My mission: climb to the Hollywood Sign. Objective: determine whether the Space Invader art installed by the artist Invader is still in place, or whether it’s been stolen just like all the rest of it. It’s Christmas morning. I drag myself out of bed at eight, suit up and then drive up through the morning mist through homes much pricier than mine to a spot alongside the road.
I’d researched the route pretty well using Google Earth, so I had a pretty good idea where to go. In fact, my route-finding was so good that I seem to have bypassed all of the NO TRESSPASSING signs everyone else seems to come across when they attempt the same thing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a public trail that winds up to the towering letters. But I know the trail is closely watched. From reading other accounts, a hike up to the sign usually ends in a police helicopter pursuit followed by a meet-n-greet back at the trailhead with the local constabulary.
I scramble up the steep slope anyway. Though the rest of Hollywood is cloaked in Christmas morning fog, the sign itself rests in full sunlight. Within twenty minutes I’m standing at its base.
I’m not doing this for the simple pleasure of touching the sign, although there’s certainly an aura about the thing that’s undeniable. Oh hell yeah, I’m gonna touch the damned sign. But I’m also a fan of Invader’s street art. Sara and I discovered it a couple years ago. Invader has, over the years, managed to tag more than a hundred spots around the city of Los Angeles with his benign, attractive invaders. And over three successive attempts spread over a couple years, he managed to get each of the letters of the Hollywood sign as well. But lately someone’s been stealing his stuff. Invaders have been disappearing en masse from the public spaces around town. He says himself that he’s “lost Los Angeles.”
Maybe, I think, but the true test is to check out the sign itself. If those guys are still there, then perhaps hope remains. Maybe Hollywood hasn’t fallen.
So now I’m looking around. There, over on the “Y,” I spot the cluster of security devices. There’s a motion detector. Cameras. Loudspeakers. Floodlights. I wonder if they’re even on. The reason I’m up here on Christmas Day is because I figure the city-employed security team is safely tucked away at home, watching Charlie & The Chocolate Factory or trashing their new X-Box 360’s. I move closer. The motion detector beeps at me suddenly. I freeze for a moment. But what am I going to do? Turn and run pell-mell back down the slope? Of course not. I’m here now. Might as well do what I came to do.
With the motion sensors chirping at my every move, I methodically check every letter of the sign. Last month the sign underwent a face-lift. The letters are brilliant white now, and the support struts are gleaming and gray. It occurs to me that it’s very possible the renovators might have seen the small invader mosaics as vandalism and removed it themselves. Or painted over them, as would more likely be the case. Then, I see what I came to look for:
On the “W” is a spot where once had been one of the mosaics. Not long ago, it used to look like this (links to Invader’s own page.) Here’s a picture of the artist actually affixing the thing. But now it’s gone. It’s difficult, of course, to tell whether it was stolen by thieves or removed by cleaning personnel. Either way, it’s gone.
I check the rest of the letters. The motion sensors continue their mad beeping. The cameras monitor in silence. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Only a series of vacant, humble footprints where the invaders had once been, like those patterns that space craft make when they land in your back yard. How utterly annoying.
I snap a few more pictures and look down at the cloud-enveloped city. An unbelievably gorgeous day. I want to hang out, to enjoy the view, but I suppose I’m done. So I head back down.
Flickr Gallery containing ALL the pics from the hike.
Recent eBay auction that offered much of the original sign for sale.
A photo series on the artist’s site chronicling the first tag of the sign.
The page at sixspace for last July’s invader show.
counterinvasion.com – my own site (largely dormant for now) detailing many of the local invaders.