HOLLYWOOD gets a paint make-over

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In Hollywood, three face lifts in a lifetime aren't all that unusual.

Even the application of lots of paint may not turn heads in Tinseltown -- just look at Joan Collins.

But, hey, the face lift a Cleveland company is doing out in the Hollywood Hills involves real paint -- as in the exterior variety.

Dutch Boy Paints, a subsidiary of Cleveland's Sherwin-Williams Co., is donating about $75,000 worth of paint and expertise to recoat the famous, and oh-so-recognizable, "HOLLYWOOD" sign on the hillside above the city made famous by movie stars.

It will take 200 gallons of paint, and an average of six painters working 22 days to paint the nine 45-foot-high letters.

The painting began April 10 and is expected to be finished in two weeks, said Shelly Walk, Dutch Boy's director of marketing communications.

"We are painting the most famous national landmark other than the White House," Ms. Walk said. "It's seen on television almost any day. It's seen in movies. We look at it as an opportunity . . . to show our product."

The company landed the part in 1994 after one of the company's sales representatives found out that the letters were covered with graffiti.

The sales rep asked Hollywood Sign Trust, the nonprofit organization that maintains the landmark, if there was anything his company could do. There was.

The trust was so impressed with the offer, in fact, that no other paint companies were contacted.

Dutch Boy expects to pay about $75,000 to cover the letters, which stretch 450 feet from "H" through "D." The company had to hire a painting company that could rappel down the steep cliff where the letters are located and set up scaffolding to paint the tops of the letters.

"If we're going to take on projects and use our paints, we want to do it right," Ms. Walk said. "We don't want our paint on a sign that's not applied properly."

The sign was originally put up as "HOLLYWOODLAND" in 1923 as a publicity stunt to promote a nearby housing development.

In the late 1940s, the sign was replaced and the "LAND" removed. In 1978, the sign was rebuilt.

Over the years, the sign has been the target of vandalism, some of it with a twist. When Oliver North was on the hot seat during the Iran-Contra controversy, the "H" mysteriously disappeared -- for a time -- and the sign proudly declared: "OLLYWOOD." When H. Ross Perot was running for president in 1992, the sign one day became: "PEROTWOOD."

But it is the smaller vandalism -- graffiti -- that is making Dutch Boy's task more difficult.

The painters are scraping off as many as 40 layers of old paint at the bottom, where the graffiti vandals can reach. The top part of the letters have only two coats.

Dutch Boy is, of course, getting something in return -- permission to use the HOLLYWOOD sign in coming advertising that will focus on the durability of Dutch Boy paint. In addition, the company plans to call its white "Hollywood White."

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