The adventurous story of the Hollywood sign

The emblematic landmark of the Mecca of cinema

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We have probably seen it more than any other sign out there, having immortalized it in every available medium.

It is you see the very symbol of American cinematic omnipotence, the beast that signals the splendor and grandeur of the world of cinema.

And how fitting it is that the Hollywood Sign, as it is called on the other side of the Atlantic, was launched as an advertising campaign for a housing plan called… Hollywoodland!

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In the final analysis, despite its ephemeral glow cinema, real estate was and remains the driving force of the Hollywood microeconomy.

So the place where everything is possible, where dreams come true and careers are ruined with the sack, has a sign that is as if created with the magic materials of cinema itself.

To see the truly memorable story of…

The Hollywood sign is a little newer than Hollywood itself

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It was Harvey and Daeida Wilcox who founded the Hollywood Settlement in 1887, as a secluded haven for members of the temperance movement who avoided alcohol consumption. No one knows how the name came about, although there are a lot of theories circulating.

Anyway, Hollywood officially became a municipality in 1903 and merged with Los Angeles in 1910. The following year, he moved there to the first film studio in sunny California.

Another western border of the USA used to be, a vast pasture for cows and a playground for the illegals and the persecuted. It was only when he moved there that American cinema began to resemble a normal city. Until 1912, the ideal conditions of the area for the new medium, which was still in its infancy, brought there about 15 independent studios that were shooting films with the sack. The barns became flat and the old Hollywood calm was a thing of the past.

Of course, it was not only the California sun that brought the filmmakers there, but also… Thomas Edison. You see, the American father of cinema has been suing anyone who made films since 1897, as he thought he was stealing his patent, his cinematoscope, and so these movie "pirates" were forced to leave New Jersey at night, to move to Cuba first and eventually settle in the God-forgotten pasture of California.

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By 1915, Hollywood was buzzing with life, with aspiring actors plowing the streets and young starlets trying to catch the good one. Production companies were mushrooming, with 40 million Americans now going to the movies at least once a week.

The rise of a new aristocracy, that of the crusaders of cinema, of course meant the drastic reconstruction of the town. Palaces were now being erected in formerly rural Hollywood, and the housing fever had hit the area for good.

Then, in 1923, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler, decided to invest in a real estate plan for a series of settlements for the bourgeoisie. "Hollywoodland" said it and to promote it, o publisher and his associates took $ 21.000 out of pocket (over $ 250.000 at current prices) for a giant outdoor ad.

A series of 13 huge white metal letters (13 meters each!), Which were tied together through an intricate grid of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles and glowed all night with the help of 4.000 light bulbs. And they flew in 4 stages, first "Holly", then "Wood", then "Land" and finally the whole word, "Hollywoodland".

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The effect resonated terribly, as the spectacular Las Vegas shows did not yet exist. The newspapers of the time loved it, from where we learn that the sign was in place and was already working in 1923. When exactly, it is played! As the very story of the construction / real estate Hollywoodland Real Estate is played. What he did and if he did, depends on who you ask.

The sign, however, became the pride of the bustling city and a lot of events were organized in its honor. On December 30, 1923, for example, the star of the time Harry Neville made an epic journey to the white letters to see if you could reach them by motorbike from the goat road that led there. And if the brakes would work on the descent!

Hollywood now had its own beacon, which would drive it until it became a reality metropolis...

The sign and the TV

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His name was Don Lee and he was the classic businessman with a "nose" for opportunities. Cadillac was selling in California in the 1920s as its sole dealer and in 1926 it switched to radio, buying stations by the pound on the West Coast.

In 1930 he saw another opportunity, a technology that promised a lot, but for the time being had not proved its power. He formed a group and began experimenting with television, and in December 1931 had one of the first channels in history (W6XAO) ready. He broadcast live the world's first news bulletin, the 1933 California earthquake, and the first ever soap opera.

The only problem; The limited range. And so in 1938 he bought 20 acres of land just behind the Hollywood sign to build his new television station and an antenna tower. When completed in 1939, it was the tallest television tower in the world, exceeding 90 meters!

