Like many showbiz celebrities, the 45-foot-tall Hollywood sign has undergone its share of cosmetic makeovers. It was originally erected in 1923 to promote Hollywoodland, a fledgling real estate venture that produced little beyond the sign itself. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce saw an enormous opportunity in 1949 to pay homage to its motion picture and television industries by dropping the land and sprucing up the remaining letters. At four stories and 194 tons of concrete and steel, this is a marquee to match the size of any Tinseltown dream.
SWITCHMAN A full-time caretaker maintained the 20-watt lightbulbs—all 4,000 of them— first used to illuminate the sign.
FINAL CURTAIN Actress Peg Entwistle, despondent over her lagging film career, leaped to her death from the letter H in 1932.
PUN INTENDED Mischief makers modified the sign to read hollyweed in 1976 to tout looser marijuana laws and holywood in 1987 during a visit by Pope John Paul II.
DOWN BUT NOT OUT The sign disappeared for three months in 1978 while its decayed letters were torn down and new ones installed.
LETTERMEN Rocker Alice Cooper, cowboy star Gene Autry, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, and other sponsors each funded a new letter at $27,700 apiece.
MAXIMUM SECURITY The sign's 24-hour surveillance system employs webcams, motion detectors, and city park rangers.
This article was first published in September 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
The Hollywood sign sits on Griffith Park’s Mount Lee in Los Angeles. Hiking near the sign is prohibited. For more information, visit www.hollywoodsign.org.