The singular landmark for all of Los Angeles.
If you’re from D.C., like me, there are a whole host of monuments, statues and places that you, frankly wind up ignoring as a native. I was born in D.C. I was raised in D.C. I lived there for 22 years of my life…and I never once set foot in the Washington Monument. Not once. I barely went up the hill to even touch it.
The Hollywood Sign is a bit like that. When I first came out here, it was one of the first things I wanted to see. Of course, that was some 15 years ago now.
Nowadays, it’s…well…there. (Then again, I live basically live and work in the suburbs that exist behind the sign. Yes, there is life behind the sign, you know.)
Originally (and again, I’m this is from Wikipedia) the Hollywood Sign was an Advertisement. I know, I know. You’re “shocked”, right?
It was built in 1923 and originally read “Hollywoodland”, the name of a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood. Each letter was 30 feet wide and 50 feet high, and was originally studded with some 4,000 light bulbs, each flashing the “Holly”, the “Wood” and the “Land” individually, before lighting up entirely. Below the sign was a searchlight, because the flashing lights apparently weren’t attracting enough attention.
The sign was dedicated on July 13, 1923, but was not intended to be there permanently. It was expected to last about a year and a half, but because of the rise of Hollywood as the film capitol of the world, the sign became internationally recognized.
It took a lot of time, money and work in order to make the sign permanent. Apparently, as a result, the signs letters are now 5 feet shorter than they were originally.
Of course, the Walt Disney Company had another explanation as to why the Sign is the way it is today:
Of course, once it became a symbol, it raised the profile of any tragedy that happened there. This comes from the official Hollywood Sign Website:
In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a New York stage actress, became the symbol of the dark side of the Hollywood dream. Emboldened by her Broadway success, the ambitious young actress soon set her sights on the silver screen. She packed her bags for Hollywood and moved in with her uncle on Beachwood Drive – virtually in the shadow of the Hollywood Sign.
Unfortunately, Peg failed to make a splash, and she spent most of the brutally hot summer of ’32 hanging around her uncle’s house, waiting for a phone call that never came. Finally, on the evening of September 18th, Peg told her uncle that she was going to meet some friends at a nearby drug store, but this was a sad lie.
She instead made the arduous hike up the canyon hill to the Hollywood Sign, her one-time beacon of hope but now a symbol of failure and rejection. She climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and plunged to her death. Peg Entwistle – dubbed by tabloids as the “The Hollywood Sign Girl” – was only 24 years old.
In a cruel twist of irony, a letter to Peg arrived the day after her death from the Beverly Hills Playhouse. She was offered the lead role in a play…about a woman driven to suicide.
And of course, there is our more recent tragedy with the discovery of a some…well…hands, feet, and a head at the sign, only you know…without a body.
I think we’re still working on that. But we’ve at least identified the man.
None of that is any reason to see or not to see the Sign. If you want the prime spots to look at the sign, or even walk up to the sign, click here.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: If you try to get to one of the better vantages point to see the sign, bear in mind you’re going into a residential neighborhood. The natives seem friendly enough, or tolerant enough, about Tourists wanting to see the sign (at least that’s been my experience), but the Po-Po may not be. There are still Parking regulations in force, and they will Ticket or Tow you if you don’t pay attention.