This story has been updated. Please see editor's note below.
On Oct. 28, 1966, traffic approaching the tunnel four miles north of PCH on Malibu Canyon Road ground to a screeching halt. Overnight, a 60-foot tall painting of a pink, naked woman had appeared on the rocks above the tunnel. No one knew where it had come from. According to the LA Times, “The painting made more headlines in Los Angeles than President Johnson and the Beatles.”
The mystery artist turned out to be Lynne Westmore Seemayer (later Bloom), a 31-year-old single mother of two and paralegal living in Northridge. According to members of her family, she started off scaling the cliff after dark several nights per month to erase graffiti from the rock face. She used a series of nylon ropes to hang onto the cliff — a daredevil feat that took place long before rock climbing was common. Once her canvas was reasonably clean, she then painted the Pink Lady over two nights, assuming her work would be anonymous.
Even though the art only lasted a week before the county declared it a traffic distraction and painted over it, the Pink Lady has lived on as part of the local lore in Malibu for more than 50 years.
This week, just a few days after the artist’s death, the Pink Lady rose again — kind of.
Michael Kory, a 10-year resident of Malibu, has made his career in computer animation for television and film. For the past six years, he’s been Creative Director of PaintScaping, which creates 3D graphics and animation images for projection onto unconventional surfaces, like buildings. The winner of two Emmy awards and five nominations, Kory’s latest projects include work with the Blue Man Group and Celebrity Apprentice.
“Every time I go through that tunnel [on Malibu Canyon], I think of the Pink Lady. It’s such an inspiring story, and I’ve always had the desire to have that image back up there,” Kory said. “It could be a world class iconic symbol of Malibu and people would travel here just to see it.
“I never had the hutzpah to do something to put that image back up there until I read The Malibu Times article [in November]. Then, when I read the obituary of Lynne Westmore Bloom, I thought, ‘Okay, we have to do it,’” Kory said.
He discussed it with his business partner, Phillipe (“Phil”) Bergeron, president of PaintScaping, who agreed.
“I had a lot of concerns, especially whether there were going to be any safety or liability issues,” Kory continued. “I found out there’s no specific law against it, unless showing the image might obstruct traffic...We decided that if traffic got out of control, we’d just turn off the image.”
Kory developed his Pink Lady image in Photoshop from original photos he found online.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. last Saturday night, when there was no rain or rush hour traffic, the two partners successfully projected a 70-foot tall image of the original Pink Lady in the same exact spot where it had appeared 50 years earlier. It was a fitting tribute and memorial — one guerrilla art act commemorating a similar act by daredevil guerrilla artist Bloom, who died on Jan. 6.
“I think it worked out really well,” Kory said. “You could see the image from a far off distance, and there was plenty of opportunity for drivers to slow down before getting to it ... I’m extremely happy about the way it came off; and what made it all so worthwhile was having her family there. I thought it was a great tribute.”
The very small crowd who personally witnessed the half-hour Pink Lady tribute included the artist’s daughter-in-law, Pamela Wilson of Los Angeles, and the artist’s half-brother Chris Frost — who is a Malibu Realtor and a member of the Public Safety Commission. The family members were moved enough by the image to spend time reminiscing about the artist, who had an artistic career and a colorful personal life that included several marriages.
“Every time we drove across Malibu Canyon Road, we’d stop and look at the spot where the Pink Lady had been,” Wilson said. “At the right time of day, you can still see the outline of her hair and the flowers.” Wilson is convinced that the Pink Lady was actually a self-portrait of the artist.
“It was our first guerrilla projection,” Bergeron laughed. “And it celebrated the memory of Lynn.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the 3D projection company. The story has been updated to reflect the correct name: PaintScaping.