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Photo: A Crumbling Hollywood Sign in 1978, Before It Was Torn Down and Replaced

View of the Hollywood sign, damaged and in badly need of repairs. August 8, 1978. (Photo by Ken Papaleo/Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)
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This week the Hollywood Sign is shining and sparkling once again on the slope of Mt. Lee, thanks to a recent nine-week "makeover" that saw to it all the letters were completely re-painted.

Though a big refurbishment like the iconic sign just underwent is born of necessity thanks to years of beating by the elements, once upon a time not so very long ago in Hollywood history the sign was so badly damaged it needed to be completely torn down and resurrected.

We've explored the storied past of this globally-recognized landmark, but the Hollywood Sign Trust, who are in charge of the famous letters, has details about a sad time in the sign's history:

"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.'"
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In 1978, things were so dire on the hillside there wasn't much to do but scrap it and start over--a costly proposition. Images of the sign as it was about to come down are pretty stunning. (If you've seen the 2012 film "Argo" you may have seen these images at the start of the flick. Totally real!)

It was in 1978 that Hugh Hefner gathered his famous friend with deep pockets at the Playboy Mansion for a fundraiser to help get the sign reborn. Each letter was "sponsored" by a generous philanthropic celeb; rocker Alice Cooper "bought" one of the Os, and the late crooner Andy Williams rescued the W, for example.

Pacific Outdoor Advertising won the bid for the renovation, and the old sign was removed starting on August 8th, 1978, and rebuilt over the following months.

The new sign, made of corrugated metal on steel poles driven into the hillside in the exact same spot as the old sign, was completed on October 30th, 1978. The new sign is 5 feet shorter than the original, to help it maintain stability against wind and other elements.

Fast forward to 2012, and the sign was once again ready for a little spiffing up. This time around, though, the "face" of Hollywood just needed a little "tightening"--like any respectable showbiz icon nearing 90 years young might!

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