LOS ANGELES -- Pranksters Tuesday draped a huge black tarp over the landmark 'Hollywood' sign, making it read 'Holywood' in a gesture meant to welcome Pope John Paul II to Southern California.
But city officials, who have spent weeks carefully plotting out the first papal visit ever to Los Angeles, were not pleased.
'We feel someone will eventually get hurt and the frivolity will someday end in tragedy,' said Edward Lewis, executive vice president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which maintains the sign on Griffith Park's Mt. Lee.
Police said the sign was altered sometime during the early morning, under the cover of darkness, by a group of people who hung a large black tarp that covered one of the sign's 'Ls.'
Thus, the sign that read 'Hollywood' was changed to read 'Holywood.'
Lewis said he believed the prank was carried out by a group that identifies itself as 'environmental engineers' who altered the sign earlier this summer to read 'Ollywood,' when national attention was turned to former White House aide Lt. Oliver North during his testimony before the congressional panels investigating the Iran-contra affair.
An anonymous caller told United Press International that nine people were involving in changing the 65-year-old sign on the hillside overlooking 'Tinsel Town.'
'It was for the pope's arrival,' he said. 'We just decided that we had nothing better to do with our evening and that it would be time well spent to welcome the pope to Los Angeles.'
The caller said they used a sheet of black plastic used for landscaping to cover the 'L,' tying it down with twine. The job, he said, took 10 minutes.
'Walking up there was the hard part,' he said. 'Once you get up there, it's just a matter of rolling it off the top. You tie it at the top and tear it off and then tie it down with a piece of twine.'
The pope, however, never got to see the altered sign.
The sign, visible from at least a mile of John Paul's parade route, was restored by Department of Recreation and Parks workers shortly before 9 a.m. -- about 90 minutes before the pope's motorcade began.
The Hollywood sign, made of metal letters, first went up in 1923. In 1978, the chamber raised $250,000 to build a new 400-foot, corrugated-metal and steel-girded sign.