When Hollywood Waved Goodbye to an Iconic Sign in Disarray

Hollywood Sign Fundraising - H - 1978
Photofest

In 1978, Hugh Hefner, Andy Williams, Alice Cooper, Gene Autry and more backers donated sign letters for $27,777 apiece.

Before the summer of 1978 — seventy-five years after its initial creation — the iconic Hollywood sign on Mt. Lee had fallen into disarray. The industry, however, began to rally around revitalizing the tinseltown emblem, and star backers had organized an effort to donate new letters (for $27,777 apiece). That August, a presser was held to wave farewell to the earlier incarnation. The Hollywood Reporter's original story, headlined "New Donors Gather in Goodbye to Old Hollywood Sign" is below. 

Members for the entertainment industry offered a farewell salute to the ravaged Hollywood sign on Mt. Lee at a press conference held the evening before crews were set to begin taking down the H of the historic landmark. 

Among those present at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce reception were individuals from the recording, TV, publishing and film industries who donated a letter for the new sign, scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1. The cost of reconstructing each of the four-story-high letters is $27,777.

In attendance and surrounded by a bevy of Playboy bunnies was Hugh Hefner, who donated the letter Y. Hefner described the sign as the Eiffel Tower of Hollywood and deemed it symbolic of revitalizing Hollywood's glamour. Also present were Terrence T. Donnelly, publisher of Meredith Newspapers and contributor of the letter H; Italian film producer Giovanni Mazza (O), and Dennis Lidtke and Ron Levinson of Gribbitt, a local graphic design firm responsible for funding the D

Pierre Cossette, who will formally unveil the new Hollywood sign on his TV special Hollywood's Diamond Jubilee, to air on CBS Nov. 14, commented that he hoped it would be a clear night for the unveiling. "We've set aside 12 minutes for it," remarked Cossette. "Can you imagine what would happen if the smog rolled in? What do we switch to? A basketball game?"

Oddly enough, members of the Hollywood Chamber weren't aware of Hollywood's upcoming 75th anniversary until Cossette brought it to their attention, according to Michael Sims, executive director of the chamber. "It's embarrassing," said Sims, "but we really had no idea." 

Plans are being considered by the Hollywood Chamber to erect a monument explaining the sign's history and naming the contributors who saved it. Others who donated letters in the Save the Sign campaign are Gene Autry for KTLA (L); Andy Williams (W); Les Kelley, originator of Kelley Blue Book (L); Warner Bros. Records (O) and Alice Cooper (O). — Staff report, originally published on August 9, 1978. 

Twitter: @THRArchives