Everyone knows the Hollywood sign started as advertising from a real estate company, and that it originally said "Hollywoodland" to promote that development. Though it makes total sense for a town whose industry runs entirely off make-believe to boldly label itself, no one actually had that idea. In fact, a LOT of regional landmarks started not because the town council thought they needed one, but because they were meant for something else, left up, and everyone just got used to them being there.

The thing about landmarks is they not only attract attention, but are the #1 place to go if you want attention yourself. Plenty of protests, pranks and public stunts have been held in and around landmarks, and if your landmark happens to be a WORD...well, that just lends itself to mischief, doesn't it? Over its 100-year existence, the Hollywood sign has been "revised" more times than you ever realized. Here are just some of the things the sign has been altered to say.



When the Pope visited LA in 1987 (this year comes up repeatedly and seems to be the one where the sign had the least security), one of the sign's Ls was blanked out in his honor. Before that, the sign was made to say "Holywood" in 1976 for an Easter service at the Hollywood Bowl (where the sign was visible).


It was inevitable that some social media influencer jock would attempt one of these, but the message wasn't for the immature reason you might think. "HOLLYBOOB" was committed by YouTube's "Joogsquad" and Instagram's Julia Rose in 2021 as an act of protest against new censorship policies put in place on the latter platform. At least, that's what they claimed. Heh heh, "boob."


This one happened in 1993 and is the only true mystery, meaning it's the one case where no one ever figured out who did it. All we know is they must've been British.


So the President of the United States may have been involved in the illegal sale of arms to mercenaries in a foreign country. Who's gonna take the fall? Lt. Oliver North, appearing before Congress, took it with pride, giving a swagger-filled, unrepentant "I did it, Senator, and I'd do it again" speech that, despite the naked admission of guilt, earned him many devoted followers. It's all in the delivery.

The outrage was boiling from every newspaper opinion column: "Ollie North isn't someone to admire! You're treating this criminal like a Hollywood star! What is this, Ollywood? I'm gonna change the sign to SAY that, so you have to look at it and soak in your shame!"

Actually the sign has read "Ollywood" twice, and that was the second time. The first time was throughout much of the 1940s, when a windstorm destroyed the "H" and it was just left that way until 1949.


1949 was also when the sign's original wood and sheet metal construction had deteriorated to the point where parts of it were falling down. The top of the first "O" was gone and the third "O" had disappeared entirely, making it say "HULLYWOD." It was at this point that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce recognized it as a landmark, took full control of the sign's upkeep and rebuilt it with stronger materials.


When the Fox Network premiered on television in April of 1987, they arranged a deal with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce where the sign would be altered to read just "FOX" for five days. It was one of only a handful of times the HCC officially allowed an alteration (most of these are vandalism) and one of an even fewer amount of times they allowed alteration for commercial purposes. That would come to a screeching halt when....well, we'll get there.


When this one was pulled in December of 1983, the Army-Navy football game was about to commence on the West Coast for the first and only time. Someone rooting for the Navy got a little too zealous and made the Hollywood sign say "GO NAVY" the morning of the game....or that was the thought anyway. The results look more like "GOLLNAVYD" to me.


To date, out of the millions of cartoon characters mankind has created since the invention of film, only ONE has received the honor of appearing alongside the Hollywood sign. It's not Mickey Mouse, it's not Bugs Bunny, it's not Homer Simpson or Spongebob or Grunkle Stan or anybody you'd think would get this privilege. No, the only one to have ever appeared there....is Holli Would from the Ralph Bakshi movie Cool World.

To understand how something like this could even happen in the first place, you have to put yourself into the mindset of industry execs citca 1992, who were convinced Cool World would be just as successful as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, because it was the exact same concept as Roger Rabbit and, as any exec worth his Porsche knows, audiences always respond to the exact same thing the exact same way. Especially if it's worse the second time!

