During the 1960s, Hollywood suffered through a mass exodus of residents to the suburban San Fernando Valley. Even more distressing was the flight of film power centers to the Valley and other less cramped environs. By 1970, Paramount was the only studio left in town.
In the void left by this civic and business flight, and against a backdrop of looser obscenity laws, redefining what could be shown in movie theaters. Hollywood became overrun with adult theaters, and the ‘adult’ culture they ushered in: massage parlors, porn shows, adult bookstores, etc.
Crime soared, and the town’s storied boulevards were ravaged by the urban decay that marked most U.S. cities during the period.
Meanwhile, by the end of the turbulent 60’s it didn’t take a Weatherman to know what the elements had done to the Sign. Hollywood’s once-proud emblem now served as a glaring badge of dis-honor – rusted, dilapidated, soon to literally crumble under its own weight.
In 1973, the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board gave the Sign official landmark status (Monument #111), but the ensuing ceremony, hosted by silent film star Gloria Swanson, was blanketed in a thick fog, ruining the event. It was a portent of dark days ahead for the city, and especially the Sign. During the 70s, as Hollywood continued to decline, the top of the “D” and the entire third “O” toppled down Mt. Lee, and an arsonist set fire to the bottom of the second “L.”
Adding insult to injury, pranksters altered the Sign’s letters to read “Hollyweed” in 1973 (advocating looser marijuana laws) then later, to “Holywood”, commemorating a visit from Pope John Paul II in 1987.