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Unconditional Surrender, the 25-foot, 6000-pound statue that’s been a tourist destination at Mole Park since its unveiling in February of 2007, may get a stay of execution.

The waterfront enormity, owned by the Santa Monica-based Sculpture Foundation, has been on loan to the Port of San Diego. It was set to be dismantled by the end of the month and crated off to a sculpture garden in Jersey.

Artist J. Seward Johnson’s kitsch creation was modeled after Alfred Eisenstaedt’s much-publicized 1945 photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square following the surrender of Japan.

Is it art or a tchotchke the amazing colossal man picked up at a Vegas estate sale? Tourists and the kids love it, but the bronzing and weather-proofing it would take in order for the statue to remain will cost a million bucks. They are currently passing the hat around for donations. Anyone who considers this a meritorious work of craftsmanship and would pony up that kind of scratch is either blind or should place their local mental institution on speed-dial.

It’s an eyesore, but one person’s art is another person’s Spielberg. As hideous as it it, keep it for one reason, and one reason alone: it provides the funniest photo opportunity in town.

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Mole Park has long been a destination point for visiting dignitaries, but "The Kiss," as it has come to be known, plays very little part in it. Nor is The Midway Museum the main attraction. For me, the retired aircraft carrier is but a floating tin can wading across the harbor for a bronze Bob Hope to bounce jokes off it.

Hey, how 'bout that Bob Hope tributary at Seaport Village harbor, huh? (Les Brown's contemplative rendition of Thanks for the Memories begins softly playing in the background.) The inspiration and planning for the National Salute to Bob and the Military was provide by a veteran’s group called Task Unit 77.4.3/Taffy 3, “Taffy III” for short. In recent years, the group has devoted their efforts toward raising awareness and money for monuments to preserve the history and honor the veterans.

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They chose to honor Hope in spite of the fact that the closest he ever came to actual combat was when Dolores caught him with Joey Heatherton in a sand-trap on the back-nine at the Ocean Dunes Golf Club in Phan Thiet.

The 16-piece tribute was designed and executed by the Daub Firman Hendrickson Group and the Steven Whyte Studio. Each soldier represents the various decades of warfare under which Bob entertained. There's everything from a WW II paratrooper to a Gulf war soldier in Operation Dessert Storm. You'll find men, one woman, a Mexican, an amputee, a black guy, one Chinese, a dude in a wheelchair, in a word: diversity, ladies and gentlemen, that thing that makes America the greatest country in the world.

You can catch Bob and the gang daily at Harbor Drive and the G Street Pier in Mole Park, just north of the battleship Midway and south of the Fish Market. There are speakers situated in the coral trees that during the day pipe-in audio of Bob's funniest jokes, both of them.

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Discussing Bob's bronze replica reminds me of my initial brush with the oracular one. Like a flying saucer buff at his first UFO convention, I feel compelled to once again make public a secret encounter I had with the sentient overlord, the right Reverend Lester Leslie Towne Robert "Bob" Hope.

He first appeared before me in the Autumn of 1997 at the most unassuming of places: the Von's supermarket in Burbank, California. My plane had just touched down at Burbank airport, now known as The Bob Hope Airport, and my driver was directed to stop at the grocer's for supplies. While thumbing through the checkstand tabloids, a ringing began to violate my cerebral cortex. Slowly I turned to see a familiar, albeit bent over and aged, ski-nosed comic being led up the frozen food aisle by his strapping manservant.

Under cover of darkness, Mr. Hope was given his nightly airing, plodding the same land that he owned decades before. It also gave Dolores an excuse to get him the hell out of the house for a few minutes. Grabbing the keys from my driver, I made a mad dash for the camcorder resting in the trunk of the car. Camera in hand, I caught up with him in the parking lot. Surrounded the oracle, I began pelting him with comments and questions:

Scott Marks: Thanks for all the great movies. I'm a big fan of your work in Frank Tashlin's "Son of Paleface."

Mr. Hope: Huh?

SM: Would you elaborate on Tashlin's working method?

Mr. Hope: Huh?

SM: Do you anticipate cue cards in the afterlife?

Mr. Hope: Huh?

SM: Will you get to see other dead celebrities naked?

Mr. Hope: Huh? Huh?

