Anyone in view of the Hollywood sign woke up Sunday morning to a New Year’s surprise — someone had transformed the famed Hollywood sign to make it read, “Hollyweed.”
Around midnight, someone went up the mountain to vandalize the 45-foot-high sign, using tarps to mask portions of the two O’s to make them appear to be e’s, Los Angeles police confirmed to KPCC.
Police have already taken the tarps down, so it was a brief modification. But screenshots taken from the Hollywood sign’s live webcams at 10 a.m. showed one of the e’s still intact, with some of the tarps peeled away and fluttering in the wind.
It was not the first time Angelenos were greeted with an altered Hollywood sign.
The landmark has been modified for political and commercial purposes and even used as a backdrop for sports rivalries.
But “Hollyweed” hearkens back to what may have been the first major modification of the iconic sign.
On Jan. 1, 1976, Daniel Finegood swapped the O’s for e’s (also lowercase) to mark the relaxing of California’s marijuana laws, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Finegood’s wife said he and his friends pulled off the prank by using stones and rope, as if they were hoisting sails.
Finegood was behind several other transformations, including “Holywood” for Easter later that year, “Ollywood” during the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987 in reference to Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, and “Oil War” in 1990 to protest the Persian Gulf War.
Finegood died in 2007 of multiple myeloma, according to the Times obituary.
He had several unrealized plans to alter the sign, including “Hollyween” on Oct. 31 and a complete camouflage on April Fool’s Day to make it seem as though the sign had vanished, according to the Times.
It’s unclear who was behind the 2017 prank. The incident is being investigated as misdemeanor trespassing, according to LAPD Sgt. Guy Juneau.
Juneau said they have surveillance footage but there was a malfunction because of the rain.
Whoever it was, the motivation may have been similar to Finegood's, given the recent California voter approval of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
Here’s a look back at some other times the Hollywood sign has been modified.
Authorities puzzled for days over who changed the sign to read “RAFFEYSOD.” But it wasn’t an anagram or some other form of cryptography. It turned out to be a small rock band from New Orleans called The Raffeys trying to put on some free (if unauthorized) self-promotion.
On Sept. 15, 1987, one of the L’s was masked to make the sign again read “Holywood” to coincide with Pope John Paul II’s visit to Los Angeles. The pope never got to see the altered sign, however. It was restored before he arrived that morning.
OIL WAR 1990
Finegood said 10 people from a group calling itself “Artists for Social Responsibility” changed the sign to read “Oil War” as a form of protest against the Persian Gulf War. It was unclear at the time who was behind it, but according to the Times story, the spokesman identified himself as “Danny.”
COOL WORLD 1992
To promote its 1992 film “Cool World,” which mixed animation and live action, Paramount Pictures paid the city for the right to add its sexy cartoon character “Holli Would” to the sign. That angered some residents, who labeled the city’s commercialization of the sign “prostitution.”
To mark the university’s centennial, a group of pranksters whose identities are still unknown used sheets of black and white plastic to make the sign read “Caltech.” LA Times photographers captured that moment and others in a gallery devoted to the Hollywood sign.
SAVE THE PEAK 2010
When Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge learned a portion of land directly to the west of the sign wasn’t yet owned by the city and that developers wanted to put in luxury housing there, he and officials from the Trust for Public Land put up a sign to promote their acquisition of the property in a campaign dubbed “Save the Peak.”