If you’re anything like me, you woke up Sunday morning in a groggy haze from New Year’s Eve with a fear of the impending hangover coming your way and the collection of drunk texts you’ll have to deal with or ignore for all eternity.
And then in between the water chugging and the seemingly endless hunt for a breakfast sandwich, one of your friends inevitably pulled up this photo:
First instinct was that this was definitely fake. But when it was proven to be real, the next thought that it was definitely a publicity stunt for some movie or something.
Nope, it was one of the rare genuine stunts amidst a culture of Jimmy Kimmel bits and CeeLo Green with his fake exploding cellphones and all the other bullshit we endure on a daily basis.
“A lone gentleman made his way up the mountain, scaled a protective fence, clambered over the sign and placed two tarps covering the two Os.”
– Sgt. Guy Juneau, watch commander for LAPD’s Security Services Division
A man dressed in all black made his way up to the 45-foot letters that have stood on Mount Lee since 1923 and altered the famous sign to read “HOLLYWeeD,” but he was far from the first to edit the sign and not even the first to do this exact demonstration.
The first alteration occurred in 1976 at the hands of Cal State Northridge Student, Daniel aka “Danny” aka “The Serial Sign Defacer” Finegood, a group buddies, and $50 worth of sheets exactly 41 years before yesterday’s display.
They did it as a part of both a class assignment and to celebrate new relaxed marijuana laws in California that made possession of up to an ounce only a misdemeanor opposed to a felony.
As a result Finegood got an A and also laid the groundwork to marry his future wife, Bonnie.
At LeConte Junior High, he met his future wife, but they didn’t seriously date until college. They weren’t seeing each other when she caught the end of a TV news report about the Hollyweed sign. Soon Danny Finegood was at her door.
“He smiled and said, ‘Do you like what I did?’ I said, ‘Oh my god. You did that?’ That was it. That clinched our relationship,” she said.
Finegood was just getting warmed up, he would go on to alter the Hollywood sign three more times.
His next climb up Mount Lee would occur just over a year later, in April, when he edited it to read “Holywood” in honor of Easter sunrise service (this same alteration would be copied decade later to mark the arrival of Pope John Paul II).
He then took a decade long hiatus until 1987 to poke fun at the popularity of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra Affair.
Finegood would take one last crack at the Hollywood sign when he again ascended into the Santa Monica Mountains and altered the sign to read “Oil War” in protest of the Gulf War, but unfortunately police were quick to react and had removed his handy work before anyone got a chance to see it
Finegood had planned two more edits, one on Halloween that would read “Hollyween” and another on April Fool’s Day, in which he planned to make the sign look as if it had disappeared.
But to his chagrin, a heightened security presence dissuaded him and his pranking days were left behind him as he went on to have two children and run the family furniture business while getting a little coin on the side through sales of his trademarked “Hollyweed” merchandise. Finegood passed away in January of 2007 at the age of 52 and as a true legend.
In addition to Finegood’s exploits, there have been numerous other ambitious pranksters who have put their own spin on the Hollywood sign.
A few colleges have taken their shots, including Navy (1983), Caltech (1987), and UCLA (1993):
Some political activists have also used it as a platform in the past, including supporters of Ross Perot’s presidential run in 1992 as well as those advocating for the protection of the land surrounding the sign from real estate developers:
And then as expected, it has been used both with permission and without for publicity purposes. In 1985 it was changed to read “RAFFEYSOD,” which is believed to be an unauthorized promotional stunt by the New Orleans based band, The Raffeys, but since no one seems to be sure I think it is safe to say that it failed to make the impact they were hoping for..
In 1987 it was altered to promote the launch of the Fox television network and then again in 1992 in honor of the release of the movie Cool World (which appears to be about Brad Pitt being in love with a cartoon, perhaps multiple cartoons????) and featured a 75-foot tall cutout of the film’s main character, Holli Would.
And the final promotional edit came in 2000 when Virgin Atlantic had it changed to say “Jolly Good” in honor of their new offering of nonstop LA to London flights.
We’re looking at over 10 alterations to the most famous sign on Earth, which makes yesterday’s attempt that much more ambitious and impressive.
A nice tip of the cap to the man, myth, legend Danny Finegood, and let this be a reminder for America to keep stay woke for what’s next in the Hollywood Hills.