Tinseltown rumor has it that the Hollywood sign, that iconic beacon of glamour, could be cast in a new leading role: that of a luxury hotel.
The fate of the sign, first erected in 1923, has recently been in question as real estate investors who own the adjacent land indicated that they were willing to sell it to developers for building luxury homes. In February, the Trust for Public Land and the Hollywood Sign Trust began an emergency fund-raising campaign to buy the 138 acres and save the sign.
The Los Angeles Daily News recently reported that a Danish architect, Christian Bay-Jorgensen, met with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to propose that a luxury hotel, incorporating the 9-letter sign, be built on the site. His plan calls for each letter to be rebuilt 90 feet tall (twice their current height) and enclose lavish guest rooms with enviable views of the city. The rest of the hotel would be built behind the letters and would, in Bay-Jorgensen’s plan, include public spaces that could serve as locations for awards ceremonies.
While this whimsical proposal met with polite refusal, the April 30 deadline for fundraising is approaching at the pace of a runaway locomotive in a silent movie. Until the coalition to save the storied sign manages to scrape together the final $1 million needed, what may happen to the land is anyone’s guess. Maybe, as in 1978, when celebrities stepped forward to refurbish the aging sign (individual letters were auctioned off to bidders—Alice Cooper bought one of the O's—at an event hosted by Hugh Hefner!), this effort will require some last-minute heroic intervention, Hollywood-style.
If the Hollywood sign hotel worked out, what icon would be safe from gimmick-hungry hoteliers? How about a Theodore Roosevelt honeymoon suite on Mount Rushmore? A penthouse spread in the Statue of Liberty’s crown? The Eiffel Tower Resort and Spa?
UPDATE: An 11th-hour rescue! The LA Times announced today that Hugh Hefner, who stepped in to save the sign in 1978, has donated $900,000 to the fund, which was initially seeded with $1 million donations from both Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Aileen Getty. Tiffanys and Ms. Getty anted up another $500,000 this week so that the land on Cahuenga Peak can be purchased and protected. Our story ends with no whimsical hotel, no McMansions, just an American icon, safe at last. Fade to black.
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.