‘Forever Marilyn’ Returns to Palm Springs

Photo by Jordan Hancock

Amid ongoing controversy, ‘Forever Marilyn‘ – the 26-ft. statue by sculptor Seward Johnson, inspired by the iconic ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch – was formally installed in Palm Springs yesterday, as James B. Cutchin reports for the Desert Sun.

“The event, which drew hundreds of attendees despite triple-digit temperatures, included DJ music from Alf Alpha and a vintage aircraft flyover from the Palm Springs Air Museum. A formal ‘unveiling’ was scrapped due to high winds. Protesters gathered near the statue site at the corner of Museum Way and Belardo Road ahead of the main hour-long event, which kicked off around 7 p.m. Many of the ‘Forever Marilyn’ opponents wore pink, while some supporters wore white.

Mayor Christy Holstege, standing in front of the calves of the statue, noted that the artwork was previously in Palm Springs from 2012 to 2014. At that time, she said, the statue found ‘wild success’ and became a ‘social media sensation.’ ‘She was greatly missed,’ Holstege said, describing the artwork as ‘joyful’ and ‘whimsical.’ “We are happy to have her back,” she said, calling the work a ‘perfect fit’ for the Palm Springs brand.

Protest chants of ‘Hey hey! Ho ho! Misogyny has got to go!’ rang out ahead of the ceremony. Supporters, who appeared to outnumber detractors, simply chanted, ‘Marilyn! Marilyn!’ During the officials’ remarks, protesters chanted ‘Exploitation! Exploitation!’ Women’s March Foundation chapters from the Inland Empire and Riverside coordinated Sunday’s protest alongside local organizations, according to Trina Turk, co-head of a participating group called the Committee to Relocate Marilyn.”

Photo by Taya Gray

“Emiliana Guereca, executive director of Women’s March Foundation, said the protest was about misogyny, not just the location. But Nickie McLaughlin, founder of the Committee to Relocate Marilyn, said most of the opponents present were protesting the location specifically. ‘She was meant to be here forever in the (downtown) park. And that’s what’s upset us. To close a street that was specifically created to open up the museum is what we have a problem with.’ The Committee to Relocate Marilyn has brought a lawsuit opposing the statue’s location, which is currently inching its way through the court system with a next status hearing scheduled for July 20. The group has raised more than $70,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to fund its lawsuit and other activity aimed at opposing the location.

The statue’s main proponents have been undeterred by the legal action. In an interview with The Desert Sun ahead of the unveiling, PS Resorts chairman Aftab Dada pointed to a recent court ruling that denied an effort by the Committee to Relocate Marilyn to block the installation while the group fights the statue in court. ‘Forever Marilyn’ was previously installed in Palm Springs from 2012 to 2014. Dada said that tour brought ‘millions and millions of dollars in publicity’ for the city and ‘immensely helped all the businesses in downtown Palm Springs.’

PS Resorts, which is funded by a portion of transient occupancy taxes, purchased the statue in February from Seward Johnson Atelier for $1 million, plus installation costs. The group finalized an agreement with Palm Springs for the Museum Way location — located on city-owned land — in December. The agreement sets the current location for three years, but includes an option for the city to terminate it early if issues arise.”