April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment
Monday’s announcement from the Trust For Public Land–that Hugh Hefner had donated the final $900,000 needed to buy the Cahuenga Peak parcel–marks the publisher’s second time as savior of the Hollywood Sign. The first came in 1978, when he conceived the fundraising campaign to tear down and replace the original Hollywood Sign with the replica that stands today. Although a number of individuals and studios eventually contributed to the cause, the idea–as well as the initial donation–was entirely Hefner’s.
Two years ago, when I interviewed Hugh Hefner for my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign,” I asked whether any city officials had approached him about saving the Sign, which by the 1970s was in ruins. “No,” he said. “Nobody cared.” He went on to say, “Clearly the town had forgotten it, or it wouldn’t have been in such terrible disrepair.”
In June of 1978, a party at the Playboy Mansion kicked off the campaign. Within four months, Hefner had raised more than $200,000 for the new Sign. Unlike the original, it was anchored in bedrock and engineered to withstand wind and earthquakes. Work began on August 8th and was completed on October 30th, ahead of schedule and under budget. The new Hollywood Sign has held up beautifully, enduring the Northridge earthquake without damage and not budging in the three decades since its completion.
Our interview took place at the Playboy Mansion, a Holmby Hills estate that boasts no views beyond its own lush grounds. Given these surroundings, the fact that Hugh Hefner would care at all about the Hollywood Sign was striking to me. That he has continued to care in the 30 years since it was rebuilt seems proof of his remarkable generosity.
That day, Hugh Hefner spoke movingly of the Sign. “Hollywood is the city of dreams,” he said, “and the Hollywood Sign represents those dreams.”
“Blade Runner” Three Decades Later: How a Masterpiece of Production Design Left Its Mark On Los Angeles (and Vice Versa)
April 18, 2010 § 31 Comments
A version of this article appears–along with new, unpublished essays–in my new eBook, “On Blade Runner: Four Essays.” It can be purchased for $4.99 at:
Other eBook sellers that have it include Amazon, Kobo, Baker and Taylor, Copia, ebookpie and Scribed.
April 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
Today’s press conference at the Hollywood Sign announced the fundraising effort has come up $1 million short; on the bright side, the deadline has been extended by 16 days.
This would be the time for some generous celebrities to get out their checkbooks. Ready? Go!
Deadline for Cahuenga Peak: Press Conference at the Hollywood Sign Scheduled for Wednesday, April 14th
April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
Save the Peak Campaign Announcement
Los Angeles (April 12, 2010) – Councilmember Tom LaBonge and officials from the Trust for Public Land will make a major announcement regarding the Save Cahuenga Peak campaign on Wednesday, April 14th at 9 a.m.
Wednesday is the announced deadline for the campaign to raise $12.5 million to acquire Cahuenga Peak, a 138-acre parcel just to the west of the landmark HOLLYWOOD sign.
Councilmember LaBonge has been working for nine years to set aside $5.3 million in public and private park funds to acquire Cahuenga Peak from property owners who have threatened to develop the land for luxury residential housing. The City partnered with the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, to raise private funds to cover the balance of funds needed.
The campaign has attracted donations from Hollywood stars, inspired an outpouring of support from the local community, which raised more than $9,000 at a rally last Saturday.
WHAT: Update on “Save the Peak” campaign
WHEN: Wednesday, April 14, 2010. Press conference begins at 9 a.m. Shuttles to site begin at 8:30 a.m.
WHERE: The Hollywood Sign
(Meet at the Beachwood Market, 2701 Belden Dr., Los Angeles, CA90068 and we will shuttle you up to the sign.)
WHO: Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, City of Los Angeles
Will Rogers, President of The Trust For Public Land
Leron Gubler, CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
L.A. Dept. of Recreation and Parks
Members of the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood
Media Contact: Carolyn Ramsay (213) 359-3593
ph: (213)485-3337 fx: (213)624-7810
April 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
With 4 days left until the April 14th deadline, the rally supports the Trust for Public Land’s drive to Save the Peak. The Park is located on the 3200 block of Canyon Lake Drive. See you there!
April 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
Watching “Greenberg” was a heady experience in many ways. While I spent most of the film cringing at the behavior of the title character (played brilliantly by Ben Stiller) and fretting about the fates of the hapless chore-whore Florence (Greta Gerwig) and her canine charge, Mahler, I also reveled in the film’s depiction of Los Angeles. For what Baumbach (and his co-writer, Jennifer Jason Leigh) showed was not the shiny, superficial city of “LA Story” and a thousand other movies but the real Los Angeles–older, quieter and definitely further east.
Much of the action takes place in Hollywood. The 1920’s Mediterranean belonging to Roger Greenberg’s brother is located near Runyon Canyon Park, where Florence and Greenberg exercise Mahler. The house, though large and equipped with a port cochere and pool, is not particularly luxurious. Instead of the slick interiors of every LA film from “The Party” to “The Holiday”–and in fact, every Nancy Meyers film, each of which seems to be set in the same glossy movie version of LA regardless of the supposed location–the Greenberg house has an attractively shabby, lived-in air. Though Greeberg’s brother and sister-in-law are wealthy enough to take off with their kids for an extended trip to Vietnam, their house is untouched by an interior designer. Hardwood floors with a few rugs, pottery and collections of travel souvenirs keep company with books, old prints and paintings. There is a stunning paucity of fancy electronic equipment. And Mahler, the German Shepherd, is nearly always present–just as dogs are in real life.
Florence invites Greenberg to hear her sing at the Silverlake Lounge, a small, bare-bones club on Sunset. Greenberg and his former bandmate, Ivan (Rhys Ifans), have dinner at Musso and Frank’s, a 1919 Hollywood institution whose decor and menu appear not to have changed since the 1950’s. Greenberg, who no longer drives, huffs up the hill toward Franklin from the Ralph’s on Sunset, groceries in hand. And when he and Ivan go to a party at another former bandmate’s contemporary hillside house a little further east, Greenberg makes the greatest observation in recent film: “Out here all the men dress like children and the children dress like superheroes.”
As a neighbor of mine put it, “it’s our LA.”
April 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
I promised a certain realtor not to write about it until after escrow closed–not that LACurbed and the LA Times didn’t–but now that it’s official I can say this: the new owner of Wolf’s Lair is a New Yorker named Richard Melville Hall. He’s also known as Moby. This week, he takes possession of a 1927 storybook manor with sweeping views of Lake Hollywood and the Hollywood Sign, a guesthouse by John Lautner, a pool, 3 acres of grounds and a subterranean speakeasy.
Properties of historical and architectural significance cry out for owners with the means and sensibility to restore and care for them. In this regard, Moby is ideal: a successful, work-at-home artist who has already expressed his commitment to Wolf’s Lair’s improvement.
It also doesn’t hurt that we neighbors might be less likely to mind hearing his noise bounce around the Canyon than anyone else’s. In a natural amphitheater like Beachwood, the quality of the music really matters.