Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has saved the world famous Hollywood sign by donating $900,000 to a fund set up to save the legendary landmark from being spoiled by property developers.
The Hollywood sign officially belongs to the city of Los Angeles, but the surrounding area belongs to property developers from Chicago who planned to turn the land into expensive housing estates. Although tearing down the sign was never a part of the plan, the Los Angeles community was concerned that any new construction would obscure its view, or at the very least ruin the way it looks.
A non-profit organisation called Public Trust For Lands set up a campaign to buy the 138 acre site and needed to raise 12.5 million dollars to secure the deal. Hugh Hefner’s generous last minute donation gave them the final boost to reach their target.
Speaking about his decision to help the organisation, Hefner said, “My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy. The Hollywood sign is Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower and I’m pleased to help preserve such an important cultural landmark.”
While Hefner’s donation made a huge impact on saving the Hollywood sign, he was just one of many people who wanted to help. According to reports from the BBC, every single state in America made a donation, as well as funds coming in from ten other countries plus many celebrities including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
Hugh Hefner was not the first to make a contribution to save the landmark either. The Hollywood sign has been a part of Los Angeles since 1923 when it was first erected to promote a new housing development. Made from wood and sheet metal, it first read Hollywoodland and was only designed to be temporary but when Los Angeles started becoming a big name in the movie industry, the sign became iconic was was allowed to stay. After the ‘H’ on the sign was damaged in the early 1940s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce ordered that the sign should be repaired and the “land” at the end of the word should be removed.
In 1978, after the sign had fallen into dis-repair again, rocker Alice Cooper began another campaign to save the sign and after many donors raised $250,000, the Hollywood sign was re-built in steel.