The iconic Hollywood sign, a beacon of the global film industry, celebrated its 100th anniversary recently, marking the occasion with not only a renovation but also a symbolic lighting ceremony. A tale woven with the threads of history, the sign has been a silent witness to the evolution of Hollywood, from a luxury real estate development to the heart of the film industry.
A Glimpse into the Past
Born in 1923, the sign was originally a colossal advertisement for a luxury real estate development christened 'Hollywoodland'. A spectacle to behold, it was illuminated with thousands of light bulbs, each letter encircled by about 3700 bulbs, casting a mesmerizing glow visible from miles away. However, by the 1940s, the sign had become worn and weary, its brilliance dimmed by the passage of time. The city of Los Angeles, considering it an eyesore, contemplated tearing it down.
Preservation and Transformation
Stepping in to safeguard this cultural icon, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce undertook the task of its repair. In a symbolic shift, the last four letters were removed, transforming 'Hollywoodland' into 'HOLLYWOOD', thereby encapsulating the entire city's spirit by 1949. Yet, the relentless onslaught of weathering began to gnaw away at the wooden letters, necessitating a restoration.
The Restoration Saga
A campaign led by shock rock singer Alice Cooper, who donated $28,000, ignited the restoration efforts. The torch was carried forward by other celebrities like Gene Autry, Playboy founder Hugh Heffner, and singer Andy Williams, each sponsoring individual letters. The replacement letters, slightly smaller at about 13.5 meters tall, were reincarnated in steel, promising longevity.
The Centennial Celebration
As the sign turned 100, the Hollywood Sign Trust undertook a massive repainting task, using nearly 1,500 liters of paint and primer. Although the sign is not typically illuminated at night due to local residents' objections, Jeff Zarrinnam, president of the Hollywood Sign Trust, hinted at the possibility of lighting it up for special occasions in the future, such as the FIFA World Cup and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.