USA TODAY -- A prankster climbed up a mountain in Los Angeles overnight to welcome the New Year Sunday by altering the world-famous Hollywood sign to read "Hollyweed," police say.
Los Angelenos recovering from New Year's Eve celebrations might have been blurry-eyed as the sun came up on Mount Lee but they couldn't have missed noticing there was something wrong with the familiar 350-feet-long sign.
According to Sgt. Guy Juneau, the watch commander for the Los Angeles Police Department's Security Services division (which handles security for public buildings and facilities), a "lone gentleman" made his way up the mountain, scaled a protective fence, clambered over the sign and placed two tarps covering the two O's.
"It now reads 'WEED,' Juneau told USA TODAY. "He escaped but (the stunt) was captured on security video footage."
Police are investigating and if the man is arrested, he will be prosecuted for misdemeanor trespassing, Juneau said.
But it isn't the first time the sign with its 45-foot-tall letters has been vandalized; Juneau says there's an incident at least once a year.
"It's thrill-seekers, looking for media attention," he said. "It’s L.A., part of our L.A.-crazy," he added, chuckling. But seriously, he said, "We can't have the sign saying that."
Police had to press to restore the sign quickly; finding work crews on a holiday proved difficult, he said.
The prankster may have had a political motive: Celebrating California voters' approval in November of Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana, beginning in 2018.
Besides hosting the sign, the mountain also is host to the communications towers used by police and fire departments, he said, which is why the police have an officer assigned to keep watch up there.
And by the way, he said, it's "very dangerous" to climb up this mountain, located in the Hollywood Hills section of the Santa Monica Mountains. The sign was put up in 1923 as an advertisement for a local real-estate development.
"He took a risk," Juneau said of the tarp-wielding climber. "He could have been killed."