Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marilyn's Skirt Blowin' in the Windy City

On this date in 1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio divorced. They were married less than a year, and her skirt-blowing pose in The Seven Year Itch supposedly fueled their last fight.

"What would Joe DiMaggio think now?" a grey-haired woman clucks to her two friends before snapping their photo beneath the 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. 

"This is sexist, man. I don't like the way they're objectifying her," says the guy in the Greenpeace T-shirt, laying on his back and aiming his camera up Monroe's skirt.

"Underpants!" A five-year-old boy sums up the issue in a single squeal. He jumps up and down, pointing to the sculpture's lace-trimmed panties.

A local company unveiled Forever Marilyn, which shows the icon in her skirt-billowing-over-a-subway-grate stance, in July. Citizens have been at odds ever since. Detractors say it incites tacky, leering behavior. Supporters say it's fun and rallies the public.

The day I visit, Girl Scouts stand next to gay men admiring the sculpture's slingback high heels. A busload of Chinese tourists swarms Marilyn beside a young wedding party posing in their finery. Of course, a man in plaid shorts is licking Marilyn's leg while his friends ready their iPhones.

Sadly, the blonde bombshell lacks a key attribute of Chicago's other famed public artworks: Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate and Picasso's untitled piece both generated controversy when they debuted in 2004 and 1967 respectively, but had years to win over their critics. Marilyn dismantles next spring.

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