Hollywood Ending for Hollywood Sign

The Playboy founder considers the sign Hollywood's Eiffel Tower

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Monday, Apr 26, 2010  |  Updated 12:32 PM PDT
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Playboy founder Hugh Hefner helped save the peak Monday with a $900,000 check.

Hefner's donation and a match from Tiffany and Co. capped a fundraising effort by the Trust for Public Land, which was attempting to round up $12.5 million to buy and preserve the hilltop property to the west of the sign from private developers.

"While the deal closed with a large gift, it was the supersized efforts of a generous and energetic community of supporters that made the campaign possible," said the Trust for Public Land in an e-mail. "It's people like you who helped us save Cahuenga Peak, and we are very grateful."

In a statement, Hefner called the sign "Hollywood's Eiffel Tower."

"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 said.

He wasn't at the morning announcement, which was just below the sign, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the campaign a team effort. It's nice when J. Paul Getty's heir, Tiffany and Co. and several Hollywood celebrities are on your team.

"I did what the Terminator was supposed to do which is to jump into action," Schwarzenegger said Monday. "A lot of people had to jump into action, especially Councilman Tom LaBonge and the Trust for Public Land.

"The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers and artists, and Austrian bodybuilders."

Schwarzenegger said $6.7 million came from private funds.

On April 14, the Trust announced it received a 16-day extension to finish raising the money. That pushed the deadline to April 30.

The Hollywood Sign is owned by the city of Los Angeles, but the 138-acre property around it belongs to a group of Chicago-based investors who acquired rights to build four luxury mansions along the ridgeline. The investors initially planned to sell the land to real estate developers for $22 million but agreed to turn it over to the Trust for $12.5 million.

The trust hopes to buy the land from its Chicago-area owners and give it to the city so it can be incorporated into the adjacent, 4,200-acre Griffith Park.

Aileen Getty, a billionaire daughter of oil baron J. Paul Getty, and The Tiffany and Co. Foundation have contributed $1 million each to the effort. Schwarzenegger noted private donations were given by all 50 states, 10 foreign countries and individuals, including the J. Paul Getty heir, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Hefner.

Wildlife Conservation Board executive director John Donnelly says the permanent protection of Cahuenga Peak is a significant addition to Griffith Park and that it will "enhance wildlife corridors throughout the region."

The land was originally purchased in 1940 by industrialist Howard Hughes, who wanted to build a home for then-girlfriend Ginger Rogers. But the relationship ended and the Hughes estate later sold the property in 2002 to a group of Chicago investors.

The property, zoned for four luxury homes, was put on the market  two years ago for $22 million.

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