Tinseltown asked to save its famous sign

Landmark to be covered by banner put up by group raising funds to buy hill

When they gaze up at their famous skyline this morning, the people of Los Angeles will be rubbing their designer sunglasses and spluttering on their non-fat lattes in disbelief: the Hollywood Sign is being rebranded.

The nine cut-out letters, which each measure roughly 45ft tall and perch on a hillside in the nearest thing the world's first city of show-business has to a landmark, are due to be temporarily covered by an enormous banner urging charitable locals to help "Save the Peak".

The facelift is being carried out by a group battling to raise $12m (£7.5m) to prevent the Sign's backdrop from being sold to property developers. The Trust for Public Lands has until April to exercise an option to buy a 138-acre parcel of scrubland known as Cahuenga Peak. If it fails, a collection of luxury homes will be plonked there.

"We've got about $6m so far, but only have two months left to raise the rest. So what better way to raise awareness of the sign's plight than this?" said Jay Dean, who is in charge of putting up the 450ft banner, in a two-day operation due to start this morning.

The Sign was built in 1923, but Mr Dean says it has only rarely been altered since, and has never been completely covered. "It's been damaged by wear and tear, and has been unofficially altered once or twice by students, as part of a prank. Aside from that, this is a first."

Police blew the lid on the supposedly secret plan on Monday night by issuing a "community alert notification" to residents of Hollywood urging that they should "not be alarmed" by the change to their skyline, since the Hollywood sign will "remain in place" under the temporary advertising banner.

The project will open a colourful new chapter in the long history of the Sign, which originally read "Hollywoodland." It was first erected almost 90 years ago to publicise a new housing development in what was then a fast-growing but still relatively minor city.

By the 1930s, the land above it, which boasts spectacular 360-degree views, had been acquired by Howard Hughes as the site for a home to share with his lover Ginger Rogers. But Rogers feared being locked up there – like, she once said, "a bird in a cage" – and the plan floundered, along with their relationship.

In 1949, the Sign's last four letters were dropped, so that it could symbolise the city and its film industry. Though it subsequently fell into disrepair, and became a notorious suicide spot, an appeal in the late 1970s started a fund to allow it to be cared for like any normal historic monument.

Cahuenga Peak, which rises behind the Sign, was never sold by Hughes and remained undeveloped for decades because of legal battles over who should inherit his fortune. It eventually was purchased in 2002 by a firm called Fox River Financial Resources.

They secured permission to build four luxury homes on the site, and at one point hoped to make $40m from the deal. But their ambitions went the same way as the US property market, and in 2009, they sold an option to the Trust, giving it until mid-April to buy the land for $12m.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam