SickthingsUK: The Hollywood Sign

On February 10th 1978 the world famous Hollywood Sign had been seriously damaged by unusually high winds during a lightning storm over Los Angeles, reported by the Los Angeles Times as being the woast storm in Southern Califonia's history:

According to HollywoodPhotographs:

The storm caused varying degrees of damage to almost every letter in the sign . The last letter 'O' sustained the greatest damage – broken beams, twisted metal, snapped telephone poles, ripped guide wires, and missing sheet metal. The letter 'Y' partially collapsed because one of the compression braces snapped. All the other letters had missing pieces of sheet metal."

On February 27th, 1978, a structural engineer company performed a field inspection of the damaged sign. Their report clearly showed that the sign needed to be replaced. On May 25th the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of the 'Save The Sign' committee, to raise $250,000 to build a new, more permanent Hollywood sign, styled the same as the original.

On June 14th Alice contributed the cost of rebuilding the letter 'O' for $27,700 [The presentation check actually said $27,777], in memory of his friend Groucho Marx. Following his donation Warner Bros. Records announced they would also contribute $27,700 for the replacement of the second 'O' in the sign."

On June 29th, Hugh Hefner hosted a $150 per person, star studded party at the Playboy mansion. The highlight of the party came when Andy Williams announced he was contributing $27,700 to replace the 'W'.

In expressing the Chamber's appreciation to Hugh Hefner, Chamber President, Jack Foreman revealed that $27,700 of the $45,000 that was raised at the party, would be used to replace the 'Y' and the new letter to be dedicated to Hefner.

The week following the Playboy party saw increased enthusiasm and interest in the 'Save The Sign' campaign. Gene Autry and KTLA announced their contribution of $27,700 for one of the letters 'L'. Terrance Donnelly, publisher of the Hollywood Independent newspaper, announced a donation of $27,700 for the letter 'H', and Dennis Lidtke, of Gribbitt Graphics, donated $27,000 for the 'D'.

By July 15th, only two letters remained to be sponsored when Italian movie producer, Giovanni Mazza, who was moving his production company to the United States, made his donation of $27,700 to build the first 'O' on the new sign. Les Kelley, founder of the Kelley Blue Book, donated $27,700 for the first 'L'.

By my calculations from the above information this is who bought what:

H - Terrance Donnally
O - Giovanni Mazza
L - Les Kelley
L - Gene Autry/KTLA
Y - Hugh Heifner
W - Andy Williams
O - Warner Brothers Records
O - Alice Cooper
D - Dennis Lidtke

Alice's personal assistant and archivist Brian Nelson agrees on which letter Alice bought, but disagrees over who had other letters:

Alice actually started the whole campaign to save the sign - although credit mistakenly goes to Playboy's Hugh Hefner (Alice not getting credited - shocking!). Hugh bought the 'H', Warner Bros, bought the 'W'. Alice bought the 'O' next to the D. He bought it in memory of Groucho Marx. To this day, Alice insists that it was the first 'O' that he bought - but he is WRONG and I have documented proof. The check for the 27thou was painted on a big piece of the old sign and endorsed by Alice - very cool as a piece of Alice memorabilia, but also a real Hollywood collectible.
(Renfield, June 1995)


The famous Hollywood Sign in 1978, before resotation.

Alice at the Hollywood Sign press event, 1978.

Alice and Shep Gordon at a press conference in 1978 as Mike Sims announces Alice's $27,700 donation to rebuild the Hollywood sign.