When in Rome: The Plebes Take on Getty Villa

By Gima Campo, NPR News*

On a glorious Los Angelean afternoon just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, some of the world’s greatest artifacts sit silently on display. The scores of visitors to J. Paul Getty’s collection of Greco-Roman antiquities, however, never stop talking. We spoke to several gallery goers about their thoughts on these rare works of art.

2012-11-05 06.36.54 copySixty-three-year-old Angela Aaronson admonished her 10th grade humanities class from St. Mary of the Field, an all-girls school in Inglewood: “Ladies! You think Twiggy gave us an image complex? Try this 5000-year-old shape on for size. A shovel for a head, a frog-face for a torso, and some serious camel toe. Here’s the kicker: she’s pregnant. Try and guess in what ancient world those pass for child bearing hips?”

2012-11-05 04.51.59 copyAs it was Tuesday, November 6th, Brent Killan and Sarah Methas of St. Paul gazed at this relief and commented on its fitting significance for Election Day 2012. “Here’s hoping the elephants are stone cold today!” cheered Killan. “And merely fit for a decorative plaque tomorrow!” added Methas.

2012-11-05 05.43.10 copyFurther into the villa, an exhibit on funerary rights captured the imagination of Ronald Smith, a computer programmer from Massachusetts. He said the box held by the servant child looked like an ancient laptop. “It’s like the lady of the house is saying, ‘Update my status, Calpurnia. And like those new busts of the Julii family as well as the Figs Sellers on the Appian Way.'” When asked what a social network in 1st century BC might be titled, Smith mused, “Um… MySlave?”

2012-11-05 06.08.01 copySandy and Sammy DeFrancesco feigned modesty when commenting on this bronze recovered from a shipwreck. “I think I found my new Adonis, and as he has no feet he can’t run away,” waxed Sandy as Sammy cackled, shaking the fragile statue and alerting security. The Long Island sisters apologized for disturbing the exhibit and quietly exited the estate.

2012-11-05 06.11.14 copyThis cup held oil that ancient athletes would grease up with before scraping it off–a second century exfoliation technique. We spoke with Los Angeles-based actress Vanessa Marlowe about the face of a boxer cast into the bronze. With his broken nose and missing teeth, it’s surely a reminder to any serious athlete with any kind of amorous desires to stick with track and field, we jested. Marlowe wryly replied, “Just take Mickey Rourke. This guy looks like a demon prince in comparison.”

2012-11-05 06.16.57 copyEven the volunteer docents who man the 64-acre complex have a good sense of humor about their work. Doris Brady has given tours at the Villa for four years. She told a small group of college students, “Symmetry and grace can be achieved at your home, too! First, found a global oil concern. Next…”

2012-11-05 06.41.42 copyHigh school senior Derrik Jonstone commented on this Cypriot treasure: “I think that’s a SOUTH PARK character. What’s her name? The Greek one–Falafel Anampour.”

2012-11-05 06.51.33 copyRich and Lynn Polkin came to the Getty on their first vacation away from their two-year-old son. Lynn remarked to her husband, “Apparently other people also have trouble keeping their toddlers from playing with their shit.”

2012-11-05 07.28.11 copyOutside the gallery, the herb garden provided a quiet respite and a breath of fresh scented air. Only the pomegranate tress bore fruit so late in the season. Citing this lone fig, professional skateboarder Ray Sanders said wistfully, “It’s an ode to Lance Armstrong.”

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and after just two hours at the Villa, it’s clear to this reporter: whoever said that was a complete idiot.

*This story was not broadcast on NPR because it’s fake. What’s your NPR name?

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