February 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
Ever since “Save the Peak” I’ve been wondering how the covers for the Hollywood Sign were made. Did someone get an enormous tape measure or was some other, easier method employed? Today I found out via a random phone call from Raiden Peterson, who appears in my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign.”
Raiden was Pacific Outdoor Advertising’s construction supervisor in charge of rebuilding the Hollywood Sign in 1978. In order to perfectly replicate the original, Raiden personally measured each letter of the old Sign; he has blueprints and pictures to prove it. Rather than go to all that bother again, the organizers of “Save the Peak” simply contacted him for the specs, and voila!–Sign covers.
Raiden doesn’t think they looked all that great either, but at least they fit.
February 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
A year has passed since I started this blog–something I did by accident in an attempt to create a new website for my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign.” While I soon discovered WordPress wasn’t ideal for the website (the eventual result can be seen at www.underthehollywoodsign.com), blogging has proved the perfect outlet for my research and writing on Beachwood Canyon’s history and present-day life.
Over the past year, Under the Hollywood Sign has allowed me to delve more deeply into the topics explored in my documentary and to branch out into other areas. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work of researching, writing and photographing these pieces and have been gratified by an ever-increasing readership and some interesting comments.
There’s plenty more to come. In the meantime, thanks to all who’ve visited.
February 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
SAVE THE PEAK is gone from Mt. Lee. Under the Hollywood Sign was driving home this afternoon when she saw the last two covers come off, revealing those reassuring white letters spelling you-know-what.
Bring on the tour buses!
February 15, 2010 § 2 Comments
The Hollywood Sign now reads SAVE THE PEAK, an alteration that fulfills the Sign’s original function as a billboard. But the transformation has been crushing to the tourists who normally throng Beachwood Canyon to take pictures of the Sign. When the project began, some reportedly asked for refunds from tour bus drivers; now, two days into SAVE THE PEAK, there has been a dearth of open vans taking tourists up to Canyon Lake Drive, loudspeakers blaring.
Thanks to their absence, Hollywoodland has been especially peaceful this Presidents’ Day Weekend. Now if Under the Hollywood Sign could just do something about her noisy neighbors, she’d be in heaven.
February 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
The effort to cover the Hollywood Sign with letters reading “Save the Peak” has taken two full days and isn’t done yet. By the end of yesterday, it read “SALLYWOOD”–as a friend said, who wouldn’t want to live in Sallywood?–while tonight it reads “SAVE the PEOK.”
Ironically, the illegal alterings of the Sign in decades past were all accomplished overnight.
The example above was fairly simple to execute, but the CAL TECH re-rendering of the Sign in 1987–which apparently involved large-scale sewing and grommets–was not. (Then again, the pranksters went to Cal Tech.)
February 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
For those who are interested, this is the piece that was shown at the Art Institute of California-Hollywood last fall. It appears in two parts on my YouTube channel.
February 9, 2010 § 10 Comments
Conceived as a tercentennial commemoration of Shakespeare’s death, Beachwood Canyon’s 1916 production of “Julius Caesar” was an event of epic proportions. A one-night-only performance, it involved 5,000 players–actors, dancers, gladiators and the student bodies of Hollywood and Fairfax High Schools–and starred Tyrone Power as Marcus Brutus and Douglas Fairbanks as Young Cato. Other notables in the cast were William Farnum (Cassius), DeWolf Hopper (Casca) and Mae Murray (Barbaric Dancer). The Battle of Philippi was re-created by sword-wielding actors who fought their way up Beachwood Drive onto a vast stage constructed on the future site of Beachwood Village. The play was performed before an audience of 40,000–at a time when the population of Los Angeles was only 852,000. According to a newspaper account, there was a single fatality–an elderly woman who fell on the walk up to the amphitheater and did not regain consciousness.
The only known photograph of the momentous night is the panoramic photo of the set reproduced above. For those familiar with the area, the bleachers in the first four panels occupy the west side of Beachwood Drive from Belden to (approximately) Woodhaven. Panel 5 shows Cahuenga Peak, future home of the Hollywoodland Sign. The temple in panels 6 and 7 stands at the top of Westshire, while the main stage occupies the east side of Beachwood Drive from Hollywoodland Realty to (approximately) Woodhaven.
