Last week's News & Chatter post on the death of Danny Finegood, who first altered the Hollywood sign in 1976, spurred a lot of response. It also seems to have alerted the L.A. Times that he merited an obituary. Valerie J. Nelson's obit in Saturday's paper picked up my toss-off description of Finegood as a prankster, but his cousin, Larry Leventhal, writes to object that the term is too dismissive.
I read your take on the obituary for Danny Finegood. While Danny never lost his sense of humor and he was at heart a prankster, his work with the Hollywood sign was more than some "counterculture prank". I quote from a letter written by his daughter and words he wrote himself on the subject.
"Finegood coordinated the alteration of the Hollywood landmark three other times. Once the sign was changed to read Holywood for Easter. In 1987, during the Iran-Contra hearings, it was altered to read 'Ollywood' to protest the hero worship of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North. Another brief change was made by Finegood in 1990 when the sign read 'Oil War' before police removed the plastic draping the structure.
In a 1983 letter to the Los Angeles Times, Finegood and his cohorts wrote: 'We broke no laws and did no damage to the sign. An artist's role throughout history has been to create representations of the culture he exists in. By hanging four relatively small pieces of fabric on the landmark, we were able to change people's perception of the Hollywood sign.'"
What bothers me about the concept of "prankster" is that it doesn't really capture the depth of Danny, his ideas and the artistic sensibility behind his actions. He needs no defense but I do think that history deserves some accuracy on this.
Noted, and thanks for the email. The LAT obit mentions that a plan to make the sign read Hollyween on Oct. 31 never came to pass, but says that the Hollyweed "sculpture" not only earned Finegood an A in art class at Cal State Northridge, but also won over his future wife, Bonnie.