A History of Weed-Inspired Vandalism of the Hollywood Sign

Credit: Gabriel Olsen / Getty Images

In the New Year's prank heard 'round the world, a lone jokester finagled his way over the fence surrounding the famous Hollywood sign situated in the Santa Monica mountains and changed the two o's of the sign to e's in the wee hours of New Year's Day. For more than 12 hours, the sign plainly read, Hollyweed.

The culprit who snuck his way past the surveillance cameras, watchtowers, helicopters, and fences to make his or her statement has not been identified. However, the obvious evidence of their handiwork is already gone — with CBS Los Angeles live streaming the entirety of the government restoring the sign to its old name, post-high jinx.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. The 2017 vandal’s art recalls a famous incident from New Year's Day in 1976 when a student at Cal State Northridge named Danny Finegood pulled the same stunt. Finegood and a few of his college friends took $50 worth of curtains up to Mount Lee and made the first-ever “Hollyweed” edit by strategically covering the two o’s to look like e’s. The joke reportedly got him an “A” in his art class.

That wasn’t Finegood’s last work with the Hollywood sign, either. The landmark became his personal canvas for pranks and protests throughout the years. Later in April of 1976 during the Easter holiday, they changed the sign to read “Holywood.” Then, in 1987, Finegood and company used the sign to personally protest Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North amid the Iran-Contra hearings by covering the “H” so the sign read “Ollywood.” Lastly, in 1990, Finegood changed the sign to read “Oil War” in a protest of the Persian Gulf War — but beefed up security at that time prevented the edit to seeing sunrise, with guards removing Finegood’s canvases before anyone could see them.

When the New York Times later referred to the incidents as a crime and the participants as “vandals,” Finegood wrote a public letter to the newspaper that read, in part:

“We broke no laws and did no damage to the sign. An artist’s role throughout history has been to create representations of the culture he exists in. By hanging four relatively small pieces of fabric on the landmark, we were able to change people’s perception of the Hollywood Sign.”

Now, in 2017, the put-on is presumably a tribute to the state of California’s recent passing of Proposition 64, which has legalized the recreational use of marijuana and will take effect in 2018. The city of Los Angeles has promised yet again to up the security ante of the sign, but as all pranksters and revolutionists know, where there’s a will, there’s a way (or weed).