The Hollywood sign has always been a direct representation of Los Angeles's booming film industry since it was erected in 1923. Since then the sign has gone through several "changes" some with permission from the local government and others, not so much. Film promotion, political activism and even a visit from the Pope have all prompted such temporary modifications to the sign. Altering it from the historic Hollywood verbiage to things such as: GO NAVY, RAFFEYSOD, FOX, CALTECH, OLLYWOOD, HOLYWOOD, OIL WAR , PerotWood, GO UCLA, SAVE THE PEAK. Perhaps the most well-known altering of the sign has been from Hollywood to Hollyweed. Most people are familiar with the most recent change which occurred January 1, 2017, when full cannabis legalization went into effect in the state of California. But this was not the first time that exact same change had been made to the famed sign – The first was Hollyweed in 1976.
Hollyweed in 1976
Just as it was written on January 1, 2017, the Hollywood sign read Hollyweed on the exact same date a little more than four decades ago in 1976. As was the case in 2017, pranksters altered the sign in celebration of legislation moving towards a more relaxed approach to cannabis that was put into effect. Daniel N. Finegood, was the brains behind the masterpiece and used $50 worth of dark fabric and a few other brave souls to make the sign read Hollyweed. A student at Cal State Northridge at the time he was given an A in one of his classes for the project and was even praised by his parents for his work. The "prank" was more of a statement and at no point did Finegood or any of his compadres cause any damage to the sign. The plan was well thought out as Finegood created a scale model of the Hollywood sign where he tested the material before he even attempted to alter the real thing to read Hollyweed.
Finegood was called a vandal by some to whom he responded "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." He did just that and it was not the last time as he changed perception by rewording the sign. In fact, he did so at least three more times in protest of things such as the Persian Gulf War and the Iran-Contra hearings. He used his voice and artistic abilities in a unique manner that has inspired others mainly in 2017 where the exact same method he created was used to make the sign read Hollyweed. Like the Hollyweed sign prank in 1976, no damage was done to the sign, just a quick few changes with some pieces of fabric to celebrate the passing of laws that benefit California society as a whole. Finegood was a true revolutionary.
Finegood inspired a whole generation of artists, activists, and ganjapreneurs with a few pieces of dark colored fabric. Kevin Smith, well-known comedian and filmmaker of stoner classics such as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, even has a new show out that sports the infamous name Hollyweed. Following two longtime stoner friends, Donnell Rawlings being Smith's co-star, as they try to run a successful recreational cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles's new legal cannabis industry. This show, just like Finegood, is for the people. Stepping away from the stereotypical Hollywood formula of getting a television show made, Smith is using Rivit TV which is a brand new audience-driven streaming service. The idea behind it is that the pilot will be produced and then shared for free. From there, the audience can decide if they want to crowdfund the project and if so episodes will be created using their money. Thus giving the audience what they want.
There is also a dispensary called Hollyweed not too far from the Hollywood sign and it is known that some of the best cannabis in the world is found right in the Los Angeles area. Although the sign began as a means to celebrate the film industry it has grown to mean so much more as people no longer come to LA just for the historic film community. As Kendrick Lamar says, it's the "women, weed and weather" is The Recipe that keeps the people coming. Because of artists and activists such as Finegood, Los Angeles has become a hotbed of change not only for the cannabis industry but for all the injustices of the world. However, cannabis is surely at the forefront of this activism and Finegood's Hollyweed sign change is still inspiring change despite its simplicity and how long ago it happened.