ORIGINAL BENEFACTOR HUGH HEFNER RETURNS AS FINAL DONOR TO SAVE LAND SURROUNDING HOLLWOOD SIGN
On April 26th, 2010, it was revealed at a packed press conference atop Mt. Lee that a global fund raising campaign to preserve 138 endangered acres behind the world-famous Hollywood Sign had reached its lofty goal. Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who spearheaded a 1978 restoration effort that permanently preserved the Hollywood Sign, returned in 2010 to donate the last $900,000 of $12.5 million needed to purchase the land.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Councilmember Tom LaBonge, Hollywood Sign Trust Chairman Chris Baumgart, and Trust for Public Land President Will Rogers all spoke at the star-studded press conference held just below the vaunted Sign. “The Hollywood Sign Trust and admirers from around the world thank Los Angeles City Councilman Tom Labonge for believing and not giving up on this campaign and Hugh Hefner for carrying our efforts across the finish line,” said Chris Baumgart.
Hefner’s gift capped an effort which began with $1 million gifts each from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Aileen Getty, who later added additional large matching grants. Other Hollywood leaders joined the campaign, including The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, CBS Corporation, The Entertainment Industry Foundation, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, the Lucasfilm Foundation, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Steven Spielberg, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Time Warner Inc., and The Walt Disney Company Foundation. Other Hollywood contributors include Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Norman Lear.
Outside of Los Angeles, concern over possible development next to the Sign reverberated across the globe and generated a groundswell of public outcry and support. Fans held rallies, bake sales, and fund-raising concerts and sent a considerable number of checks that had a major collective impact. On Facebook, more than 26,000 supporters signed up in solidarity.
The 138 acres of land adjacent to the Sign, which will now become part of Griffith Park (already the largest municipal park in the U.S.), were originally bought by industrialist Howard Hughes in 1940 to build a home for actress Ginger Rogers. But the relationship between the two fell apart and after Hughes died, his estate sold the property in 2002 to a group of Chicago investors. Alarmingly, they put the property on the market in 2008 for $22 million with the potential to build four luxury homes.
Thanks to the tireless and generous efforts of benefactors large and small, the land is now permanently preserved and the world famous landmark view of Hollywood Sign landmark will not be diminished.