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Fox Broadcasting Gets OK to Temporarily Put Name Up in Lights : HOLLYWOOD Sign Going Under Wraps

March 28, 1987|JERRY BELCHER | Times Staff Writer

The world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign will become the FOX sign for five days next month.

Over the heated objections of homeowners near the hillside landmark, the Los Angeles Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously Friday to permit Fox Broadcasting Corp. to temporarily shorten and illuminate the sign to promote the company, beginning Wednesday.

An officer of the Hollywoodland Improvement Assn., which strongly opposed changing and illuminating the sign, said the organization may take legal action in an attempt to halt the plan.

$27,000 to Paint, Repair

In return for the publicity value of the change, the television company will pay $27,000 to paint and repair the sign. Fox also will hire three guards to patrol the area around the clock. The sign will be illuminated between 7:30 and 10 p.m. through April 5.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which has been given the legal responsibility for maintaining the sign, strongly supported the promotion at Friday's packed session of the commission.

Chamber President Bill Welsh said, "I think we have worked a miracle" in negotiating the Fox deal, adding that lighting will be only "a modest inconvenience" to homeowners who live near the 45-by-450-foot sign on the slope of Mt. Lee.

But Ted Leutzinger, vice president of the Hollywoodland Improvement Assn., said permitting Fox to change the sign was "to prostitute ourselves" and warned that lighting the sign at night will attract vandals and gawkers. He said crowds discarding cigarette butts in the brushy area around the sign would create a fire hazard.

Gladwin Hill, a director of the homeowners' group, charged that it would be "outrageous to deface the sign for commercial purposes," comparing the idea to erecting a "Heinz 57" billboard on City Hall.

'Commercialization' Decried

Several other speakers deplored what they called "the commercialization" of the landmark, which was erected in 1923 by a real estate company promoting the Hollywoodland subdivision. Over the years, the sign deteriorated and the last four letters collapsed.

The sign has been the target of vandals and pranksters for decades. It was refurbished and restored in 1978 and again for the 1984 Olympics, at which time it was illuminated at night.

Opponents of the temporary alteration and illumination cited the traffic jams and vandalism that occurred during and after the Olympics as a prime reason for objecting to the Fox promotion.

Fox's director of corporate communications, Michael J. Binkow, said his company "would do nothing to damage or deface or damage the Hollywood sign."

Earlier this week, officials of the Chamber of Commerce, Fox Corp. and the Department of Recreation and Parks told a Times reporter that the sign would in no way be altered and indicated that it would be temporarily changed to read "FOX HOLLYWOOD."

Binkow said that report was erroneous and the plan always was to use only the word FOX, covering the rest of the letters with burlap.

Fox Broadcasting recently purchased KTTV and its parent company, Metro Media. Fox, which will feed programming to 105 stations throughout the country, has been called a new "fourth television network."

The FOX sign will be filmed and may be used as part of the company's opening program, according to Binkow.

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