Hugh Hefner to be honored for helping protect Hollywood sign

A plaque will be mounted on a large boulder alongside the trail linking Cahuenga Peak with the Hollywood sign's Mt. Lee. His $1-million donation helped a public trust acquire the peak from developers.

Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner donated the remaining $900,000 needed to to save and purchase the Hollywood sign. Hefner is photographed at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / May 5, 2010)

He came to their rescue when they were between a rock and a hard place.

So it's fitting that Hugh Hefner will be honored with a boulder for helping the Trust for Public Land acquire Cahuenga Peak, the mountaintop next to the Hollywood sign.

Leaders of the trust said Tuesday they plan to place plaques on large boulders to thank the Playboy magazine founder and two others who stepped up at the last moment to donate $1 million each to acquire the peak from its Chicago-based owners.

The donations from Hefner, philanthropist Aileen Getty and the Tiffany & Co. Foundation allowed the trust to meet an April 2010 deadline set by the owners of the 138-acre mountaintop just in time. They had said they would sell it for $11.7 million after purchasing it for $1.7 million in 2002 from the estate of Howard Hughes.

Hefner's donation put the fundraising campaign over the top.

He and Getty will have their boulders placed alongside the trail linking the Cahuenga Peak with the Hollywood sign's Mt. Lee. The Tiffany Foundation will be thanked with a bench on a trail between the Griffith Observatory and Mt. Hollywood at a spot that overlooks the Hollywood sign.

Additional plaques thanking agencies and companies that donated $100,000 or more to the peak purchase will be erected on boulders at trail heads at Wonder View Drive and Mt. Lee Drive, said Carolyn Ramsey, the trust's Los Angeles program director.

The trust was recruited to help run the campaign by Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge after he learned that the Chicago group had zoning to build five estates on the 1,821-foot peak.