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Marilyn Monroe statue returns to Palm Springs, to cheers and jeers

WorldJun 24, 2021 08:36PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. A controversial statue of actress Marilyn Monroe stands in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs, California, U.S. June 23, 2021. REUTERS/Norma Galeana 2/3

By Norma Galeana

(Reuters) - Marilyn Monroe is back in Palm Springs, California, in a big way - but not everyone is thrilled.

A 26-ft (7.9-m) tall statue of the Hollywood icon in her famous billowing white dress was unveiled in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum, facing Palm Canyon Drive, the city's main tourist strip, on Sunday.

The artwork, sculpted by John Seward Johnson II in 2011, was inspired by a scene from the film, "The Seven Year Itch." It first came to Palm Springs in 2012 as a rental for 26 months and moved to New Jersey in 2014, said Aftab Dada, chairman of P.S. Resorts, a local hospitality group.

The statue is already popular for snapshots and the community is expecting it to increase visitor traffic based on past experience, Dada said. "And at that time in 2012, '13, '14, the social media explosion wasn't as great as it is now," he added.

Palm Springs resident John McDermott, 77, stopped by on his morning bike ride.

"I speak for the vast majority of the residents of Palm Springs, where everybody is ecstatic to have her back here, absolutely ecstatic," McDermott said. "It's good for the community, it's good for the businesses. This is going to be the Eiffel Tower of Palm Springs."

But the view turned off Brooks Thomas, 50, a Palm Springs resident for eight years.

"It's absurd that you're going to leave the museum and see the backside of someone's underpants," he said. "People have all kinds of issues with other things that they find obscene, but this you know, they think it's acceptable."

When the statue was unveiled, protesters including the Women's March Foundation chanted that it was misogynistic and exploitative. Its location also rankled critics.

Chris Menrad founded the Committee to Relocate Marilyn, which filed a lawsuit citing public codes, and has raised more than $70,000 to remove it.

The statue was in the middle of a new street that had been created to open up the museum and connect it to Palm Canyon Drive, Menad said.

"We have an issue with placing a large statue that is blocking that view on a quote unquote, temporary basis that everybody knows is not going to be temporary," said Menrad.

'Forever Marilyn' is expected to stay in Palm Springs for three years.

Marilyn Monroe statue returns to Palm Springs, to cheers and jeers

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