From the Archives: The Pink Lady of Malibu
The painting of a nude woman quickly became a media sensation. But local officials, claiming it would distract drivers, ordered the Pink Lady removed. After attempts with high-pressure hoses and paint remover failed, the Pink Lady was covered up with brown paint.
On the 25th anniversary of the Pink Lady, artist Lynne Westmore, who had scaled the rocks above a Malibu Canyon Road tunnel to paint the 60-foot-tall figure, was profiled by Los Angeles Times staff writer Michael Arkush:
For an instant, artist Lynne Westmore spotted the naked lady who changed her life 25 years ago.
“I see her breast,” said Westmore, 56, searching the rocks on a cliff in the Santa Monica Mountains for any sign of her creation.
“It’s not there,” she said a few seconds later. “Actually, I can’t make out anything.”
There was nothing there. Cars zoomed through the tunnel on Malibu Canyon Road, four miles north of Malibu. Nobody stopped.
In late October 1966, everybody had stopped. Overnight, a painting of a pink, naked woman had appeared on the rocks above the tunnel. For a few days, the painting made more headlines in Los Angeles than President Johnson and the Beatles. She was art to some, an obscenity to others. She was dubbed the Pink Lady, and those who saw her have never forgotten her.
“I was blown away by it,” said Dan Rich, an Encino hairstylist, who was 8 at the time. “Every time I go through that tunnel, I mention the Pink Lady. I look up to see if she’s popping back through.”
Westmore, now a grandmother, isn’t surprised by the lady’s enduring legacy. The Northridge woman was 31 when she scaled the cliff after dark and painted one night what she imagined would be another anonymous contribution to the California landscape. Instead, she lost her privacy — and her job. She received marriage proposals and death threats. Nudist groups asked her to join; Hollywood asked for her story.
And the Pink Lady wasn’t even her first choice. Initially, Westmore hoped to draw a bird, but realized its wings would be obstructed by the brush. The lady won by default.
“There was graffiti on the rocks all the time,” said Westmore, who passed by the tunnel frequently on the way to her mother’s Malibu home. “If someone was going to that trouble, why not do something creative?”
Gradually, the lady took over Westmore’s life. Several nights each month, starting in January 1966, when the full moon provided sufficient light, she climbed the mountain to prepare her canvas. Supporting herself with nylon ropes attached to her waist and nearby bushes and pipes, Westmore took months to erase the graffiti. In August, she sketched the outline, which remained undisturbed on the cliff for two months.
Finally, on Oct. 28, 1966, a Friday, starting at 8 p.m. and working with just the light from a full moon, Westmore finished her work — a 60-foot-tall naked woman, running with pink flowers in her hand. At dawn, Westmore drove home to greet her dog, who had delivered puppies overnight, wake her two children and resume her normal routine.
For two days, she did. But, on Monday, word of the painting spread. By Tuesday, stories about it were all over local newspapers and TV newscasts. County officials, who weren’t concerned with its artistic merit, complained that it would become a traffic hazard. Any motorist approaching the tunnel from the south could be distracted and miss oncoming vehicles. The Pink Lady had to go, officials said. …
On Nov. 3, 1966, using 14 gallons of brown paint, workers covered up the Pink Lady. …
Arkush’s full Oct. 27, 1991, story Legend of the Pink Lady is online.
The Pink Lady coverup was covered in the Nov. 18, 1966, issue of LIFE magazine.
Artist Lynne Westmore Bloom passed away Jan. 6, 2017. Her Los Angeles Times obituary by Steve Marble is online: Lynne Westmore Bloom, the artist who surprised Malibu with the ‘Pink Lady’, dies at 81.
This post was originally published on Jan. 8, 2017.