By Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Danny Finegood, who viewed his hillside handiwork on the "Hollywood" sign as environmental sculpture, died of multiple myeloma Monday at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, said his wife, Bonnie. He was 52.
The first time Mr. Finegood played a word game with the Hollywood sign, he hung curtains to make it read "Hollyweed." That was on Jan. 1, 1976 -- the day California's relaxed marijuana law took effect.
The prankster and friends obscured consonants to coin "Holywood" for Easter 1977 and "Ollywood" to protest the hero worship of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings a decade later.
In his final round of wordplay with the Hollywood sign, Mr. Finegood made a political statement against the Gulf War by draping plastic sheeting over the 50-foot-high letters to form "Oil War" in the early 1990s.
Other inspirations for manipulating the sign remained unrealized. He thought it should say "Hollyween" on Oct. 31 and wanted to camouflage the sign for April Fools' Day to make it seem like it had vanished.
Growing up in the shadow of the hillside landmark, Mr. Finegood developed affection for the letters first erected in 1923 to promote a housing development -- Hollywoodland. As an art major at California State University, Northridge, he first made mischief with the sign for a class project.
"For a long time, he had this idea that if you just changed the two 'O's' you could change the whole meaning of the sign," his wife said.
The "Hollyweed" image was seen around the world. The stunt earned him an "A" on the class assignment.
Years later, he protested a characterization of the incident in the Los Angeles Times that referred to "vandals" altering the sign.
"We broke no laws and did no damage to the sign," Mr. Finegood and some friends wrote in a 1983 letter to the newspaper.
Almost no one saw his final sign-tampering.
After Mr. Finegood and cohorts climbed Mount Lee before dawn to make the sign say "Oil War," park rangers and police yanked down the plastic before sunrise.
Tired of what they saw as vandalism -- the sign had been altered by others several more times -- city officials beefed up security with a fence, alarms and eventually installed a closed-circuit surveillance system.
Daniel Ned Finegood was born March 23, 1954, in Los Angeles to David Finegood, who owned a furniture-making company, and his wife, Rachel.
While pursuing a bachelor's degree in fine arts, he attended Santa Barbara City College and Cal State, Northridge, but graduated from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.
He met his future wife in junior high, but they didn't seriously date until college.
They weren't seeing each other when she caught the end of a TV-news report about the "Hollyweed" sign. Danny Finegood soon was at her door.
"He smiled and said, 'Do you like what I did?' I said, 'Oh my God, you did that?' That was it, that clinched our relationship," she said.
They married in 1979, and Mr. Finegood joined his family's furniture business, eventually taking over the company.
He sold Hollyweed T-shirts through ads in High Times magazine and posters through his Web site, hollyweed.net.
In addition to his wife and mother, Mr. Finegood is survived by his children, Matthew and Natalie; and sister Freddi Sue Finegood.