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As Variety Saw It: The Hollywood Sign at 90

The sign was just a billboard -- at first.

The first mention of the Hollywood sign in Variety came in the “To the Ladies” pages, in coverage of the fashionable scene at the Pacific Southwest tennis tournament. 

Hollywood Puts It on Tennis Wk., Doll Up for Those Late Entrances”
Variety, Oct. 1, 1930

“Occupants of the boxes along the south court had a slight obstacle to their illusion, in the way of the cardboard hills, the dangerous dam and the large Hollywoodland sign that formed a backdrop in the north.”

For decades, the sign got as much coverage as any other real-estate billboard: almost none. But that changed in the 1970s, when Hollywood stepped up to rescue the decrepit landmark.

“Launch Drive to Save 50-Yr.-Old Hollywood Hills Sign Landmark”
Daily Variety, Jan. 16, 1973

“Up close the sign is a disaster area,” the spokesman said. “It’s dangerous to leave it in this condition. We want to avoid the possibility of somebody coming along and saying we’ve got to get rid of the eyesore.”

“Signs Look Good for H’wood Landmark After Hefner Bash”
Daily Variety, July 3, 1973

Hugh Hefner, suffering a chronic seizure of civic pride, threw a $65,000 tent party at his Playboy Mansion West last Thursday night — an expense free $150-a-seat fund-raiser to help underwrite the rebuilding of the termite-nibbled 55-year-old Hollywood sign. … “Andy Williams observed, ‘We don’t have an Eiffel Tower, a London bridge. Well, we do now.’” — Will Tusher

But for every tourist who thrilled at a glimpse of the sign there was an Angeleno irked with the tourists:

“A Suggestion for the Sign”
Daily Variety, July 12, 1973

“For the same money, you could buy a very big sign that reads RODEO DR., with an arrow pointing to the west. We suggest this only because so many tourists stop us on the streets of Hollywood and ask directions to Beverly Hills.

“These tourists, of course, are looking for movie stars and the present sign, even with its missing letters, only misleads them into thinking they might spot one on the sidewalks below. (Personally, the only movie star we ever saw on the Boulevard was Linda Lovelace, and that was years ago.)” — Jim Harwood

***

Sign Waves: The Hollywood Sign by the numbers

6:  Number of mentions of Peg Entwistle in Variety before the thesp jumped to her death from the sign in 1932.

1949:  The year the “land” was removed from the “Hollywoodland” sign.

18:  Share for the Nov. 11, 1978 CBS special featuring the unveiling of the restored sign. It was the fourth-lowest number for the week.

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