Origins: If you have lived as an adult in the same area where you grew up, chances are you can recall at least a few fondly-remembered local landmarks of your childhood that no longer exist — places or things that had special significance for you (if only in their familiarity) that have since been removed, replaced, or destroyed. They might be landmarks as considerable as a house you lived in, a school you attended, or a restaurant you frequented, or as unremarkable as a street sign, a water tank, or a tree.
One such memory of mine is a rather unusual one. It involves a landmark that lasted only a few days before being destroyed; a landmark I never saw and was too young to be aware of during its short lifespan. Nonetheless, I grew up hearing the folklore of how it came to be and what happened to it, and studying the tantalizing remnant of its brief existence.
The landmark of which I speak was the infamous Pink Lady, a
The Pink Lady was the handiwork of Lynne Seemayer (now Lynne Westmore), a 31-year-old secretary from Northridge, California. Motivated in part by the ugly graffiti adorning the rocks above and around a tunnel four miles north of Malibu — "[T]he tunnel was an eyesore," she said. "If someone was going to that trouble, why not do something creative?" —
For the first two days of her existence, the Pink Lady (as she was quickly dubbed) was mostly known only to those who glimpsed her while traveling northbound on Malibu Canyon Road. But by Monday word of the mysterious, titillating image had spread, and by Tuesday the Pink Lady was receiving widespread coverage in local newspapers and TV newscasts. She was also deemed to be a serious traffic hazard.
Foreseeing potential traffic jams (motorists were already stopping their cars along the road to gaze) and accidents caused by distracted drivers, Los Angeles county officials quickly decided that the Pink Lady had to go. Early eradication efforts failed spectacularly: firefighters were unable to wash the Pink Lady away with their high-power hoses, and the liberal application of paint remover only deepened the blush of her pink skin. (Seemayer had used house paint for her creation, a substance which proved quite difficult to remove.)
Only after the county's assault on the Pink Lady began did Seemayer step forward and reveal herself to be the artist behind the work. (The difficult-to-reach location and subject matter of the painting had led most observers to speculate that its creator was a man.) As the
"I usually don't have a feeling that everything I do is precious," Westmore said. "But in this case, I became its mother, and it became important for me to save her. It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen."
There was little Westmore could do. She had always wondered if the painting might land her in jail, and the county's response only heightened that concern. She stayed silent.
Finally, when she realized the only way to stop the lady's removal was a court injunction, she went public. She appealed to [county Road Division head
Although Lynne Seemayer [Westmore] saw some positive results from her efforts (art galleries, for example, quickly offered to show her work), much of the experience proved negative. She sued
On the Pink Lady's 25th anniversary, the
Another woman called Westmore every other night for two months, contending that the Pink Lady was an exact portrait of her young daughter who ran away from home.
"She thought I had used her daughter as a model," Westmore said. "It was so pathetic. She was so convinced." Westmore received hate mail
She received pictures of men masturbating. An arts group asked her to judge pictures that apes had painted.
"It was too crazy," she said. "One woman accused me of all the rapes that had been committed, that the Pink Lady brought out the lust in men."
Westmore changed her telephone number, but the calls kept coming. Finally, the stress was too much, and she was hospitalized with pneumonia and lost her job as a legal secretary. But even in the hospital she wasn't immune from attention.
"This nurse came in, wanting me to sign something," Westmore recalled. "I thought it was for some kind of medical work, but she wanted an autograph."
I never saw the unobscured version of the Pink Lady myself. My childhood landmark was an enigmatic and impenetrable blur that marked the spot where something of interest had once stood, augmented by the often inaccurate and embellished memories of those who knew the Pink Lady during her brief lifetime. Somehow that made her all the more intriguing.
Last updated: 17 May 2013
Arkush, Michael. "Legend of the Pink Lady." Los Angeles Times. 27 October 1991. LIFE. "Cliff-Hanging Drama of Art Censorship." 18 November 1966 (p. 49).