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The 1970s remake, picture 1 of 4: The original wooden Hollywood sign was torn down in the 1970s and rebuilt with metal, a process that included use of helicopters.
PHOTOS

She was long in tooth, a blistering, peeling nearly 90-year-old Hollywood dowager in need of some major "work."

After a $175,000 face-lift unveiled Tuesday, the Hollywood sign looks as young as a golden-age Greta Garbo.

"You know, face-lifts are a routine thing here in Hollywood, even on a 90-year-old," said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, following a hilltop celebration of Los Angeles' most famous icon. "She's been made over three times in the last 20 years - and now looks better than ever."

The biggest star of Tinseltown now gleams in "high reflective white," courtesy of Sherwin-Williams paints and the Hollywood Sign Trust.

The famous sign, perched atop Mount Lee on the eastern face of Griffith Park, was in danger of fading into obscurity.

Despite a new coat just six years ago, the sign's paint was fading, blistering and peeling. Underneath, the 45-foot corrugated steel letters were cancerous with rust.

The sign visible from across Los Angeles was in need of a major makeover, the first in 34 years.

So the Hollywood Sign Trust kicked in $35,000. And Sherwin-Williams, a 146-year-old paint company based in Cleveland that has covered the White House to the Golden Gate Bridge, donated $140,000 more for specially developed paint and labor.


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It took a dozen men from Duggan and Associates two months to perform a chemical peel, by hand.

By the time they finished painting Monday, they'd applied 110 gallons of acrylic primer and another 275 gallons of Emerald Exterior, at $70 per gallon.

The sign, made from wood until its sagging figure was replaced with metal in 1978, looked stunning.

"She needed some work. She's now beautiful. She's even more glamorous than ever," said Ellen Moreau, vice president of communications and marketing for Sherwin-Williams.

"We've covered a lot of the world: the Hollywood sign is an icon, and we're happy to protect it."

The famous sign, now associated with Los Angeles and its entertainment industry, was first raised in 1923 as "Hollywoodland."

Meant to boost an upscale real estate development, it was lit by 4,000 20-watt bulbs - and was only expected to last a year.

Soon, however, it became a tourist magnet and a glamorous symbol of the city's burgeoning entertainment industry.

On a Friday night in 1932, struggling actress Peg Entwhistle leaped from the letter "H" to her death. She was 24.

By the mid-1940s, the deteriorating sign was deeded over to the city of Los Angeles, where it was included in Griffith Park.

But by 1949, it had become ravaged by termites. Its last "O" had tumbled down the mountain, an "L" had been set on fire by vandals.

Three decades later, Hugh Hefner had a Hollywood sign party at his Playboy Mansion, raising $250,000 from such luminaries as Andy Williams, Gene Autry and Alice Cooper, for a new metal Hollywood landmark, according to Hollywoodsign.org.

The new dimensions: four stories high, 450-feet long and weighing in at 480,000 pounds.

It was lit in time to celebrate the 1984 Summer Olympics.

After its first makeover the next year, the late honorary mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, held a press conference atop the Metropolitan Hotel, with Phyllis Diller as the guest of honor.

Only they couldn't see the new paint through fog.

On Tuesday, city, chamber, trust and Sherwin-Williams officials were luckier.

"Hollywood's leading lady received two tons of makeup in time to celebrate her 90th birthday," said Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, who has served 20 years at the nonprofit formed to safeguard the sign. "It's about dreams - a dream of making it into the (Hollywood) business, and onto screens both large and small."

In tandem with the Griffith Planetarium, she has also become the face of Los Angeles.

And she's got a new glow to greet the world.

"The Hollywood sign is (our) Eiffel Tower, our Golden Gate Bridge, it is the symbol of Southern California," said Gubler, of the chamber. "Hollywood is the most significant industry in Los Angeles, and of the Valley.

"She looks great, even up close. You can't see any blemishes."

dana.bartholomew@dailynews.com

818-713-3730