Secrets of the Hollywood Sign

Playboys, ghosts, and movie stars — to name a few.

Secrets of the Hollywood Sign
Photo: Michel Téo Sin/Getty Images

When the Hollywood sign was first erected, it was meant to be a temporary fixture on the face of Mount Lee — and it read “Hollywoodland.”

Local real estate developers installed the sign in 1923 as part of an 18-month advertising campaign to attract homebuyers to the Los Angeles neighborhood. But the flimsy sheet metal sign was never removed.

By 1939, maintenance ceased and in the late 1940s, “land” was removed. For decades, the Hollywood sign slipped into a deeper state of disrepair, with portions of the ‘D’ and one of the ‘O’s falling away by the 1970s. One ‘L’ had even been lit on fire. In 1976, college students vandalized the iconic sign, turning “Hollywood” into (of course) “Hollyweed.”

In August 1978, the old landmark was demolished, leaving the iconic peak completely bare for three months, until a new Hollywood sign (this one reinforced with concrete and steel), was unveiled.

But it’s not just the Hollywood sign’s history that’s surprising. We’ve discovered a few little-known facts about one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.

The sign has starred in movies.

Turns out, the Hollywood sign isn’t just the gateway to Tinseltown. It’s been featured in countless movies over the years, and in 2009’s “The Lightning Thief,” it was portrayed as the literal gate to Hades. In “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004) it was destroyed by a tornado.

The original Playboy saved the sign.

It took the championing efforts of a certain Hugh Hefner, editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine, to set things right. Hefner organized an auction in the late 1970s at the Playboy Mansion, at which guests including Alice Cooper and Gene Autry were allowed to “bid” on individual letters for $27,000 each, and enough money was raised to rebuild “Hollywood.”

A struggling actor haunts the sign.

Legend has it that 24-year-old Peg Entwistle leapt off the ‘H’ in 1932 when she was unable to realize her dreams of become a movie star. According to the Los Angeles Times, a hiker found her body, along with a handwritten suicide note, in a ravine below. Ironically, a letter arrived for Entwistle a few days later. She was accepted into the Bliss-Hayden School of Acting specificallyfor a role as a young woman who commits suicide.

The best view is on a secret street.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the best views of the Hollywood sign can be found on Wonder View Drive. The hike around Hollywood Reservoir is far less trafficked than the one from Griffith Park.

It recently got a facelift.

In honor of its 90th birthday, Sherwin-Williams scraped off the old paint and gave the sign a new glow, applying 255 gallons of acrylic latex paint in “High Reflective White.”

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