Hollywood & Vine's new sign continues to be the center of conversation and controversy around town. Those who like it appear to be more vocal than those who oppose it, although Karen Richardson, chair of the city's Preservation Board, makes her case against the sign and its compliance with the city's sign ordinance in her letter to the editor below.
To many, the big white “HOLLYWOOD” letters flanked by bright green palm trees are more than just a sign, however. Call it a sign of the times and the dilemma many growing towns confront when a business that wants to advertise in a big way clashes with those who want to preserve the community's quaint local atmosphere.
It's the proverbial double-edged sword — do businesses deserve to be cut some slack when they draw tourists and, it follows, generate tourist traffic and sales tax revenues?
I recall something similar occurred in my hometown, Corpus Christi, down on its Bayfront, a local tourist attraction. Most of the businesses downtown tended to choose blues and greens for their signage or building colors to complement the marina and the ocean theme.
Then hometown icon Whataburger decided to place a big new restaurant downtown, complete with its bright orange-and-white striped roof. To say it stuck out was an understatement. A huge controversy ensued. But it became very popular, especially with tourists, and remains there today.
Glen Rose's situation, though, is a bit more complicated. It has a historic downtown district with restrictions on what can be done to buildings there, including the use of colors and changes to facades.
Hollywood & Vine is not in the historic district, although its sign is visible from the square. Very visible.
Some say it clashes with Glen Rose's small-town flavor. Others say it draws people into town when they see the sign from the corner of State Highway 144 and Barnard Street.
Co-owner Dobber Stephenson makes the point that he should be allowed to advertise just as businesses on the square do, and that no one can see his restaurant and many people have trouble finding it. But some businesses on the square say they don't have a giant sign, nor can they have one.
There's another possible wrinkle. Several people have told me they think the Hollywood & Vine sign may violate the trademark on the famous Hollywood Hills sign in California. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce considers it a “metaphor for ambition, success, glamour…for this dazzling place, industry and dream….”
The Hollywood Chamber, which saved the Hollywood sign years ago, set up a trust to protect and maintain it and licenses use of its image to fund the trust. In May it challenged another sign project — a sign at the airport in Wellington, New Zealand, to spell out “Wellywood” in the same style as the Hollywood sign. The chamber said it is referring that project to its legal counsel.
The chamber said it is responsible for the sign's “continued existence as an iconic symbol of the U.S., if not the global entertainment industry.”
To which some folks might say, “Lighten up.”
“We are not without a sense of humor,” the chamber responds, adding “nor without legal rights.”
Apparently, the chamber gets its hackles up even when a sign mimics the famous one in Hollywood.
Stephenson says he told city officials of his original plans to put the Hollywood sign on the hill behind the restaurant and that no one raised any questions about that. The controversy over the sign appears to be more about where it's placed — in view of the square over a city easement.
It will be interesting to see whether the controversy over the sign turns into an item on next month's city council agenda — and how members and city staff will respond if it does. Just in case, Hollywood & Vine has been compiling signatures of people who support its sign. Hundreds have endorsed it.
The issue raises a lot of interesting questions — questions that go to the heart of what Glen Rose wants to be and how it wants to grow.