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Hugh Hefner Saves The Hollywood Sign

Thanks to a donation from Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, a nonprofit group announced today it has raised enough money to buy the land around the Hollywood Sign and make it part of Griffith Park.
   Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson and others made the announcement during a news conference at the base of the landmark.
   “My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy,’ Hefner said in a statement. “As I’ve said before, the Hollywood Sign is Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower and I am pleased to help preserve such an important cultural landmark.’
   Schwarzenegger told the crowd the Hollywood sign was his inspiration as a young bodybuilder in Austria, calling it “the most recognizable iconic symbol in the world.’
   “When I heard that it was 130 acres around the Hollywood sign needed to be protected I did what The Terminator was supposed to do, which is to jump into action,’ Schwarzenegger said.
   He thanked others who pitched in to save the land around the sign, including LaBonge, Arianne Getty, Tiffany & Co. jewelers and private donations from Hollywood luminaries Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
   “There were even donations from 50 different states — think about that — 50 different states, and 10 different countries,’ Schwarzenegger added, citing the “fantastic teamwork’ that made the land purchase possible.
   The Chicago-based investors who own the 138 acres known as Cahuenga Peak offered to sell it to the Trust for Public Land for $12.5 million if the money came in before the end of this month.
   Hefner donated the final $900,000 needed to close the gap.
   Chris Baumgart, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust, a nonprofit group whose purpose is to physically maintain, repair and secure the landmark, said this is the second time Hefner has pitched in to save the Hollywood Sign.
   “The sign you see today exists because Hugh Hefner raised the money in 1978 to rebuild it,’ Baumgart said. “Now, 32 years later, the sign’s number one fan has come forward again.’
   Film producer and aviator Howard Hughes bought Cahuenga Peak in 1940 to build a home for actress Ginger Rogers. When their relationship fell apart and Hughes died, his estate sold the property to the group of Chicago investors in 2002.
   After securing permits to build four mansions along the ridgeline, the investors planned to sell the land to developers for $22 million but agreed to turn it over to the Trust for $12.5 million — if the money came in before April 14.
   When the deadline arrived, the Trust was still $1.5 million short of the target, but the investors agreed to extend the deadline to April 30.
   Hefner’s gift capped a year-long effort, which began with $1 million gifts each from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Aileen Getty. Other donors include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, various  movie and television companies.
   Public funds accounted for about 20 percent of the total, including $1.7 million from the city of Los Angeles’ Public Works and Recreation and Parks departments.
   Local community organizations held bake sales and concerts to raise funds. The Trust also set up a Web site, www.savehollywoodland.org., for donations.
   To raise awareness about the fundraising effort, the Hollywood Sign was draped with a “Save the Peak’ banner last month.
   “Today, we have the Hollywood ending we hoped for and now Cahuenga Peak will be forever protected by adding it to Griffith Park,’ Trust president Will Rogers said. “We want to thank the thousands of donors worldwide who so generously helped us, and we owe a particular thanks to Hugh Hefner, to stepped forward at the end to close the gap.’—CNS

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