CHICAGO – Marilyn Monroe’s billowing skirt shows it’s possible to catch a nice breeze in the Windy City.
As dozens of people watched Friday, a 26-foot-tall sculpture of Monroe in her famous pose from the film “The Seven Year Itch” was unveiled on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. In the film, a draft catches Monroe’s dress as she passes over a subway grate.
Some of those who took pictures of the sculpture called “Forever Marilyn” were surprised when they came around the side and back of the sculpture and saw honest-to-goodness lace panties on the movie icon. The film scene and photographs taken from it left much more to the imagination than artist Seward Johnson’s sculpture.
“I would have expected to see something flat there, and we wouldn’t see her undergarments,” said Trisha Feely, 41, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. “It’s a little intrusive.”
“It reveals what everybody was always thinking,” said her husband, Terry Feely, 42.
Chicago has a history of public art displays, including a herd of fiberglass cows that lined Michigan Avenue some years back. The plaza where Monroe will be stationed until next spring was the home a few years ago to another Johnson sculpture: the equally iconic, though far less glamorous, farmer and his spinster daughter from Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”
The Monroe sculpture isn’t even the first piece of public art that people can stand under and look up at – though nobody who visits the Picasso a few blocks away quite knows what they’re seeing.
Marilyn, though, is a different story.
“Thank God, she has panties,” said Wanda Taylor, voicing the relief of a mother who wouldn’t have to spend the next several hours answering questions from her 9-year-old son, Kendall Sculfield. “They’re clean and white, so I’m happy.”
The actual white dress worn by Monroe in the scene from director Billy Wilder’s 1955 film that helped make her a screen legend sold for $4.6 million at an auction last month of Hollywood costumes and props collected by film star Debbie Reynolds.