Monday, February 14, 2005

The Rocky Statue

One of the most pivotal scenes in 1982’s Rocky III occurs on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. After having run up the steps in the first two films, the city bestows a statue to Rocky, placing it at the top of the steps.

As Rocky goes to accept the statue, in steps Clubber Lang (played with unabashed fury by Mr. T).

“Getting out while you can? Don’t give this man no statue give him guts.” Clubber exclaimed.

So, the Mayor had the statue removed and in its place a platter of fish guts was displayed. The mayor then turns to Clubber and asks “what should I do now?”

“How about working on the pollution?” said Clubber.

“Nah, I’m saving that for the sequel.” replied the mayor.

Then the film faded to black and Rocky III went on to win 19 Academy Awards including Best Picture and World Greatest Golfer.

The statue on the other hand did not fare so well. Stallone and company initially left the statue on the steps as a gift to the city.
The Art Museum curators were not thrilled with the present. They scoffed at the statue pronouncing it a mere “movie prop”. Then they puffed away on a pipe as they read a George Will column and watched Frasier through their monocles.

Others believed that the Museum was a fine home for the statue. Every single day dozens of people run up the steps and raise their arms in the air like Rocky. Many of them had never been to the museum and only were interested in it because of the movie.

After some debate the statue was moved to the Philadelphia Spectrum sports arena where some of Rocky’s fights took place. The statue still stands at the Spectrum being removed only for the filming of Rocky sequels.

Inside a glass display case holds a note from Stallone thanking the Spectrum for “giving Rocky a home.”

Still, the Spectrum hardly seems like a suitable home any more. Once a respectable arena, the Spectrum is now dwarfed by the other, newer arenas that have sprung up around it. Today a major sporting event at the Spectrum is a distant memory as it is used mostly for rodeo, Sesame Street Live and Indoor Lacrosse.

Recently a new wrinkle in the statue’s saga arose.

The original sculptor A. Thomas Schomberg's actually made three "Rocky" statues. This is a very common thing to do in the movie business. This way if the statue fell off a truck, was stolen or became the object of affection of an amorous llama they could simply use one of the back up statues.

Schomberg recently agreed to sell the other two statues – if the price was right. In a convoluted deal, a buyer would bid on the statue (a minimum of $1 million bid), then the International Institute for Sport and Olympic History would pay Schomberg $70,000 for the two statues. The bidder would get one and the non-profit institute would keep one for a (yet to be built) museum.

Originally offered on eBay, it seems the statue remains unsold.

However, that pile of guts was sold on eBay in 1999 for a cool $3.2 million.


As has been the case with previous Rocky sequels the statue was moved from the Spectrum to the Art Museum for the shooting of the sixth Rocky film, Rocky Balboa. To hold it's place in front of the Spectrum is a large hunk of metal featuring a Rocky cutout and a note saying "The Rocky Statue is being used by the Rocky Balboa film."
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I was pretty sad when I saw the sign. After all, I like that statue and I hate to think that it's being "used." They should really have more respect for it.

I bet that llama would.

As filming commenced again a push was made by Stallone and company to keep the statue on the steps of the Art Museum.

But they still didn't want it.

To be fair to the Art Museum, they had commemorated Rocky on the steps of the art museum. Up at the top of the steps the word Rocky is engraved right an imprint of Rocky's feet.
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Eventually, the board of "people who decide about Art Museum statues" caved and Rocky was granted a home... by the bottom of the steps.

The compromise was OK with Stallone who showed up to dedicate the statue in it's new home. He said that it was in keeping with the spirit of Rocky that he is at the "bottom" where he started.

Here is a photo I took at the dedication ceremony:

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Notice Stallone at the podium and the wall of police officers who I can only imagine was there just to keep ME away from Sly.

After the ceremony I stepped on the stage to take a photo with the statue in it's new home:

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Then the group of police officers beat me senseless.

When I regained consciousness I headed over to the Art Museum steps to watch Rocky on a giant screen.
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It was pretty surreal. Here I was sitting on the steps of the museum watching Rocky run up the steps of the museum then watching him turn around and look out at the city... AS I LOOKED OUT AT THE CITY.

If it wasn't for the concussion it would have been perfect.

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