Buried deep in one of Las Vegas’ historic mid-mod neighborhoods lies a little green abode with a big attitude and an even more audacious man of the house. P Moss, one of Las Vegas’ cultural innovators, owner of two the city’s best watering holes (the Double Down Saloon and Frankie’s Tiki Room) and author of Blue Vegas, characterizes his living space as a “cozy bungalow,” which is an understatement to the say least. In reality, a well-curated grouping of quirky collectibles highlights the home’s interior.
Rocket ship from the Stardust? Check. Tiki carvings? Check. Vintage Cadillac? Funhouse mirror? Check. Check. It’s all here inside the retro-inspired retreat.
The home, which he’s nicknamed Skulltree Manor, pays homage to all the things that Moss likes. And those things are many, although most would fall under the categories of tiki, music or Americana. If you’ve ever been to one of his iconic drinking establishments, you might recognize the eclectic vibe here. A Batgirl chair painted by Dirk Vermin sits proudly in his living room. A lamp fashioned from a woman’s corset hangs in an archway, and a church pew sits under the living room window.
Among all of these treasured odds and ends, it’s hard for him to find a favorite. “Like most people,” Moss says, “the newest thing you have is always your favorite.” However, he finally comes around to a decision, pointing toward a vibrant-colored Ramones poster on the living room wall. It is a one-of-a-kind piece, from 1977, originally intended to be pasted onto the side of a building. He purchased the poster at a Christie’s auction (not his style normally, he admits), snatching it out of the hands of the Hard Rock Hotel.
“There was another poster, which was smaller and crappier in the same lot, and at the opening of The Joint, I saw it there, which sort of made me happy,” he says. “Pretty much, all the artwork in here was an impulse buy,” he says. “You see something you like, you take it.”
Moss manages to amass most of the pieces (shrunken heads, anyone?) by going through nontraditional channels. He generally doesn’t shop in stores, preferring to seek out specialty vendors at shows such as Viva Las Vegas at The Orleans or “tiki weekends” around the country. Many items come from artists who gift him pieces based on his distinct style. One painting in his house—of baby-faced figures in weird masks—comes from an unnamed artist whose work was on display at First Friday. It’s a mystery he would like to put to rest. “I’d love to know who it is, and for him to come forward and identify himself.”
With such an interesting collection of art and oddities, Moss, a Las Vegan since 1992, inevitably needed a residence to match. He purchased the home in 1997 and settled into Skulltree. It is classic Vegas. The large lot is something that can only be found in old central Vegas neighborhoods like McNeil Estates, and he has gone to great lengths to transform it into a private oasis. The backyard features a hand-carved wooden deck and canopy by Bamboo Ben, who designed and built the interior of Frankie’s, and a rather bizarre galactic mural by local artist Mark T. Zeilman.
And what of the name? Other than seemingly being plucked from a 1960s cartoon, it actually stems from Moss’ own daughter. A friend of the collector was reading about English musicians and the grand manors they once occupied and began pestering Moss to christen his home with a moniker. It wasn’t until he found his daughter, when she was a young girl, carving up his freshly planted front-yard trees with a butcher knife that the name became apparent. In order to save the assaulted tree from permanent scarring, Moss painted it with a protective veneer. The combination of white paint and a natural knot made the tree appear to have a skull painted on it. The name stuck and Skulltree Manor was born.
Moss’ Guide to Good Design
The author, collector and bar owner collects music, tiki and Americana. Here are some of his favorite artists and stores:
Mark T. Zeilman, PeacefulRage.com
The Funk House, 1288 S. Casino Blvd., 678-6278, TheFunkHouseLasVegas.com
Dirk Vermin, PussyKat Tattoos, 4972 S. Maryland Parkway, 597-1549, PussyKat-Tattoos.com
Double Down posters, 4640 Paradise Road, DoubleDownSaloon.com, 791-5775
Bamboo Ben, Facebook.com/bamboo.ben
Billy the Crud, MySpace.com/sandiegotikicarvers