Paying tribute to someone is a tricky task. On the one hand, you want to get it perfect, but on the other, who has time to make sure nobody gets offended in the process? You’re not made of free hours!
Instead of paying attention to detail and making sure their tributes didn’t turn into gigantic slaps in the face, these people threw caution to the wind and hoped for the best.
Here are nine attempted tributes that went horribly wrong…
9. Lewis E. Carpenter’s Statue of Lenin
This particular statue of Lenin was completed and installed in Poprad, Czechoslovakia [Slovakia] in 1988. After the Velvet Revolution, an English teacher named Lewis E. Carpenter came across it and was sorry to hear that it was going to be melted down. In an effort to preserve what he felt was its artistic integrity, Carpenter agreed to help find a new place for it.
Right here, of course.
Lewis caused one hell of an uproar by lugging the Soviet-era statue all the way over to Seattle, Washington. He insisted that all he wanted to do was honor what he considered to be a significant work of art, and was even willing to mortgage his home to make all the magic happen. However, things took a strange turn for both the statue’s advocates and critics when Lewis was tragically killed in a car accident on February 18, 1994.
As fate would have it, Lewis died on the 76th anniversary of Lenin’s telegram for a cease-fire with Germany. Just as Lenin made peace with the Germans, Lewis made peace with the locals by dying.
A local brass foundry agreed to move the statue out of the Carpenter’s backyard to the corner of N 34th St & Evanston Ave N, where it remains to this day, for sale, for $250,000.
Christmas decorations sold separately!
And perhaps out of affection for the “Statue Park” level in GoldenEye 007, the Seattle community has finally come to appreciate the statue Lewis Carpenter stood for all the way up to the day that he died.
8. The Washington Monument
Perhaps the single most noticeable landmark in all of Washington, D.C. started when Horatio Greenough unveiled a great statue of the late-George Washington that was supposed to appear on the top of the Washington Monument, driving a chariot. Apparently, that chariot was headed for a steamy Presidential photo shoot, because this is how George Washington looked when he hopped aboard…
Nathaniel Hawthorne had this to say about Washington’s smoking hot topless look:
“Did anybody ever see Washington naked! It is inconceivable. He had no nakedness, but I imagine, was born with his clothes on and his hair powdered, and made a stately bow on his first appearance in the world.”
On top of that the monument ran into bigger troubles due to money shortages–no doubt brought on by the Greenough statue and subsequent redesigns–and possibly because of the American Civil War. Although the cornerstone for the obelisk was laid in 1848, the project was not even half-finished throughout the entire war from 1861-1865. While other projects, like the US Capitol rotunda, were able to get finished during this tumultuous time, the Washington Monument…
The damn thing was finally finished on December 6, 1884, at which point they had long ago agreed to keep Horatio Greenough’s statue as far away from it as possible. The final design was deemed much less offensive.
God bless America.
7. The Colonna Mediterranea
Sculpted by Maltese artist Paul Vella Critien in 2006, the pillar is supposed to stand as “a modern three-dimensional representation of a symbol from ancient Egypt, as well as a work that celebrates the imagination and beauty of Mediterranean colors.” In addition to this, it “points to eternity.” And in addition to that, it “looks like a gigantic cock.”
Malta is apparently so ashamed of the monument that they hid it when the Pope paid a visit. We’d probably hide it if our mom was coming for a visit.
6. The Strom Thurmond Monument
A monument to one of the most openly racist Americans in history. What could possibly go wrong? It includes a nice little section dedicated to each one of his four children and everything!
Oh, that’s right, it said that he had only had four children. That was fine… until it turned out that he fathered a fifth child that he had kept hidden for a long time: Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Strom Thurmond, who ran for president under the segregationist Dixiecrat banner, had apparently fathered her with an underage black housemaid. Essie Mae broke her silence when the old man died in 2003 at 100 years old.
We have some good news and some bad news at this point. On the bright side, the monument has since been updated to reflect the fact that Strom Thurmond actually had five children. As for the bad news, well, they built a fucking monument to Strom Thurmond.
5. The African Resistance Monument
Conceived by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby and built in North Korea–seriously–the enormous bronze stands taller than the Statue of Liberty. Also, we must admit… it does look kind of awesome.
But like anything worth it’s weight in statues of dudes flying their family through the air, this work of awesome didn’t come without a price. First there was the controversy over building a statue at all even though the nation was suffering from an economic crisis…
Unfortunately not Photoshopped.
Secondly, imams have protested that the statue displays a sexist, scantly-clad, somewhat foxy-looking lady.
If it looks like boobs…
Then there was a whole other issue over whether the statue is really just the product of a president with an ego-trip. President Wade refuted these claims by comparing the statue to Jesus. That usually works out pretty well.
