The “HOLLYWOOD” sign, first lit up in December 1923, is not just a sign! It’s an icon that has been both neglected and renovated. Over the years, it has attained near-mythic status. Now, the sign is being renovated in time for its centennial birthday.
1. Hollywood’s Biggest Celebrity Gets A Makeover
Sherwin-Williams and The Hollywood Sign Trust are currently partnering on a makeover of the sign (Hollywood’s “Biggest Celebrity”) to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023. Since September 19, 2022, a crew of 10 workers have been prepping, priming, and painting the 45-foot-high, 250-foot-long sign. That’s a lot of square feet to renovate!
The Hollywood Sign initially read as “Hollywoodland” and served as an outdoor advertisement for upscale real estate development. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce shortened the sign to the nine-lettered “HOLLYWOOD” we see today.
2. Just How Much Work Goes Into the Sign Makeover?
When you are used to seeing the Hollywood sign from ground level, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Refurbishing should just be a snap, right? Not so fast. This sign is huge! It measures 11,850 square feet, features 66,673 pounds of girders and steel columns,194 tons of cement, and 20,000 pounds of corrugated baked sheet metal. It weighs a whopping 240 tons!
3. Celebrities Have Contributed To The Sign’s Upkeep
Since 1923, celebrities have been jumping in to save the sign. They have even “adopted” letters, providing for their upkeep! In 1978, during a “Save The Sign” campaign, several area leaders and well-known actors each donated $27,700, including the following: Gene Autry and KTLA supported the second “L” while Les Kelley, founder of Kelley Blue Book, donated for the first “L.” Andy Williams donated for the “W” and Alice Cooper donated for the “O” in honor of Groucho Marx.
4. What Are The Stories Behind The Sign?
There’s a lot more to the sign than its letters. Dick Van Dyke starred in a short film depicting the legendary caretaker who changed the 3,700 light bulbs that surrounded the sign’s letters.
On the night of August 31, 1973, during a restoration, someone altered the sign by draping a large canvas over the entire letter “D.” On the canvas was a color image of singer Leon Russell underscored with the words “Save The Sign.”
Pranksters have since manipulated the letters with fabric and other materials to create various messages. In 1976 and 2017, the sign read “HOLLYWEED,” marking the enactment of looser state marijuana laws. Another repeated alteration was “HOLYWOOD,” a nod to the
Easter Sunrise Service held at the Hollywood Bowl and again during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Los Angeles. Two months before the 1987 alteration, the “H” was obscured to spell out “OLLYWOOD,” a reference to Oliver North’s testimony during the Iran-Contra trials.
So, what are you waiting for? Late November would be a great time to see the renovated sign! While you are at it, visit other Los Angeles iconic locations. Here are a few suggestions: