Early one late October morning in 1966, Stephen Seemayer remembers, he saw his mom come in the door, dressed like a ninja. Hair back, black jeans, black hoodie. "Where have you been? What have you been doing?" the 12-year old asked.
What Lynne Westmore Bloom had been doing - and, in fact, what she had been doing for months - was executing of the best art pranks in Southern California history. She'd been painting a 60-foot naked, frolicking pink lady on the cliff above the Malibu Canyon tunnel.
Bloom died Friday at her home in Encinitas after an illness, just short of her 82d birthday, and so Stephen and I drove out to sight of her early triumph to talk about his mom and her legacy.
Seemayer says when he was a kid, the family made the drive from the Valley to the beach many times, and saw graffiti on the cliff. "She thought that one of her paintings, enlarged, that she had at home, would be the perfect thing to put on the side of that mountain, because it was a big, flat, kind of a canvas."
So after spending months of nights prepping the surface, chipping off rock and tagging, and pulling out a few trees, she painted it there, using bright pink Sears exterior paint. A lot of people loved it, Seemayer says, but city and county officials didn't. One county supervisor called it pornography. "That's because you can actually see a little pubic hair in the painting, and in 1966, I don't even think Playboy magazine was showing a little pubic hair." (Fact check: Not true. Tish Howard, July 1966.)
When their first efforts to wash off the paint failed, "the supervisor said, 'we would like the man who painted this to come forward and tell us what kind of paint he used.' We were watching television at home, and my mom became furious that they assumed it was a man. My mom was practically pulling her hair out and she said, 'Oh that tears it! That's it! I should signed it but I didn't because I wasn't trying to claim any fame.'"
She held a news conference and claimed responsibility, and while she gained fame, she also gained even more negative attention, including death threats against her and Stephen and his little brother. Stephen remembers the FBI tapped their phone and sat in the kitchen to monitor the calls.
What did it teach Stephen, who became an artist and filmmaker? "I appreciated the painting, but I knew it was an incredibly cool thing to do. It was one of the first things that I knew that my mom was not just a regular mom; that she was totally cool. She always said 'there's nothing that you can't do. She proved it in her daily life."
Bloom's memorial service is 1pm, Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth.