The nine-letter “Hollywood” sign is officially a centennial, but still looks as fresh as ever.


The groundbreaking term loomed over Tinseltown even before movies were talked about and became a symbol of the entire film industry.

For the first time in decades, the Hollywood sign — at least a small portion of it — was illuminated Friday to mark its 100th birthday. The nine-letter sign is officially centenarian, but like many aging Hollywood grande dames, it looks as fresh as ever.

Like the actors and actresses it looks down on, the mark can be seen in many films.

Directors who want to tell their audience that a film is set in Los Angeles have a simple establishing shot, while a filmmaker who wants to symbolize the destruction of America can unleash his special effects team on the sign.

There was also a real tragedy: British-born actress Peg Entwistle took her own life in 1932 when she fell from the top of the letter H.

Hurray for… real estate agents?

The sign, a must-see for every film buff and tourist visiting Los Angeles, originally read “HOLLYWOODLAND” and was erected in 1923 to advertise an upscale real estate project.

During its first decade, it was routinely lit by thousands of bulbs, with “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” and “LAND” alternately illuminated, serving as beacons for the desirable homes offered below.

In the 1940s the letters looked a bit tattered.

The Los Angeles Times reported that vandals or storms damaged the H before locals decided they had had enough and asked the city to tear it down.

Realizing it had a blockbuster trademark on its hands, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in and offered to fix the problem.

But the last four letters had to be removed – the sign was intended to represent the entire city and not just a fashionable property, and in 1949 the newly restored sign simply read “HOLLYWOOD.”

Mr Nice Guy

Three decades of blazing sun and occasional storms took their toll on the 15-meter-tall wooden letters.

Eventually the first O was reduced to a lowercase “u” and the last O collapsed completely.

Enter Alice Cooper – the chicken-pushing father of Shock Rock – who led a campaign to restore the sign to its former glory, donating $28,000 to do so.

Eight others, including actor Gene Autry, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and singer Andy Williams, also participated, each sponsoring a letter.

(Cooper is the first O, Autry has the second L, Heffner has the Y and Williams grabbed the W).

The replacement letters are slightly more compact, only 44 feet tall, but are made of steel but remain characteristically off-balance.

The Hollywood Sign Trust said last year that the repainting, carried out in time for the 100th anniversary, used nearly 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of paint and primer.

The lighting Friday night was purely symbolic, said Jeff Zarrinnam, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, with only a small piece of the second L cutting through the darkness.

Unlike most world landmarks, the Hollywood sign is not typically lit at night, in part due to objections from nearby residents.

But, Zarrinnam said, it could start glowing again.

“We are working on a plan to hopefully light up the sign on very special occasions,” he said.

“We have some very important sporting events coming to Los Angeles, like the FIFA World Cup, we have the Olympics coming up (in 2028), so those are the types of events where we’ll probably see the Hollywood Want to make the sign light up.” “

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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