Hollywood sign to get a makeover as 100th birthday approaches

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Reed Saxon/AP</span>
Photograph: Reed Saxon/AP

In preparation for its 100th birthday next year, the Hollywood sign is getting a makeover.

The giant letters on the hill are being cleaned and repainted, a process that’s estimated to take the next eight weeks. Freshening up the 45ft-tall letters will require about 250 gallons of paints and primer, and anyone who wants to watch the paint dry can follow along on the sign’s 24/7 webcam.

The Hollywood sign is a frequent target of creative adjustments, from the “incredibly tacky” official attempt to make the letters read “Rams House”, in honor of the Los Angeles team’s Super Bowl win this year, to periodic acts of vandalism that change the sign to “Hollyweed”.

But the last time the sign was repainted was a decade ago, in time for its 90th birthday. Sherwin-Williams, an American paint company headquartered in Ohio, is once again partnering with the Hollywood Sign Trust to repaint the sign in a special weather-resistant finish. The paint company has selected “extra white” paint for the job, which it calls a Hollywood “facelift”.

First erected in 1923, the sign on the ridge originally read “Hollywoodland”, a reference not to the film industry, but to the true engine of southern California’s economy: high-end real estate development. In classic Los Angeles fashion, the man who built the giant advertisement for his Hollywoodland development, Harry Chandler, also owned the Los Angeles Times.

The Hollywoodland sign, designed to last just 18 months, has instead weathered almost a century, though it had to be taken down and completely rebuilt in 1978, after the original letters crumbled into sad decay. The sign was shortened to “Hollywood” by the Chamber of Commerce in 1949. Over the decades, it has been the site of arson and at least one tragic death.

Tackily iconic, or iconically tacky, the sign has attracted no shortage of champions as well as vandals: during the 1978 rebuild, Hugh Hefner hosted a benefit party at the Playboy Mansion where the sign’s old letters were auctioned off for $35,000 each, Vanity Fair reported. The hills were empty for three months before the sign was rebuilt, according to Vanity Fair.

“The Sign is the pride of Los Angeles and we are excited for fans all around the world to see this makeover for a very special 100th anniversary,” Jeff Zarrinnam, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust, said in a statement about the repainting process.