Southern Californians were still puzzling over the New Year's Day transformation of the HOLLYWOOD sign into the RAFFEYSOD sign when, suddenly and mysteriously, the landmark reassumed its normal appearance Wednesday.
"I'm looking through my binoculars right now," Bill Welsh, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said at noontime from his fifth-floor office on Sunset Boulevard. "There's someone up there cleaning some bed sheets or old clothing off the W.
"I haven't any idea who it is but the sign looks pretty much back to normal. This has all happened since I last looked up there about an hour ago. We asked a company to make us an offer for cleaning up the sign but now we won't have to use them."
So a Good Samaritan had rid the town of RAFFEYSOD. But what had that assemblage of letters signified during its one-day run?
"We thought it might be a rock music group but no one's ever heard of the name," Welsh said.
Frankie Highland, an editor at KNX radio, whose studio is south of the sign, wondered whether "it was some ethnic group or foreign group . . . trying to get a message across that nobody understands."
But no one had phoned the Chamber of Commerce or the media claiming responsibility for altering the 50-foot-tall letters with strategically placed sheets.
Welsh filed a vandalism complaint with Hollywood Division police. But Detective Carl Whiting, initially at least, couldn't make much of RAFFEYSOD, either.
"Let's see . . . what does it spell backwards?" he asked rhetorically.
He paused after coming up with DOSYEFFAR. "Well, I'm sure it's some kind of a puzzle," he added.
The SOD aspect of the sign yielded no apparent clues, either. George Reyes, manager of Economy Lawn Service, said he didn't think it was a type of grass. "I deal with six or seven different farms and buy hundreds of types of grasses but I've never heard of it," Reyes said. "It could be a new bluegrass, but I don't think so."
The sign has been altered on two other occasions in recent years, once without permission (HOLLYWEED) and once with permission (U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen draped a GO NAVY banner over it before the 1983 Army-Navy football game at the Rose Bowl).
Welsh said the latest incident may pay off for the chamber in one respect.
"We got a call from a company that's offered to supply us with free anti-graffiti material for the sign," he said. "Graffiti is also a problem up there, though you can't see it from a distance."
Will the anti-graffiti material also prevent altering of the sign with sheets?
"No, it can't stop sheets," Welsh said.