The only problem; That made the sign look tiny. After him World War II the canal changed headquarters, the facilities remained however and today the building operates the City of Los Angeles…

The actress who committed suicide

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It may symbolize the American dream and the star system, but the sign also represents shattered expectations. In the spring of 1932, theatrical actress Peg Entwistle moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.

He signed a contract for a movie, made that one movie and then shut up. That September, the 24-year-old climbed an abandoned staircase to the letter "H" in Hollywoodland and jumped into space. Her lifeless body was later found in a ravine below.

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And since History has a tragic sense of humor, a letter had already been posted to her by the production company Beverly Hills Playhouse giving her the lead role in a movie about a young girl who commits suicide. Newspapers called her "Hollywood Sign Girl" Hollywood

How the last 4 letters of Hollywoodland were lost

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As long as Hollywoodland lived, real estate, the maintenance of the license plate was uninterrupted. However, everything stopped when the company went bankrupt in the Great Depression of the 1930s. The letter "H" had fallen and no one was willing to pick it up. Now in Hollywood you were welcomed by an ol "ollywoodland".

The municipality decided in the mid-1940s to buy the sign from its old owner. Eventually it passed under its jurisdiction calmly and discreetly, only that the Green and Parks Service now wanted to take it down. Fortunately, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce intervened and stopped the demolition in 1949, but when he restored the letters, he forgot the last 4!

No one knows with what reasoning this happened or who was behind the strange decision. A decision that marked the transition from advertising agency advertising for houses on a city landmark…

Adventures and adventures again

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Despite its brave restoration in 1949, the sign was forgotten again and over the years lost its luster. The third "o", for example, was now missing, a result of vandalism, while the base of the second "l" was burned, in another prank of children.

And here enters our story Uncle Hugh, the owner of "Playboy" Hugh Hefner, who in 1978 gave another famous party at his villa. There he discussed the matter with good friends and he and 8 of them, including Alice Cooper, took out of their pockets 28 thousand each to maintain it again from a letter.

Three months passed and the mountain remained bald at that point until the sign was erected again. The new sign had exactly the same dimensions as the old one, it was like a stronger construction, with steel supports now and 194 tons of concrete and enamel.

It has since been maintained when necessary, with the latest face lift taking place in December 2013.

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You may have seen a sign at one point that looked like the real thing and said Hol "Hollyweed". It was real! On New Year's Day 1976, student Danny Finegood and his old gang went up there with a few rolls of white and black cloth.

They made the sign read Hollyweed, celebrating state law that effectively decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana. He said that this was his job in the art class at the university and his professor did very well!

Only the creative Finegood vandal would not stop here, teasing the Hollywood symbol three more times. One Easter made her write "Holywood", "Ollywood" when Oliver North testified about his involvement in the illegal arms sales to Iran and the financing of the Nicaraguan Contras and "Oil War" to finally protest against the Gulf War.

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"Holywood" rewrote the sign in 1987, now with an official stamp, to celebrate his visit Pope John Paul II.

Finegood was not the only one to use it for slogans, as have college fans and even political supporters of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1996. Still others have dropped letters, done graffiti and left their mark with each possible and unlikely way.

As a result of all this, access to the sign is now denied and security cameras are now working to maintain order. Next to the fence with the barbed wire, the motion sensors and the microphones!

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Since 1973, the Hollywood sign has been an official monument by the City of Los Angeles. The ceremony was ruined, however, as the dense fog did not allow the old mute star, Gloria Swanson, to do the formalities.

In 2003, the sign celebrated its 80th anniversary with all formality and an army of celebrities gave the potential "present". Ten years later, on the 90th anniversary of 2013, the Hollywood Sign Trust spent several tens of thousands of dollars on a drastic restoration.

And yet, villas once threatened to swallow it

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The eccentric croissant Howard Hughes bought 138 acres west of the plate in 1940 to build a huge mansion there for him and his partner, Ginger Rogers. But she broke up with him in the meantime and the plan failed.

In 2002 the land was sold to a Chicago-based investment firm, which planned to build a series of mansions that would completely cover the sign! To prevent this from happening, movie studios, actors, celebrities and tycoons mobilized insane and managed to raise the $ 12,5 million the company was asking to sell the land to them.

Which they bought and donated to the municipality with the note to become a protected park and thus remain in perpetuity. Hugh Hefner gave his obol again, this time $ 900.000…