Everybody thinks they know what Hollywood stands for: glitz, glamour, films and fashion. But nestling beneath the somewhat seedy strips lined with palms and performers are some of the neighborhood’s most famous landmarks and institutions. Think you know Hollywood? Think again. Here are just a few little secrets you might not have read about or encountered on your meanderings down in Tinseltown.
What You Didn’t Know About the Famous Sign
Now one of the most iconic landmarks in all of America, the “Hollywood” sign was never meant to stay up more than a year or so. Originally reading “HOLLYWOODLAND,” the sign was created as an advertising prop to sell real estate in the area. At that time, in 1923, nobody expected the giant sign to become the worldwide symbol for the whole movie and entertainment industry – but the sign went “viral”, so to speak, and it’s remained there as a pilgrimage destination to this day.
The sign has sometimes been the subject of high jinx, especially from California’s student population. Sports fans from UCLA’s Theta Chi fraternity managed to make the sign read “GO UCLA” before the 1993 UCLA-USC football game, an act that led to the owners of the sign to implement security measures on the site.
Not to be outdone by their interstate rivals, in 2003, Caltech’s Prank Club managed to ingeniously wrap the landmark with black and white plastic sheeting, making the sign look like it read “CALTECH” from a distance. The college was so proud of this achievement that to this day the stunt is still mentioned on the college’s admissions website.
The Birth of the Movie Industry
The first ever film to come out of Hollywood was a 17-minute short named “In Old California” in 1910. Oddly enough, at that time, film cinemas in Hollywood were banned, and the movie had to be shown at other venues in the state.
The first film to come out of a bona fide Hollywood studio was a somewhat mysterious and unnamed piece produced by the Nestor Motion Picture Company. The Nestor studios were the first purposely-built film studios in Hollywood, and the company paved the way for other film producers to setup shop in the Hollywood district.
The Origins of Warner Bros. Studios
What do four soap salesmen from Ohio have in common with one of the biggest and most powerful film studios in Hollywood? Well, they created it, that’s what.
At the turn of the century, four brothers – Harry, Sam, Albert and Jack – each helped to run a theatre business down in Ohio. Having made a success of that venture, the brothers sought to expand their burgeoning cinematic empire by opening a new studio on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood. The year was 1918, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Warner Brothers’ Other Ventures
Sticking with the Warner Brothers for a moment, these four intrepid salesmen didn’t just limit themselves to the movie business; they also set up a racetrack in Hollywood, the grounds of which you can still visit today.
Known as the Betfair Hollywood Park, the racetrack closed in 2013 but it currently features a newly-refurbished VIP Casino room, with night programs running from Friday through Sunday. Anyone wanting to find out more about the games on offer there can get the Betfair poker download sent straight to their mobile devices. Alternatively, if you’re in the Inglewood area, head on over yourself for a day of high stakes and thrilling excitement.
Lake Hollywood Reservoir
The greatest mystery surrounding Lake Hollywood is why it isn’t more widely known about. Set in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, the reservoir was created in 1924 as a consequence of the Mulholland Dam project.
The lake is surrounded by its own recreational area, and anyone seeking an outdoor adventure while in L.A. would do well to visit Lake Hollywood Park for a bout of picturesque rambling in the shadow of the Santa Monica mountain range. Plenty of hiking routes have been mapped out for you already, so whether you want to stick to beaten path or break new ground, Lake Hollywood has something to offer everyone.
The Lesser Known Walk of Fame
It would be remiss of anyone not to mention the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. But what don’t you know about this most well-trodden of Los Angeles’ venues? What is little known about the strip has the names of not one but two Harrison Fords among its stars. There’s the Harrison Ford of Indiana Jones fame; but so too is the name of the 1920s silent movie star Harrison Ford, known as a leading man in the early years of Hollywood film making.
So there you have it, a short rundown of some of Hollywood’s lesser-known gems. There’s sure to be more, and part of the fun of visiting a place like Tinseltown is that you’re very likely to discover a few of them on your own. Oh, and one last thing. There’s a rumor (or really a conspiracy theory) that Andy Kaufman is still alive. And if his brother is to be believed, he’ll be returning to Hollywood very soon. Keep your eyes peeled. It’s a strange town, and you never know.