Welcome to HOLLYWOOD

When news broke this week that a housing developer was buying the land where the famous HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles stands, top names in the entertainment industry went on a rescue mission.

As a native of a Los Angeles suburb, I’m deeply familiar with the sign that punctuates the Chapparral Hollywood hillsides.   It’s certainly not a work of art; but it is a landmark.

Not many people probably know that the original sign – ironically an advertisement for a housing development – read Hollywoodland.  Dedicated in July 1923, the first letters were each 30 feet wide, 50 feet tall, and studded with 4000 light bulbs.  The developers only intended for the sign to be temporary, but the rise of American cinema in Los Angeles helped turn this advertisement into an attraction.

It didn’t take long before the sign began to be the source of trouble. Suicides, car accidents, vandalism – HOLLYWOOD had it all.   So in the late 1970s several industry moguls – including rocker Alice Cooper and Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner –replaced the deteriorating sign with something more permanent.

So it’s no surprise that so many movie tycoons rushed to rescue the sign again this week. (Hugh Hefner provided nearly $1 million himself.) In many ways, the HOLLYWOOD sign reflects America’s zeitgeist – both past and present: promise land, hope, opportunity, fame, and wealth.  As it turns out, saving HOLLYWOOD is about a whole lot more than saving a sign.