The Hollywood sign has always been one of the biggest symbols of American cinema. It’s also one of the first images that flash in front of your eyes when someone starts talking about Hollywood. And to think that it was originally nothing but a flashy advertisement technique to sell houses!
The brainchild of Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, ‘Hollywoodland’ was a $21,000, 45-feet-high sign erected in the Santa Monica hills on Mount Lee to promote an upmarket real estate project. Flaunting white block letters, the sign was illuminated by 4,000 light bulbs that coruscated ‘Holly’, ‘Wood’ and ‘Land’ separately, which grabbed a lot of eyeballs. The sign was supposed to stay up for 18 months only but ended up being the face of the American film industry. But mind you, it didn’t always look this pretty.
The Hollywood sign has had its fair share of ups and downs. After a lot of wear and tear, with the sign reading ‘Ollywood’ for a while, in the 70s, it needed a makeover. Apparently, the third ‘O’ had rolled down the hill and someone tried to light an ‘L’ on fire. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decided to rebuild the sign from scratch. We have the Playboy founder Hugh Hefner to thank for saving the sign, since he was the one who, with the help of Alice Cooper and eight other donors, raised $250,002. The nine individuals were each credited with a letter! It took a shock rocker, a film producer and some other affiliates to rebuild the sign.
The citizens of Los Angeles have witnessed the sign reading a lot of interesting things over the years. In 1976, they woke up to the sight of a huge white ‘HOLLYWEED’ running across the Santa Monica hills. Artist Zachary Cole Fernandez had gotten a little artsy to celebrate the legalization of recreational marijuana in California.
The Hollywood Sign has a number of urban myths and legends tied to it. Although it has a rocky past, the Hollywood Sign has always remained a sign of American pop culture and movie magic.