HOLLYWOOD (CNS) — So who’s the prankster who altered the famed Hollywood sign on New Year’s morning to make it read “Hollyweed”?
On Tuesday, Jan. 3, indications were pointing toward a local artist who goes by the moniker “Jesus Hands,” a name that was scrawled on one of the black tarps used to alter the sign.
In an interview with the online magazine Vice, Zach Fernandez said the effort was inspired by a similar 1976 alteration of the sign carried out by Cal State Northridge art student Danny Finegood, who changed the sign to “Hollyweed” as part of a school art project in response to a recent relaxation of marijuana laws. Finegood got an A grade on his project.
“That inspired me, and I dug a bit and found he did some other installs over the years with friends,” Fernandez said. “… So on the bottom of the left of the ‘O,’ I wrote, ‘A tribute to Mr. Finegood.’ The main goal of the piece, however, is to bring about conversation.”
His alleged co-conspirator, Sarah Fern, told Vice the idea for the prank “was already brewing, but with the election panning out the way that it did, that was the final push.”
California voters in November approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use.
Fernandez posted a photo of the “Hollyweed” sign on his Instagram page, with the caption “In all it’s glory.” Hundreds of people commented on the photo, praising the work. Responding to one of the first people to post a compliment, Fernandez wrote “Thanks Compa!!”
City surveillance cameras locked on the iconic sign captured a man dressed in black as he scaled down the sign and carefully placed tarps on the structure to make it read “Hollyweed” around 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, said Sgt. Guy Juneau of the LAPD’s Security Services Division.
The tarp was taken down about 11:15 a.m. and the sign restored to “Hollywood.” The incident was being investigated as misdemeanor trespassing, as opposed to vandalism, because the sign was not damaged in any way.
LAPD officials said Tuesday they’re aware of the reports about the possible perpetrator, but no arrests have been made and no suspect has been identified.
The agency that maintains the sign may wind up boosting security around the landmark in the aftermath of the stunt.
“The surveillance system is like a chain,” Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, told the Los Angeles Times. “The chain is only as good as its weakest link, so as we study this — the prankster coming in, how he (or) she slipped through — we will determine this week where the link was that was weak, then we will upgrade there.”
Baumgart said he plans to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department this week to be briefed on the matter and to explore ways to prevent similar acts.
Baumgart noted there are dangers when it comes to making a statement on the sign.
“Because the sign is 45 feet high, it’s extremely easy to slip and fall.”
“It could’ve been a tragedy for that prankster. And that hillside is extremely treacherous. So you’re protecting the homeowners, you’re protecting the pranksters from themselves by keeping them out of there.
“The sign is just metal and concrete, lives are more important.”