The Hollywood Sign: a history
Towering above the city of Los Angeles is one of the most recognizable man-made landmarks in the
world: the Hollywood sign! It’s been featured and satirized in film and popular culture for nearly a
century, which is quite impressive… for 9 wooden letters. So, what’s the big deal with the big H-O- L-L- Y-W- O-O- D? Let’s take a look…
It’s been up there for a long time! I know, longevity isn’t the most impressive achievement, but hear me out. In 1923, a real estate company wanted to get their name out there so they spelled out HOLLYWOODLAND on the side of the Santa Monica Mountain range. It measured 50 feet high and nearly 400 feet wide, with each letter outlined in a row of 8-watt light bulbs! The sign was an advertisement only meant to be up for 18 months, but the city fell in love with it. Due to popular demand, the sign became permanent.
The sign looks a lot different today because it’s been through a lot! The original sign was constructed with an expiration date, so the materials used weren’t long-lasting. Time, the elements, and a drunken caretaker (who crashed his truck into the H) punished the sign. After only 25 years, it needed to be completely reconstructed. The City of LA helped out in the reconstruction under the condition that the LAND be left off – along with the light bulbs, which were too costly to maintain.
This new sign lasted up until the late 1970’s, when it once again needed refurbishment. The sign doesn’t make the city any money directly, so any state funding was too costly to provide. Fortunately, Hugh Hefner (the founder of Playboy) hosted an auction at his mansion in which all proceeds went to preserving the sign. Each donor bid for individual letters in the sign ,with Hugh Hefner winning the bid for H.
The sign has received plenty of negative attention. Peggy Entwistle became known as the HOLLYWOOD SIGN GIRL after she committed suicide by jumping off the letter H back in 1932. Vandals also periodically target the sign – even as recently as New Years Eve 2016, when someone placed white and black cloth over the double O’s turning them into double E’s. A prank fitting for the city with legal recreational marijuana. Access to the sign is prohibited to authorized personnel only as a result of all the vandalism.
Even though you can’t touch the sign, hundreds of thousands of people flood to the city each year to get a glimpse. And it’s not just a sign, it’s history – an advertisement that has lasted longer than any other billboard in the world. Although the sign isn’t advertising property anymore, it’s still selling the dream of HOLLYWOOD!
Blog post by: Andrew Renslow