Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben in London, or the Sydney Opera House, the Hollywood Sign is an instantly recognisable city monument and an iconic beacon for both those who work in the movie and entertainment industry, and for people from everywhere who visit the city of Los Angeles.
The original Hollywood Sign was erected in 1923 and actually read "HOLLYWOODLAND" to promote the name of a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. It was flimsily made with wooden panels anchored by telephone poles, so it regularly blew over.
The removal of the “LAND” portion of the sign happened in conjunction with some restoration works in September 1949, properly kicking off its iconic status.
Among the best-known landmarks in both California and the United States, the sign makes frequent appearances in popular culture, particularly in establishing shots for films and television programs set in or around Hollywood.
Because of its widespread recognisability and its visibility from many points across the Los Angeles Basin, the sign has been a frequent target of pranks and vandalism across the decades.
The modifications have included:
HOLLYWeeD (1976 and 2017) ... supporting the decriminalisation of cannabis use
HOLYWOOD (1976 and 1987) ... for Pope John Paul II when he visited
OIL WAR (1990) ... to protest the Gulf War
JOLLYGOOD (1993) by anonymous for reasons unknown; and
HOLLYBOOB (2021) ... to challenge censorship on Instagram
In 1978, Hugh Hefner, the now deceased founder of Playboy magazine, drove a public campaign to restore the badly deteriorated Hollywood Sign.
Restoration was completed thanks to nine donors, who each gave US$27,777.77 to restore a specific letter e.g. musician Alice Cooper donated to restore the second “O” in memory of the comedian, Grouch Marx. Hefner himself supported the letter “Y”. Donations totalled US$249,999.93 USD (worth around $1.2 million in 2023 dollars).
The Hollywood Sign is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2023. As part of the year-long festivities, the Hollywood Sign Trust has announced plans to build a one-of-a-kind Visitor Center to provide a richer experience for fans.
The idea for this story was contributed by Ally Hensley
1. Hollywood Sign Photograph Credit: Hollywood Sign Trust
2. Image Credit Sage Scott for travelwaits.com
3. Hollywoodland Sign. Source: Breve Storia del Cinema
4. Blondie and Band pose in front of the Hollywood Sign, 1977
5. Hollyweed. Source: The Independent
7. Hugh Hefner under the Hollywood Sign, 1978