5 Historic Tributes Gone Horribly Wrong - HISTORY

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5 Historic Tributes Gone Horribly Wrong

Explore five historic tributes gone horribly wrong.
Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo stands beside a bust presented during a ceremony to rename Madeira's airport in Funchal. (Credit: FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo stands beside a bust presented during a ceremony to rename Madeira’s airport in Funchal.

The differences between Ronaldo’s statue and the athlete himself, known as much for his good looks as his athletic skills, couldn’t go unnoticed – particularly by an unforgiving internet. The bust drew comparisons to cartoon characters, Batman villains, Sloth from “The Goonies,” and even inspired the hashtag #RonaldoBust.

The twisted grin and uneven eyes of the statue may be the subject of attention now, but it’s far from the only tribute that has been an unintentional fail. Even Ronaldo found himself in a similar predicament a few years ago, when a life-sized (and well-endowed) statue in the same city featured shorts that raised… eyebrows across the world. But never fear Ronaldo, you’re in great company. Here are five other historic figures that whose tributes could get the boot.

Lucille Ball

Still from the 1950s CBS television sitcom ‘I Love Lucy.’

Still from the 1950s CBS television sitcom ‘I Love Lucy.’

Comedy royalty Lucille Ball went from local hero to local nightmare when her statue was presented in her hometown of Jamestown, New York, in 2009. “Scary Lucy,” as it was called by local residents, was created by artist Dave Poulin and put on display in Lucille Ball Memorial Park. It featured a likeness of the “I Love Lucy” star with a half-open mouth, holding a spoon in one hand and a bottle of a Vitameatavegamin – an homage to the legendary episode of the show.

It didn’t take long for residents to start a campaign to get rid of the eyesore, and Mayor Scott Schrecengost commissioned sculptor Carolyn Palmer to create a statue of Ball that everyone could love. In 2016, Palmer’s 750-pound bronze memorial was unveiled, to the delight of residents. The new statue may have taken the place of the former, but thanks to the popularity of “Scary Lucy” among some fans, you can still see her in her less prominent new location with in the park.

Winston Churchill

Churchill addresses parliament after receiving the portrait of himself painted by Graham Sutherland as an 80th birthday gift.

Churchill addresses parliament after receiving the portrait of himself painted by Graham Sutherland as an 80th birthday gift.

Did you know that the legendary Prime Minister absolutely despised a portrait that was commissioned for him as an 80th birthday present? After the portrait, painted by Graham Sutherland, was given to Churchill, he delivered a speech in which the most complimentary praise that he could muster was calling it “a remarkable example of modern art.” The only person possibly more offended by the portrait was Churchill’s wife, Clementine. Although the painting was given with the intention of being showcased in Westminster Abbey after Sir Churchill’s death, Lady Churchill set out to destroy it.

Evidence surrounding the painting’s destruction remained hidden for decades. In 2015, it was revealed that Lady Churchill had gone above and beyond to protect her family’s reputation. A tape found by author Sonia Purnell revealed that Grace Hamblin, Lady Churchill’s secretary, worked with her to dispose of the painting. After Clementine hid the painting in the cellar of their Chartwell estate, she asked Hamblin to get rid of it. Hamblin, with the help of her brother, took the painting, drove several miles out, and burned it in a bonfire overnight.

Kate Middleton

British artist Paul Emsley poses in front of his portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge.

British artist Paul Emsley poses in front of his portrait of Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge.

In early 2013, the world was blessed with the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton. Paul Emsley, known for his striking, lifelike portrait of Nelson Mandela, created a piece that gained significant media attention—but not as he’d intended. Emsley used the same style of painting for both portraits, but whereas the style succeeded in showcasing Mandela’s life and noble struggle, it just made the duchess look (much) older than her years.

The portrait, which hangs in Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, may have gotten flack for its presentation of the duchess, but Middleton herself – and husband Prince William – were both very impressed. Prince William reacted to the portrait by saying, “It’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful,” and the subject of the painting an art history major in college at St. Andrews) told Emsley that the painting was “Absolutely brilliant,” at its unveiling.

Gerald Ford

The 38th President of the United States.

The 38th President of the United States.

Gerald Ford may be primarily remembered for assuming office as America’s only unelected president (and, of course, his streak of clumsiness), but Ford was also the only president who was a native of Michigan. He’s also the only sitting president to visit the state’s Mackinac Island, a fun fact that isn’t lost on its residents. They erected a bust of Ford in 2013, the 100-year anniversary of his birth . An honorable tribute, the only problem is that the bust more closely resembles an interpretation of the president in “The Simpsons” than it does the real-life commander-in-chief.

The people of Mackinac Island specifically wanted the bust to look like it was made of gold, although it’s actually made of bronze. Designed by Thomas Moran, the piece is said to have been made of a very difficult medium. What resulted is a depiction of Gerald Ford that really highlighted his thinning hair and slightly ajar mouth. The piece remained on display to pay tribute throughout the summer of 2013.

Arthur Ashe

Roland Garros, Arthur Ashe, In June 1978.

Roland Garros, Arthur Ashe, In June 1978.

In the case of tennis champ Arthur Ashe’s tribute, unfortunate events may have led to a big misunderstanding. Ashe was working with sculptor Paul DiPasquale before his death in 1993. After attending the funeral, DiPasquale found a note from Ashe that had photos for inspiration and a note that read “Hey Paul, I wanted you to have these. Let’s talk soon – A. Ashe.” The note and photos were mailed by Ashe’s wife, and they both decided to continue with the project, as that’s what he would have wanted.

The result was a tribute to the tennis legend that was certainly controversial. The monument, which features Ashe holding a tennis racket and book above a group of children, gives off the false impression that he’s playing keep-away. Not only that, but the African-American icon is also surrounded by Civil War generals – including Stonewall Jackson—an unlikely assembly to say the least.

The statue’s Iocation on Monument Avenue is residence of all of Richmond, Virginia’s monuments, but the jump from Confederate war hero to African-American icon is glaring at best. Still, the tribute, which was unveiled on what would’ve been Ashe’s 53rd birthday, is both appreciated and abhorred by the Richmond community – a reaction that’s expected of every tribute open to public opinion.

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