4. The Statue of Liberty Sets US-French Relations Back a Century
That’s right, one of the little known facts of the Statue of Liberty is that it was actually a disaster upon its arrival.
Strike one was how its sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi wasn’t able to finish enough of the statue to display it at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. All the man could muster was the arm of the statue. That’s fine if you’re promoting a JJ Abrams movie, less so if you’re hoping to plant your gigantic statue on the shores of America.
However, even the painting of the statue that Bartholdi showed off didn’t stop the endless controversy over what the hell the statue was, whether to accept it, where to put it, or the even-growing argument over who had the authority to decide the problems. As a result a goddamn committee, one of the most boring in American history, had to be formed to answer all these questions for an irritated public as slowly as humanly possible.
However, strike two with the statue was by far the more irritating: the pedestal was not included. That’s right, France paid for the statue and the shipping, but like a screwed eBay salesman they arranged it so that we had to pay for the pedestal ourselves. Since the Panic of 1873, the stalled construction of the Washington Monument and an overall lack of interest made it difficult to shore up funds, it was not out of the ordinary to find newspapers like The New York Times protesting: “no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances.”
It was not until April 1886 that the pedestal was completed, which meant the French could at last begin assembly of the statue a full 10 years later than they would have liked.
The Statue was finally dedicated on October 28, 1886–again, just short of July 4th–but poor weather forced the city to postpone a planned fireworks display until November 1.
As for the torch itself, it was so poorly designed that newspapers described it as “more like a glowworm than a beacon.”
All the worse, the torch had a tendency to disorient birds, which sort of killed them dead. It’s a scene that you can relive by looking at this picture we hope to have tattooed on our back someday…
Bartholdi spent the rest of his life trying to get that damn torch to work and save his reputation with Americans. He never did.
3. Russian Ice Dancers
In 2010 Russian Ice Dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin went to the European Championships. One of the requirements was to select a country and do a performance that reflected its culture. Two US teams did well with a Moldovan and Indian inspired routines. The Russians chose to honor the Australian Aborigines with their routine. This is the costume they decided to go with…
If you’re looking at those costumes wondering what all the fuss is about, that’s probably because you’ve never actually seen an Aboriginal costume, so you’re basing your opinion of what one should look like on whatever stereotypes about Aborigines already exist in your brain. It’s the American way.
Unfortunately, it’s quite likely the way whoever designed this monstrosity operates under also. But don’t take our word, let’s let an expert speak. Respected Aborigine artistic director Stephen Page noted there were no traditional dance movements, the music sounded like it was Indian or African and the body paint looked like a three year old did it.
“Probably the elders in the bush would be laughing because they would be saying, ‘Look how stupid these fellas are,’ ” Page told a reporter.
We imagine he followed up the statement with a traditional Aborigine jacking off motion.
2. Football Great Ernie Davis, brought to you by Nike
Ernie Davis was one of the greatest college football players to ever live and the first black player to earn the Heisman trophy, taking the honor in 1961. He was signed to play for the Cleveland Browns, but was diagnosed with leukemia and never played a game. In 2008 his alma mater Syracuse University built a statue in his honor.
When honoring a historic figure, it helps to do a little research and review some photographs. Unfortunately the artist didn’t. A minor error was the helmet, which included a modern face mask.
But what really pissed people off were the swooshes on the Nike shoes.
Nike didn’t start branding their shoes with a swoosh until the 1970s, long after Davis had died. Syracuse athletics being associated with Nike didn’t help quell people who saw it as cheap advertisement on an important monument.
1. James Earl Jones’ 2002 Martin Luther King Day Plaque
In 2002 the town of Lauderhill invited James Earl Jones to speak at their Martin Luther King celebration. To honor him for coming out, they prepared a special plaque using images of several stamps that commemorated great people in black history. The plaque included a line to thank Jones for “keeping the dream alive.”
Unfortunately, Jones’ name was misspelled on the plaque. How misspelled? Approximately this misspelled…
We apologize for the grainy quality of that image. We just wanted to make it a little bit larger so you don’t miss what’s going wrong here. They didn’t just spell his name wrong. They spelled his name as “James Earl Ray.” History (or remedial school) buffs will recall that James Earl Ray is the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King. Suddenly the line “Keeping the dream alive” takes on sinister connotations. This led to a fight between the company that made it and a subcontractor over who messed up and whether the reference to Ray was a mistake or intentional.
James Earl Jones let the error slide, saying “I think that we have much bigger things to worry about.” But we can’t help but imagine him going all Vader on the company that screwed up
“You have failed me for the last time”
Lovingly written and handcrafted for The Smoking Jacket by Jacopo della Quercia and Phillip Rodney Moon.