American ingenuity is not dead.
"There was the man from Hawaii who wanted to drop a huge lei over the Statue of Liberty," says David Wolper, chairman of Liberty Weekend, which will take place on and around the statue July 3-5 in celebration of its centennial. "They would have done it with helicopters."
Good idea, man from Hawaii, but sorry. No lei.
Wolper, who produced the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics, decided against the Lei Dropped from Heaven, just as he decided against the hang-glide from the World Trade Center to the statue and against a variety of methods for plucking a massive cloth shroud from the refurbished statue so that it could be literally unveiled.
"We've gotten more than 200 letters," he says. "A lot of marching bands, a lot of singers, performers."
But he's got those lined up already, in addition to a fleet of tall ships, an international naval flotilla, free concerts, President Reagan, barge after barge shooting off fireworks, lots of kids, lots of stars, the chief justice inducting 2,000 U.S. citizens on Ellis Island, the simultaneous induction of 20,000 U.S. citizens around the country linked live by satellite, and an expected 5 million or more observers.
"You're going to be moved," says Wolper.
Everyone has a different definition of "moving," however. For one man, nothing seemed more appropriate than a high-wire walk from the statue to Ellis Island. "He thought, 'Wouldn't it be patriotic?' " says Wolper.
"There were people who wanted to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and be the Statue of Liberty," he says. "A lot of marathons to the Statue of Liberty -- you'd have to walk on water to get there. There was the one who wanted to put a loudspeaker on the Statue of Liberty and sing as if the Statue of Liberty were singing. Someone wanted to drape it with a quilt made up of all the different states and lift it by balloon."
The problem with the quilt-balloon proposal is that the skin of the statue is extremely thin and malleable and could be damaged by the weight of any large covering. So Wolper is going with beams of light that will illuminate the statue the night of July 3.
The one idea Wolper received that he endorsed is something called "A Toast to Liberty."
At 10:57 p.m. eastern time on July 3, hotels and restaurants around the country will lead customers in a toast to the statue at the moment it is lit. Karen MacNeil, food and wine editor for USA Today, came up with the idea for the mass toast last November and tried it out on the hotel, restaurant and wine industries. MacNeil says many of the participating restaurants will be donating the drinks used in the toast, and that she hopes to see "10,000 restaurants, hotels and countable places across America doing this."
Countable places don't include back yards, living rooms and kitchens, but she would like to see some toasting there as well.
"It's not a big idea," says MacNeil, who pursued her dream as a private project independent of USA Today. "It's a simple, pure, lovely, unanimous, innocent gesture of celebration."
Simple, pure and innocent it may be, but as with most '80s celebrations, there's a public relations angle. The Wine Institute, the Washington State Wine Growers, the National Restaurant Association and various other organizations have been recruited to help with the Liberty toast. The Wine Institute, a trade association for California wineries that is coordinating the toast, has hired a full-time employe to handle the project and installed several toll-free phone lines to answer questions.
"We as an industry, the hospitality industry, feel that recently a lot of the fun has been taken out of wine," says Wine Institute spokesman Rory Callahan, "some of the celebratory nature, also the whole civilizing action of wine with meals, wine in celebration and always in moderation. We always have stressed 'in moderation.' "
*Originally the event was to to be called "A Toast to Liberty With American Wine," but the American Hotel and Motel Association didn't want to join in what a spokesman called "a wine promotion." The association is now discussing its involvement, and with the "American Wine" dropped from the name, you will be free to toast with chocolate milk, club soda or Gatorade without feeling left out.
Which is the kind of thing that makes America great.