Property Magnates – Suicide – Drink Driving – Lights – Camera – Action!!!!
The iconic Hollywood sign has loomed over the epicenter of American movie making since 1923, and its 92 year history includes plenty of interesting tidbits.
1. The sign wasn’t created to advertise movies and starlets; it was created to advertise real estate. Developers S. H. Woodruff and Tracy E. Shoults began developing a new neighbourhood called “Hollywoodland.” The sign was meant to act as a huge billboard to draw new home buyers to the hillside.
2. The sign read HOLLYWOODLAND from 1923 to 1949.
3. Considering that the original Hollywoodland sign was only intended to be an advertisement for a real estate development, it was quite expensive. The construction cost of the sign was around $21,000, which is roughly the equivalent of $250,000 in 2015 dollars. Imagine building a new neighbourhood and paying a quarter of a million bucks to advertise it with one sign!
4. Each letter originally stood 15 meters and 9.1 meters wide high, but renovations in 1978 resized the letters to 14 m tall and anywhere from 9.4 to 12 meters wide.
5. 4000 light bulbs graced the Hollywoodland Sign. The bulbs were timed to blink so that the words “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” and “LAND” each lit up consecutively, followed by the entire word. This was not considered tacky, but rather quite progressive and modern. Each bulb generated only 8 watts of electricity, so 4,000 were needed in order to create the impressive display that Woodruff and Shoults needed to sell building lots.
6. The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression during the 1930’s halted real estate development. Since lots were no longer being sold, illuminating the Hollywoodland sign was no longer a priority. Times were tough, so caretaker Albert Kothe stripped the copper wiring from the sign and sold it for scrap.
7. In 1932, Broadway actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the letter “H.”
8. In the 1940s, the sign’s official caretaker, Albert Kothe, destroyed the “H” after crashing into it while driving drunk.
9. The paint job in 1973 didn’t last for long. Five years later, the sign looked worse than ever. The Chamber of Commerce determined that it needed a very expensive overhaul. Hugh Hefner held a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion. Each of the nine letters was auctioned for $28,000 to raise the needed renovation money. The benefactors for each letter were as follows:
H- Terrence Donnelly (a newspaper publisher)
O- Alice Cooper (rock star)
L- Les Kelley (businessman and creator of the Kelley Blue Book)
L- Gene Autrey (singer and actor)
Y- Hugh Hefner (founder of Playboy magazine)
W- Andy Williams (singer)
O-Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
O- Warner Bros. Studios
10. In January 1976, following the passage of a state law decriminalizing marijuana, vandals altered the sign to read ” HOLLYWeeD.”
11. In 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Summer Games. During the games, the Hollywood sign was illuminated for the first time since the 1930s.
12. In order to keep people away from the sign and keep the sign from being vandalized, a specially-designed security system was developed. The Department of Homeland Security even got involved… that’s how serious L.A. is about protecting its iconic sign. The security involves razor wire, infrared technology, 24 hour monitoring, motion sensors, alarms and helicopter patrols.
13. The Hollywood Sign Trust was created in 1992 for the purpose of maintaining and promoting the Hollywood sign. It continues to care for the sign today. The most recent renovation included a shiny, new paint job and webcams that allow Internet visitors to see the sign 24/7.