It’s bittersweet that most of my favorites have long been relegated to the YESCO boneyard or the Neon Museum. Generally, I like simple elegance: the red and white neon lettering of Rancho Drive’s Hill Top House Supper Club, or the sequenced animation of a girl on a slide at Main Street’s Swim-In-Pool Supply. While touring the Neon Museum, I discovered one of the best—from the Yucca Motel, formerly on Las Vegas Boulevard near Oakey—was saved after the building was razed. Plopped in a dusty neon graveyard in the harsh light of day, the sign’s twisted tubes looked like a glassblower’s mistake. But at night? A glowing, flowering Yucca plant. Simply gorgeous. Another favorite was once affixed to the Plush Horse in the midcentury strip mall at 545 E. Sahara Ave. A popular off-Strip bar and grill in the 1960s (and open until the 1980s), the Plush Horse’s sign was a universe of twinkling stars culminating in the tavern’s logo: a feminized horse wearing a crown. As for casinos, I always loved the original Desert Inn sign with its Googie background and neon cacti. And then there’s the beautiful Holiday Motel sign, which still stands on Las Vegas Boulevard north of Sahara. But my all-time fave was downtown’s midcentury Mint. Lights would race along the curvaceous facade, tracing the sign as it extended up-up-up to a giant neon star and the words “The Mint” writ in thousands of blinking bulbs. Just magic.
What is the secret to surviving in Las Vegas?
First and foremost, try to make friends with locals. You may have moved here to rock and roll in the service industry and earn enough bank for your next adventure, but so did everyone else you work with; they are just as lost as you. Second, live normally. (Hint: A normal life rarely involves cute names for drinking like “pre-shifting.”) Take the dogs to the park, hike Red Rock Canyon, run out to Bootleg Canyon. The nightlife will still be there when you get back. And finally, change up the scenery at least once per quarter. A long weekend—even a long day in gaming-free Boulder City—does wonders to reset perspective.