Steve Lopez: Mystery of Glassell Park sign solved

Steve Lopez: Mystery of Glassell Park sign solved
Sign on the hill above the Glassell Park Recreation Center.
(Steve Lopez / Los Angeles Times)

The public artist who planted cutouts of Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry and John Wayne along Highway 2 in the Glendale area has struck again.

On Saturday, while my daughter played Little League baseball at the Glassell Park Rec Center, I noticed a row of giant white letters on the hill above the field.



Clearly, someone must have figured it was time for the eastside neighborhood to one-up Hollywood.


But who could it be? This was quite an installation, with letters standing 10 feet high.

I checked, which had an April 30 story saying the “mysterious” sign had first appeared on a different hill, near Forest Lawn, then disappeared for a while.

One of the posted comments on that story, by Howard Seth Cohen, said to call (206) 202-5191 for more information, so I did.

“Welcome to Glassellland,” said a theatrical-sounding voice on a recording that included a bogus history of the sign.


The recording went on to say the sign was first erected in 1921 and had been refurbished with support from Hugh Hefner and the Annenberg Center as part of “a community effort to rediscover the diverse histories of East Los Angeles.”

I later got hold of Cohen, an actor and performance artist who told me he’d been asked by a public artist to help him promote the project. Cohen said he had helped erect the sign at its current location but hadn’t met the artist, whose name was Justin.

Yes, Justin the Clint Eastwood guy, who planted the cowboys to say something about the proximity of the Wild West to urban sprawl in the land of myth-making.  Justin, who doesn’t use a last name, did not want to discuss the Glassellland sign with me when I emailed him, I  guess because the art is  supposed to speak for itself and we’re supposed to make of it what we will.

Cohen told me he thinks Justin is trying to instill a sense of civic pride in Glassell Park and suggest that romanticism is not confined to the hoity toity Westside neighborhoods.


Or maybe Justin is saying that gentrification is transforming a working-class neighborhood. The original Hollywood sign, of course, said HOLLYWOODLAND, and it was a real estate marketing campaign.

Whatever; I think this is more interesting than the cowboys.


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