Presented by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the event brought stars new and old, as well as Hollywood historians, councilmen and more. Present were such luminaries as the movie-star Marsha Hunt, who at 94 is four years older than the sign, as well as Bob Barker, who at 90 is the same age (born in 1923), Jacqueline Bisset, Joe Mategna, Charlene Tilton and many others. Councilman Tom LaBonge was present, giving a fiery and funny speech about honoring the unique history of Hollywood.
The Hollywood Sign was first erected in 1923 to advertise the Hollywoodland real estate development - now known as Beachwood Canyon - financed by L.A. Times owner Harry Chandler and his partners. It was Chandler's novel idea to erect an immense billboard in the hills, and at the cost of $21,000 erected 13 gargantuan letters that spelled our HOLLYWOODLAND high on the chapparal covered south side of Mount Lee. It was never intended to be permanent; held in place by a ramshackle scaffold of pipes, wires and telephone poles.
Though Hollywoodland failed to flourish after the stock market crash of 1929, the sign became a beloved icon to all of those who grew up near it, or saw it every day as they came to Hollywood. The decision was made, when the sign began to crumble, to change it to only HOLLYWOOD.
During the 1940s, Albert Kothe (the sign's official caretaker) was driving drunk and drove his Model A Ford off the cliff behind the H, destroying the letter.
In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that "LAND" be removed to spell HOLLYWOOD. The 1949 effort saved the sign for years, but since it was stll mostly wood, it continued to deteriorate.
In 1978, due to the efforts of the heroic Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine, the Chamber set out to replace the severely deteriorated sign with a more permanent structure. Nine donors gave US$27,700 each (totaling US$249,300) to sponsor replacement letters made of steel, guaranteed to last for many years. Those donors were :
Marsha Hunt, who at 94 is four years older than the sign, was a beautiful living link to Hollywood history. She's the star of many movies since her 1935 debut, including Johnny Got His Gun, written by her friend Dalton Trumbo, who like Marsha and many, was blacklisted. She famously went to Washington to protest McCarthy and the blacklist, along with John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Danny Kaye. She's also the author of a wonderful book of Hollywood history and its attendant glamour, The Way We Wore.