November 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
Even unlit, the Hollywood Sign can be seen at night from Hollywoodland, the neighborhood that is its home. The Sign’s whiteness reflects light, whether natural (from the moon) or electric (from the ranger station and communications tower above it). At times it glows, an alabaster sculpture against the dark chaparral. For those who live near it, the Sign is visible day and night, except on those rare rainy days when it’s shrouded in fog.
When I moved to Beachwood five years ago, the Sign was being repainted, and its renewed whiteness struck me as an omen for my new life. On one of my first nights in my house, I was amused to hear a child yelling, “Hello, Hollywood Sign!” outside.
As I soon learned, the Sign affects adults in much the same way: they want to know it, and knowledge demands proximity. Hollywoodlanders who live high in the Canyon report a steady stream of nighttime visitors, particularly in summer. The Sign’s inaccessiblity–it is fenced from the back and heavily alarmed–dissuades few from getting as close as possible, even if it means going on foot, either legally, up the steep fire road, or illegally, to its front.
I like to hike up the fire road with my dog in the late afternoon. It takes us about an hour to make the round trip, and in winter we sometimes have to hurry against nightfall. The road cuts through parkland and gets dark very quickly after sunset; there are coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions in the area. Yet I’ve never not passed someone going up as I was making my way down.
Early in 2007, Tjardus Greidanus, the DP on my documentary, “Under the Hollywood Sign,” was shooting b-roll before dawn when he saw a man heading up toward the Sign, a bottle of wine in hand. There was no doubt of the man’s intent: a libational greeting of the new day, at the epicenter of new beginnings.
April 28, 2010 § Leave a 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.”
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
March 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
Each week without fail, the piece that gets the most hits on my blog is “Howard Hughes, Ginger Rogers and the Property on Cahuenga Peak.” (The most frequent search term leading to this site is invariably “Howard Hughes.”)
With less than a month to go before the April 14th deadline to purchase the Cahuenga Peak parcel from Fox River Financial, the Trust for Public Land has begun an online fundraising campaign. Interested readers can go to www.savehollywoodland.org to learn more about the campaign and to donate.
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.