Hollywood sign safe as Playboy mogul Hefner weighs in

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The Independent Online

The iconic Hollywood sign overlooking Los Angeles has been saved from development after Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner stepped in with a 900,000-dollar donation, activists said Monday.

The fate of the famous sign nestled in the hills above Hollywood had been shrouded in uncertainty after investors who own land surrounding the giant white letters indicated plans to sell the land to developers.

The Chicago-based investors later agreed to sell the 138 acre-site land to a non-profit conservation group, the Trust for Public Land, for 12.5 million dollars, provided the group could come up with the money by April 14.

That deadline was extended earlier this month as activists battling to raise the required amount announced they were still 1.5 million dollars short.

On Monday, the Trust for Public Land confirmed at a press conference attended by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that a donation from Hefner had helped the campaigners reach their targeted total.

"My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy," Hefner, 84, said in a statement.

"As I've said before, the Hollywood sign is Hollywood's Eiffel Tower and I am pleased to help preserve such an important cultural monument.

Former action hero Schwarzenegger meanwhile told a crowd gathered in the shadow of the sign that the landmark had been an inspiration to him when he was an unknown Austrian bodybuilder with dreams of stardom.

"Of all the iconic landmarks in the world, the Hollywood Sign is truly one of the most recognizable symbols of the California dream," he said.

"It called to me when I left Austria and made my way to the US with a few dollars in my pocket and the dream of becoming an actor."

As well as Schwarzenegger, the campaign to save the sign was supported by other Hollywood luminaries including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Schwarzenegger said donations had come in from 50 US states and 10 countries.

One of the City of Angels' most beloved attractions, the Hollywood sign had fallen into disrepair until it was restored in the 1970s after a campaign which saw nine donors pay 27,777 dollars to "adopt" one letter each.

Although members of the public are forbidden from accessing the area around the landmark - a sophisticated alarm system including motion sensors has been set up to deter trespassers - the sign has a grisly history.

In 1932 British actress Peg Entwistle infamously committed suicide by throwing herself off the top of the letter H.

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