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On August 14, 1945, New York City exploded into celebration over V-J day and the end of the Second World War. One particularly exuberant sailor, recalled photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, was "running along the street, grabbing any and every girl in sight." Eistenstaedt snapped a photo of one of the young man's brief encounters, and the image became an icon that eventually showed up as a 25-foot statue along San Diego's waterfront. (See below.)

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But the statue was always only ever on loan, and like the buildings along the Prado in Balboa Park, it was never meant to last. "It's made of foam and urethane," explained Allan Tait, public art project manager for the Port of San Diego. "It won't be too much longer before the sun's rays turn it from monument to blight. We needed to find something more permanent - something harder and stronger."

Now, Tait has found his replacement, one grounded in slightly more recent history. One June 17, 1996, The New Yorker magazine published a sketch on its cover which lampooned the famous Eisenstaedt image. The sketch, which replaced the nurse in the photo with another (male) sailor, was drawn by Barry Blitt and entitled "Don't Ask," a clear reference to the newly established Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the United States military.

"The recent repeal of this discriminatory and dehumanizing policy is its own sort of victory," said Tait, "and certainly one that deserves to be enshrined in public art. To that end, we commissioned noted sculptor Takashi Murakami, who conceived 'Hey, Sailor,' a statue that will be similar in scale to 'Unconditional Surrender,' but chiseled from solid granite. Today, we are proud to release this artist's conception to the public."

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floreneleviton Sept. 29, 2011 @ 3:07 a.m.

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