More specifically, Paramount Pictures mounted a giant caricature of actress Kim Basinger on top of the letter "D," paying $54,000 for the right to promote the now-forgotten movie "Cool World." The public outrage this generated, combined with the creation of the Hollywood Sign Trust to maintain the sign and guard its image, marked the end of commercial alterations of the landmark. Or so we thought.
The Hollywood sign is slated to disappear Thursday, covered with a banner that reads "Save the Peak." The banner aims to promote a fundraising drive by the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land to buy the adjacent 138-acre Cahuenga Peak -- the hilltop to the left of the "H" -- and add it to Griffith Park. Unless the trust can come up with $12.5 million by April 14, the privately owned land could be sold for a luxury home development.
The Times has a little-known connection to the Hollywood sign, which was built in 1923 to promote former Publisher Harry Chandler's Hollywoodland housing project. So we're tempted to go into high dudgeon when L.A.'s most internationally recognized icon -- our answer to Paris when it draped the Eiffel Tower with fireworks to celebrate the millennium on Jan. 1, 2000, was to light up the Hollywood sign -- is used for an advertisement. Would they put up a billboard on the Statue of Liberty? But then it occurs to us that a giant billboard is simply being covered by a giant billboard, the irony of it all gives us a headache, and we have to sip a soothing cup of tea until it passes.