In the shadow of the Hollywood sign, a citizens revolt is brewing.
Bright orange protest signs have sprouted along the twisting hillside streets below the world-renowned landmark. Angry residents are lambasting what they call the "prostitution" of their neighborhood's famous symbol.
The source of the unrest is an odd appendage installed Friday above the letter "D." The appendage and the letter are shrouded, looking rather like an exclamation mark after the word "Hollywoo."
Neighbors say they expect the shroud to be removed today to reveal a giant female cartoon character to promote a new Paramount Pictures film called "Cool World."
And that is an outright abuse of a Los Angeles monument, said Chuck Welch, who equates the sign to the Statue of Liberty in New York City, the Washington Monument in the nation's capital, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Los Angeles is "the only city in the world that would take its most prominent monument and turn it into a common billboard," said Welch, president of the Hollywoodland Homeowners Assn. "I don't think you can rent the Eiffel Tower for a billboard, or the Washington Monument."
He and other neighbors say they fear that the cartoon character will attract hordes of tourists and cause traffic problems on their narrow, winding streets--maybe even creating fire hazards with their discarded cigarettes.
Paramount Pictures has received permission from the city to erect a doll figure atop the sign in the Hollywood Hills to promote the movie "Cool World," said Phillip Manzi, a senior park ranger for the city.
"They have all the permits and all the permission to do what they're doing," he said.
"We followed the rules," said studio spokesman Harry Anderson. Paramount is paying for 24-hour security for the Hollywood sign during the promotion, he said. It paid a $27,000 city fee, he said, and is contributing another $27,000 to Rebuild L.A.
The promotion, to be unveiled at a morning news conference today, depicts a "Cool World" cartoon character known as Holli Would. She is supposed to resemble Kim Basinger, who stars in the live action-animation film that opens Friday.
The corrugated metal cutout, which stands 75 feet tall and is anchored with special supports, must be removed by next Monday, studio officials said.
But Welch and his neighbors vow that they will continue to fight the addition to the sign and plan to picket the Paramount news conference this morning. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is adorned with signs and banners reading "Stop the Hollywood Sign Prostitution."
Neighbors tried but failed last month to obtain a temporary restraining order blocking the promotion. A hearing on how the sign can be used is scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Welch said. He has a clear view of the Hollywood sign from the gazebo behind his home. He said he watched a construction helicopter install the cartoon piece by piece on Friday. He describes it as a female figure in a "short-short-short skirt" and denounces it as "a classless, sexist symbol."
Neighbors Linda and Graham Buckner, who viewed the sign Sunday from their hillside home, say they do not understand why the promotion was approved.
"I think they're taking the first step to turn this into a commercial vehicle," Graham Buckner said.
"I think it's imposing an image that maybe not everyone wants to see," said resident Joanne D'Antonio as she walked with her 3-year-old son Sunday. She worries that today will bring an army of cars to the hillside.
But studio spokesman Anderson defends the cartoon addition. "It's a very funny, good-humored thing to do in the middle of the summer, and I don't think it detracts from the sign at all."