A uniformed member of the Von's Courtesy Patrol touched my shoulder and cautioned, "You're standing in a no Hope zone, buddy." Bob chortled as his handler slammed the door of the Hope-mobile, no doubt filled with Texaco gas, blocking further contact. I continue my search on a daily basis for the meaning hidden in his answers. Their exact interpretation and significance remain a total mystery to this day.

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Comments

jimwilsterman Feb. 17, 2012 @ 1:19 p.m.

Why are the proponents of this statue so afraid to trust our local Veterans to run a national competition to solicit great original proposals for the public to choose from? They could even include 'Unconditional Surrender' as proposal for consideration too, but somehow I think deep down they know it would not be able to compete if other competent ideas were on the table. After all - Our veterans did a pretty good job selecting and developing the Vietnam memorial as well as the WWII memorial in Washington - did they not?

I can assure you that with those projects - The veterans involved did not even consider cheapening their legacy by buying a cheesy, retail rent-a-statue like this one, but opted to develop a visionary work specific to their own criteria and experiences. And look at the great results! If we never allowed to see any alternative to this work - how can we ever know how great a memorial we actually could have here in San Diego to honor our veterans?

Top down decisions by promoters and vested interests smack of crony capitalism, or something you would see in a socialist society where unelected leaders put up monuments to reinforce their own values. We could do so much better by our veterans if the SDUPD would simply raise funds and hold a national competition to make a memorial specific to our great local San Diego military heritage - instead of jamming through 3rd rate works like "Unconditional Surrender".

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Scott Marks Feb. 17, 2012 @ 1:36 p.m.

Thanks so much for this. Nostalgia sells, Jim, and here is another tribute aimed at glorifying the horrors of war to make it acceptable to the masses all in the name of pseudo-art. If we can turn a battleship responsible for a great many fatalities into a floating museum, why not support a fiberglass monstrosity such as this? Tourists and conventioneers, who line our town's coffers, don't want sobering reminders of bloodshed when they can look up a giant woman's skirt.

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Valerie Scher Feb. 17, 2012 @ 1:21 p.m.

Looking at the photo of you and the Bob Hope statue, it's hard to tell whether you are kissing its feet or being ill. Which is it?

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jimwilsterman Feb. 17, 2012 @ 1:31 p.m.

By the way, great job Scott!

The Photo of the guy looking up the woman's skirt is a nice touch, and illustrates perfectly why some claim this is popular: It is more freak show than sculpture, and would be better suited for carnivals or the Midway at the County Fair instead of the Midway Museum...

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SurfPuppy619 Feb. 18, 2012 @ 10:32 p.m.

Hey, was the look worth it Scott???????? Anything to report back to your peeps???

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monaghan Feb. 17, 2012 @ 8:13 p.m.

I jut can't share Scott Marks' arty cynicism about both the Hope Thing and the Urethane Foam Object being okay for San Diego's waterfront. They are both hideous. If we must keep them, put 'em in the middle of some traffic glorietas, like they do in TJ. All those circles have monumental centers, but drivers are too busy yielding and accelerating to be either offended or appreciative.

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Scott Marks Feb. 18, 2012 @ 4:01 p.m.

"Urethane Foam Object." The exact words I was looking for.

Hey, both "works of art" beat the hell out of a surfing Madonna any day.

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denfrank Feb. 18, 2012 @ 4:48 p.m.

More Photo ToBloggin,' (™), please.

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Colonna Feb. 19, 2012 @ 6:34 a.m.

During a family vacation to San Diego, we traveled to said tourist spot to visit the floating museum and parked near said statue. One of my favorite pix of my son Alex from that vacation:

http://tinyurl.com/7b2a3n4

My only claim to fame - I discovered the Bob Hope statue tributes before Mr. Marks did and alerted him to its presence:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31078375@N03/with/2910398722/

If you look closely at my Flickr photostream, the Bob Hope statue wasn't even present in the plaza! The speakers weren't blaring the jokes yet (thankfully) either.

Other Hope photos of interest:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kwesty/3062173121/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bogray/6017003808/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandiegoimages/5324572465/

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denfrank Feb. 19, 2012 @ 9:22 a.m.

This is animated Photo ToBloggin,' a new trend from my personal friend (™) http://www.flickr.com/photos/tstnt/6607393591/in/photostream

More please.

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Scott Marks Feb. 26, 2012 @ 12:37 a.m.

Like I have a cell phone capable of taking photos. Thanks for the compliment.

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