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The legacy of a cold dip

Jonathan Kiefer | May 31, 2012 | Lifestyle Story Culture

Before there were Internet memes, there were famous movie moments, and in the same way that Marilyn Monroe’s skirt billowing over the subway grate said New York, or Anita Ekberg splashing in the Trevi Fountain said Rome, Kim Novak standing under the Golden Gate Bridge and pitching herself into the bay said San Francisco.
Now, even 50-plus years after her famous leap, it’s hard to think of the city without thinking of Vertigo, and it’s impossible to think of Vertigo without thinking of Novak and her ethereal beauty. Hence a June 14 gala in her honor at the Old Mint to benefit the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and present Novak with the museum’s San Francisco Cinematic Icon Award. (A related local movie-history exhibit will open to the public two days later.)
“I feel very proud of this,” Novak says, declaring the city a bastion of social and creative independ-ence. “I stand for everything San Francisco stands for.” Vertigo was her first real introduction to the city, and she “fell in love with it right away. I would go dancing and roam through Chinatown; I felt like I got to know the city inside out.”
After leaving Hollywood, Novak gravitated north to live the hippie painter’s life in Big Sur, with periodic, low-profile safaris to San Francisco to soak up its bohemian urbanity. It’s been some time since her last visit, and she says she’s eager to take stock of how the place has changed. Maybe she’ll even take one of the city’s Vertigo walking tours—that is, if her memories of her shocking screen death aren’t too traumatic.


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