The Hollywood Sign (part 1)
Once upon a time… HOLLYWOODLAND!
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.”
The Crescent Sign Company erected 13 letters on the hillside facing south. Thomas Fisk Goff (1890–1984) the owner designed the sign. Each letter was 30 feet wide and 50 feet high. The sign was studded with ~4,000 light bulbs and would flash in segments: “HOLLY,” “WOOD” and “LAND” would first light individually, then the whole sign would light up. Below the Hollywoodland sign was a searchlight to attract more attention.
The Hollywoodland sign was officially dedicated on July 13, 1923. It was not intended to be permanent. Restoration company Bay Cal Painting says on its website that the expected life was originally intended to be about 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 became a permanent fixture.
The Hollywood Sign is a landmark cultural icon located in Los Angeles, California.
in Griffith Park on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument on February 7, 1973
On September 16, 1932, 24 year old actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide from the top of the H. She climbed a workman’s ladder and then jumped to her death. Her ghost is reported to haunt The Hollywood Sign.
During the early 1940s, Albert Kothe (the sign’s caretaker) was driving while intoxicated and lost control of his vehicle near the top of Mount Lee. He drove off the cliff and wasn’t injured but his 1928 Ford Model A was destroyed, and so was the original 50 foot tall illuminated letter H.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce contracted with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair/rebuild the sign in 1949. The contract stipulated that “LAND” be removed to spell “Hollywood” and all illumination would be at the Chamber’s expense (and so the Chamber opted not to replace the lightbulbs or light the sign). The 1949 repairs added years but the sign’s unprotected wood and sheet metal continued to deteriorate into the 1970’s.
The Hollywood Sign circa 1978:
In 1978 there was a public campaign and Hugh Hefner held a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion to replace the sign. Each letter was “sponsored” by a celebrity.
Nine donors gave $27,777.77 each (which totaled $250,000):
H: Terrence Donnelly (publisher of the Hollywood Independent Newspaper)
O: Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
L: Les Kelley (founder of the Kelley Blue Book)
L: Gene Autry (actor)
Y: Hugh Hefner (founder of Playboy)
W: Andy Williams (singer)
O: Warner Bros. Records
O: Alice Cooper (singer) donated in memory of Groucho Marx
D: Dennis Lidtke (businessman) donated in the name of Matthew Williams
The old sign was removed beginning August 8 1978, and rebuilt. The new sign made of corrugated metal on steel poles, in the exact same spot as the old sign, was completed on October 30 1978. The new sign is 5 feet shorter than the original to prevent damage from wind and other elements.
“Cool World” (1992) is a terrible live-action/animated black comedy fantasy film directed by Ralph Bakshi and starring Kim Basinger, Gabriel Byrne and Brad Pitt.
As promotion for the film, a giant-size Holli Would cut-out was placed on top of the sign, drawing outrage from neighborhood groups and feminists. It was promptly removed.
We called it “part 1”, and this is where it ends.
More to come> The Hollywood Sign (part 2)
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