The Hollywood Sign is 100: Learn its Bizarre History

THE MUPPET MOVIE, promotional photo with Miss Piggy, 1979.
Associated Film Distribution/courtesy Everett Collection

If you’ve ever been to Hollywood, you know the draw of driving through those wandering roads to visit the famous Hollywood sign. It is an extremely simple sign that has been around for 100 years now and has been featured in films and television shows, as well as altered officially for promos and unofficially by people looking for laughs (people have made it say “HOLLYWeeD” twice now). It was constructed sometime in 1923 as a temporary advertisement for housing developments in the Hollywood Hills and cost $21,000.

The Hollywoodland sign in Los Angeles marking the centre of America's film and television industries. It was later changed to read 'Hollywood'.

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It was rigged together by pipes, wires, telephone poles, and scaffolding and originally read “Hollywoodland.” At first, it would illuminate but just a year later, it became too much of a cost to keep it shining. Unfortunately, the sign’s early years had some painful memories. A young actress named Peg Entwistle died by suicide at the sign after struggling to find success. She was known in tabloids as “the Hollywood Sign Girl.” As the sign became synonymous with her death, the letters also began falling into disrepair in the ’40s. The city of Los Angeles got ownership of the sign in 1944 after the Hollywoodland development went out of business. A few years later, they refurbished the sign and dropped the “land” part of it.

By the ’70s, the sign was falling apart after years of being beaten down by the weather. Hugh Hefner hosted a fundraiser for the sign and celebrities and companies came together to sponsor each letter, effectively saving the nostalgic sign. The new version of the sign was unveiled on November 11, 1978, and was featured in a live CBS special about the 75th anniversary of the city of Hollywood.

The famous Hollywood sign reads "Hollyweed" after it was vandalized, January 1, 2017. - Police said unidentified thrill-seekers had climbed up and arranged tarps over the two letter "O's" to make them look like "E's," CBS affiliate KCAL reported. Each letter is 45 feet (13.7 meters) high, so the feat would have required not just bravado but considerable athleticism

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While the sign has been featured in pop culture over the decades, perhaps nothing else got as much attention as actress Michelle Yeoh dangling from a helicopter above the sign for a photo shoot in 1997. The incredible photos of Yeoh were featured in National Geographic.

Actress Michelle Yeoh in mid-air over the famous Hollywood sign in November 1998 in Los Angeles, California

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This year, the sign has turned 100 years old and is getting a fresh paint job, which can take weeks to complete due to its massive size. The president of the Hollywood Sign Trust shared earlier this year that plans are in the works to build an official visitors center, movie theater, and museum, to make it easier than ever to visit the sign. Have you ever seen it in person?

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Classic Hollywood Hunks

September 2019

Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Rock Hudson and Paul Newman, smoldered onscreen and, in addition to being smokin’ hot, they were effortlessly cool.

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