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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Hollywood Sign

(photo credit: LA Times)

In 1949, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the construction of the new Hollywood sign in Hollywood, Los Angeles. It was to replace the original "Hollywoodland" sign, originally built in 1923 by real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults to promote their development by the the same name.

Woodruff and Shoults advertised Hollywoodland as a "superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills." They contracted the Crescent Sign Company to build a sign with thirteen south-facing letters on the hillside. Crescent owner Thomas Fisk Goff designed the wooden sign with 30' by 50' white block letters, studded with over 4,000 light bulbs. It flashed "Holly", "Wood", and "Land" alternatively and had a searchlight to attract more attention. The original cost of the sign, $21,000 over somewhat over $350,000 it today's value.

The sign became an attraction, outliving the original intent of keeping the sign up for only one and a half years. However, by the 1940's the sign was referred to by many local residents as "eyesore and detriment to the community." The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce protested against the sign's removal and offered to repair it, with the caveat that "Land" be dropped so that the sign reflect the district and not just the original development. Done.

(photo credit:

By the 1970's, the sign was again in poor shape, with the first "O" broken and the third "O" completely gone, leaving the sign to say "HuLLYWO D. In 1978, none other than Hugh Hefner led the charge to restore the sign and in coordination with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, he and eight other donors, including Gene Autry, Andy Williams, Alice Cooper (yes, that Alice Cooper), and Les Kelley (Kelley Blue Book founder) raised $250,000 (around $1.2M in today's value) to replace the sign again, this time with steel columns and a concrete foundation.

As for the original sign built in 1923, it was presumed lost until 2005 when it was put up for sale on eBay by producer & entrepreneur Dan Bliss. It was sold to artist Bill Mack, who used the sheet metal as the canvas to paint the likenesses of stars from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood.

Now for a bit of fun. While the sign has been altered, officially, for short periods of time to promote events like the 1984 Olympics or Pride Month in 2022, it has been temporarily altered by "rogue" miscreants (I really just wanted to use the word "miscreants"). Some of these include:

(photo credit: LA Times)

1976 and again in 2017 when it was changed to HOLLYWeeD.

1983 when it was changed to GO NAVY by a group of Midshipmen (ok, this was allowed and rightly so).

1987 to OLLYWOOD to mock Oliver North and in 1990 to OIL WAR to protest the Gulf War.

And in 2021 to HOLLYBOOB to protest censorship on Instagram.

(photo credit: Hollywood Reporter)

It has also been "destroyed" in several movies including 1941 (John Belushi), The Day After Tomorrow, Terminator Salvation, Independence Day...and the cult classic Sharknado.

So, what's your dream? (ten points to whoever gets that reference).


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