When you think of “Hollywood”, you normally think of it as a place of fantasy, fame, and glamour – but that isn’t how it started out.
On February 1, 1887, a man named Harvey Wilcox registered “Hollywood” with the Los Angeles Country recorders office, four years after he and his wife moved to California from Kansas. With the fortune that he had made in real estate in Kansas, he bought 160 acres of land in the foothills to the west of the city of Los Angeles.
When he founded the town, Mr. Wilcox envisioned it as a utopian-like community where devout Christians could live a highly moral life free of vices - like alcohol. By 1900, the population was only 500 people, a lot smaller than the city of Los Angeles, which had 100,000 people. A 7 mile streetcar trip to the “big city “ took 2 hours to complete.
Then, as now, Hollywood was short on water, so the town merged with Los Angles in 1910 in order to obtain a more reliable supply of water. Not long after that, the movie industry moved in – and things were never the same.
Prior to 1998, when area code 213 split into area code 323, my sister’s phone number was 213-666-xxxx. As you are aware, 666 is “the sign of the beast”, which does not imply anything resembling virtuous living. During Prohibition, of course, both Los Angeles and Hollywood had their share of speakeasies, and one of them still exists today:
The famous Hollywood sign was erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a local real estate development called Hollywoodland, and it has remained in place long after the completion of the development was completed. It has been vandalized a number of times, but now has a security system to deter vandalism. It is now protected and promoted by The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization, and its site and surrounding land are part of Griffith Park.
The original sign had deteriorated badly by 1949, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract to repair and rebuild the sign, but their efforts were only a temporary fix.
By 1978, it needed repairs again, and 9 donors contributed $27,777,777 each to repair the sign. Here are their names:
· O: Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer)
· L: Les Kelley (founder of the Kelley Blue Book)
· L: Gene Autry (actor)
· Y: Terrence Donnelly (publisher of the Hollywood Independent Newspaper)
· W: Andy Williams (singer)
· O: Warner Bros. Records
· O: Alice Cooper (singer), who donated in memory of close friend and comedian Groucho Marx, and who joked that he would also donate an "O" from his last name
· D: Dennis Lidtke (businessman) donated in the name of Matthew Williams
In closing, I would like to leave you with a few words from a famous Hollywood character: