Ready for a Close-up

Perhaps the most recognizable sign in the world, the 45-foot tall letters of the Hollywood sign symbolize the industry that keeps Los Angeles going, provide a sense of history and nostalgia, and, for one group of community activists this week, provide a huge canvas for protest.

To gain support against a condo development firm threatening to build on the land, which is owned by the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, a group called The Trust for Public Land is raising awareness (and they hope, money) by draping a sign that says “Save the Peak” (for Cahuenga Peak, the 138 acres behind and to the left of the sign) over the letters.

Save The Peak
CC image from Flickr user Gelatobaby

But unlike other highly visible protests on iconic buildings, like protester Alain “Spiderman” Robert who climbed the Eiffel Tower, this one is sanctioned by the LAPD and has been endorsed by local media, including the LA Times. According to the AP, the organization currently has about $7 million of the approximately $12 million needed to buy the land back.

LAist editor Zach Behrens says that part of the success of the protest stemmed from piquing the community’s interest before the LAPD released the campaign details. “It was a fun afternoon. It had this nice little mystery, like something cool was going to happen. A lot of pressure came upon the powers that be.”

It’s hardly the first time the sign’s been exploited. It’s long been a haven for pranks from neighboring universities, and Behrens noted that Disney once tried unsuccessfully to paint black Dalmation spots on it to promote its “101 Dalmations” movie in the mid-nineties. And more recently pop star Ke$ha made a YouTube spoof where she takes over the sign.

“When you change something so iconic, that picture will make its way around the world," Behrens said. "This isn’t a community sign that only locals now about. It gets destroyed in movies and shown on postcards. If [the Trust for Public Land organizers] don’t get the money to purchase the land next door, what you see is going to change.”

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