Group Files Lawsuit to Move Marilyn Statue

“Forever Marilyn”, a 26-foot statue of the iconic movie star Marilyn Monroe is set to return to Downtown Palm Springs in April. The temporary location was approved by the city council is on Museum Way, near Belardo Road.  

Business owners and people who work near the location can’t wait for its return saying it will be great for business.  

“All of us here believe that the statue is going to bring us business because we do do a lot of tourist in this area and tourists love Marilyn,” says Jerry Mendivil, the manager of Stout Burgers and Beers.

“We welcome her with all open arms as well as it’s going to bring a lot of more tourists and we’re excited to have her back,” says Gina Gonzalez, the manager of El Patron.  

But not everyone is happy about the location.

“We have to be thoughtful, mindful and respectful of everyone in the community,” says Jeff Witthuhn, the owner of Peepa’s, who adds he thinks it’s a big draw for tourists, is good for business and is looking forward to having the art piece back.

The Committee to Relocate Marilyn or CReMa has filed a lawsuit to stop it. They have raised thousands of dollars through a GoFundMe account for legal fees to fight it the location.

Trina Turk, who is known for her iconic colorful designs is also big on architectural preservation is an organizing member of the CReMa. 

“We filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Riverside Superior Court to Address the city’s violations of the vehicle code, the streets and highways code and the state planning and zoning law in the planned closure of Museum Way,” says Turk adding they don’t oppose the return of the statue just the location.

She says architecture is an integral part of Palm Springs culture and this location is not a good fit, “Mid-century modern architecture is just as important to Palm Springs business as anything and we would essentially be blocking one of our most important buildings.” 

She also says it’s illegal, “The city and P.S. Resorts has essentially co-opted this street that tax payers paid for without the proper procedures and without the proper advanced notice.”

P.S. Resorts, the hospitality and tourism group that raised funds to buy the statue and bring it back to the city says they have no comment about the lawsuit. 

But Aftab Dada the chairman of P.S. Resorts told NBC Palm Springs in a previous interview, the statue helped the city out of the 2008 recession and will play a pivotal role in bringing the city back from the COVID recession, “She was the catalyst that really jump started our hospitality and knowing that now we are in the COVID -19 pandemic the board of directors of P.S. Resorts felt that the timing was right.”

Palm Springs city attorney Jeffrey Ballinger says the city council approved the three year temporary location and the location is  lawful and Museum Way was meant to be closed to traffic. He further says they followed the process and the public was invited to share their views. He the city understands people have strong opinions about the statue but that doesn’t make the placement illegal. He’s confident a judge will rule in their favor if it goes to court. 

Turk says CReMa if the statue is placed there it will not be moved because it’s not easy to move a 36,000 pound statue. She says the group does not want this to end up in court and there is still an opportunity to make everyone happy and there’s still an opportunity to make everyone happy.

“The only place that we don’t want her is in this one location, so I think that a reasonable conversation could be had about alternative locations,” says Turk. 

The Palm Springs Art Museum is also opposed to the location. The backside of the statue would face the museum. Scott Slaven, the museum’s communications director declined an interview but sent us this statement:

“Palm Springs Art Museum opposes the placement of the Forever Marilyn statue anywhere near the museum grounds. Implicit in the planned location is the likely assumption on the part of the general public that the statue is part of the museum’s collection. We feel that it does not represent our values as a fine arts organization nor is it appropriate for the community. It is our hope that another spot can be found for the statue away from the vicinity of the museum.”

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