Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Hollywood Sign Part 3: Alterations of the Hollywood Sign

Didn't read the first two parts about the Hollywood sign?
Here are the links:

The Hollywood Sign was built in 1923 as an advertisement for the Hollywoodland Realty Company. Back then the sign read “Hollywoodland.” In 1949 it was shortened to just “Hollywood.”

It sits there today, at the top of Mt. Lee, and looks pretty much the same as it did back in 1949.

This isn’t to say there have not been any changes to the sign.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce estimates that they get two requests a months from people or businesses looking to make a temporary change to the sign. Current policy forbids such changes and that stopped a “red, white and blue” makeover from taking place after September 11, 2001.

Universal Studios had offered to pay to have the colors added to the sign, as well as having them removed.

Instead of painting the sign they had to settle for painting Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant instead. It too two coats for the blue to stick.

Disney had also failed in their attempt to have the sign altered. They wanted it covered in spots for the release of their 1996 film “101 Dalmatians.”

Although the request seems absurd, back in 1992 Paramount successfully obtained the right to us the sign to promote the movie “Cool World.”
For a short time the letter ‘D’ was topped with a 75 foot tall Holli Would (Kim Bassinger’s animated character.)

When Fox started their TV network back in April of 1987, the Hollywood Sign simply read ‘FOX.’ Apparently “MARRIED, WITH CHILDREN AND OTHER LOUSY SHOWS” was too long to fit on Mt. Lee.

Other times, the sign has been illegally changed by vandals. This is not an easy task. First, you have to hike up Mt. Lee (which hasn’t been legal in over a decade.) Second, you have to drape giant tarps over the 50 foot letters to obscure them. Third, you have to be a vandal.

One of the most notorious changes (and perhaps the first) occurred in 1976 when the sign was changed to read “Hollyweed.” This was done ‘in honor’ of California’s new drug laws. To change the sign, vandals covered part of the “OO”s with black and white cloth.

Amusingly, the city allowed the makers of the 1984 film Hollywood Hot Tubs the right to alter the sign, again, to say Hollyweed as part of the 1983 filming.

In the film, the main characters get arrested for changing the sign at the start of the movie. As punishment, a judge sentences them to work for a hot tub company. They get to see lots of naked ladies and hilarity ensues.
“Amadeus” beat out “Hollywood Hot Tubs” for the best Picture Academy Award that year.

Earlier in 1983 the sign had been illegally altered to read “Go Navy” either by a group of Navy football fans or just people who really love the taste of navy beans. If so, I can’t blame them; those beans make a tasty salad.

“CALTECH” was another similar change done in 1987. What is most impressive about both is how much the sign needed to be altered to pull the prank off. For “CALTECH” none of the existing letters was left unchanged!

1987 was quite a busy year for the sign. Including the aforementioned “CALTECH” and “FOX” the sign was changed FOUR times!

One of the 1987 changes was to cover up the “H” making it “OLLYWOOD” because of Oliver “Ollie” North of the Iran Contra hearings. You have to admire the trouble they went to, even though they only changed one letter. The easier way would have been to put a piece of tape over the “H” on Buddy Holly’s Walk of Fame Star. That would have taken much less effort and would have sent a clearer message: Oliver North is your buddy.
The changing of the Hollywood Sign left people wondering if it was to support North or simply allege that he was made of wood.

The final 1987 change was made for the Pope. The Pontiff visited the U.S. that year and to commemorate it religious pranksters covered up the first “L.”

The most enigmatic of all Hollywood Sign changes was made in 1985. Residents awoke to see the sign reading “RAFFEYSOD.” People were confused, unaware what “raffeysod” was. People thought perhaps it was like a giant word jumble. In fact, to this day many books and websites list this change as one who’s “meaning has never been determined.”
Still, the sign was no real mystery. Fans of the obscure band The Raffeys changed the sign but, for whatever reason, did not cover up the “OD.”
This was unusual since usually the rock band has a publicist who covers up their O.D.s by saying they were “being treated for exhaustion.”

The last change to the sign was made in 1992. During that election campaign Ross Perot supporters changed the sign to read “PEROTWOOD.”

This political expression for an underdog candidate was a fitting end to the era of illegal alterations. Two years after “PEROTWOOD” a fence and surveillance system was installed to keep the pranksters away.

Sadly, hilarity no longer ensues.


  1. Anonymous1/19/2005

    You finished the Hollywood sign series???!!??! Finally! Now all I am waiting for is Back to the Future 3! 

    Posted by The Taco Kid

  2. Anonymous1/19/2005

    You finished the Hollywood sign series???!!??! Finally! Now all I am waiting for is Back to the Future 3! 

    Posted by The Taco Kid

  3. Anonymous1/19/2005

    You know, it's about time I got a sign in my honor. With all the money I have I could have just bought my own sign. It would have been a better investment then that damn Reform party. 

    Posted by Ross Perot

  4. Anonymous1/19/2005

    I cannot believe that they were able to cover up those letters! They are 50 feet tall. Jeez, that must be a lot of work! Fascinating! 

    Posted by Mr. No Like the smell of leather

  5. Anonymous1/19/2005

    Sadly, hilarity no longer ensues.

    That was funny! 

    Posted by Miss Sarah

  6. Anonymous1/20/2005

    Hmmm, this seems pretty far fetched. If I had not seen the photos, I would not believe this stuff.
    Some people have WAY too much time on their hands! 

    Posted by Jenni21

  7. Anonymous1/21/2005

    I bet you have seen Hollywood Hot Tubs at least 10 times. 

    Posted by Sk8grrrl