|The Hollywood Sign|
The Hollywood Sign as it appeared in 2009
|Location||Hollywood, Los Angeles, California|
|Renovated||rebuilt October 1978|
|Client||Woodruff and Shoults (Hollywoodland)|
|Structural system||Wood and sheet metal (1923–1978)
|Size||45 ft (13.7 m) tall, 350 ft (106.7 m) long
Original: 50 ft (15.2 m) tall
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Thomas Fisk Goff|
|Designated:||February 7, 1973|
The Hollywood Sign (formerly known as the Hollywoodland Sign) is a landmark and American cultural icon located in Los Angeles, California. It is situated on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of the Santa Monica Mountains. The sign overlooks the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. "HOLLYWOOD" is spelled out in 45-foot-tall (14 m) white capital letters, and is 350 feet (110 m) long. It was originally created in 1923 as an advertisement for a local real estate development, but it garnered increasing recognition after the sign was left up. The sign was a frequent target of pranks and vandalism, but it has since undergone restoration, including the installation of a security system to deter vandalism. The sign is protected and promoted by the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit organization.
From the ground, the contours of the hills give the sign its "wavy" appearance, as reflected in the Hollywood Video logo, for example. When observed at a comparable altitude, as in the photo shown on the right, the letters appear nearly level.
The sign makes frequent appearances in popular culture, particularly in establishing shots for films and television programs set in or around Hollywood. Signs of similar style, but spelling different words, are frequently seen as parodies.
The sign is the location of the 1932 death of Hollywood starlet Peg Entwistle.
The sign was first erected in 1923 and originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND". Its purpose was to advertise the name of a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Chinatown. H.J. Whitley had already used a sign to advertise his development Whitley Heights, which was located between Highland Avenue and Vine Avenue. He suggested to his friend Harry Chandler, the owner of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, that the land syndicate in which he was involved make a similar sign to advertise their land. Real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults called their development "Hollywoodland" and advertised it as a "superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills".
They contracted the Crescent Sign Company to erect thirteen letters on the hillside, each facing south. The sign company owner, Thomas Fisk Goff (1890–1984), designed the sign. Each letter of the sign was 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 50 feet (15 m) high, and the whole sign was studded with some 4,000 light bulbs. The sign would flash in segments; "HOLLY," "WOOD," and "LAND" would light up individually, before lighting up entirely. Below the Hollywoodland sign was a searchlight to attract more attention. The poles that supported the sign were hauled to the site by mules. Cost of the project was $21,000 (about $250,000 in 2011 dollars).
The sign was officially dedicated in 1923 (the exact date is unknown). It was intended only to last a year and a half, but after the rise of the American cinema in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the sign became an internationally recognized symbol, and was left there.
Over the course of more than half a century, the sign, designed to stand for only 18 months, sustained extensive damage and deterioration.
During the early 1940s, Albert Kothe (the sign's official caretaker) caused an accident that destroyed the letter H, as seen in many historical pictures. Kothe, driving while inebriated, was nearing the top of Mount Lee when he lost control of his vehicle and drove off the cliff behind the H. While Kothe was not injured, the 1928 Ford Model A was destroyed, as was the letter.
In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that "LAND" be removed to spell "Hollywood" and reflect the district, not the "Hollywoodland" housing development. The Parks Department dictated that all subsequent illumination would be at the Chamber's expense, so the Chamber opted not to replace the lightbulbs. The 1949 effort gave it new life, but the sign's unprotected wood and sheet metal structure continued to deteriorate. By the 1970s, the first O had splintered and broken, resembling a lowercase u, and the third O had fallen down completely, leaving the severely dilapidated sign reading "HuLLYWO D".
In 1978, in large part because of the public campaign to restore the landmark by Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine, the Chamber set out to replace the severely deteriorated sign with a more permanent structure. Nine donors gave US$27,700 each (totaling US$249,300) to sponsor replacement letters made of steel, guaranteed to last for many years (see Donors section below).
The new letters were 45 feet (14 m) tall and ranged from 31 to 39 feet (9.4 to 12 m) wide. The new version of the sign was unveiled on Hollywood's 75th anniversary, November 14, 1978, before a live television audience of 60 million people.
Refurbishment, donated by Bay Cal Commercial Painting, began again in November 2005, as workers stripped the letters back to their metal base and repainted them white.
