The Original Hollywood Sign’s History Isn’t All That Romantic

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The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles didn't always say "Hollywood" and it wasn't always a beloved landmark. As you probably noticed while watching Ryan Murphy's Hollywood, the giant letters originally spelled out "Hollywoodland." Later, in 1949, the sign was changed to look like — and represent — the Tinseltown we know today.
According to Adweek, Hollywoodland was actually a subdivision of tract houses and the sign was a billboard for the development. It was erected in 1923 for $21,000 and originally meant to last just 18 months. It lasted much longer than that, but gradually fell into disrepair. In 1949, the letter "H" even fell over.
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There are differing opinions on why the H fell. Some say bad weather knocked it over and others claim a truck drove into it. But either way, it needed fixing. Since it started as an ad, the original idea in 1949 was just to tear it down altogether. But by then it had become such a fixture in town that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decided to take over maintenance and ownership, according to Salon. They repaired the sign, but cut the "land," changing it to just "Hollywood" to stop it from referencing one specific housing development. 
According to the LAist, that wouldn't be the last time the sign needed major maintenance. In 1978, the letters were all completely torn down and rebuilt thanks to a fundraiser from Playboy's Hugh Hefner, where he got his famous friends to each sponsor a letter at $27,777 each. Hefner paid for the Y, Alice Cooper for the O, etc.
Since then, the sign has been the target of pranksters who sometimes drape tarps or strategically cover letters to have the sign spell out different things. According to the Los Angeles Times, it's been vandalized to say various things like "Holywood" (when the Pope visited), "Oil War" (to protest the Persian Gulf War), "Perotwood" (when Ross Perot ran for president), and "Hollyweed" (when California changed low-quantity marijuana possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony).
Imagine how many more things pranksters could have had it say if they'd have had the extra four letters in "land" to work with all these years.
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