You know Hollywood’s famous sign, right? But what you probably didn’t know is that back in the Roaring Twenties, it looked a bit different. It had four extra letters: L-A-N-D.
Originally the sign was an advertisement. In 1923, a group of Los Angeles real estate developers erected it to promote a new housing development named Hollywoodland. The white letters, each about 50 feet tall, were controversial at first. Many Hollywood residents objected to the way the huge advertisement ruined the view of the Hollywood’s tallest hill, Mt. Lee. The developer, Harry Chandler (who also owned the Los Angeles Times) quieted criticism by promising to take it down in a few years, once his housing development was well established. He probably would have done so, but after a while, the sign became a proud symbol of the filmmaking capital, and no one wanted it removed. Over the years, it underwent alternating periods of neglect and restoration, including the removal of the last four L-A-N-D letters in 1945.
When Peg Entwistle jumped off the top of the H in 1932, the fall probably killed her instantly. After all, the height is approximately that of a five-story building and the ground below is rocky and hard. But some evidence suggests she lived long enough to crawl a little distance, dying from exposure before she was discovered two days later. Poor child . . . She was only 24, and from my perspective at least, that seems like a child.
I used the actual incident of Peg Entwistle’s suicide in one of my Roaring Twenties mystery stories, but I moved the date backwards to 1925 and changed the name of the person who jumped. Sorry. Can’t tell.