Following the 1978 public campaign to restore the sign, the following nine donors gave $27,777 each (which totaled $250,000):
- H – Terrence Donnelly – publisher of the Hollywood Independent Newspaper
- O – Giovanni Mazza – Italian movie producer
- L – Les Kelley – originator of the Kelley Blue Book
- L – Gene Autry - actor
- Y – Hugh Hefner – founder of Playboy magazine
- W – Andy Williams – singer
- O – Warner Bros. Records
- O – Alice Cooper – singer, who donated in memory of close friend and comedian Groucho Marx
- D – Thomas Pooley — donated in the name of Matthew Williams
The Original Sign and Restoration of the H
The original 1923 sign was presumed to have been destroyed until 2005, when it was put up for sale on eBay by producer/entrepreneur Dan Bliss. It was sold to artist Bill Mack, who used the sheet metal as a medium to paint the likenesses of stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. In August 2012, Mack constructed an exact replica of the letter H from the metal. On August 9, 2012, Herb Wesson and Tom LaBonge of the Los Angeles City Council presented Mack with a Certificate of Recognition for his restoration efforts and preserving the iconic symbol of Hollywood history. Mack hopes to tour the H across the United States and find a permanent home for it in Hollywood.
In October 2012, it was announced that a 5' tall replica of the 'H', made from the original Hollywood sign metal and painted with stars from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, went on sale in Los Angeles in mid-December 2012. It is expected to sell for around $200,000.
Some residents of the neighborhoods adjoining the sign are displeased with its presence, alleging that the congestion and traffic caused by tourists and sightseers attracted by the sign are a nuisance. Signs have been posted stating "Warning — Tourist-Free Zone — All Tourists Leave the Area" and "Tourists Go Away." As of 2013, "there are more than 40 tour companies running buses and vans in and out of the canyon..." and residents "...are most concerned about safety issues because the curving hillside roads were not designed for so many cars and pedestrians."
The sign is located on rough, steep terrain, and is encompassed by barriers to prevent unauthorized access. In 2000, the Los Angeles Police Department installed a security system featuring motion detection and closed-circuit cameras. Any movement in the marked restricted areas triggers an alarm that notifies the police.
- Elevation 1,578 feet (481 m)
The building and tower located just behind and to the right of the sign is the City of Los Angeles Central Communications Facility, which supports all cellphone, microwave and radio towers used by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Fire Department, the Los Angeles Unified School District and other municipal agencies. The building itself has no name and is essentially a large maintenance building for the antennas.
Land in the vicinity of the sign was purchased by Howard Hughes in 1940, who planned to build a hilltop mansion at Cahuenga Peak for actress Ginger Rogers. Before long Rogers broke off their engagement and the lot remained empty. Hughes' estate sold the property that lies to the left and above the sign for $1.7 million in 2002 to Fox River Financial Resources, a Chicago developer that planned to build luxury mansions along the ridgeline. It put the property on the market in 2008 for $22 million. As a result, the City of Los Angeles considered buying it, possibly by raising money from celebrities as was done for the 1978 restoration.
Environmentalists and preservationists were concerned about the possibility of real estate development in the area. In April 2009 The Trust for Public Land (TPL) signed an option to buy the 138 acres (0.56 km2) property for a discounted price of $12.5 million. On February 11, 2010, as part of a campaign to help raise money and with the full blessing of both the city and the Hollywood Sign Trust, the organization covered the sign with a large banner reading "SAVE THE PEAK". By April 26, The Trust for Public Land announced it had raised enough money, with Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner stepping forward to donate the final $900,000. Hefner later gave an additional $100,000 donation. After the purchase the parcel became part of nearby Griffith Park as an extension.
In September 1932, actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by climbing a workman's ladder up to the top of the 'H' and jumping to her death. She was 24 years old.
It is illegal to make unauthorized physical alterations to the sign. Although the city has occasionally allowed it in the past for commercial purposes, current policy does not permit changes to be made. This is largely due to neighborhood opposition and to past accidents. However, the sign has been unofficially altered a number of times, often eliciting a great deal of attention. Among the more famous modifications:
- HOLLYWeeD – January 1976, following the passage of a state law decriminalizing marijuana.
- HOLYWOOD – April 1977, for Easter sunrise service, viewable from the Hollywood Bowl.
- "GO NAVY" December 1983, when a group of Midshipmen, with permission, covered the sign for the Army-Navy football game's first and only West Coast appearance (D. Weiss, USNA'85/instigator & PM) .
