80 Years of The Hollywood Reporter

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The most glamorous and memorable moments from a storied history.

The Hollywood sign once had its name in lights. When erected in 1923, attached to the letters were 4,000 20-watt bulbs that did a blinking routine of “Holly,” then “Wood,” then “Land.” The whole installation trumpeted the Hollywoodland housing tract, financed in part by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, who wanted a sign big enough to be seen from Wilshire Boulevard. In 1949, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce got the “Land” part dropped, but the sign endured decades of deterioration — including a 1940s incident in which an inebriated caretaker smashed his Model A into the “H.”

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A 1978 fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion helped pay for a remake, with supporters including Gene Autry and Alice Cooper buying new 45-foot letters for $27,700 each. This year, the Trust for Public Land preserved views of the sign by acquiring 138 nearby acres for $12.5 million (including $900,000 from second-time angel Hugh Hefner). Says Leo Braudy, author of the upcoming book The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon, “It was built as an ephemeral advertisement, but remember, the Eiffel Tower was only built to last a couple of years too.”

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