Letterman apologizes for exhibit joke

By S. Mitra Kalita Senior News Editor

Her sculpture of grieving women became the butt of a David Letterman joke Monday, but Suse Lowenstein says the late night talk show host quickly won her over the next day with his "sincere apology."

During his "News in Review" skit, Letterman held up a photo of the female nudes on Voorhees Mall and quipped: "The New York Giants saluted their fans last week by unveiling this sculpture titled 'What New Yorkers feel after they see us play.'"

The photo was taken at the sculpture's Sept. 9 opening ceremony at Rutgers.

The work depicts statues posed to show moments of agony, anger and grief at hearing relatives were killed in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Apparently, Letterman was unaware of the meaning behind the unique poses. "The Late Show" host apologized the next night after he found out what the sculpture really stood for.

"I never, never in a million years would include something like this in a piece of comedy," he said Tuesday night. "It was a horrible, horrible mistake and I'm dreadfully sorry."

That satisfied Lowenstein, along with the families of the victims of Flight 103, Lowenstein said.

"He was a perfect gentleman," she said.

The Mendhem resident whose 21-year-old son, Alexander, died on Flight 103 on his way home after a semester abroad said CBS called her Tuesday morning after the network had been flooded with complaints from victims' families.

"CBS called me and they apologized profusely," she said. "They told me he would apologize on the air."

CBS officials could not be reached last night for comment.

Lowenstein did not see the Late Show poking fun at her work, but tuned in the next night for the apology.

"If (Letterman) made the comment knowing what the sculpture stood for, then that's his problem," she said. "But I really believe he just didn't know."

Political science professor Fran Pilch, who helped bring "Dark Elegy" to the University, said Letterman handled the whole situation "very graciously.

"He really didn't have to stand up and apologize," Pilch said.

While she did not see the show, Pilch, too, was inundated with phone calls and complaints.

"It was pretty funny unless you knew this was related to a terrible tragedy," she said.

Lowenstein chalked the incident up to one which generated more attention for "Dark Elegy."

"This may have been a dark cloud with a silver lining because it brought attention to the sculpture," she said.

The sculpture, she said, has a message against the ever-present problem of terrorism.

"The sculpture is a public thing," she said. "Anytime we bring attention to the problem of terrorism ... it is positive."

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