Advertizing, Boneyard, History, Las Vegas, Museums, Neon, Neon Museum, Nevada, Travel
Moni and I are back in the icebox now, having just returned from a relatively short bout of southyness over the Christmas break. Didn’t get to see near enough of our loved ones, but it was good to connect with those we could.
We made a stop at one of my favorite haunts in Vegas, the Neon Museum, otherwise known as The Boneyard. This is the afterlife for many of the old marquees used on the strip and throughout town. It’s strange for me, because I used to live in the Vegas area (Boulder City, to be exact). I remember some of these signs when they were alive and in the wild, so to speak. I should say that I sort of remember them. The Strip and much of what most people think of as Vegas was always just as foreign to me as it might be to the tourists coming through town. I don’t think that’s an unusual perspective for locals, but it does give Vegas nostalgia an interesting mix of oddity and familiarity. One of the cultural consequences of tourism, I suppose, a past rendered both intimate and alien. Of course, in this case, the whole thing comes surrounded with the faint glow of neon lights.
Moni and I took a daytime tour of the museum a couple years ago, and we’ve been planning to go back ever since. This time, we made it! Thanks to Mark Thiel of Powel’s Camera Shop for helping us to figure out a few things about our new(ish) cameras. Moni and I made the Neon Museum our testing ground, so to speak. Looking at the photos now, I can see that I have a lot of practice to do, but anyway, the place is cool enough to overcome my clumsy camera skills in at least a couple pics.
The guided tours are an interesting mix of commentary on the signs themselves and stories about old Vegas. One minute you are learning about how they bend neon tubes to make the signs, and the next you are hearing about the role of divorce tourism in the mid-century development of the city. The tours are at their best in those moments when the two themes come together in a single narrative. The stars on the old Stardust marquee are a good example of that. As I recall our old daytime tour-guide related a rumor he couldn’t quite vouch for that they might have been meant to reflect the fall of radioactive dust in the days of nuclear testing. Our night guide on this tour was content to connect them to the era of space exploration. Either way, it’s interesting to see larger patterns of history in the very objects in front of you, or at least in the stories told about them.
My favorite story would have to be that of the Moulin Rouge accord. It’s hard to get a good picture of the Moulin Rouge sign, because it’s so big and distributed in with so many other signs, but the casino played an interesting role in Vegas history. So, it features prominently in the tours. As the first of the Vegas casinos to desegregate, it quickly became a Vegas hot spot, a place where the you could see Frank Sinatra hanging out with Sammy Davis Jr. after doing their own shows. So, it was fitting that the Moulin Rouge would pay a role in the civil rights movement. Facing protests in 1960 over segregation throughout the city, hotel owners met with civil rights leaders at the (already closed) Moulin Rouge. The resulting agreement desegregated the Las Vegas strip.
The tour guides have lots of other stories, of course. I wish I could remember them all.
(Anyway, …click to embiggen!)
Ogden Fahey said:
Good tour, good photos!
I’ve never been to Vegas and never really wanted to, but I am a huge neon sign nerd, so now I must go.
Thanks for sharing the images! They remind me of stuff. A whole heap of stuff. But in the middle of a hair appointment right now so I don’t have the chance to really elaborate. LOL cheers dude
Amazing pieces of history. 🙂
Jan M. Flynn said:
SO cool. Almost makes me want to make a pilgrimage to Vegas, which is not my natural habitat (but then, for whom would it be a natural habitat?).
Wow! learnt something new today. Had been to Vegas a few times but never been to the Neon Museum. Will be in my list for next time. I am not one who frequents the casinos. I had Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fires State Park on my list this time but the long day of driving to Vegas derailed that plan.
Greetings from Tokyo!
I’ve never been to Vegas and don’t think I ever will. I’m just too old and sick to travel nowadays. But I’ve had the opportunity to dine and wine at the original Moulin Rouge in Paris several times. The last was in 2009 when I sadly found that the late-night show had turned into a circus performance and the topless can-can segment was canceled.
conrad seitz said:
Some good pictures of the old neon. Reminds me of the fallen statues of Lenin and Marx kept in a backyard in Moscow, except these are much prettier. Next time in Vegas, I will search out this place– preferably at night. Thanks for posting these good pictures. I remember Vegas Vic when he was up and lit on the strip (or nearby?)