28 July 2008

Famous People: Hollywood Fame

By Penny Ash

Hollywoodland. A name that conjures up images of glamor and fame, glitter and excitement, and even seediness and the shabby. Place of the fantastic, where a lowly waiter or maid could suddenly be "discovered" and rocket to stardom, like Lana Turner did. In Hollywood, you could stop in at a restaurant and maybe see your favorite star. Along with Las Vegas, it's a place you can mention practically anywhere in the world and find it recognized.

It started out as a planned community built where the old Spanish ranchos had been and flourished until a lack of water made it necessary to annex it to Los Angeles. Then in 1911 the first film studio arrived, The Nestor Company. Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith arrived soon after and the boom began. The area was perfect for making movies, with it's open spaces and good climate. The sign arrived in 1923 to advertise a real estate development. The arrival of the thousands of people it takes to make movies meant everyone needed a place to live.

By 1949, the sign had badly deteriorated. The Chamber of Commerce took over, fixed it up, and removed the last four letters. It wasn't long before Hollywood became the trademark for an entire lifestyle. But it didn't last. As the world changed and movie making began to compete with TV, the condition of the sign deteriorated again.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, another push was launched to "Save the Sign." People like Hugh Hefner campaigned to repair the icon, and people like Alice Cooper bought letters. It was vandalized several times and used to make political statements through the 1980s.

The sign and its condition has always been a metaphor and a mirror for the condition of the town, a beacon for those wanting fortune and fame, glamor and glitz, and fantasy. It will continue to draw people as long as people are dazzled by fame.

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