From Hollywoodland to Hollyweed, A History Of The Iconic Hollywood Sign

On New Year’s Eve, the iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles was altered by pranksters to read Hollyweed, something that Los Angeles residents noticed when they awoke on Sunday morning. Surveillance footage shows that a male suspect began his transformation of the famous sign at 3 a.m. and was dressed all in black.

After he scaled Mount Lee and went over the fence, he climbed over the two “O” letters of the Hollywood sign and covered them with black tarps so that the letters then spelled out lowercase “E’s.”

The LAPD revealed that if the prankster was caught and arrested, he would face a misdemeanor and trespassing charge, as ABC7 News reported. Los Angeles’s Department of General Services were made aware of the trespassing incident by the LAPD, as their officers patrol the area close to the sign, as well as Griffith Park.

So while the Hollywood sign was briefly altered to read Hollyweed, by 11:15 a.m. rangers had taken off the black tarps and uncloaked the Hollywood sign once more.

This isn’t the first time that the Hollywood sign has been changed to read Hollyweed. In 1976, the exact same thing happened when a group of activists led by Danny Finegood decided to change the name of the sign. However, in this particular case, it wasn’t meant as a prank. Finegood’s wife, Bonnie, said that it was “a message.”

While Danny Finegood died in 2007, his wife explains that he and his friends faced the risk of arrest for their political statement, which revolved around the relaxing of marijuana possession laws in California in 1976, as CBS report.

Danny Finegood’s son, Matt Finegood, relates how his friends began phoning him up once news got out that the Hollywood sign had been changed again to Hollyweed.

“My friends were calling me, they’re like ‘Did you do this?’ I would just like text them back with that sly face you know, just to keep them on their toes. Nah, I wish it was me, but it wasn’t.”

What was turned into the Hollyweed sign once read Hollywoodland before it said Hollywood.
What was turned into the Hollyweed sign once read Hollywoodland before it said Hollywood. [Image by Don Ryan/AP Images]

The iconic Hollywood sign has a lot of history behind it and originally began its life reading Hollywoodland, which was an ad campaign for a housing development of the same name that was built by the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, Harry Chandler, for $21,000. It was Daeida Wilcox who is rumored to have christened the area Hollywood in the late 19th century.

Daeida’s husband was the town founder, Harvey Wilcox, and in 1887, when Daeida was traveling by train, she is purported to have met a woman who talked about the summer home she had in Florida that she called Hollywood. Daeida Wilcox loved the name so much that she told her husband about it, and that is thought to be where the name Hollywood comes from.

Hollywood Sign stated that the Hollywoodland real estate development began in March of 1923, and by June, seven miles of road had been cut by 200 men. While some reports have claimed that the development began in 1924, a closer inspection through a review of local newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Examiner prove that it was, in fact, 1923 and that the earliest reported date of the sign was on December 14, 1923, in the paper Holly Leaves.

The new Hollywood sign close to the top of Mount Lee in Los Angeles is unveiled on November 11, 1978.
The new Hollywood sign close to the top of Mount Lee in Los Angeles is unveiled on November 11, 1978. [Image by George Brich/AP Images]

In this paper, they discuss the Mulholland Highway that was close to being built and described it as being “from the western end of the Griffith Park road, under the electric sign of Hollywoodland, around Lake Hollywood and across the dam.”

Just two years after the first changing of the Hollywood sign to Hollyweed, the sign was under threat from termites in 1978 and the letter “O” had slipped down the mountainside. Hugh Hefner came to the rescue and threw a giant party at the Playboy Mansion in order to raise the funds needed to fix the sign. A host of other celebrities also chipped in as well. In November of 1978, the new Hollywood sign was placed up again, with 60 million people tuning in to view the unveiling at the 75th-anniversary celebration.

So while Los Angeles residents woke up on New Year’s Day to find that the Hollywood sign had been altered to read Hollyweed, it is worth remembering that there is a lot of history behind this sign and that it has gone under different names, from Hollywoodland to Hollywood to the latest Hollyweed.

[Featured Image by Damian Dovarganes/AP Images]