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Malibu Loses a Bit of Its Status as a Sex Symbol

August 13, 2005|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

Visitors to the California State Fair may notice something peculiar about the map of Los Angeles County on display: It's no longer anatomically correct.

Embarrassed by suggestions that the 3-D map resembles male genitalia, county officials this week ordered a small section near Malibu lopped off.

"We didn't want to offend the public," said Judy Hammond, the county's director of public affairs. "I know sex is a good advertising tool, but that's not really what we were going for."

The operation alters the shape of a large wooden box that stands at the entrance of the county's exhibit at the Cal Expo fairgrounds in Sacramento, which opened to the public on Friday. The box, in the shape of the county, is adorned with a heart as part of the county's exhibit theme: "We love L.A. County."

Exhibit-goers are prompted to fill out cards expressing why they love Los Angeles and then drop them into the box. The answers will be judged by county employees, and the authors of the best ones will win "I love L.A." Beanie Babies.

The shape of the wooden map is identical to millions printed on county books and brochures. But earlier this week, before the exhibit's official opening, a handful of passers-by working at the fairgrounds suggested that the wooden map looked a little too male.

County officials said they had never considered the map anything but gender-neutral. But because "it's such a prominent part of our exhibit, we didn't want to detract from the rest of the display," Hammond said.

The change shrinks the district represented by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Joel Bellman, a spokesman for the supervisor, said he has never heard anyone complain about the area's shape.

"I'll quote a saying that my father used to say," Bellman said, paraphrasing Mark Twain: "Let us now draw the curtain of charity over this scene."

The geographic revision appears not to have troubled judges of the exhibit entries submitted by counties.

Los Angeles' display won the gold medal and the "best marketing presentation" award on Friday.

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