You can hardly see her through the scaffolding these days, a metal brace obscuring her corroded neck, a steel sling supporting her crippled arm.
"Sooner or later, she becomes a real woman to you," said a fresh-faced construction worker standing beneath her copper skirt. "You just can't help but get attached as you work on her nose -- and even her armpit . . . And I gotta tell ya, in these bad times . . . in the world, it gives me some hope."
When it comes to the Statue of Liberty, the cynicism always fades. To those who have experienced her, she brings back memories of the infinite (305-foot) hike up to her torch on a steamy August day and the incomparable view of New York's concrete shell from her crown.
Now, Liberty Island, home of the statue, and Ellis Island, the way station where millions of immigrants were introduced to this country, have been closed for a year of renovations. Next year's Fourth of July unveiling will mark the 100th anniversary of her dedication. (She actually arrived in New York harbor in 200 crates on June 19, 1885, a gift from France in honor of the upcoming centennial anniversary.)
Businessman Lee A. Iacocca, who chairs the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc., has struck a resonant chord across the globe with his emotional pleas for money to give Miss Liberty her face lift.
The son of Italian immigrants who entered this country through Ellis Island in 1902, he reminded an audience last week that "Miss Liberty was a symbol of hope, Ellis Island was a symbol of reality." He spoke of the emotion he feels as he envisions his parents sitting in the island's Great Hall, sectioned off by nationality, awaiting a health inspection. The sometimes rough examinations and immigrants' fears of being turned away gave the place a second name, "Isle of Tears."
Iacocca promised "the biggest party this city has ever seen" to mark Liberty's unveiling, but for the moment his mind is on money. Much of the country, it would seem, is helping him think.
Children have raised about $3 million in nickels and dimes. An Oklahoma elementary school sold geraniums and presented the foundation with a check for $250 last week. And one man, described by the foundation as coming from "behind the Iron Curtain," sent a few dollars, hoping to visit the statue -- his symbol of freedom -- someday.
For those corporations moved less by patriotism than by capitalism, the fund-raising campaign offers exposure.
More than a dozen major corporations have pledged $5 million or more to the project, and scores of smaller businesses are donating part of their sales on Liberty-related licensed products. Soon there will be Liberty kites, watches, T-shirts, coffee mugs and pencils.
One sponsor, Allen Shoup, president of Chateau Ste. Michelle Vintners Inc. of California, explained: "It's not altruism in its purest form, but it's altrusim in its most honest form.
"Everyone benefits," Shoup said. "We are not very well known. The cause is legitimate, and we have been able to marry that cause to our own need to promote . . . the company. Had we spent the same amount of money for advertising, we would not have gotten any more than we would have this way."
The foundation has raised, in cash and pledges, about $160 million of the estimated $230 million required to finish the job. That would take care of the Great Hall, Liberty Island -- and the lady herself.