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carole lombard 01

Stand tall for Cahuenga Peak

Posted by vp19 on 2010.03.16 at 20:59
Current mood: impressedimpressed


Above is "Baywatch" actress Kelly Packard, who in 1999 took part in a Los Angeles-area magazine photo shoot which used the magic of trick photography to have her model swimsuits as a giantess. But today's entry deals with what the king-size Kelly is "resting" above: the famed "Hollywood" sign.

Now, had this fantasy shoot occurred during the first few decades the sign was up, Kelly would've had to have been about 45 percent larger (or longer!) to match the sign from tip to toe. That's because the sign initially read "Hollywoodland," promoting a real estate development.



The sign is located on Cahuenga Peak, an undeveloped stretch of 138 acres next to Griffith Park. That it has remained undeveloped derives in part from an ill-fated romance between two of Hollywood's (figurative) giants.

One was the talented dancer-singer-actress Ginger Rogers. (She's Turner Classic Movies U.S.' star of the month for March, and among her films being shown Wednesday is "42nd Street," at 8 p.m. Eastern.)



The other produced and directed films, but is best known in a Hollywood context for his dozens of dalliances with actresses (in fact, one Carole Lombard biographer has written that he deflowered her). We are, of course, referring to Howard Hughes:



In 1940, Hughes bought the tract, intending to build a huge mansion for Rogers, whom he would then marry. But when she decided against the latter, Hughes refrained from building the former, so what might have been the high-elevation equivalent of Marion Davies' Ocean House never came to be.

Hughes kept the tract, but never did anything with it, and it remained part of his estate for two decades following his death in 1976. In the meantime, neighboring hillsides were being developed; the land became more and more valuable.

In 2002, the Hughes estate put the tract up for sale, and the city of Los Angeles planned to purchase it for open space, sort of an extension of Griffith Park. (It's home to a rare ecosystem, including butterflies, the coast horned lizard, and the Plummer's mariposa lily.) However, the real estate market was hot at the time, and so the city couldn't scrape up sufficient funds. Instead, a Chicago development group got the land, and planned to build several estates along the ridgeline.

As we all know, however, real estate values have plummeted in recent years, leading the developers to drop their plans. According to the Save Cahuenga Peak group:

"In April 2009, The Trust for Public Land secured a one-year option to purchase the property with the hopes of preserving it for generations to come. And because of the falling real estate market, this second chance comes at a very reasonable price of $12.5 million, a little more than half of what the land was listed for in 2008."

This isn't really a battle to save the Hollywood sign -- that battle's been fought before -- but it will help preserve an area near it, an area with many splendid views of Los Angeles below.




Time is of the essence, as the deadline for raising the money is April 14. Dame Elizabeth Taylor has donated funds for the cause (those sailors in "South Pacific" were right -- there is nothing like a dame!), and you can help, too. Simply go to https://secure3.convio.net/tpl/site/Donation2?df_id=1780&1780.donation=form1 to learn how. Should you prefer to mail your contribution, send it to

Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak
Los Angeles River Center
570 West Avenue 26, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90065

You won't feel quite as big as a magically enlarged "Baywatch" beauty, but you'll stand a bit taller.


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