Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

How Hugh Hefner helped save the Hollywood sign

by Take Two®

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STANSTED, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: Playboy founder Hugh Hefner arrives at Stansted Airport on June 2, 2011 in Stansted, England. Mr Hefner is back in the UK to mark the launch of the new Playboy Club in Mayfair, which opens on June 4. The club's opening will welcome back the iconic Playboy Bunny to London after a 30 year absence. Famous Bunnies have included Debbie Harry and Lauren Hutton. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away Wednesday at the age of 91. How he'll be remembered depends on your point of view. Hefner was polarizing, to say the least. But one thing most people agree about was his love for Hollywood, specifically the Hollywood sign.

In the late 1970s, the sign that read "Hollywoodland" was a wreck and Hefner took note.

"Clearly the town had forgotten it or it wouldn't have been in such terrible disrepair. To say it was in disrepair is an understatement because it was falling apart."

That's from the documentary, "Under the Hollywood Sign." It was going to cost $250,000 to replace the letters, so Hefner decided to help. He held a fundraiser at the Playboy mansion where each letter was auctioned off to people like Gene Autry to pay for the fix. 

"Hugh Hefner was really instrumental in restoring the Hollywood sign to give it its current look and its current status," said USC professor and Hollywood historian Leo Braudy.

Braudy says Hefner was new to L.A. at the time, so the sign held a certain amount of mystique for him. 

"The sign was sort of like an afterthought to people who lived here, especially to people in the movie business. The sign didn't have that iconic quality to people who were native Angelenos that it did to people who were outsiders, and Hugh Hefner was one of those outsiders."

To hear about Hugh Hefner's connection to the Hollywood sign, click the blue play button above.

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