The legend of the Pink Lady

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 15, 2013 12:29 AM

In 1941, a group of Los Angeles County prisoners were brought to Malibu Canyon, a deep ravine that twists its way from Mulholland Highway along rock-ways on its way to the ocean. In the bottom of the ravine is a creek that eventually flows to the ocean as well. The prisoners were tasked with building a 560-foot tunnel through an enormous amount of solid rock. Half of the group started on one side of the mountain, the other half on the other side. They gradually worked toward the center to completely open the mountain. When it was finished, 10 years later, it had gone through 135 feet of mountain and cost $1.5 million. It opened to the public in the early part of July, 1952.

One of the side-effects of the drilling and blasting for the new tunnel was the exposure of a rock cliff above. People would climb up the side of the tunnel to get to the cliff and the sheered face of rock, and use both as a canvas for various types of graffiti. This went on for some 14 years, turning a beautiful drive through the canyon into an eyesore.

Then suddenly, on Saturday, October 29,1966, the graffiti was gone and in its place was a 60-foot tall painting of a naked, pink-skinned, large-breasted woman with long flowing hair.

Over the weekend, the painting welcomed travelers motoring northbound on Malibu Canyon, toward the Pacific. She greeted each entrant into the tunnel with a batch of flowers clutched in her right hand, her legs in mid-stride as she seemed to run toward the hills, a goddess or nymph in fluid motion. By Monday, word had spread of the mysterious lady of the tunnel and by Tuesday, the Pink Lady, as she had been dubbed, was getting lots of attention from the local newspapers and television news stations.

She was also quickly deemed to be a traffic hazard as drivers flocked to the canyon to see the naked woman of the rocks, parking their cars along an already narrow roadway, blocking other cars and causing accidents. Los Angeles County quickly decided that she needed to go back to whence she’d come.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene with their high-powered fire hoses but they were unable to wash her away. The attempt only seemed to deepen the blush of her skin.

From a distance the Pink Lady’s creator watched, aghast. Her name, it would eventually be revealed, was Lynne Seemayer, a 31-year-old paralegal from Northridge with two kids. She had been disgusted with the previous graffiti and so, beginning in January of 1966, she had scaled the outside of the tunnel at night, lowered herself on tethered ropes, and under the light from a full moon, had painstakingly removed all of the graffiti. By August, the face of the rock was clear of the graffiti and she sketched an outline of her planned drawing, a bird. It remained there, untouched and unnoticed for two more months. But the wings of the bird would be obstructed by the brush of the canyon walls so she opted instead for the vertical figure of a woman.

On that fateful Friday evening in October, Seemayer took with her brushes and paint cans and under the light of the moon, she began to paint. By dawn, she had completed the Pink Lady.

Seemayer attempted to stop the removal. A petition was circulated and injunctions were filed, but on Thursday, November 3, as onlookers booed in disapproval, county workers used 14 gallons of brown paint to blot out the pink. Only an outline remained.

I thought of the Pink Lady today as I drove across Malibu Canyon and approached the tunnel. I had never seen her in person. By the time I moved here, she was twenty years gone. Only the legend remained. The image is long faded now; no one even looks up as they approach the canyon on their way toward Malibu. Most are too busy watching the sharp twists and turns, the sides of the road. This canyon is narrow, with hardly a breakdown lane, and only two lanes, one in each direction. The growth of the hills is thick and now brown. Tinder for fire. Deep down in the canyon the creek runs thin. We had little rain this season; the days have been too warm.

The tunnel is lit now. It’s just long enough to cause the satellite radio to be temporarily unavailable. I think it’s the Pink Lady, playing havoc with a technology that didn’t exist back in 1966, at the start of the sexual revolution, the beginning of change.

A steady stream of cars was in front of me and behind. We trudged along. But as we got to the tunnel, I looked up as I often do. The face of the rock is ravaged with time and by weather, the brush is overgrown. But I think I saw a hint of the lady peaking through. It made me smile. 

Tags: , , ,

live out loud

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview

Filter by APML