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90 Years Ago: In the Hollywood Hills

Hollywood and Vine

Another iconic symbol. Photo by: Susan Marg

Thirty-four hundred stars are imbedded in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine, past Madame Tussauds and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Hollywood’s Walk of Fame remains one of the top ten most popular tourist attractions in the U.S., attracting ten million visitors a year.

Hollywood and Highland Center teems with tourists armed with camera and mimes in costumes willing to pose for a picture.

And far above the madding crowd is the Hollywood Sign.

The sign sits on Mount Lee, the tallest peak in Los Angeles, facing south.  It’s visible all day long, but it’s not easy to get to as fences have been erected to keep out the curious and protect the environment.  The Hollywood Reservoir is about the closest one can get to it by car. But there are plenty of places from which to take pictures.

Drive down Beachwood Canyon Drive or Franklin Avenue.  Ignore the street signs that saying that there isn’t access to the Hollywood Sign.  There isn’t, but you still get a great view.

The Hollywoodland Real Estate Group put up the hillside monument in 1923 to promote its properties, replacing its gigantic painted billboard. It was constructed of telephone poles, sheet metal, wire and pipes, and 4,000 light bulbs flashing “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” “LAND.” It wasn’t meant to last.

Subject to the elements and falling into disrepair the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce took responsibility for it in 1949 and dropped the last four letters, as well as the costly lights.

As the sign continued to crumble, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner took note.  “Hollywood is a city of dreams,” he observed. “And the Hollywood sign represents those dreams.”  He sponsored a fund drive to replace the sign with a permanent structure in 1978.  Each letter is 45 feet high and 30 feet across and fastened to a steel frame girder.

To maintain its sparkle the sign has been repainted three times, most recently in December 2012 in honor of its 90th anniversary this year.

There’s magic in them thar hills.  Movie magic.  And dreams, too.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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