyeurs with cameras for 22 months before going on the road again.
Dada, who also runs the Palm Springs Hilton Hotel, is now trying to raise money to ‘bring Forever Marilyn back to Palm Springs where she belongs.’ City spokeswoman Amy Blaisdell says it belongs here because ‘Marilyn Monroe has a rich history in Palm Springs.’
‘She once owned a home in the city’s Movie Colony neighborhood,’ Blaisdell said in a news release, ‘and she was first discovered by her Hollywood agent at the historic Racquet Club.’
Frankly, I don’t think she ever owned a home in Palm Springs. Blaisdell told me Marilyn and her second husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, owned a place on Rose Avenue. That’s actually in the Las Palmas district, but, besides that, my sources say it’s not true. I asked Blaisdell where she got her information and she said Dada — the guy in charge of drawing tourists to Palm Springs.
Dada says he learned about Monroe and DiMaggio’s Palm Springs’ roots from the heads of the private equity firm KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts). Founding partners Henry Kravis and George Roberts used to stay at the Hilton …They hung out with DiMaggio and his granddaughter, Paula Hamra, in the Hilton hospitality lounge when the Yankee Clipper used to play in the Dinah, Dada said, and DiMaggio told them he and Marilyn once owned a Palm Springs home.
I looked up Hamra on Facebook. She’s one of two daughters of the late son DiMaggio had with his first wife, Dorothy Arnold, who ran Charcoal Charlie’s restaurant in Cathedral City in the late 1960s and ‘70s. She also led Cathedral City’s incorporation efforts as president of their chamber of commerce from 1973 to 1975.
Hamra didn’t respond to my Facebook message, but Dada said photographer Marc Glassman took a picture of him with the KKR boys and DiMaggio. So I called Glassman and told him I was trying to track down the mystery of whether or not Monroe and DiMaggio had ever owned a home in Palm Springs. I said Dada told me Glassman had taken a photograph of him with DiMaggio and the KKR heads at a Dinah Shore golf reception at the Hilton when DiMaggio mentioned he and Monroe had owned a Palm Springs house. Glassman confirmed he had taken a picture of them at the Hilton.
‘Unfortunately,’ he deadpanned, ‘no one was wearing a picture on their lapel of DiMaggio and Marilyn in front of their Palm Springs home.’
So I started checking the rumors of Marilyn and DiMaggio owning a house on Rose Avenue. The Internet abounds with reports saying Marilyn lived there … Public records show the house was built in 1961 – one year before Marilyn died … and six years after she and DiMaggio divorced. The house was owned by Audrey Blanchard for more than 40 years until her death in May at age 94. On Dec. 12, 2008, her attorney, Philip S. Klatchko of the Palm Springs firm of Klatchko & Klatchko, contacted the owner of Locations Unlimited, Sylvia Schmitt, demanding she cease and desist spreading the erroneous information that Monroe once lived at Blanchard’s house.
‘In recent months, she has had numerous people come to her front door claiming that her home had been identified by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce or its representatives as having once been owned or occupied by Marilyn Monroe,’ Klatchko wrote to Schmitt (then Jenette) a day after talking to her. ‘This claim or assertion is absolutely false and the people coming to her door are an annoyance and a nuisance.’
Tour buses were regularly stopping in front of Blanchard’s home, Klatchko said, and erroneously calling it Monroe’s house. Postcard manufacturers and other businesses were doing the same.
‘After full discussions with those local business entities … they each agreed to stop their reference to Mrs. (sic) Monroe,’ Klatchko wrote. ‘The matter had been laid to rest because in fact there was no truth to the allegation. It has only been more recently that the unwanted visitors to the home have started reappearing.’
Schmitt, who books celebrity homes for movie shoots and rentals, took the reference to Monroe’s house out of her map of celebrity homes. But she probably wasn’t the source of the problem. She says she gained her information from the tour guides who trained her. She passed along one hilarious story of a man who just made up stories as he went along. But more conduits of misinformation simply convey stories that haven’t been thoroughly vetted…
Unfortunately, the city is still perpetuating these myths and now someone is paying for it. Last week, someone burglarized the Blanchard house. TMZ reported it was Monroe’s place and a local TV station repeated that error.”