By the late 1970’s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the Sign required a complete rebuilding – carrying a price tag of a quarter million dollars. Thankfully, some of showbiz’s biggest names came to the rescue. In ’77, Fleetwood Mac pledged a charity concert, but local residents prevented it. The next year, however, Hugh Hefner hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where individual Sign letters were ceremonially ‘auctioned’ off at $27,700 per letter.The effort to preserve the Sign brought together an odd mix of celebrity sponsors: Glam-rocker Alice Cooper ‘bought’ an “O” (in honor of Groucho Marx), while singing cowboy Gene Autry sponsored an “L” and Andy Williams sponsored the “W.”
Thanks to the help of these and other donors, the Sign was poised for its overhaul. The old Sign was scrapped in August ’78, and yes, for three lonely months Hollywood had no Sign.
194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel later, the Sign was re-born, poised and polished for a new millennium.
A Hollywood Comeback
The Sign’s rebirth was one important step in a successful Hollywood revitalization effort that continues to this day.
In 1980, a $90 million federal grant enabled Hollywood to launch a slew of redevelopment projects. In ’89, Disney Studios began a museum-grade rehabilitation of the El Capitan Theater.
Ten years later, part of the Egyptian was restored to its glory. The Roosevelt Hotel and Pantages Theater all received well-deserved makeovers during the last decades of the millennium.
In short, Hollywood was moving forward, in part by wisely reinvesting in the monuments of its past.