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Statue of No Limitations

It seemed like a good idea to refurbish the Statue of Liberty. Created in the exuberant optimism of the late 19th Century, Miss Liberty became everything that her French creators and American sponsors hoped for. She was the victim of a hundred cliches, and she transcended them all. Most Americans have their own stories about her that touch the heart. We remember returning from Europe on a troopship in 1957 with young Hungarian men who fled from Hungary after the failed revolution; soldiers in the American Army now, they were seeing with awe, and then with tears, their new land, and their new symbol, for the first time.

It seemed like a good idea to have a party to celebrate her coming out for the second 100 years. Speeches by the presidents of the United States and France, lots of Tricolors and Stars and Stripes, plenty of red, white and blue balloons, terrific band music, a fleet of graceful sailing ships saluted by cascading jets of water from New York’s famous fireboats.

Old fashioned, pretty, innocent.

And then, somehow, someone along the way sold the Statue of Liberty to ABC. How can you sell the Statue of Liberty to ABC? Never mind, it was done, and now instead of a simple but grand summer celebration we have 200 “Elvis Presley lookalikes,” 300 Jazzercise ladies, what are improbably described as “square-dancing brain surgeons and physicists,” 850 drill-team girls on a moving stage with dancing waters, 12 Medals of Liberty created by--and awarded by--David L. Wolper, who is putting on the show, and so forth and so on, and on, and on, for three days.

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Tickets for the opening ceremony are said to be $10,000 apiece. Which is what happens when you sell the Statue of Liberty to ABC.

William D. Fugazy, chairman of the New York State Statue of Liberty Centennial Commission, explained it this way to the New York Times: “There are only so many schoolchildren and little old ladies whose fathers came from Romania who can send in their pennies. At some point, real money had to raised.”

It sure did--to pay for those square-dancing brain surgeons and the 10,000 pigeons making like peace doves and the 200 dancers with white feather hats and top hats and canes and the thousands--yes, thousands--of banjo players.

As for us, we’re for the schoolchildren and the little old ladies whose fathers came from Romania. We sent in a few pennies ourselves, and on the Fourth of July we’re going to remember our new comrades-in-arms from Hungary.

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