The pranksters behind “Hollyweed” say they paid tribute to the original sign alteration of 1976 by a Cal State Northridge student.

Zach Fernandez and Sarah Fern. Photo via Instagram
Zach Fernandez and Sarah Fern. Photo via Instagram

But Zach Fernandez — whose identity became widely known Tuesday — saw his Twitter sign disappear. His @JesusHands account has been suspended.

On Instagram, JesusHands is winning praise.

At first, media outlets were guessing about the artist.

The San Francisco Chronicle said Fernandez “is getting support from his followers who believe he vandalized the Los Angeles landmark on New Year’s Day. The videographer and editor has not blatantly taken credit for it, but people are piecing together the clues: Photos from the site show a tarp with the name ‘Jesus Hands’ hanging on the sign’s last O letter, and his latest Instagram update admires the joke from afar.”

But the cat was completely out of the bag with an interview in Vice. He and co-conspirator Sarah Fern shared why they fussed with the landmark using fabric and clamps.

Vice asked why they changed the sign.

Fernandez said: “I saw the original ‘Hollyweed’ sign on my buddy’s Instagram and wondered if it was just a digital alteration. But after I looked it up, I saw there was this guy, Danny Finegood, who was an art student at Cal State Northridge and originally changed the sign as part of a school art project.

“In 1976, California had just relaxed its laws on marijuana, and he did it in tribute to that. He got an A. That inspired me, and I dug a bit and found he did some other installs over the years with friends. Unfortunately, it’s actually ‘the late Mr. Finegood,’ as he died ten years ago. So, on the bottom of the left of the ‘O,’ I wrote ‘a tribute to Mr. Finegood.’ The main goal of the piece, however, is to bring about conversation.

Fern said: “With this election, I think that was something that became clear. I think the idea was already brewing, but with the election panning out the way that it did, that was the final push.”

California voters in November approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Fernandez posted a photo of the “Hollyweed” sign on his Instagram page, with the caption “In all it’s glory.” Hundreds of people commented on the photo, praising the work. Responding to one of the first people to post a compliment, Fernandez wrote “Thanks Compa!!”

City surveillance cameras locked on the iconic sign captured a man dressed in black as he scaled down the sign and carefully placed tarps on the structure to make it read “Hollyweed” around 3 a.m. Sunday, said Sgt. Guy Juneau of the LAPD’s Security Services Division.

The tarp was taken down about 11:15 a.m. and the sign restored to”Hollywood.” The incident was being investigated as misdemeanor trespassing, as opposed to vandalism, because the sign was not damaged in any way.

LAPD officials said Tuesday they’re aware of the reports about the possible perpetrator, but no arrests have been made and no suspect has been identified.

The agency that maintains the sign may wind up boosting security around the landmark in the aftermath of the stunt.

The surveillance system is like a chain,” Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, told the Los Angeles Times. “The chain is only as good as its weakest link, so as we study this — the prankster coming in, how he (or) she slipped through — we will determine this week where the link was that was weak, then we will upgrade there.

Baumgart said he plans to meet with the Los Angeles Police Department this week to be briefed on the matter and to explore ways to prevent similar acts.

Baumgart noted there are dangers when it comes to making a statement on the sign.

Because the sign is 45 feet high, it’s extremely easy to slip and fall,” he told The Times. “It could’ve been a tragedy for that prankster. And that hillside is extremely treacherous. So you’re protecting the homeowners, you池e protecting the pranksters from themselves by keeping them out of there. The sign is just metal and concrete. The lives are more important.”

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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