Hollywood is the mecca for wannabes, could-bes and might-bes, and it’s the Hollywood sign, one of the most recognizable signs in the world that draws them here. It’s a symbol of failure and tragedy for many, hope and success for others. It’s been featured in countless movies and TV shows, and it is cherished by Angelinos whatever their connection to it and the city of Los Angeles.
This year celebrates the 90th anniversary of the sign, which was built in 1923 as a real estate gimmick, the original 50ft tall sign read Hollywoodland and was lit up by 4000 light bulbs. Today each letter stands 45ft tall and is made from metal. Over the years the sign has been repaired numerous times but the 1978 public campaign is the most famous for nine donors who each gave $27,777 each to repair the sign:
H – Terrence Donnelly a newspaper publisher
O – Giovanni Mazzaa a movie producer
L – Les Kelley who invented the Kelley Blue Book for car valuations
L – Gene Autry the singing movie and TV cowboy
Y – Hugh Hefner of the Playboy Empire
W – Andy Williams, variety shows host and easy listening singer who sang Moon River.
O – Warner Brothers Records Company
O – Alice Cooper the godfather of Shock Rock who donated in memory of his friend comedian Groucho Marx
D – Thomas Pooley who donated in the name of Matthew Williams
More recently, the future of the peak surrounding the sign was uncertain. In 1940, eccentric billionaire and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes bought the land that the sign was on. He had planned to build a mansion for his then fiancée Ginger Rogers but Rogers broke off the engagement and the land just remained as it was until 2002 when Hughes estate decided to sell it to a developer who planned to build luxury mansions along the ridgeline. The people of Los Angeles were horrified.
After much negotiation the City of LA and the Hollywood Sign Trust secured a deal to buy the land for a discounted price of $12.5 million. Donations flooded in from concerned Angelinos including Hugh Hefner who stepped up once again and donated $900,000 to save the peak. Today, the peak is considered part of Griffith Park, which belongs to the people of Los Angeles.
There are a few spots in LA to take pictures of the sign, but this is one of the easiest with plenty of free parking and a clear view of the sign in front of you, and Hollywood reservoir behind you – Lake Hollywood Park, Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, 90068. On a clear day, the view of LA from here is spectacular and you can see all the way to the ocean!