Hugh Hefner Saves the Sign – Again
When Harry Chandler, Mack Sennet and a group of developers put up the Hollywoodland sign in 1923, Hollywood was already known as the film capital of the world. Originally intended to stay up for 18 months, the sign quickly became a symbol of the motion picture industry.
The Great Depression and crash of the housing market took it’s toll on the sign. In disrepair, the rights to the sign were ‘quitclaimed’ from the Hollywoodland Development Company to the City of Los Angeles in 1944. Five years later the last 4 letters of the sign were removed, and for the first time the sign simply spelled “HOLLYWOOD.”
In 1973 the sign became Cultural Historical Monument #111.
During the 1970’s, the Hollywood sign, again fell into disrepair. The “D” and the third “O” collapsed, and fell down the mountain. An arsonist set fire to the second “L” and one morning we woke up to the sign reading “HOLLYWeeD.”
By 1978, the third O had fallen over, and the sign could no longer be repaired. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce launched the “Save the Sign” campaign, and with help from Hugh Hefner, who hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, over $250,000 was raised to build a new sign.
Last year, a group of land developers from Chicago, who bought the property behind the sign from the Howard Hughes estate in 2002, were planning to build 4 luxury homes on the site. Then, earlier this year, a crazy Danish architect wanted to transform the sign into a hotel. It was just a matter of time before the community rallied to save the sign.
With the help of Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge, the Trust for Public Land and donors from all 50 states and 10 foreign countries were joined by Hugh Hefner in raising the $12.5 million dollars to purchase the 138-acre parcel to the west of the Hollywood sign called Cahuenga Peak.
32 years later, Hefner has come forward, once again to save the sign that is recognized around the world as the icon of the entertainment industry and the postcard of the Southern California lifestyle.
Enjoy the studio chase scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: