“You’ll be a star, kid. You’ll be on Broadway. Your name will be in lights!” Words to this effect have been used in dozens, if not hundreds, of movie, television, and play scenes when someone dreaming of entertainment fame is being promised success.
When it actually happens, though, it’s not always so impressive.
The Capitol Records building is a Los Angeles landmark. Distinctive and showy, it’s been seen in The Muppet Movie, Earthquake, Hancock, and was even a key setting for the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. It is proudly part of the city, and has demonstrated that pride by continuously flashing out “Hollywood” in Morse code from the light atop the building since its construction in 1956.
That blinking pattern has only rarely been changed. Most famously it was shifted in 1992 to read “Capitol 50”, celebrating the label’s half century in existence. The label’s press agents went to work, and the shift was mentioned in papers throughout the world.
Their next attempt wasn’t so successful. It was changed again, in 2013, to commemorate the release of Katy Perry’s new album. At the time, Perry was at the height of her blossoming fame and Capitol was very pleased to have her as an artist on their label. To celebrate the assigning of an official release date, Capitol changed the blinking light to spell out “Katy Perry. Prism. October 22nd, 2013.”
There was only one big problem: nobody noticed. For months. The studio kept the message going, expecting to see stories about the shifting light in the papers, on the radio, on television or on popular web sites… but nothing happened.
The reveal finally came from Perry herself, during an interview with Entertainment Tonight shortly before the official release. She not only revealed the publicity stunt but also provided her rationale for why it failed. “No one reads Morse code anymore besides that guy, like, in the (Hollywood) Hills that doesn’t wear any pants.”
I’m certain that her pantsless Hills lurker fan base agreed.
Question of the night: What’s a favorite song from this last decade?