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When people travel to Los Angeles, one of the big ticket items is likely to be the Hollywood sign. While you can't actually stand beside the massive letters, it's pretty standard to get a photo in front of it so you can declare to your mates that you definitely went to LA.
It's an iconic part of the American landscape, but despite its worldwide fame, there was a time where its days were numbered.
The sign was built in 1923 - although it originally read 'HOLLYWOODLAND' - and was designed to attract buyers to a new housing development in the hills area. After years of damage, both accidental and deliberate, as well as deterioration, the sign looked broken and bruised. During the 70s, it fell into such disrepair that it appeared to read 'HuLLYWO D'.
Credit: Bob Beecher/Creative Commons
So, in 1978, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner started a fundraising campaign to give the landmark a facelift. He organised eight other individuals or organisations to donate $27,777.77 (the equivalent of $104,600.77 / £77,813.96 in 2017) each for each letter of the sign.
The new letters were 45 feet high (15ft taller than the old ones) and were supported by steel beams to ensure they would be secure. Here's a list of the people or groups who dedicated their funds to an individual letter, according to author Leo Braudy:
|O||Warner Bros. Records|
But that wasn't the last time the Hef stepped in to preserve the monument. Developers had their eyes on the hills where the sign was located, with a view to building mega mansions which would overlook the rest of the city.
However, before plans could be submitted, a non-profit land conservation group was given the opportunity to buy the land for a cool $12.5 million (£9.29m). The organisation nearly managed to raise the amount needed, but fell nearly $1m short. As the deadline was looming, the Playboy founder pitched in the final amount to save the Hollywood sign.
Hugh told People magazine: "It would have been a real shame after having restored it if it wound up sold. It's become something iconic and represents not only the town, but represents Hollywood dreams, and I think that's something worth preserving.
"I was aware of the fact that they were raising the money, but I only learned about a week ago that they were running out of time.
"They only had about a week and a half left to go."
The story has emerged following Hefner's death this morning at the age of 91. Playboy Enterprises issued a statement, saying: "Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognisable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones.
"He was 91 years old."
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