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Palm Springs’ ‘Forever Marilyn’ opponents suffer legal blow

KESQ

Opponents of a massive Marilyn Monroe statue in downtown Palm Springs suffered a legal blow today, though the fight is far from over.

A group of residents calling themselves the "Committee to Relocate Marilyn" sued the city in March for allowing "Forever Marilyn'' to be placed downtown, alleging it violated various municipal and state codes in agreeing to close Museum Way during the statue's three-year stay, among other grievances.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Latting ruled in favor of a motion submitted by the city's lawyers seeking to have four of the committee's six causes of action dismissed on Thursday.

Among the committee's remaining complaints is the allegation that the city's zoning laws do not permit the temporary placement of the statue at its current location on Museum Way.

"We are extremely pleased that the court today re-affirmed that the City Council's action was in compliance with state and local laws," City Manager Justin Clifton said in a statement. "It is the city's hope that the committee will end what remains of its lawsuit, so that we as a community can move on and focus our energy on more productive issues, such as homelessness, affordable housing, economic development and the environment."

A status hearing regarding the remaining issues is scheduled on Sept. 9 at the Palm Springs Courthouse.

PS Resorts, a nonprofit tourism organization, purchased the sculpture from Seward Johnson Atelier in February for $1 million plus installation costs.

It arrived in several pieces, which required a 60-ton crane to hoist into place, in a process that was completed late last month.

The Palm Springs City Council approved a location agreement with PS Resorts in December. The agreement includes a term of up to three years, and requires periodic updates back to the council. PS Resorts Chairman Aftab Dada previously said he wanted to see the statue remain at the Museum Way location permanently.

After two years, the statue's local economic impact will be measured by an outside firm, he said.

The 17-ton statue crafted of steel and aluminum was first unveiled in Chicago in 2011 before moving to the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs in 2012, where it was on display for about two years.

Dada countered that the statue is an economic powerhouse that brought the city millions of dollars of free publicity during its first stay in Palm Springs.

Dada said "Forever Marilyn" helped jumpstart the local economy during the Great Recession, and he hopes the statue can work that same magic again amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"She really put Palm Springs on the worldwide map," he said. "She is definitely a huge draw and an unbelievable magnets to tourists."

Then-City Manager David Ready previously said the statue was a "tourism phenomenon'' during its first appearance in the city.

"Forever Marilyn" was designed by artist Seward Johnson, who died in March 2020. The humongous sculpture recreates the moment in the 1955 film "The Seven Year Itch'' where Monroe's white dress surges up toward her waist as she
stands on a windy Manhattan subway grate.

"Marilyn has come to represent beauty, and the white dress blowing up around her is a type of teasing sensuality," Johnson once said. "There is something about her pose, the exuberance for life without inhibition, it expresses an uninhibited sense of our own vibrancy.''

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