Paramount drove a dump truck of money to the HCC's door for permission to stick a 75-foot Holli Would on the sign. They took it and said "Just do your business and get outta here, we saw nothing." On July 6, 1992, five days before Cool World was set to open, a helicopter pulled a massive sheet off to reveal Holli flirtatiously sitting atop the D.

Despite Paramount's marketing, the stunt did nothing to increase visibility for Cool World, and most people who saw Holli did not recognize her. Instead the typical reaction was, "What is this smutty drawing doing on the Hollywood sign? Get that off!" The moment she was unveiled, she was greeted with protest signs that said things like "Stop The Hollywood Sign Prostitution." Someone who lived near the sign had even hired an airplane to fly over Holli carrying the banner "PARAMOUNT NOT A GOOD NEIGHBOR."

I have to wonder if Paramount would have even gotten this idea if the character didn't bear the same name as the word the sign is constructed to read. And that is deeply ironic, because Bakshi named the character after becoming so frustrated with the studio system that he rewrote the film to give her a more villainous role and dubbed her "Holli Would." The character is a stealth insult to Hollywood, and here she was riding its very symbol, towering over the whole industry.

The Holli Would incident forever changed the HCC's policy on the use of the sign as promotion. "This is the last time the Hollywood sign will ever be used for commercial purposes," declared mayor Johnny Grant, and despite Hollywood going through quite a few mayors since then, they have stuck to the promise. A few years later, Michael Eisner gave the HCC a call wishing to cover the sign in spots that holiday season, as to promote his 101 Dalmatians remake. They didn't answer him.


If a sign defacement couldn't boost a cartoon character's career, a third-party presidential candidate didn't stand a chance. The same year as Holli, someone VERY devoted to the H. Ross Perot ticket climbed up and changed the sign. Alas, when it came to the 1992 ballots, Perot Wouldn't.


The sign has been made to say "Hollyweed" twice, both during periods where the decriminalization of marijuana in some form was recent in California (1976 and 2017).


Further proof that, despite what you might think, changing the Hollywood sign to promote yourself isn't worth Jack's beans. In 1985 a band from New Orleans, The Raffeys, arrived in LA and concocted a scheme to redecorate the sign as a temporary monument to themselves. They pulled it off, but not their rise from obscurity.


As conflicts flared in the Middle East throughout 1990 and the involvement of the US felt inevitable, someone decided to use the sign as a political statement. No photo exists of this one because it was caught and pulled down shortly after it happened, before sunrise -- but this makeover was courtesy of Daniel Finegood, the man also responsible for the original 1976 "Hollyweed." He wanted to make the sign say "Hollyween" during October 31 at some point, but died in his fifties and never got to.


The most elaborate effort to date, as it involved changing the entire sign to read what they wanted it to. In 2010, over a hundred acres around the Hollywood sign became available for purchase, and someone was eyeing them with the intent to build. Environmentalists and preservationists did not want the hillside further defaced, and launched a grassroots campaign to raise enough money to buy the land themselves. To promote awareness, they changed the sign...though it wouldn't stay up, and at various points read SOLLYWOOD, SAVETHEPOOD and SALLYWOOD (which must have given comfort to people named Sally). The campaign was a success (thank Hugh Hefner, who donated the last million) and the acreage has now been added to the publicly owned land surrounding the sign.


The Hollywood Sign Trust did not allow an official alteration after Holli Would, until VERY recently...when the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl and the committee was in a celebrating mood. It was announced the sign would be changed for one day to read "RAMSHOUSE" so it'd appear behind them during their victory parade. Unfortunately, whoever they hired to do the job wound up using a lousy material that became see-through when the sun shone on it, so the intended message became completely illegible. Everyone on social media reported seeing a different word, but none of them were "RAMSHOUSE" or "HOLLYWOOD," just a jumble of letters.


The most recent unregulated defacement, as of this writing, is from April 2, 2021 when someone hung a giant cow face over the first O. They were members of a band from LA who did it as promotion for their new single, which was released that week. How'd they do? You'll have to ask The Raffeys.