In 1923, a land syndicate created a new housing development on the Hollywood hillside of the Santa Monica Mountains. In an attempt to flaunt their new development, they contracted the Crescent Sign Company to erect a large HOLLYWOODLAND sign on Mount Lee, which is also part of Griffith Park.
The 13 letters, on a hillside facing south, were each 30 feet wide and 50 feet high. The letters were studded with some 4,000 light bulbs, whereby the sign would flash in 3 segments -- "HOLLY" & "WOOD" & "LAND" would alternate, lighting up individually.
The Poles that supported the sign were hauled up to the site by mules. The cost of the project was $21,000.
The sign was officially dedicated in 1923.
It was only intended to remain there for a year and a half. However, with the rise of American cinema in Los Angeles, the sign became a favorite symbol and remained in place.
Over time, it sustained damage and deterioration of the unprotected wood and sheet metal structure.
In 1932, the HOLLYWOODLAND sign was the scene of a bizarre incident. Millicent Lilian "Peg" Entwistle (1908 - 1932) was a stage and screen actress. She had appeared in several Broadway productions and only a single movie, titled Thirteen Women, On September 16, 1932, Entwistle leaped to her death from the "H" on the HOLLYWOODLAND sign, at age 24.
The official caretaker in the early 1940s, while driving drunk, was approaching the top of Mount Lee when he lost control of his 1928 Ford Model A and veered off the cliff directly behind the H, destroying both his car and the original 50-foot tall letter H.
In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Congress entered into a contract with the Parks Department of the City of Los Angeles to repair and rebuild the sign. As part of the contract, the "LAND" portion of the sign was to be removed, leaving the sign with 9 letters, reading HOLLYWOOD. The Chamber of Congress also opted not to replace any of the light bulbs on the letters.
In the 1970s, the first O had splintered and the third O had fallen down, rendering the sign to read HULLYWO D.
Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy magazine, began a campaign to restore the landmark sign.
In 1978, the Chamber of Congress decided to replace the deteriorating sign with a more permanent structure. Nine donors each gave $27,777.77 (totaling $249,999.93) to sponsor one of the replacement letters. The nine donors were each assigned a letter.
H -- Terrence Donnelly (publisher of Hollywood Independent Newspaper)
O -- Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
L -- Les Kelley (creator of The Kelley Blue Book)
L -- Gene Autry (actor)
Y -- Hugh Hefner (Publisher of Playboy)
W -- Andy Williams (singer)
O -- Warner Bros. Records
O -- Alice Cooper (singer)
D -- Dennis Lidke (businessman)
Alice Cooper had made his donation in the memory of his friend, comedian Groucho Marx, who had once joked that he would also donate an "O" from his own name.
The new version of the sign was unveiled on November 11, 1978, on a live CBS television special broadcast commemorating the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Hollywood.
Hooray for HOLLYWOOD.
Quote for the Day -- “Hollywood is like Picasso's bathroom.” Candace Bergen
Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and has fond memories of having lived a dozen years in the Land of Fruits & Nuts.