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Hollywood sign turns 80

Nov. 5, 2003 at 11:26 AM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The famous Hollywood sign turns 80 this year and, this being Hollywood, there's going to be a big birthday celebration Thursday.

The big salute for the one-time real estate billboard that became one of the country's most recognizable landmarks is planned for opening night of the 2003 American Film Institute Los Angeles International Film Festival. Esther Williams, who also was born 80 years ago in Hollywood, will cut the official birthday cake.

The Hollywood sign -- which read Hollywoodland until 1949 -- was only designed to last a year and half when it was erected in 1923 by the Hollywoodland Real Estate Group. But, it soon became a fitting backdrop for the movie capital.

Down through the years, it has shared in the headlines. A young actress committed suicide by jumping off the "H." And, pranksters had their day, like the time, during Pope John Paul II's 1978 visit, it became "Holywood."

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