The Hollywood Sign Continues to Stand in the Hills

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The Hollywood Sign

The huge sign sitting in the foothills of Hollywood has a long, interesting history. It was erected in 1923. This was during the beginning of the Golden Age of Hollywood when the record-breaking production budget of Ben Hur was created. The cost, $3.95 million. Today that amount wouldn’t even pay for scenery. The sign, however, was not designed for Hollywood, as we know it today when we think of stars, movies, and the film industry. It was originally built to attract people to buy new homes at the hillside. It was created by the developers S.H. Woodruff and Tracy E. Shoults to promote their new neighborhood named “Hollywoodland.” The last four letters, spelling “land,” were not dropped until 1949. 

The Hollywood Sign Once Had “Land” At The End

Four-thousand light bulbs lit up the original Hollywoodland sign. It was constructed from large sections of sheet metal. It stood as high as 50 feet – as tall as a five-story building. The bulbs lit up in four sections. First, “Holly,” then “Wood,” followed by “Land,” and ending by lighting up the entire word. During this era, it was considered as quite a progressive and modern sign. Thomas Fisk Goff created the sign. He owned a sign company. He was also an artist. The sign was very expensive during that period costing around $21,000 to install. Albert Kothe was hired to caretake for the sign. He was responsible for replacing the lightbulbs and maintaining it. The sign was intended to stand for approximately 18 months while the realtors were selling the lots.

The Hollywood Sign Has Had Situations

The sign is known for a couple of bad situations. First, Albert Kothe had too much to drink one night. He drove his 1928 Ford station wagon off the cliff just above the sign. The car was reported to roll down the hill, hitting the “H,” and destroying it. Although he wasn’t hurt the Ford and the “H” were destroyed, Secondly, a much more serious situation occurred in 1932. Peg Entwistle, an actress, moving to Hollywood to become a star, became discouraged after her efforts failed. On September 18, 1932, she hiked to the Hollywood sign. She then climbed a ladder to the top of the “H” and jumped to her death.

The Hollywood Sign Faced Destruction

The Depression during the 1930s temporarily halted real estate development. Times were difficult, and the sign was no longer needed. The caretaker stripped the copper wiring from the sign and sold it for scrap. Then, in 1944, the city of Los Angeles purchased 455 acres from the Hollywoodland developers. This included the land where the sign stood. They did not want such a large sign on their property, so they decided to remove it. Residents who loved the sign protested. The city eventually agreed to salvage the sign but demanded that the “Land” part of the sign be removed. This removal was completed, they restored the broken “H,” and restored the remaining letters. In 1973 the sign had deteriorated. It was broken down and rusty. The city applied another coat of paint and declared it “L.A. Cultural and Historical Monument #111.” Five years later, the sign had deteriorated again and looked worse. The Chamber of commerce determined it was in need of a very expensive rejuvenation. 

The Hollywood Sign Is Saved By Hugh Hefner

In 1978 Playboy millionaire Hugh Hefner stepped in to help restore the sign. He held a fundraiser at his Playboy Mansion. Each letter on the sign was auctioned for $28,000 each to raise the needed money for renovation. Purchasers of the letters included such people as Alice Cooper, Gene Autrey, Hefner, Andy Williams, and Warner Brothers Studios. 

   People still are amazed at the sign

The Hollywood Sign Has A Trust

One of the big changes eventually coming about was that the city of Los Angeles no longer allowed people to hike up to the sign. This, of course, was to protect against lawsuits. This might be due to possible future suicides, rattlesnake bites, brush fires, and so forth. In order to enforce the restriction, a specially-designed security system was developed. This included razor wire, infrared technology, 24-hour monitoring, motion sensors, alarms, and helicopter patrols. In the early 1990s, a trust was created for the sign. This ensures that the sign will be maintained in the future.

The Hollywood sign is a symbol of greatness. Anyone driving on the freeways below can feel special when they look up and see the letters that spell out a word that honors a special industry – Hooray for Hollywood.

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