Monday, April 9, 2007
A recent fire in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles, dramatically close to the Hollywood Sign, brings to mind what an odd history the Sign has in the land of make believe.
Originally constructed as HOLLYWOODLAND, the sign was built in 1923 to advertise a real estate development in the hills above LA. Though it was intended to be temporary, by the Great Depression the Sign was still there and had morphed into a kind of Los Angeles marquee for the glitzy company town. It came to represent dreams, not as illusion but as a road to success. For some, it came to represent the despair of failure when dreams die, especially perhaps for the poor soul who committed suicide in 1932 by leaping off the “H.”
The sign stood neglected for many years and by World War II had gotten pretty vandalized, yet there was something there in the promise of the Sign tantalizing enough for the Chamber of Commerce to repair it and take it over.
By 1973 it had reached landmark status even as most of the Hollywood movie studios were leaving town.
It remains today in a revitalized Hollywood, and if fire may occasionally threaten it, the Sign, like the dreams of success that built it and sustained it through many difficult decades, seems to endure pretty well. It has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.