Is it right that Hollywood, land of Technicolor dreams and a song called "Over the Rainbow," should be represented by a drab white sign?
An environmental artist from Florida doesn't think so. Jim Weinberg, the design consultant for an anti-graffiti project on Hollywood Boulevard, is seeking permission to highlight the famed HOLLYWOOD sign in dusty pastels.
The designer said the landmark could use some sprucing up. "White can be very serene and beautiful," Weinberg explained. "But the use of color brings so much life to an area, especially the way that I apply color."
Weinberg's proposal for coloring the upper portions of the sign in shades such as Mountain Grey, Cypress Green and Sahara Rose has the solid backing of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. But others, including some members of an advisory committee that considers such proposals, are vehemently opposed.
Calls Idea Tacky
Richard Adkins, chairman of Hollywood Heritage, a nonprofit historical society dedicated to preserving Hollywood landmarks, called the idea tacky and said it sounded like a cheap promotional gimmick.
"We're not in favor of anything that alters the sign itself," Adkins said. "In this case the paint would be directly applied to the sign, which is a city historical landmark, and I think that's an inappropriate use."
Dino Williams of Hollywoodland Homeowners Assn., a group that represents about 250 property owners in the area, said they fear that the paint job would draw more noisy tourists to their already congested neighborhoods.
"Most people from homeowners groups are not really crazy about the idea," Williams said. "You can't use the Hollywood sign for every promotional notion that comes along. We're trying to upgrade things. This kind of thing attracts people, and we tend to kill anything that draws more attention to the sign."
Under Weinberg's plan, the upper third of each 50-foot-tall letter would be shaded in a different color and covered with a clear anti-graffiti coating. The proposal will be formally presented to the sign committee Tuesday. The committee will forward its recommendation to the city Recreation and Parks Commission, which has the final say.
Richard Ginevan, chief park supervisor, said the proposal will probably die a quick death if the sign committee rejects the idea as expected. But supporters have not given up hope. Stuart Haines, head of the Mayor's Committee on Graffiti Removal, said the Hollywood sign artwork would complement the painting planned during a massive anti-graffiti project May 21 and 22.
On that weekend, 4,000 volunteers will clean and repaint buildings along the eight-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Van Ness and Western avenues. The buildings and the Hollywood sign would be painted in the same colors.
"I think the sign will be more attractive this way," Haines said. "It's not the least bit tacky. It's not like we want to paint it chartreuse."
As an added incentive, the anti-graffiti committee has offered to do the painting for free. It has also agreed to provide maintenance for 10 years and to repaint the sign white after 18 months if the design proves unpopular.
Haines said it's unrealistic for Hollywood-area residents to try to discourage public interest in the sign. "It's already an attraction as it is," he said. "It's a major landmark around the world. . . . They'll never keep people from wanting to look at it up close. I think it will get a lot of acclaim."
Weinberg, a disciple of the environmental artist Christo, views the sign proposal as the crown jewel of his design concept for eastern Hollywood. "It would be elegant," he said. 'I would be quite excited to accomplish something so visual and so visually stimulating."
Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood chamber, said he favors the artwork as a way to discourage vandals who are constantly defacing the sign with graffiti. He said keeping the sign clean is more important than maintaining a tradition.
"What tradition are we talking about?" Welsh asked. "The sign has always been white, except for the graffiti on it. If (the new design) would help to get rid of the graffiti, I think we ought to forget tradition, because the problem is getting disgraceful."
Despite its symbolic value, the Hollywood sign has never gotten much respect. The 65-year-old landmark was originally erected as a promotion for an exclusive residential subdivision called Hollywoodland. In following years, the wooden letters were allowed to deteriorate, and it wasn't until the 1970s that funds were found to erect a metal sign.
Since then, the monument that juts out from the side of Mt. Lee in Griffith Park has consistently attracted vandals, pranksters and entrepreneurs.