Bet you didn’t know this about the Hollywood sign

"The Hollywood Sign" by US Department of State is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“The Hollywood Sign” by US Department of State is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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

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