Put up a maypole in a village and every one will come out, an old saying goes. Put up a eight metre tall statue of Marilyn Monroe in a country town and expected 100,000 visitors and $11 million in economic benefits.
This is what Bendigo expects to accrue from its decision to import from the US on temporary loan the newly completed steel and aluminium sculpture Forever Marilyn, by American artist Seward Johnson, and which required two containers to transport to Australia..
The statue, which is inspired by a scene in the 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch, has been erected in Bendigo's Rosalyn Park, in conjunction with Bendigo Art Gallery and 20th Century Fox present Marilyn Monroe at the art gallery. In the film, Marilyn's character stands atop a subway grill basking in the cool air emitted from it which billows her dress out.
The crowds come and go, few of whom do not stop for a selfie standing at Marilyn's feet. But will they come back in the future? For Marilyn not to Bendigo, that is.
Ask any of the Monroe memorabilia collectors, fans and nostalgia buffs the answer has to be yes. In Australia they are heavily invested in her. One is an anonymous Australian who owns the dress she wore to entertain the allied troops in Korea in 1954.
It would be nice to imagine that the collector could be that scion of that great modern painting collector Keith Murdoch, Rupert, given Rupert's connection with 20th Century Fox, but that would be to regret for a moment that Rupert is no longer Australian.
Given that one of her dresses – admittedly a star lot – have made up to $US4.5 million at auction a fan would need a substantial fortune to own one.
This was the price paid at a Christie's entertainment memorabilia auction which included lots from Debbie Reynolds for her in an auction held by Christie's in 2011. Debbie was reported to have cried when the hammer fell on the lot. She had been hoping to set up a museum of Hollywood in which this would be a star lot but had failed to obtain enough support.
The Korean War dress was sold to a Californian collectables dealer for $US126,000 It was historically more important as the Korean tour made her a far more wholesome forces' favourite.
If any of her dresses were to be earmarked for the American History museum in Washington DC it would be this one.
It is a cocktail dress of silk crepe with bugle beads and came with a matching bolero. That is not as seductive and salacious as some of her other dresses.
Marilyn's life is out of sync with some of the other Hollywood stars of her generation because of her death at the early age of 36.
She lacked museum recognition in her day and her closest associate packed away her belongings for several decades.
Liberace, or Mr Entertainment as he was known, did better, having his own eponymous museum in Las Vegas. The Liberace Museum, however, was packed up and the contents put into storage two years ago. The pianist was idolised by middle ageing women who had dinner parties to watch his weekly shows on black and white TV.
Many in the gay community despised him because of the simpering image he projected. Heterosexual men tended to follow suit while they and gay men loved Marilyn.
Picture this. Three a.m. on the QE II Liner crossing the Atlantic. A sleepless passenger leaves the cabin for an exercise on a ship that at that time was so quiet that it felt like the Marie Celeste.
But a lot of noise is coming from the theatre which is packed. Not by passengers but the crew it appears. Two men in purple dresses accompanied by a full orchestra are doing a great transgender rendition of Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.
Roles are reversed the next night when the show was performed for passengers. Marilyn and kitsch do meet occasionally but not with anything like the vulgarity of Liberace and kitsch.
It is risky hanging onto Marilyn memorabilia because those who could regard themselves as one time contemporaries have almost gone.
An exhibition which has followed on the 2012 presentations of the 50th anniversary of her death make her the dress world's equivalent of the dug ups of the Australian art market that were so endemic in the 1980s of which James Alfred Turner was the most conspicuous.
Except that Marilyn was not given full funeral honours.
The Bendigo exhibition includes a number of other loans from Australian collectors but these are mainly of ephemera.
It would have included more if Australian Hollywood costume /dresser Orry-Kelly, subject of a recent film on his life, had done more work for Fox.
The Larry McQueen collection of LA has lent Orry-Kelly's Monroe cocktail dress from Some like it Hot, a reminder of the long links between Hollywood and Australia. (they even go back as far as Errol Flynn and have been persistent in the dressing room.
Greg Schreiner, a Los Angeles collector who has several dresses and many other loans in the exhibition, says that the 2000 members of his Marilyn fan club include many younger people who idolise her.
But he concedes that her mortality in the collector market is also under threat from the creation of many of her dresses which may be difficult to conserve.
Some extraordinary pieces of Marilyn memorabilia have surfaced, such as a King James Bible which made $US33,000 helped by her pencilled additions or corrections and Mexican tiles from her house in Brentwood, California.
The exhibition has been curated by Bendigo Art Gallery and facilitated through contacts made by the museum for other dress or celebrity exhibitions which have made the gallery the darling of sponsors and the public. It appears very commercial, coming as it does with the blessing of Fox Consumer products.
The Hollywood studios sold lots of their memorabilia in the 1960s when movies were being hurt by TV and had not developed it as an outlet, so there have been a few dispersals by which material could have drifted to Australia.
The other country town exhibition, at the Murray Art Museum, Albury (Mama) is as authentic to its specialisation as is Bendigo to dresses (one such past exhibition at Bendigo was of wedding dresses). Titled Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, it was organised by Fine Arts & Consulting, Hamburg, Germany and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.
Mama has is developing a photographic collection being especially successful in attracting donations under the Cultural Gifts Program.
Its Marilyn exhibition has travelled in Europe and Brazil. It consists of more than 100 paintings, photographs and videos from public and private collections.
They are by such well known names in the art world as Andy Warhol, Cecil Beaton and Henri Cartier-Bresson.