- FOX – April 1987, promotion for the primetime launch of the Fox television network.
- CALTECH – May 1987, on Hollywood's centennial (of its incorporation as a municipality), also one of Caltech's many senior pranks
- OLLYWOOD – July 1987, during the Iran-Contra hearings.
- HOL YWOOD– September 1987, the second L was covered for Pope John Paul II when he visited, the sign then reading "Holywood." 
- A yellow ribbon was tied around the sign - April 1991, in celebration of the end of the Gulf War. This act also supported the Hollywood Salutes Gulf Veterans Celebrations (D. Weiss, USNA'85/instigator & PM)
- A 75-foot (23 m)-tall cutout of the film Cool World's main character, Holli Would - 1992. The cutout, which appeared to sit on the sign, was added as part of a promotion for the film. The alteration angered local residents, who said the cartoon character was "appalling" and an insult to women.
- OIL WAR – 1991, for the Gulf War.
- PerotWood – 1992, to support Ross Perot and his presidential campaign.
- GO UCLA – 1993, for the annual UCLA-USC football game. Twenty members of UCLA's Theta Chi fraternity achieved the prank, and were subsequently charged with trespassing. This incident prompted the 1994 installation of a $100,000 security system featuring video surveillance and motion detection.
- RAFFEYSOD – in 1985, for an obscure rock band.
- JOLLYGOOD – in 2000, for an airline.
- SAVE THE PEAK – February 11, 2010, the original letters were covered with a large banner reading "SAVE THE PEAK", part of a campaign by The Trust for Public Land to protect the land around the Hollywood Sign from real estate development (see above). As setup progressed, other variations such as "SALLYWOOD" and "SAVETHEPOOD" gained some notoriety.
In May 2008, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce licensed exclusive rights to Plymouth Rock Studios of Massachusetts to merge “Hollywood” with “East”, creating Hollywood East, a new industry trademark that represents the growing film industry in New England. The studio plans to find a site in Plymouth, Massachusetts for the permanent installation of the sign.
Other cities have imitated the sign in some way.
- In 2009, a Hollinwood sign was erected in Hollinwood, which is near Manchester in the United Kingdom, to celebrate the city's twinning with Los Angeles. The sign was erected during the night and then taken down by the Highways Agency, as the sign was considered a distraction.
- In March 2010, it was announced that the Wellington Airport in New Zealand would erect a WELLYWOOD sign on the hillside of the Miramar Peninsula. This was to reflect the filmmaking community in Wellington, notably Weta Digital which produced effects for Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and Avatar. Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast felt confident in proceeding with the production of the sign, having been given the blessing of Weta's Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor, but the proposed sign's widespread unpopularity with local residents has persuaded the airport staff to consider alternative ideas.
- In the hope of promoting new businesses in the town of Basildon in Essex, England, in 2010 Basildon District Council erected the letters reading the name of the town alongside the A127 road at a cost of £400,000.
- In 2010, Paddy Power, a large Irish betting company, erected a 270 ft (82 m) wide and 50 ft (15 m) high Hollywood-style sign reading Paddy Power on Cleeve Hill, in the regency town of Cheltenham, as part of a publicity campaign for Cheltenham Festival. It became the world's largest free-standing sign of its kind.
- Entertainer Dolly Parton has many times cited the Hollywood Sign as the impetus behind her own Dollywood theme park, telling Spin Magazine in 1986, "When I first saw the Hollywood sign, I thought, how wonderful would it be if I could change the 'H' to a 'D' for the day."
Use in popular culture
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce claims trademark rights over the sign's image and demands license fees for commercial use. In several films and television shows, the Hollywood sign is seen getting damaged or destroyed from the events of a particular scene. It is an example of national landmarks being destroyed, a common feature seen in many disaster movies to increase the drama and excitement.
The sign is featured in L.A. Noire, a 1940s crime video game, and correctly features the old "Hollywoodland" sign.
- Hill figure
- Hillside letter
- Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments in Hollywood
- Outpost sign
- Renée Montagne (October 28, 2002). "The Hollywood Sign". Present at the Creation. National Public Radio Crime Library. Retrieved September 20, 2006.
- Hollywood Sign Trust (May 19, 2005). "The Hollywood Sign" (PDF). A Beat-by-Beat Plotline. Hollywood Sign Trust. Retrieved August 12, 2007.
