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Hollyweed, Jolly Good, Sallywood -- Hollywood signs of the times

February 12, 2010 |  1:30 pm
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It started life as a real estate ad and became a world-famous landmark.

It has fallen down and been fixed up. It has been scrawled with hearts that say so-and-so loves so-and-so forever.

Jolly300 Pranksters have draped it in sheets to read HOLLYWEED (for dope), HOLYWOOD (for the pope), RAFFEYSOD (for the Raffeys, an obscure rock band).

Now, workers are covering up the sign again. To raise money to purchase a nearby mountain peak, the sign is being slowly covered to read "SAVE THE PEAK."

The nine giant letters perched on Mt. Lee sit on city property, within the more than 4,000-acre Griffith Park. Built in 1923 for $21,000, the original sign read HOLLYWOODLAND and was owned by the builder of a new subdivision in the hills.

Jury-rigged out of canvas, plywood and telephone poles, it still caught your eye -- and no wonder. It blazed with 4,000 light bulbs. Soon, the neighborhood filled up.

Read on for more on the sign's interesting history ...

There was no more call for the caretaker, who once lived in a shack beside the sign, to clamber up ladders to change bulbs. The lights eventually went out. In the mid-1940s, the developer dumped a 455-acre property, including the sign, on the city to get out from under a mountain of back taxes. The city wanted the property to expand Griffith Park.

As for the sign, it let it quietly crumble. By the late 1940s, the sign had lost its H and was tilting precariously. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in, restored the missing letter and took off the last four letters.

"The city didn't really want to take care of it. The sign started falling down the hill. It became sort of an embarrassment," said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the chamber, told The Times in a 2002 interview.

"By the mid-1970s, it was in terrible disrepair. The first O's top third was missing. The last O was completely missing," he said. Shards of the original sign littered the hillside. Bits and pieces had been tumbling down for years.

So began a major effort that restored the sign to its former glory.

Today’s Hollywood sign, by the way, is constructed out of 194 tons of concrete, sheet metal and steel beams sunk into the earth. The letters are five stories high. The whole thing weighs 480,000 pounds.

--Nita Lelyveld

Photos: Top, the sign in transition. Credits: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times,  File photo from 1993 (above left), Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times. (center) @matterafact on Twitter (right) found by @8bus on Twitter.

Click here for more photos of the sign over the years.

View the sign's latest look on a 24-hour webcam.
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