The gods of online blessed us with a New Year’s Day miracle Sunday by presenting 2017’s first piece of viral art: in the dead of night, Los Angeles’ iconic Hollywood sign was vandalized to read “Hollyweed.*” That’s right—as in drugs. Pot drugs.
This means that thousands of Angelenos woke up January 1, parted their curtains, and were greeted by the broad-scale, 420 equivalent of carving “Korn” into a bar bathroom stall there in the Hollywood hills. It looked like this:
My city. ✨welcome to #hollyweed https://t.co/WEFfwralKS
The feat was accomplished by hanging black cloth over sections of the pre-existing O’s and draping white cloth across their centers to create the illusion of a lower-case E. It was no small task according to the LAPD:
Security footage recorded at 3 a.m. Sunday showed a “lone individual” climbing up the mountain, scaling the sign’s ladders and hanging tarpaulins over the O’s to change them to E’s, said Sgt. Guy Juneau of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Security Services division.
It could have been a New Year’s Eve prank, Juneau said, or the work of “a thrill seeker.”
Now I’m all for a good joke—and lord knows I love performance art—so I’d give this piece a 10/10 on the pleasing scale, but I still have one quick thought that the rest of the media seems to be neglecting to notice: there is no way a weed-doer would be capable of pulling this off.
For starters, the sign’s location is in conflict with the drug’s fundamental sensibilities. According to Hollywoodsign.org, the site boasts “a tall perimeter fence with razor wire, 24 hour electronic surveillance by City of Los Angeles authorities, infrared lights and cameras that can see equally as well in the day and on a moonless night, monitoring microphones and bullhorns, web cameras, motion sensors, [and] regular patrol visits by city police and park ranger helicopters.” Has anywhere ever sounded more arduous and paranoia-inducing to get to? On weed you build a nest of blankets and watch five episodes of Animal Cops: Houston, or you chat too long with the bodega cashier about “the best flavor of sour straws” even though you’re pretty sure he “knows [you’re] high”—you don’t pack a bag of supplies and leave your neighborhood to do some transgressive cardio.
To commit this crime, the artist had to scale a fence and avoid the razor wire to then climb a mountain in the dead of night while being closely monitored by surveillance equipment and executing a premeditated crime that largely hinges on dexterity and accurate positioning of large textiles. This is a coke project if I’ve ever seen one, or an amphetamine project. Those are the people awake and willing to start a new activity at 3 a.m. on January 1. The potheads all zonked out on Brian’s couch at 10:30 to New Years Rockin’ Eve, they’ll hear about Hollyweed in the morning.
Plus, nearly $1M of the Hollywood sign property was protected by a 2010 donation from Hugh Hefner—a man who rarely leaves his own home because he is too busy walking around in a red velvet robe with a pipe and chilling in a grotto with his wild array of monkeys, tropical birds, and too-hot girlfriends. That’s weed as fuck. What pothead in his right mind would knowingly deface a monument protected by such a dude when they’re so busy trying to cultivate his lifestyle in their half of the apartments they’re renting? It seems more likely that this piece is an homage to California’s signature highbrow-lowbrow culture than a celebration of any one particular drug.
No matter what, though, wordplay’s fun. And at the end of the day who really cares if the artist is a pot-doer when the net-net is that the glamor of showbusiness and the sweatpants of recreational substances have been briefly married to one another in our public consciousness? Hollyweed is a splashy, victimless act of civil disruption, and a welcome break from the nightmarish crap that’s making headlines otherwise—it just might’ve been a little truer to form if the word had been spelled out in Combos and Fruit Snacks on a dirty coffee table and then posted to Instagram—you know, the traditional tools of the medium.
*Not too important, but just fun to know that the sign was vandalized to read Hollyweed once previously in 1976 by a Cal State student.