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In the Clear 

Juno the Transparent Woman doesn't let life's little melodramas--like having 75 lightbulbs implanted in her shoulder blades--get to her. Her fifty-year-old pickup lines are unfailingly fresh: "The next generation begins in my ovaries," she enthuses. And she always invites everybody to look at her pancreas.

Yes, she's a freak. But she's our freak. Tall, statuesque, and see-through, Juno has talked to and rotated for visitors to the Cleveland Health Museum since 1950. For four generations, schoolchildren have seen her organs light up like winning numbers on a game show, and squirmed through her deconstruction of the small intestine: "The digestive system is kind of like a cafeteria line, but instead of putting lunch together, it takes lunch apart."

Juno's peek-a-boo physiology--including blood vessels long enough to cross the Golden Gate Bridge eight times!--will be celebrated Saturday at the Health Museum's Juno Forever Jubilee. The festivities include arts and crafts, ballroom dancing demonstrations, and the crowning of the flesh-and-blood Ms. Juno 1999.

Contrary to her congenial demeanor, Juno was born during troubled times at the Dresden, Germany-based Deutsches Hygiene Museum (an institution that fashions transparent animals and people for schools, museums, and the private collections of weirdos). Finding themselves in the middle of the Communist takeover of East Germany, the museum's curators managed to smuggle hundreds of molds for plastic dog spleens and human esophagi over the border, and set up shop in Cologne. Over the years, their outlaw status made it tough for the Health Museum to get spare parts when Juno's big toe cracked or the vitamin-pill-sized lightbulb in her heart burned out. So Health Museum workers learned to improvise--a tradition that continues today, although the Hygiene Museum has moved back to Dresden.

"Part of her I fixed with ball-point-pen springs," says Health Museum technician Dave Leeds. Recently, he streamlined Juno's clunky Cold War machinery with computer circuitry. But even plastic mannequins are mortal. "Wait a minute . . . it's out of sync," he says as she spins on her carpeted axis. "Her brain should be lit up right now. But the bladder's lighting up."

In the 1980s, the original blinking broad began to fray. "Her fingertips were wearing out, and the wires were coming through," recalls Tricia Horvath, the museum's associate director. The museum bought two duplicate models. Juno I still reigns in a storage garage.

"She's in a real nice resting place," says Horvath, noting that the sentimental staff wouldn't settle for less. "She's not sitting on a dump somewhere."

--Putre

The Juno Forever Jubilee runs from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Health Museum, 8911 Euclid Avenue. Admission is $4.50; call 216-231-5010.

More by Laura Putre

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