The lavish sets came courtesy of D.W. Griffith, Jesse Lasky, Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett and Universal Film Corporation. Although there is no account of the animals involved in the play, there must have been horses, probably supplied by what is now Sunset Ranch. The production apparently was a huge success, with profits from ticket sales–$2,500–donated to Actor’s Equity. An encore performance, produced by Griffith and Sennett, was held a few weeks later at the Majestic Theater downtown.
Why was Beachwood Canyon chosen for this extravaganza? Primarily, it was because the location was (and, as Hollywoodland residents can attest, still is) a natural amphitheater where every sound would be amplified exponentially. The bowl shape of the future Beachwood Village provided the perfect contours of a theater. Moreover, the area was both unbuilt and easily accessible via the Franklin Avenue streetcar.
The success of the 1916 “Julius Caesar” led directly to the Theosophical Society’s 1918 production of “The Light of Asia,” a pageant based on Edwin Arnold’s epic poem on the life of the Buddha. That hit led its Theosophist organizers to search for a permanent amphitheater for large-scale and (they hoped) inspirational pageants. One of the pageant’s stars, H. Ellis Reed, soon discovered in nearby Daisy Dell not just a larger version of Beachwood Canyon but the largest natural amphitheater in the United States. Once the land was purchased by “Light of Asia” organizer Christine Weatherill Stevenson and another wealthy arts patron, Mrs. Chauncey D. Clarke, construction began on what would become the Hollywood Bowl. Although Stevenson ended her involvement (and was reimbursed for her share of the purchase) when other organizers decided the Bowl would fulfill a civic rather than religious function, she must have been pleased by the Bowl’s first large-scale event: the Easter Sunrise Service of 1921.
Among the Hollywood Bowl’s other early spectacles was a 1922 production of “Julius Caesar,” also starring Tyrone Power and a cast of thousands. This time, photos survived; they will appear in a future post.
I am indebted to the following authors and sources:
Luke McKernan, “Shakespeare in the Canyon,” June 26, 2007, The Bioscope.
Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1920’s. Oxford University Press, 1990.
February 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
HOLLYWOOD Sign to be Covered in Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak
From Carolyn Ramsay 2/9/2010
City Hall Room 480, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213)485-3337 fx: (213)624-7810
Media Contact: Carolyn Ramsay (213) 359-3593
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HOLLYWOOD Sign to be Covered in Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak
Los Angeles (February 9, 2010) – Councilmember Tom LaBonge and
officials from the Trust for Public Land announced the launch of a $12.5
million fundraising campaign to preserve the view of the HOLLYWOOD Sign,
expand Griffith Park and save 138 pristine acres from residential
Councilmember LaBonge has been working to acquire the land, known as
Cahuenga Peak, which was on the open market for $22 million. To
preserve the land for hiking and recreational uses for future
generations of Angelenos, he enlisted the help of the Trust for Public
Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, to raise money
for the acquisition.
“More than one hundred acres of open land and the view of the one of
the world’s most famous landmarks, the HOLLYWOOD Sign, are threatened
with development,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “It is absolutely
critical that we acquire this property.”
The owners have agreed to sell the land to TPL for $12.5 million, but
they must raise the funds by mid-April or the deal is off. Through
public and private sources $6 million has been raised so far, including
$1 million from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. To promote this public
fundraising campaign the sign will temporarily be covered with the
message, “SAVE THE PEAK.”
“To have the opportunity to protect 138 acres of untouched land in
one of the most urban cities in the country is nothing short of
miraculous,” said Jay Dean, Chief Marketing Officer for TPL. “We
are getting support from the Hollywood community, from the Tiffany
Foundation but we need support from anyone who cares about the Hollywood
and/or parks and open space. We only have two months to go.”
“The Hollywood Sign is an American icon that holds a unique place in
the nation’s collective imagination and the cultural history of Los
Angeles,” said Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co.
“As an American institution, Tiffany has enjoyed its share of
memorable movie moments and through our foundation, is committed to
protecting our natural resources and pleased to assist The Trust for
Public Land in protecting this historically significant site.”
For more information, see http://www.savehollywoodland.org/