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The Hollywood Sign is Actually an Old Ad for a Housing Development

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The world-famous Hollywood sign -- a siren song calling out to aspiring actors/singers/dancers/models/hangers-on, most of whom will live a life of hopes dashed, dreams shattered, and the white-hot regret of what could have been:

But, that's not what the Hollywood sign always stood for. No, it was something slightly less ephemeral than a fleeting brush with semi-fame. In fact, it was an advertisement for a housing development.

As Leo Braudy explains in an article on Slate:

"The community of Hollywood was founded in 1887 by Harvey Wilcox and his wife Daeida, prohibitionists who came west earlier in the decade, possibly hoping to found a white Christian temperance utopia."

Well, the "temperance" part didn't exactly work out -- though Hollywood eventually came to be. Braudy writes:

"With the establishment of Hollywoodland, the many Hollywoods started to find a focus and a generally accepted meaning. First, there was Hollywood, the former village turned suburb turned part of Los Angeles—a specific place with geographic boundaries. Then there was Hollywood as a generally accepted name for the homeland of the American movie industry, like Fleet Street in London for newspapers or Wall Street in New York for finance. Then, allied to that sense of physical place was yet another Hollywood, a more or less intangible place on earth or in the atmosphere above it to which aspirants to fame could come and be recognized. And, finally, like a barely hidden prize in a candy box was the Hollywood in the Hollywoodland sign that would come to represent all of them—and a good part of the lure of Los Angeles itself."

Other municipalities have attempted to capture a bit of Hollywood glamor in their own ways, though no one has ever really managed to duplicate the original.

Except maybe the town of Larchwood, Iowa, which has managed to evoke much, if not all, of the LA glitz with their version:

Ah, Larchwood -- it may not be the City of Angels, but if you're into presidential caucuses...
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