The Hollywood Sign was built in 1923 as part of an upscale real estate development called Hollywood land. The sign cost $21,000 to make and the developers expected the sign to last for a year. However, soon after its development the sign became a cultural phenomenon and a popular tourist attraction in the area. The rise of American cinema, and the beginning of the golden age of Hollywood, resulted in the sign becoming an internationally recognized symbol. All actors dreamt of becoming successful in Hollywood.
The Case of Peg Entwistle
In 1932, The pressurizing environment of the movie industry in Hollywood became too much for Peg Entwistle. She ended her life by climbing on top of the letter H, and swan diving in to the mountains. She achieved in death, the fame that eluded her when alive. This terrible tragedy added further allure to the Hollywood Sign.
Deterioration of sign
In the 1940s, the condition of the sign began to deteriorate. In fact, the new thriving neighbourhoods in the area wanted the sign to be removed as it was seen as an eyesore. In 1949, the City of Los Angeles’ agreed to rebuild the sign at a cost of $4000. It was at this time that the “land” part of the sign was removed so that it would simply spell “Hollywood”.
In the 30 years that followed the sign would require constant repairs and celebrities would often be on hand to help. Gloria Swanson, a Hollywood actress, was one of the biggest contributors and she sponsored a complete makeover of the sign in 1973.
However, by 1978 the sign needed further investment after the “O” tumbled down the mountain as a result of termite infestation, and the “L” was lit on fire by arsonists. The city estimated that the cost to completely rebuild the sign would be too expensive at $250,000.
Hugh Hefner helps fund redevelopment
Hugh Hefner played an important role in the redevelopment of the Hollywood Sign when he set about raising funds to cover the costs of the rebuild. He succeed in getting celebrities to sponsor a letter each on the sign. Celebrities such as Andy Williams, Alice Cooper, and Gene Autry paid $27,700 a piece to own a famous Hollywood Sign letter.
New sign unveiled
The brand new sign was unveiled on live television in 1978. 60 million people watched the rebirth of the famous sign being unveiled for the first time.
In 1999, the Hollywood Sign played an important role in introducing people the new millennium. The shine shone bright as people celebrated the beginning of a new century.
Hollywood Sign Trust aims to protect the area
In more recent times, efforts have been made to protect the area behind the Hollywood Sign. The Hollywood Trust attempted to draw attention to the campaign, by covering each letter of the sign to read ‘SAVE THE PEAK’. Hugh Hefner was once again at the forefront of the hard work to protect the area, and thanks to his contributions, combined with grants and contributions from a string of leading people in Hollywood, the area is now protected.
The Hollywood Sign played an important role in making Los Angeles the most important entertainment industry in the world. What began as a simple real estate sign has become the most recognizable sign in the world, and its power and influence shows no signs of diminishing.