- The Father of Hollywood by Gaelyn Keith (2006)
- Williams, Gregory. "The Story of Hollywoodland". Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
- Horowitz, Joy (May 13, 2011). "Signs and Wonders [review of The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon by Leo Braudy]". Los Angeles Review of Books.
- Long, Raphael F. (Summer 2006). "Tommy Lee and the Hollywoodland Sign". Beachwood Voice 9 (2): 10–11. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- "The Hollywood Sign, Present at the Creation". NPR. October 28, 2002.
- "Hollywood Sign Restoration Project 2005". Bay Cal Painting. Retrieved January 1, 2008.
- Jessica Seid (November 17, 2005). "Buy a piece of HOLLYWOOD". CNN.
- "Bill Mack's Hollywood Sign Project". Erin Taylor Editions. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Minn. sculptor restores H". Associated Press. August 8, 2012.
- "Minneapolis sculptor unveils original H from Hollywood sign". KMSP-TV. August 9, 2012.
- Chris Harris (September 14, 2012). "Bill Mack’s Paintings bring life to the legendary images on the Original Hollywood Sign". Hollywood Today.
- "Original Hollywood sign 'H' for sale". 3 News NZ. 29 October 2012.
- Bob Pool (8 October 2013). "Discontent brewing under the Hollywood sign". Los Angeles Times.
- Bob Pool (9 October 2013). "Hollywood sign tourists, sightseers annoy local residents". Los Angeles Times.
- "Hollywood Sign". Hollywood Sign Trust. August 2, 2009. Retrieved August 2, 2009.
- "Preservation campaigners cover Hollywood sign". KABC-TV. February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
- "Chicago investors' sale puts famous Hollywood sign in jeopardy, residents say". Chicago Sun-Times. Associated Press. April 17, 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2008.[dead link]
- "Behind the Sign: The Great Cover-Up". Save Cahuenga Peak. February 2010.
- "Hugh Hefner is Final Donor, Land Around Hollywood Sign Saved". Save Cahuenga Peak. The Trust for Public Land. April 26, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2010. Archived version April 27, 2010
- "Original Benefactor Hugh Hefner Returns as Final Donor to Save Land Surrounding Hollywood Sign". Hollywood Sign Trust, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and City of Los Angeles. April 26, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2010. Archived version April 27, 2010
- [dead link]
- Nelson, Valerie J. (January 28, 2009). "Danny Finegood, who found fame with "Hollyweed" stunt, dies at age 52". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
- Los Angeles Times (September 22, 1990). "Hollywood Sign Gets New Look—Briefly". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 20, 2010.
- Laura Fitzpatrick (November 2008). "Nerd Humor Meets California Landmark". Time. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
- Los Angeles Police Department: 1987 Pope John Paul II Visit
- Schoch, Deborah (July 6, 1992). "Hollywood Residents Can't Shroud Anger Promotion: Paramount Pictures defends attaching a movie cartoon character to the famous sign. Citizens fear a tourist invasion and say that the landmark is being commercialized.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- "Cartoon Character Opens Landmark Rift". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. July 7, 1992. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- Chazanov, Mathis (July 7, 1992). "'D' as in Disagreement Cartoon Character Atop Landmark Sign Sets Off Protests". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
- Tamara Race (May 23, 2008). "Iconic Hollywood Sign Comes East". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
- Lashley, Brian (August 14, 2009). "Hollinwood sign mystery solved". Manchester Evening News (Manchester, England). Retrieved September 9, 2009.
- "Wellingtonians rejoice at Wellywood U-turn". ONE News. tvnz.co.nz. June 1, 2011.
- "'Hollywood' sign for Essex town". BBC News. March 29, 2010.
- The Guardian (Wednesday 17, 2010). "Upset racecourse officials with Hollywood-style sign stunt". London.
- Sue Cummings (May 1986). "Dollywood: The Wait is Over". Spin magazine. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
- Glas Javnosti: Holivud na Rudniku
- "Licensing Inquiries". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hollywood Sign.|
- Hollywood Sign
- Virtual Earth – The Hollywood Sign
- The Hollywood Sign from the air (via Google Maps)
- Preview of "Under the Hollywood Sign," a documentary on the history and present-day life of Beachwood Canyon
- Bay Cal Commercial Painting – Donater of 2005 Restoration (With Short History of the Hollywood Sign)