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Metropolitan Digest / LOS ANGELES COUNTY NEWS IN BRIEF

Hollywood Sign Gets Stand-In for Movie Role

May 26, 1995|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They came halfway around the world and climbed halfway up a mountainside to discover that a famed Los Angeles landmark didn't look halfway as impressive as they had expected.

That's what happened when tourists flocked to the base of the nine-letter sign perched on a ridge overlooking Hollywood.

"I thought it would be bigger," said German traveler Jan Wiesner.

"It's rather superficial," said Melissa Parsons of Australia.

It turns out that the sign spelled "Hollywood" in more ways than one. Instead of the 450-foot movieland icon, tourists were posing for snapshots beneath a 60-foot replica built for, yes, a movie scene.

The one-seventh scale model was erected this week above the Hollywood Bowl as a backdrop for "L.A. Confidential" starring Edward James Olmos. It will be torn down after scheduled filming ends today.

Unlike the real Hollywood sign on a neighboring ridge, the fake one is easily accessible to tourists from Mulholland Drive.

Its small size was not the only letdown for visitors. They were surprised by graffiti painted on it: It was one-seventh scale, too, but it looked real.

"Tourists were coming up with kind of a disappointed look on their faces while we were up there," said Michael Barnard, studio shop manager for Paramount Network Television, which is producing the film as a pilot for a detective series.

"They were looking for the real sign. But we put our sign where the real one ought to be--a place that has a good view of Hollywood."

Studio workers worried that taggers might mar the carefully airbrushed phony graffiti with the full-sized real thing before the sign scene was shot. It will feature a trained coyote walking past the sign as city lights glimmer in the distance.

Tourists seemed unconcerned that the real sign was barely visible through this week's foggy mist.

"The other one is too far away, anyway," said Monica Becker of Germany. Added Australia's Parsons: "This sort of epitomizes American culture--you can't just have one Hollywood sign, you have to have two."

And if you've seen one, you've seen them all. "People back home in Ohio will believe it's real," said picture-snapping tourist Steve Catalano of Akron.

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