By Edwin Folven, 10/04/2012
Hollywood Sign to get a little TLC
It’s wonderful what a coat of paint will do. And like any old house, the Hollywood Sign can benefit too.
Crews began removing the paint on the landmark on Tuesday, and the work is expected to last eight to 10 weeks. Workers will remove three coats of paint dating back to 1978, when the current sign was installed, and will fix any damage to the metal frame. Chris Baumgart, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust, said although it is difficult to see any problems with the sign from far away, a closer look reveals bubbling and cracking in the paint. Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams is donating 275 gallons of paint and is paying for a portion of the work — for a total of approximately $140,000, according to Baumgart — and the Hollywood Sign Trust is covering the additional $35,000 in costs.
“We expect it to be [completed] sometime after Halloween,” Baumgart said. “There were a lot of bubbles and chips and paint falling off. There was some rust on some cross bars. It was something that needed to be dealt with.”
Baumgart said workers are scraping off the old paint by hand and taking the sign down to the bare metal. Although the sign was last repainted in 2005, the current project is the first full restoration of the sign since 1978, when Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner raised $275,000 to have a new sign installed. Hefner held a fundraiser that year at the Playboy mansion, and celebrities such as Gene Autry, Andy Williams and Alice Cooper donated to the project. Baumgart said Hefner played an additional critical role in 2010, when he donated $1 million that allowed for the Trust for Public Land to purchase the land around the sign from a real estate investment group.
The Hollywood Sign was initially installed in 1923 as a real estate promotion, and it originally read “Hollywoodland”. It was first restored in 1949, and “land” was removed. Throughout the next several decades, however, the sign began to deteriorate. During the 1970s, one of the sign’s “Os” had fallen down the hill.
“All through the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, nobody took care of the sign,” he said. “The trust was formed in 1978, and our job is to care for the sign.”
The nonprofit Hollywood Sign Trust maintains the sign using a percentage of royalties generated through licensing of the image and private donations. The restoration work will be completed ahead of the sign’s 90th anniversary celebration in 2013.
Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, credited Sherwin-Williams for making the restoration possible, and also thanked Hefner for his contributions.
“It was Sherwin-Williams to the rescue. There is nothing like giving the sign a little love, and it makes a big difference,” LaBonge said. “Hugh Hefner is an angel in the city of Angels. He came to the rescue in 1978, and then two years ago when he donated the money to the Trust for Public Land. The ‘H’ in the Hollywood Sign stands for Hefner.”
Baumgart said he is frequently asked about why the Hollywood Sign is not illuminated at night, a topic that is not currently up for consideration.
“It’s not going to happen any time soon,” Baumgart said. “You would be drawing people up to the sign in the middle of the night. If somebody dropped a cigarette up there at two-in-the-morning, you could have a tragedy with houses lost and lives lost.”