Finally I can declare there is a happy, “Hollywood” ending to this story, but the plot up until now was as comical as The Hangover. For those of you who just joined us: A few months ago, the Trust for Public Land announced that they were buying a 138-acre parcel of land near the Hollywood sign from developers in order to prevent it from turning into a ridge of McMansions. A massive campaign was launched to raise $12.5 million by April 15, and the first order of business was to drape the Hollywood sign—not on land affected by the sale, mind you—with mesh banners that were to read SAVE THE PEAK.
I attended the initial press conference and wrote about it over at Fast Company where I mentioned that there were a few problems with this idea. First of all, the Hollywood sign itself was never in any danger, which made the decision to cover over the sign—which is no longer altered on behalf of causes, and has only been lit on special occasions—all the more confusing. Although it did get attention, mostly when the half-covered letters read SAVE THE POOD for several hours. Someone must have been thinking about this wordplay because they obviously realized the potential for double toilet-humor (SAVE THE PEAD was up next), posting the K first, then going back in and filling in the A. Okay, I do admit the whole idea of a real-time Wheel of Fortune game was pretty entertaining. “Pat, I’d like to solve the puzzle.”
What made me the most frustrated was how clunky and unimaginative the whole thing was—and in a neighborhood that’s probably most famous for high-tech production design and special effects! As workers struggled to drape even one of the giant letters with an “S,” I slunk away from the press conference, truly embarrassed for the images that were being slung around the world of my city. I walked through Beachwood Canyon and climbed into the park, where no one I encountered even knew what was going on—they thought it was a prank. As I wrote over at GOOD last week, this would have been a fantastic opportunity to engage some of Hollywood’s creatives in a way that allowed us to see the Hollywood sign in a new light. Instead, we all got a big laugh when, for one night, we lived in SALLYWOOD.
The big story—the big victory here—is that LA just got 138 acres of open space. In a nice Hollywood twist, we can even thank Hugh Hefner for forking over the last $900,000 needed to secure the purchase. The only problem is that most of the people who read stories about “saving” the Hollywood sign in the last few weeks had no idea there is, say, a huge lake in this part of Hollywood. That there is a massive system of hiking trails that interlace into all the surrounding neighborhoods. I think a much more effective campaign would have been to lead hikes into the wilderness back there, or publish maps showing how the trail system could be extended once the land came back into the city’s possession. In fact, it’s for that reason that I’m so glad this whole thing happened because my outing to cover the sign’s change got me to re-engage with this part of Griffith Park—I got to spend the day back on those steep hillsides and secret passageways that I hadn’t explored much since I moved away from Hollywood.
In fact, it had been so long since I’d walked these trails that I had no idea the Lake Hollywood gates were closed yet again due to mudslides, and when I ambled down one of those secret passageways I became trapped inside the reservoir. I ended up navigating these century plants and climbing over this barbed-wire fence to get out, snagging my Spandex pants in the process. I ripped them so badly they stretched cartoon-style from the top of the fence to my now-bare bottom, which forced me to wrap my long sleeve shirt around my waist so I could take the bus home without being arrested for indecent exposure. But that, my friends, is a Hollywood story for another day.