Los Angeles received a New Year’s laugh when the city woke up to see the iconic Hollywood sign altered to say Hollyweed.
Officials, however, were not so amused. City councilman David Ryu told the Associated Press that such stunts “deplete the resources of our valuable public safety personnel.” Now, a suspect has turned himself into police for trespassing.
Zachary Fernandez, a 30-year-old artist known as “Jesus Hands,” claimed responsibility in multiple interviews before his Jan. 9 arrest. Sarah Fern, another local artist (and his former wife), was his accomplice.
At 3 am on New Year’s Day, Fernandez scaled the sign in Griffith Park and draped two tarps—one decorated with a heart, the other with a peace sign—over the Os to create Es and hence the word Hollyweed. “We did it all on a budget and were very resourceful about it,” Fern told Vice.
This wasn’t the first time the sign has been transformed into that 420-friendly message. In 1976, Cal State art student Danny Finegood turned it into Hollyweed for a school project.
“He was adamant that it really wasn’t a prank,” Finegood’s son Matthew told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was doing something that didn’t harm the sign. He felt it was art and he was trying to tell the world something he believed in and that people were supportive of.”
Like Finegood, Fernandez maintains that the sign wasn’t just a stunt. “I wouldn’t call it a prank,” he told BuzzFeed. “I would say it’s an art installation.” Fernandez said he helped run a medical marijuana delivery service in San Luis Obispo.
It turns out the elder Finegood inspired Fernandez. “In 1976, California had just relaxed its laws on marijuana, and he did it in tribute to that,” Fernandez told Vice. “Sometimes in order to create that conversation, you have to be OK with the consequences. I’m very proactive about marijuana.”
The giant Hollyweed sign drew praise from stoners and pranksters alike. “I gave Zach, the Hollyweed guy a pound of weed as a gift,” tweeted Tommy Chong. “I don’t know who did this to the Hollywood sign, but I’m quite impressed they got away with it,” Steve-O posted along with a selfie of the sign.
Fernandez has been released on his own recognizance and is expected back in court Feb. 15. Until then, he can rest assured that the “installation” did accomplish his goal: “It was something to smile and laugh out loud about… Just to lift spirits, because 2016 was a crazy year.
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