Saturday, September 1, 2007

French fans want Diana memorial in Paris

French fans want Diana memorial in Paris
By ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press Writer
Tue Aug 28, 2007

At a golden statue of a flickering flame, fans of Princess Diana pay homage to her in Paris, leaving behind poems and prayers even now, 10 years after she died nearby.

A French child's collage proclaims her "unforgettable." An Italian fan scrawls, "I still love you."

But contrary to popular belief, the statue wasn't built for Diana; it was merely appropriated by her fans.

With the 10th anniversary of her death on Friday, a few fans say it's time she had a Paris monument in her honor — something permanent, unlike the memorabilia swept away regularly by trash collectors — and they have begun a fundraising drive.

Dominique de Fontenay says he thinks about Diana every day as he passes through the Pont d'Alma traffic tunnel where she died in a car crash, and he is always struck by the lack of a monument.

"That seems shocking and flagrant, given Diana's notoriety and the love that most people all over the world felt for her," said de Fontenay, a 34-year-old event planner who conceived the project.

De Fontenay teamed up with a jeweler and sculptor, Xavier de Fraissinette, who sketched out ideas for a bronze statue of a suit-clad Diana reaching out to a small child holding a bouquet.

"The hardest thing will be getting her expression, her smile, her face right," said de Fraissinette, who designed a sculpture for the Lyon, France, meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in 1996. "It must not be a mortuary monument, she must be natural."

After a few mentions in the local press, about 150 people have donated a total of $9,500, the two said. Building the statue will require $240,000, said de Fontenay, a Diana fan who remembers joining up with crowds to mourn the princess after the Aug. 31, 1997, crash that killed her, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their chauffeur, Henri Paul.

"I think everyone on the planet who had a heart was depressed that day, or at least filled with a great sadness," said de Fontenay, who named his cat "Princess" in Diana's honor.

The plans by de Fontenay and de Fraissinette are in the early stages and do not have approval from Paris City Hall, where the press office said officials were not aware of their campaign. The process could be long, and they will need approval from the city council.

For now, the torch statue near the traffic tunnel remains the de facto memorial. A replica of the Statue of Liberty's torch, it was donated in 1987 by the International Herald Tribune newspaper as a symbol of French-American friendship.

Ten years later, mourners turned the torch into a Diana shrine, which seemed fitting because Elton John sang "Candle in the Wind" at her funeral in London's Westminster Abbey.

On any given afternoon, dozens of tourists crowd around the torch, snapping pictures and leaving behind cellophane-wrapped roses. After posing for a snapshot, 29-year-old Arijit Ray of London said he wished de Fontenay and de Fraissinette luck.

"There should be a statue," he said.

De Fontenay already has a spot picked out — a grassy garden right above the tunnel where the crash took place.

"It's all ready. There are flowers. All that's missing is Diana," he said.
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