Hollywood sign gets long overdue makeover with 1,300 litres of paint

Tinseltown landmark has long overdue makeover with 1,300 litres of paint

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 6:00am


The refurbished Hollywood sign has been presented in all its freshly painted glory after its biggest makeover in 35 years, in time for 90th birthday celebrations next year.

More than 1,300 litres of fresh white paint was applied over the last two months to the Tinseltown icon, which sits atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills north of Los Angeles.

"This sign is so beautiful. It's where people, when they get off the plane at LAX airport, want to come to. It's a special day," said the LA city council member for Hollywood, Tom LaBonge.

He and other dignitaries spoke on Tuesday at a press conference held beneath the sign by the Hollywood Sign Trust, which manages the structure, to announce the completion of the paint job.

Over the last two months, workers have used window-cleaner-style platforms to strip down the 15 metre tall letters, power-wash the corrugated iron and apply fresh primer and topcoat paint.

"The sign was scrubbed to the bone, and two tonnes of make-up was put on her best side. A lot was done to her backside but we've leaving that her secret," quipped trust head Chris Baumgart.

Victor Galindo, one of the team of painters, said he felt proud of having worked on the world-famous landmark.

"It's a privilege for a lot of us to be up here, because a lot of us grew up here in the city of Los Angeles, and we're used to seeing this sign from far away, and now we're so close to it, painting it."

The job went more quickly than expected, the 37-year-old said.

"The hardest part was the 'H'. After that first letter, we got the hang of it, we just went fast."

Millions of tourists come to see the icon - visible from large parts of Los Angeles, depending on the weather - but fences, warning notices and security surveillance keeps all but the most determined from the sign itself.

Access is via a steep slope behind the sign, through a locked gate. A rope is used to allow newcomers to rappel down.

Intruders sometimes try to scramble up the steep hill in front of the sign. Cameras attached to the top of the huge white letters provide live security video 24 hours a day, to alert officers to anyone trying to reach the sign

Looking down the hill, ranger Patrick Joyce said: "Several times a month people make their way up here. It's against the law, you can be arrested.

"Most of the time what they do is they write on the sign, or they just want to take a picture up here and they leave.

"But every once in a while somebody will come up here and they drink too much, or they'll consume drugs. We've had crazy people come up here, start small camp fires and stuff like that."

The original sign was erected in 1923 to advertise a property development called Hollywoodland, but the last four letters were removed in the 1940s.

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

It was threatened again more recently when investors who own land surrounding the giant white letters indicated plans to sell the plot to developers. But Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner helped secure the sign in 2010, along with then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

The sign's history is not without tragedy. In 1932, British actress Peg Entwistle infamously committed suicide by throwing herself off the top of the letter H.