The Biggest Name in Hollywood Turns 100, and We’re Celebrating

It’s Friday. Readers share memories of the Hollywood sign as it turns 100. Plus, California is suing crisis pregnancy centers.

Credit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

A garish advertisement for a real estate development went up in the Hollywood Hills in late 1923: an immense sign that read “HOLLYWOODLAND.”

The billboard was supposed to be there for only 18 months, but that, of course, didn’t turn out to be the case. In the century since it was erected, the Hollywood sign has become one of California’s most enduring tourist attractions, as synonymous with Los Angeles as the Golden Gate Bridge is with San Francisco.

The sign lost the “LAND” part in 1949 after the city took ownership. Over the years, various stunts have altered its appearance for a time, including a few adjustments to make it spell “HOLLYWeeD” in 1976 when California relaxed its marijuana laws. The sign’s instantly recognizable letters seem to show up as a backdrop in every television show and movie about L.A., and have been destroyed in more disaster flicks than I can count.

Along with the Hollywood sign, several other Los Angeles institutions are turning 100 this year, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Biltmore hotel downtown. I’ve been collecting readers’ stories about these landmarks for their centennial celebrations, and today I’m sharing what you’ve had to say about L.A.’s most famous sign.

The notes add up to a sort of L.A. history, portraying the Hollywood sign as a site of pranks, a beloved monument to the City of Angels and even an air quality indicator. Here’s some of what you shared, lightly edited:

“When I first moved to Los Angeles at the tail end of the pandemic, I hiked the Wonder View Trail to the Hollywood sign every Saturday morning. I treated it like a meditation, albeit a strenuous one — a way to tell myself ‘this is home now’ and feel connected to my new city. The rainy season ended up derailing my weekly cadence, but the sign still feels like a spiritual home to me. Seeing it, even from below in gridlocked traffic, makes me feel more grounded and centered.” — Jim Fabry, Los Angeles

“I attended Beverly Hills High School from 1969 to 1971, before there were serious efforts to eliminate smog. The front lawn of the school faced the Hollywood Hills, and we used the Hollywood sign as a visual indicator of the air quality: If the quality was good, you could see the Hollywood sign. If the quality was poor, you could see some of the hills, but not as far east as the sign. If the air quality was awful, you couldn’t see the hills at all.” — Eric M. Berg, Redwood City

“When a friend was sick with cancer, she could see the sign from her front window. When she would nap, I would walk the trail to the sign and try to see her house from the top. It had an amazing view. She is sadly gone, but the sign holds dear memories of her in my heart.” — Nancy Raabe, Arlington, Va.

“I went to Fairfax High School and remember, in 1976, looking up from the football field (I was in gym class) to see the Hollywood sign read ‘Hollyweed.’ We thought it was cool and a little mysterious — like, how did they do that? — but that was about the extent of our excitement. Who knew, years later, it’d be an ‘I was there when …’ sort of event!” — Jill Silverman Hough, Napa

“I grew up in the Hollywood Hills, and our home had a view from our kitchen window of Lake Hollywood and the Hollywoodland sign. I remember that when they removed the ‘Land’ from the sign, we felt sad.” — Terrie Floyd, San Diego

“After finishing college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in design for film and television production. My first apartment was in a very cliché L.A. midcentury building at the top of a hill. The front courtyard, where the mailboxes were, had a nice view of the Hollywood sign. One day after a rain, when I went to collect my mail, there was a rainbow — a rare sight in Los Angeles — and one end of that rainbow was perfectly aligned with the D in the Hollywood sign. This was long before digital photography, and while I had an excellent 35-millimeter camera, I was completely out of film at that particular moment, so that incredible image is preserved only in my memory.” — Ann Champion, Los Angeles

If you read one story, make it this

What it’s like to be a 13-year-old girl today.

Members of the Teamsters union with signs urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 316 at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday.Credit…Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee, via Associated Press

The rest of the news

  • California lawmakers and union leaders are trying to steer Gov. Gavin Newsom toward signing into law a proposal that would ban self-driving trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds from operating on public roads, The Associated Press reports.

  • A report from the nonprofit First Street Foundation says states like California that are prone to wildfires, storms and flooding are likely to see dramatic increases in home insurance premiums, The Associated Press reports.

  • State Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit accusing crisis pregnancy centers of false advertisement of a widely opposed, unproven procedure called an “abortion pill reversal,” The Associated Press reports.

Southern California

  • Investigators arrested 10 people after uncovering a scheme involving more than $218,000 worth of merchandise stolen from retail stores in the Los Angeles area, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • A second hostess at Nobu in Malibu has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, accusing it of sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Central California

  • House Republicans blocked a Pentagon funding bill for the second time this week, hours after Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled that he was ready to move forward with the bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Northern California

  • Airbnb has removed 59,000 fake listings from its platform and plans to use artificial intelligence to verify listings, The Associated Press reports.

  • The chief executive of the search engine DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, was the first competitor to testify in the Justice Department’s antitrust trial against Google.

Credit…Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Arlene Jamar, who recommends an activity in Sonoma County:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

Our California playlist is ever-evolving, based on your recommendations of songs that best represent the Golden State.

You can email me your picks at [email protected]. Please include your full name, the city where you live and a few sentences about why your song deserves to be included.

Crest Theater when it was closed in 2020.Credit…Kate Warren for The New York Times

And before you go, some good news

After being dormant for seven years, the old Crest Theater in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles reopened this week as the U.C.L.A. Nimoy Theater, a new performance venue for the university’s Center for the Art of Performance.

The theater, which has long held a place in Hollywood lore, was first opened in 1940 by Frances and Henry Fonda as the UCLAN Theater, then a 700-seat neighborhood movie house and venue. The space has changed hands — and names — many times in intervening years, though its cultural resonance has remained constant. The theater was listed as a historical landmark in 2008.

Purchased by the Southern California university in 2018 from the “Star Trek” actor Leonard Nimoy and his wife, Susan, the building has been reborn as a 299-seat performance venue, named for the actor and restored with touches from the theater’s past, like Joseph Musil-designed murals of 1940s Los Angeles and Art Deco detailing.

The Nimoy will open its first season with an inaugural performance this Saturday from the Grammy-winning poet J. Ivy and a roster of more than 50 performances to come. Read more about the opening here.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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