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Thursday, May 29, 2003 01:43 pm

Hometown boy does good

Springfield has the Simpsons, but Metropolis has Superman.

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Near the bottom of Illinois, not far from Paducah, Kentucky, the small town of Metropolis snuggles up to the Ohio River, a few miles from Fort Massac State Park. When Robert Westerfield moved there in the early 70s, no one had thought of the place as the home of comic-book character and film star, Superman. But through Westerfield's initiative, the Illinois House of Representatives officially declared Metropolis, Illinois, as the Hometown of Superman in 1972. After a failed attempt to establish a Superman theme park, locals began the Superman Celebration in 1979, after the popularity of the macho man in tights soared, following the blockbuster movie starring Christopher Reeves. By 1986 tourism had slowed, but the town raised enough funds to build a 7-foot high fiberglass statue of Superman. In 1988, Metropolis once again capitalized on its association with the Man of Steel, during the 50th anniversary of America's favorite superhero. Five years later the town erected a 15-foot bronze statue that stands in front of the Court House--in (you guessed it) Superman Square. This year from June 12 through 15, Metropolis hosts the 25th annual Superman Celebration. Actor Bob Holiday, who played Superman in the 1966 Broadway production of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman, will proudly wear the big red "S." Yvonne Craig, the actress best known for her sultry portrayal of Cat Woman in the 1960s Batman series, purrs her way around town. Noel Neill, the definitive Lois Lane from the television series with George Reeves, will be on hand to sell her autobiography. Neill also appeared in a Superman movie serial in 1948 and in the 1978 Christopher Reeves movie, giving her the distinction of being in three different eras of Superman adventures. The town promises a carnival, street theater, costume contests, a Superman Film Festival, and a Superman Playhouse Theater, plus other exciting events related to the 60-year-old comic book character.

Metropolis, like everywhere these days, has few phone booths, leaving Clark Kent with practically no place to change his clothes. Who would have thought cell phones could affect Superman more than Kryptonite?

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