First, my apologies for the tardiness of this post. We’ve been out of town all week and hubby and I both came down with a nasty flu. Being sick in a motel room–no matter how nice–is awful. I’m just now feeling like I could return to the land of the living. So here you are!
By Hal Collier LAPD, Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.
The following story and the character are icons in Hollywood. The character is very dear to my heart as well as any cop who worked Hollywood in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and into the 21st century. Character: Georgia Jones
The subject of my story is known to everyone. Cops, non-cops, cops who worked Hollywood, cops who never worked Hollywood, people who never have been in Hollywood. That’s right that famous landmark the “HOLLYWOOD” sign.
There are two major companies that protect their copyright infringement with a vigor that is unmatched. The first is Disney. They will take you to court in a heartbeat for any infringement of a Disney logo or character. Try buying a non-licensed Mickey Mouse piñata downtown. The other is the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce—try using a reproduction of the Hollywood sign without their expressed written permission.
All police stations have T-shirts, baseball caps and jackets with the division name and a logo. The station would sell them and use the profit for the station fund. Well, Hollywood Division had the Hollywood Sign on Jackets, T-shirts, coffee cups and whatever you can think of to sell. After a short while we were informed by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce that we had infringed on their copyright of the Hollywood Sign. They agreed to let us sell our T-shirts as long as we agreed to respond to their calls for police service. You can’t blackmail the cops.
I don’t know of a cop alive who worked Hollywood that wasn’t asked at least once by a tourist, “How do I get to the Hollywood Sign?” The sign itself is on a very steep hill just below Mt. Lee. It was recently replaced and is all metal. You can still see where graffiti is spray painted on the bottom of the letters which are 45′ tall. The sign is world famous and can be seen for miles away, even in the smog.
Tourists think they can drive up to the sign and have a picture taken in front of which ever letter suits their whim. Trust me, I’ve been on that hill many times and it’s all you can do to keep from falling downhill a hundred feet. Hollywood officers often get calls that vandals are at the sign. The sign was originally Hollywoodland, a housing development in the 1920’s.
Over the years the sign’s letters have been covered up to reveal different messages, some approved, some just pranks. The following is a list and the meaning.
HOLLYWEED= The California legalize marijuana initiative
FOX= Fox changed to a network 1987
OLLYWOOD= Iran-Contra Hearings
OIL WAR= Gulf War
SAVE THE PEAK= To prevent a housing project from building near the sign—2010
The sign is now surround by a fence and a motion detector system to prevent vandalism and trespassers. Hopefully, “Occupy LA” won’t take up residence. By the way, the view of Los Angeles from the sign is spectacular.
Character: Georgia Jones
Georgia Jones was a fixture at Hollywood Station for over three decades. Georgia was the property officer. All evidence booked by officers had to go through Georgia. To some this might not sound like a big deal, but think about losing a big case because evidence was not properly handled or booked correctly. Georgia knew all the rules and wouldn’t settle for anything less. As a young cop, I’d get a message go see Georgia in Property. I learned that it can’t be good, I must have screwed up. Georgia was pleasant and helpful unless you crossed her.
Georgia came to Hollywood in the early 70’s, when we were in the old station. The Property Room was in the basement next to the men’s locker room. If I remember correctly, the locker room and property room were separated by a make shift wall with chicken wire at the top for ventilation. Thirty years later I’m a grizzled old sergeant and Georgia admits to me that if she stood on her chair she could watch the officers dress!
I once arrested two burglars on Whitley Terrace. In the trunk of their car was a 6 ft. glass table top. I knew it was stolen—come on—no one takes their table top out for a midnight drive. I booked it into property during off hours. Georgia comes in the next day and is looking for me. I’m too big to hide in the report writing room. She has no room for this damn table and tells me it should have been booked down town. I think Georgia liked me because she said it could stay until they found the owner.
They never found the owner and Georgia worked around that table top for a whole year. I know because I heard about it every few weeks. At the end of the year they clean out the excess property and take it downtown. The glass table top was dropped during loading and shattered. Now I hear about that damn table top every time I see Georgia.
My last few years I worked in the Watch Commanders office and every weekday morning Georgia would come in and collect the property that was booked during the off hours. Georgia would give me a list of the officers that needed to see her. I remember one young officer who disagreed with Georgia about the proper way to book evidence. I sat him down and explained book it Georgia’s way or expect to get everything you book, kicked back for the rest of your career at Hollywood.
As the Watch Commander, most mornings Georgia would bring me a handful of follow up reports where she fixed an error for some officer. Most officers didn’t know that she did took care of them but I knew.
Georgia was loved by everybody and when she retired a few years ago, Hollywood Division lost a legend as well a great friend. Every time I hear Willie Nelson or Ray Charles sing “Georgia on My Mind,” I think of Georgia Jones, a true Hollywood Character.
Loved the Georgia Jones story! (as an aside, love Ray Charles’s rendition of “Georgia on My Mind.”)