West Coast for the Holidays

by Amanda

So, after my little introductory spiel about how my blog will be mainly focused on finding and appreciating the beauty in the Big Apple, I am going to be a little defiant and make my first post about The City of Angels. I was fortunate enough to be able to escape for a few days to spend my holiday in LA with my family and experience some great things along the way.

The Getty Villa


I have been to LA quite a few times and I have done the usual studio tours, Disneyland and gawked at the shops on Rodeo Drive. This time I just wanted to enjoy the weather and experience a few new things. We checked out the La Brea Tar Pits, hiked along the Lake Hollywood Reservoir and even spent a day in Malibu to walk the beach and see the Getty Villa (highly recommended). With all of the gorgeous scenery and deep history it was hard to narrow down what I wanted to actually post about, but after further research I found the Hollywood sign actually had a really cool history that, after learning, makes the sign all the more awesome.

A New Friend at the Page Museum (Photo courtesy of Jeff Lulewicz)

A National Landmark

Despite its current powerful significance, I was shocked to learn that the Hollywood sign was not originally intended to become a permanent fixture in the LA hills. In 1923, right as the film industry was beginning to boom, Harry Chandler, a publisher for the LA Times decided to create a billboard of sorts to advertise his upscale real estate development, “Hollywoodland.” Hence, the original 13 letter sign, complete with 4,000 20 watt bulbs was born. Chandler’s original intention was to keep the sign up for about a year and a half, but his spectacular light show ended up enduring decades of vandalism, accidents and even death. Yikes.

Can I buy an H?

Based on my reading, the “H” of the sign has quite the dramatic history. In 1932, a Broadway actress by the name of Peg Entwistle, or “The Hollywood Sign Girl,” had come to Hollywood hoping to make it big in the film industry. When this dream wasn’t immediately realized, she climbed the 50 feet to the top of the “H” and plunged to her death. The kicker of the story is that there was a letter in her mailbox the very next day offering her a major role playing a woman who was pushed to suicide. What a difference a day makes. Then, about ten years after the tragic suicide, the sign’s caretaker drunkenly drove off of the cliff and ran into the letter “H.” The caretaker survived, the H did not. Perhaps it was for the best…

The sign today, as seen from the Lake Hollywood Reservoir
Over the years, the sign experienced a great deal of wear and tear. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce removed the “land” part of the sign and replaced the destroyed (and cursed!) H. Throughout the years vandals would give the sign their own personal spin, such as “Hollyweed,” just to give one fun example. In 1973, the sign got official landmark status, as well as a very influential fan. We owe those pristine white letters we see today to none other than Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, who gathered several celebrities together to “sponsor” letters on the sign in 1978. Alice Cooper sponsored an O, while Gene Autry snagged one of the L’s.
Today, the sign is equipped with a state-of-the-art security system and undergoes repairs and paint jobs regularly to maintain its symbolic appearance. Good ‘ole Hef has stayed loyal to the sign, and the land around it is now protected thanks to his and many other celebrity contributions in the past few years. Who knew two of LA’s biggest cultural symbols were so closely tied?
Chilling on the beach in Malibu

*The historical image and sign information was retrieved from thehollywoodsign.org, 2012.*