When Paramount's 75-Foot Hollywood Sign Stunt Pushed Locals Too Far

1992 Hollywood Sign Stunt - H - 1992

A 1992 stunt for 'Cool World' was greeted with signs saying, "Stop the Hollywood Sign Prostitution" and an airplane towing a sign that read "Paramount Not a Good Neighbor."

In early July 1992, Paramount decided to drum up publicity for its PG-13 animated/live action hybrid film Cool World by placing a likeness of Kim Basinger's cartoon character on top of the iconic Hollywood sign for one week. Area residents weren't amused, picketing the unveiling and enlisting a plane to fly over the site with a message for the studio. The scene was recounted in The Hollywood Reporter's July 7 article. 

In a scene worthy of a Fellini movie, Paramount Pictures on Monday unveiled a 75-foot likeness of its Cool World cartoon character Holli Would that sits atop the letter D in the Hollywood sign. 

As "Hooray for Hollywood" blared over portable speakers and balloons filled the air, a hovering helicopter lifted the veil to reveal the scantily clad Holli. And even further overhead, an airplane towed a sign that read: "Paramount Not a Good Neighbor."

The scene was Lake Hollywood Park beneath the famed Mount Lee sign, where Paramount officials, the media and about a dozen protesting local residents converged to watch the publicity stunt for Paramount's Ralph Bakshi film Cool World, which opens Friday.

The 75-foot painted steel cutout, a likeness of actress Kim Basinger, will perch atop the 50-foot sign for a week — unless, of course, residents can get her off sooner. 

"This sign should not be used for advertising," declared Chuck Welch, president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Association. Residents, clutching signs declaring "Stop the Hollywood Sign Prostitution," picketed Paramount's ceremonies, claiming that all advertising or modification of the sign for commercial purposes violates the city's municipal code. 

"We followed the legal process to the letter to get our permit," insisted Paramount spokesman Harry Anderson. "We've obeyed all restrictions put on us in terms of fire and safety, and we're paying for 24-hour security for the sign for the next week."

Paramount donated $27,000 to the parks department, earmarked for the upkeep of the sign, and an additional $27,000 to Rebuild L.A., Anderson said. 

Edward Cohan, a lawyer and member of the neighborhood group, which claims 250 members, said the association has filed suit in L.A. Superior Court for both a temporary and permanent injunction to prevent this or any future event in a city park. The suit goes before a judge Wednesday.

In the past, both Pepsi-Cola and FBC have used the sign for promotional purposes, according to residents. 

"This is not the Washington Monument," said Johnny Grant, honorary mayor of Hollywood, who presided over the festivities. However, as something of a concession to the protesters, Grant did declare in his remarks, "This is a historic moment. This is the last time the Hollywood sign will ever be used for commercial purposes." Grant added later that no one objected when he placed a yellow ribbon on the sign last year to welcome the troops back from the Gulf War. 

"The sign originally was an advertising stunt," said Paramount's Anderson. 

With tourism hurting after recent riots and earthquakes, Grant thought the publicity gimmick — and the protest — had performed a valuable service. "In 10 hours this will be all over the world," he said. "People will look at their TV and say, 'Hollywood is alive. Let's go and see these crazy people.'" 

As one Paramount executive said as he gazed up at the sign, "It's very Hollywood." — Kirk Honeycutt, originally published on July 7, 1992. 

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