When Hollywood Became Hollyweed: New Year's Day, 1976

By | December 31, 2019

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Source: Imgur

The big white block letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign are an emblem of Los Angeles, signifying glamor, celebrity and movie magic -- but for a brief moment on New Year's Day in 1976, they were altered to read HOLLYWEED. The nod to stoner culture was one of many interesting moments in the history of the sign, which was built 50 years earlier as a temporary advertisement for local real estate.

The Hollywood sign was erected in the right place at the right time -- objectively speaking, it is neither elegant nor essential. It's a billboard, more or less. But with the rise of the film industry, it became a fitting symbol of the big dreams of ambitious directors and would-be screen idols. Hollywood is an adjective, an abstract concept, and something to be emulated all over the world -- most famously, "Bollywood" in India -- and the sign has played a huge part in that phenomenon. All of which makes is a tantalizing target for artists and vandals who want their messages to be seen.

The Original Sign Was Not What You Think

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When the sign advertised a development. Source: (theconversation.com)

The Hollywood sign sits on Mount Lee, in the Hollywood Hills region of the Santa Monica mountains. Constructed in 1923, its original purpose was to draw attention to a new housing development within Hollywood, called Hollywoodland. In concept, Hollywoodland was a refuge for white Angelenos who disliked the changing racial makeup of the city -- it was a little further out (thus the size of the letters), but still a reasonable commute into L.A. proper for those seeking the segregated life.