evelopers were on the verge of building giant mansions behind the "H" of the iconic Hollywood sign — until Hugh Hefner came to the rescue. The founder of Playboy wrote a last-minute $900,000 check that capped a months-long, $12.5 million fundraising campaign by the Trust for Public Land conservation group to purchase and protect a 138-acre plot behind the sign. (Watch an AP report about Hugh Hefner's donation.) Here, a look at how the Playboy playboy saved "Hollywood":
Why did Hefner step in?
"My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy," Hefner told the AP. In fact, this wasn't the first time he help save the sign, which he calls "Hollywood's Eiffel Tower." In 1978, Hefner hosted a charity auction at the Playboy Mansion to restore the then-dilapidated cultural landmark and create a fund for its upkeep. At the event, Andy Williams became the honorary owner of the sign's W, Alice Cooper got an O, Gene Autry an L, and Hef himself took the Y.
Who else donated?
Private donors from all 50 states and 10 countries contributed to the conservation fund. Residents on land near the sign held bake sales, and the cash-strapped state of California kicked in $3.1 million. Sizable donations also came from Tiffany & Co., Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks. But celebrities were generally "slow to rally around this year's preservation effort," says Alissa Walker in Fast Company. The Trust for Public Land had to get an extension, and were it not for Hefner, the Hollywood sign might have been marred by mansions.
Where did the sign come from in the first place?
Ironically, it was put up in 1923 to advertise the Hollywoodland real estate development. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce lopped off the "land" part of the sign in 1949. Cahuenga Peak, the parcel above the "H", was purchased by aeronautics mogul Howard Hughes in 1940 for a house for his then-girlfriend, Ginger Rogers. The structure was never built, and Chicago-based Fox River Financial Resources bought the land from the Hughes estate for $1.7 million in 2002.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
- The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy
- The 6-year-old who woke up from a coma with a different personality
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- How Captain America won over China
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- Why Holy Thursday is so important to Christians
Subscribe to the Week