For weeks the Bay Area had been drenched with a series of storms that caused major flooding in many towns, including Benicia. As I write this Sunday morning, the rain is coming down sideways and the wind gusts are up to 50 miles an hour. There I was on a flight headed for Palm Springs. Not my favorite way of traveling! The pilot did his best to maneuver around the dark clouds, but the whole of California has turbulent weather without a bit of sunshine or blue sky to be found.
However, as we passed over the snow-topped mountains surrounding Palm Springs, the sky magically opened up, revealing the desert, the golf courses and pools in every block. I don't remember ever feeling so thrilled, not only to be safely on the ground, but feeling the warmth of the desert after days of wet weather. I happily peeled off layers of winter clothing in preparation for the ride into Old Palm Springs for lunch and sightseeing.
Palm Springs has gone through many transformations in the last hundred years. The "who’s who" of Hollywood and Washington used the desert to relax, rejuvenate and make deals. They built dream homes and compounds designed by the most innovative architects of the era. In some ways, the town became a second Hollywood, where streets are named after movie stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore and Gene Autry. As you walk the sidewalks, the names of film and television's elite are immortalized in the pavement.
The latest tribute to Hollywood is the addition of “Forever Marilyn,” a sculpture of Marilyn Monroe that stands 26 feet tall and weighs a whopping 34,300 pounds. The sculptor is American artist Seward Johnson, Johnson & Johnson heir, who is known internationally for depicting people engaged in everyday activities. Forever Marilyn is part of his recent series, Icons Revisited, questions society's embrace of certain visual icons, their impact on our lives and culture and how the message has changed over time. Johnson was inspired by the famous photograph, taken by Bernard of Hollywood, of Marilyn promoting the film The Seven Year Itch.
The sculpture debuted on July 15, 2011 on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, to much controversy. It was moved to Palm Springs after a six day road trip and five day assembly and restoration, and unveiled May 24, 2012.
Marilyn Monroe was discovered at Palm Spring’s Charlie Farrell Racquet Club in 1949 at age 22, by William Morris talent agent Johnny Hyde. Many famous photos of early Marilyn were taken around the Club's swimming pool. In the 1950's, she made many visits with he second husband Joe DiMaggio, and in the 60's bought a home in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood.
Seeing the sculpture in person was a highlight of my desert visit. When we came upon her at the corner of "Main and Main" in the heart of downtown, it was interesting to see the crowd's reaction, especially the men! Marilyn still holds our fascination, even in stainless steel and aluminum.
My three days in Palm Springs were filled with pool time, dining, business and a little bit of Hollywood. I now appreciate the fascination and allure it has had on generations looking for the great escape.