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Hollywood Sign Gets Facelift

Dec 6, 2012
Hollywood Sign Gets Facelift

The giant "Hollywood" sign, an icon of American movies and a cultural and historic landmark that overlooks Los Angeles, has been given a facelift.

The sign revealed its new face to the public Tuesday after a nine-week makeover, its most extensive refurbishment in nearly 35 years.

On Oct. 2, 10 workers strapped to scaffolding went to work, first stripping off three decades worth of paint, then priming and painting the nine giant 45 feet (about 13.72 meters) tall letters perched atop a steep hillside.

The Hollywood sign is now owned by the City of Los Angeles. Sherwin-Williams and The Hollywood Sign Trust jointly funded the project for the benefit of the city and the sign's fans around the world. It cost $175,000 to spruce up the sign, of which $140,000 was picked up by Sherwin-Williams, which donated the paint. The rest of the money came from licensing fees to use the sign's image.

"The Hollywood Sign Trust is excited that Hollywood's leading lady received two tons of makeup in time to celebrate her 90th birthday," Trust Chairman Chris Baumgart said.

"By 2012, it was clear something more than just a facial was needed," Baumgart said.

"We thank Sherwin-Williams for participating in this public-private partnership to restore an American icon that is recognized as a symbol of hopes and dreams around the world," Baumgart added.

Los Angeles Councilmember Tom Labonge agreed: "It's our Statue of Liberty. It's our Golden Gate. It's our arch but it's more than that. It's Hollywood, which is hope. There is history to this sign."

According to the Trust, the sign was built in 1923 as a huge, illuminated advertisement for the upscale real estate development, Hollywoodland. It cost $21,000 and included 13 50-foot high letters constructed of three foot by nine foot (about 0.91 meters by 2.74 meters) panels and painted white.

Using mule teams and tractors, the panels were hauled up Mt. Lee and secured to frames constructed of pipes, wires, and telephone poles. Four thousand 20-watt light bulbs were mounted on the letters and spaced 8 inches (about 0.2 metres) apart. In late 1923, the sign was turned on and the result was dazzling. The developers expected the sign to last about a year.

The sign became somewhat of a West Coast phenomenon and a tourist attraction from 1923 to 1931, during which time the sign endured and became a glamorous symbol of Hollywood.

The sign began to deteriorate visibly in the 1940s. It was in such a state of disrepair that the neighborhood, now thriving, wanted the sign removed. The developers decided to sell their last 450 acres, which included the sign, and turned it over to the City of Los Angeles. The sign became a part of Griffith Park.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce entered into a contract with the City of Los Angeles' Department of Parks and Recreation in 1949 to repair and rebuild the sign and removed the last four letters "land". The cost is estimated at $4,000, according to the Hollywood Sign Trust.

Gloria Swanson sponsored another complete makeover of the sign in 1973. The then 50-year-old sign was declared a historical landmark by the then City of Los Angeles' Cultural Heritage Board.

In 1978, the sign suffered more damage. An "O" tumbled down and arsonists set fire to the bottom of an "L". The City of Los Angeles decided to completely rebuild the sign at a cost of $250,000, 10 times the cost of the original.

In August 1978, workers poured 194 tons of concrete to anchor the sign, and helicopters dropped a massive new steel frame in place.

In November 1978, the new sign, four stories high, 450 feet (137.16 meters) long and weighing 480,000 lbs (about 217.72 tons), was unveiled on Hollywood's 75th Anniversary celebration, which drew a television audience of 60 million.

In 2009, the sign's security system was significantly upgraded with the newest software and hardware; the sign was monitored 24 hours a day by City of Los Angeles security specialists, according to the Trust.

Source: Copyright Xinhua News Agency - CEIS 2012

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