A cutout of Clint Eastwood dressed as a cowboy that began as a mysterious art piece looking out over Glendale's hillsides is one step closer to becoming official property of the city.
After the actor's likeness was destroyed three times, the artist behind the figure that has sparked interest among hikers in the hills and commuters along the Glendale Freeway decided it might be best if he find a new home for the cutout.
That's when City Hall came into the picture.
City officials offered to give the cutout an official home after a Los Angeles Times columnist wrote about the multiple acts of vandalism it had sustained, and now the Arts & Culture Commission has recommended that the City Council approve making it a city art piece.
The first cutout, placed atop a hill west of Verdugo Hills Hospital last spring, showed Eastwood dressed in a poncho and holding a gun, just as he was in the 1964 western "Fistful of Dollars."
Several months later, Reg Green, a La Cañada Flintridge resident who often hikes the San Rafael Hills, saw a man on his knees, picking up the cutout's broken pieces. Someone had destroyed the figure and the artist who created it was there to pack up the wooden chunks.
Green, 83, felt compelled to tell him about his own connection with public art. In Bodega Bay, where Green used to live, a large memorial featuring 140 bells, one blessed by a former pope, stands in honor of his son, who was shot by Italian robbers during a family vacation in 1994.
After his son was declared brain dead, Green and his wife decided to donate their 7-year-old son's organs.
Their choice saved several lives in Italy. Dozens of bells were sent to the grieving parents — bells that would make up the bulk of the memorial.
It wasn't long after relaying the story to the man that Green, again on the same trail, discovered that the cutout had returned, but instead of a gun, this time Eastwood was holding a bell. On the back of the cutout was a short note about Green's son that asked hikers to ring the bell if they pledge to be an organ donor.
Green broke down and sobbed.
"It touched me very deeply … the transformation of what had been a rather threatening figure to something so gentle," he said.
But the latest iteration of the Eastwood cutout was also doomed for destruction by vandals. The artist, Justin Stadel, would have to replace the cutout twice more, even after increasing its weight to nearly 200 pounds by planting one leg in cement.
"Obviously, there's someone there who really doesn't like Clint at that location," he said, adding that he's been working with Green to make yet another Eastwood cutout holding a bell.
The 32-year-old from Glassell Park has placed two other cowboy figures along the Glendale hillside — John Wayne and Gene Autry.
Wayne once stood watch on a hill overlooking his alma mater, Glendale High School, but was eventually destroyed. Autry was placed on a hill that isn't easily accessible.
Stadel doesn't know if he'll re-create John Wayne; Eastwood is top priority now.
"It's important for people to go up and ring that bell," he said.
The City Council may vote on keeping the cutout, which has yet to be built, in August or September. If approved, it is set to be installed along a ridgeline near the entry of the Glendale Sports Complex.
Levine writes for Times Community News.