The famous Marilyn Monroe mural in Northwest Washington's Woodley Park neighborhood has gotten a facelift after 20 years.
Artist John Bailey, who painted the original portrait in 1981, finished repairing and retouching the mural Sunday and was experimenting this week with whether to coat the finished work with a protective varnish.
"It had started to fade dramatically. Her lips had lost all of the color," said Bailey, 60, who spent five days restoring the mural.
The portrait -- on a building wall overlooking Connecticut Avenue at Calvert Street -- has become a landmark in Woodley Park. Northbound commuters drive by it daily, and it's a stop on bus tours of the city. At night, the lighted mural looks down on a block bustling with sidewalk diners and strollers.
Roi Barnard, the hairstylist whose Salon Roi is located on the second and third floors of the building, commissioned the portrait. Bailey said the city didn't require a permit as long as there was no writing on the mural, but he worried that he might be forced to paint it over if neighbors objected or if it was seen as a driving distraction.
To his relief, "everyone loved it immediately," Bailey said.
The Woodley Park Community Association considers the mural such an integral part of the neighborhood that it paid for the $6,000 restoration, most of which was raised by contributions from residents and merchants in the area, said David White, an association member who oversaw the project.
The group plans to install better lighting for the mural and is looking for a corporate sponsor to pay the electricity bill. And Bailey, assisted in the refurbishing by another artist, Andrew Valliere, 41, made a few small changes in Marilyn's features. The eyebrows, for instance, are more distinct now, and the color blue has been added to the eyes.
"We wanted to keep her in good shape," said White, thankful that Barnard didn't choose some "flash in the pan" celebrity as the object of his adoration. "People are always enthusiastic about Marilyn Monroe."