Monday, February 25, 2019

The Hollywood Sign

Now that the Oscars hype is over, here is some trivia about the Hollywood sign . . . 

The sign was erected in 1923 and originally read "HOLLYWOODLAND." Its purpose was to advertise the name of a new segregated, whites-only housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. The sign was studded with around 4,000 light bulbs and flashed in segments: "HOLLY," "WOOD," and "LAND" lit up individually, and then the whole. Cost of the project was $21,000, equivalent to $310,000 in 2018. 

The sign was intended to last only a year and a half, but after the rise of American cinema in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the sign became an internationally recognized symbol and was left there. 

Over the course of more than half a century, the sign, designed to stand for only 18 months, sustained extensive damage and deterioration. 

During the early 1940s, Albert Kothe (the sign's official caretaker) caused an accident that destroyed the letter H. Kothe, driving while inebriated, was nearing the top of Mount Lee when he lost control of his vehicle and drove off the cliff directly behind the H. While Kothe was not injured, his 1928 Ford Model A was destroyed, as was the original 50 foot (15.2 m) tall illuminated letter H. 

In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that "LAND" be removed to spell "Hollywood" and reflect the district, not the "Hollywoodland" housing development. The Parks Department dictated that all subsequent illumination would be at the Chamber's expense, so the Chamber opted not to replace the lightbulbs. The 1949 effort gave it new life, but the sign's unprotected wood and sheet metal structure continued to deteriorate. By the 1970s, the first O had splintered and broken, resembling a lowercase u, and the third O had fallen down completely, leaving the severely dilapidated sign reading "HuLLYWO D." 

In 1978, in large part because of the public campaign to restore the landmark by Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, the Chamber set out to replace the severely deteriorated sign with a more permanent structure. Nine donors gave US$27,777.77 each (totaling US$249,999.93) to sponsor replacement letters, made of steel supported by steel columns on a concrete foundation. 

The new letters were 45 feet (13.7 m) tall and ranged from 31 to 39 feet (9.4 to 11.9 m) wide. The new version of the sign was unveiled on November 11, 1978, as the culmination of a live CBS television special commemorating the 75th anniversary of Hollywood's incorporation as a city. 

Refurbishment began again in November 2005, as workers stripped the letters back to their metal base and repainted them white. 

In September 1932, 24-year-old actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by climbing a workman's ladder up to the top of the 'H' and jumping to her death. 


A steam shovel is at work preparing the land for the Hollywood Sign in 1923 

Two ladies are suspended high above the Hollywood Sign as they ride on the shovel from Western Construction Co.’s working steam shovel. 

The dedication of the Hollywoodland Sign in 1923 

“Hollywoodland” sign with the first letter fallen to the side, 1940s 

The original Hollywood Sign on August 8, 1978, shortly before it was demolished and replaced 

The Hollywood Sign in serious deterioration during the 1970s 

The unveiling of the new Hollywood Sign in 1978 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council member Tom LaBonge, and Chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust Chris Baumgart help paint the sign in 2005 

Millicent Lilian "Peg" Entwistle (5 February 1908 – 16 September 1932) was a British stage and screen actress. She began her stage career in 1925, appearing in several Broadway productions. She appeared in only one film, Thirteen Women, which was released after her death. Entwistle gained notoriety after she jumped to her death from atop the "H" on the Hollywoodland sign in September 1932, at the age of 24. The suicide note she left read: “I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”

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