Hey Hollywooders! Welcome to HollyGOOD Tuesdays, where we break down the facts and stories that you never knew about Hollywood. From the weird and wacky to juicy backstories, this is the place for all things Hollywood. Every city has a story, but the city of angels is in a league of its own.
The first to cover are those big bold white letters that sit on top of Mount Lee — that’s right, The Hollywood Sign. This landmark has been around almost as long as Hollywood, so it’s only fitting to break down the history of this historic landmark.
Welcome to Hollywoodland
Erected in 1923, The Hollywood sign was originally built under the name Hollywoodland. In 1923, Harry Chandler invested in a real estate development called Hollywoodland, which capitalized on the glamorous lifestyle and booming housing market in Los Angeles at the time.
Welcome to mid-1920s L.A., when the Hollywood sign was Hollywoodland… and the San Fernando Valley was farmland. pic.twitter.com/c9HcJniIwZ
— L.A. Dork (@la_dorkout) March 19, 2021
Between the years 1923 and 1931, The Hollywood sign became a cultural phenomenon on the west coast. However, by the 1940s, Hollywood began to change, and so did the sign. As the Hollywoodland development ceased to exist, the sign began to wither away, leaving behind a shell of what was once a quintessential California landmark.
While the LA Recreation and Parks Commission wanted the sign destroyed, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in and restored the sign, removing the last four letters. This is the sign we came to know today.
Despite this restoration, the sign began to decay again over the next 30 years.
— Matt Trevithick (@M_Trevithick) September 28, 2017
Don’t forget to thank… Hugh Hefner?
By the 1970s, The Hollywood sign had seen better days, rusted and dilapidated from years of neglect. People in the city saw the sign as a badge of dishonor for Hollywood. Arsonists set fire to the bottom half of the “L”, The “H” tumbled down the side of Mount Lee. Just when things couldn’t get worse for this historic landmark, Hugh Hefner came to the rescue, gathering Playboy Bunnies and famous celebs for a fundraiser to rebuild the sign. Together they raised over $250,000 and restored the sign.
Hugh Hefner not only saved the sign in the late 1970s but again in 2010. He purchased the 138 acres of land surrounding the sign in order to ensure that the cultural landmark would be protected.
Hugh Hefner saved the Hollywood sign by donating $900k to buy the land before it was bought by developers 🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/8L6yheN5M4
— LADbible (@ladbible) September 28, 2017
The Hollywood sign: A cultural phenomenon and a meme
As if the Hollywood sign hasn’t been through enough, the landmark has been subject to vandalism, pranks, and memes in recent years. As a result of these high jinks, public access to the site has been prohibited and the location is under 24/7 surveillance. This is why we can’t have nice things.
In 2017, pranksters toyed with the famous sign, adding tarps to change the appearance of the letters. Many people on the internet found it amusing, and this sparked a meme trend for the Hollywood tourist attraction.
REMEMBER ON JANUARY 1ST 2017 WHEN SOMEONE MADE THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN SAY HOLLYWEED yeah i think it’s all gone downhill from there
— ruth (@hotynation) September 8, 2020
Six people were arrested Monday after scaling steep terrain around the iconic Hollywood sign.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) February 2, 2021
— Belle Anderson (@SurfBelle2) January 6, 2017
Happening right now. pic.twitter.com/AbGesp1JG8
— Vsauce (@tweetsauce) February 1, 2021
Despite all the turmoil, the sign stands the test of time at 98 years old. Hopefully, it will serve as a symbol of the Hollywood lifestyle for years to come
We’re reimagining Hollywood.com as a place where entertainment news actually entertains you. We’re sharing the good in Hollywood, spotlighting the feel-good stories that matter about any and every kind of celeb. Be a part of the good in Hollywood in your very own neighborhood with our app (coming soon!) that gives you a whole new way to buy movie tickets––in seconds. Follow us on Instagram for more feel-good celeb stories.