It takes time, money and skill to return a defunct neon sign to its original flamboyant splendor. Which explains why, after nearly 20 years, the Neon Museum’s collection of restored illuminated signs numbered just 13. But earlier this month, in less than 48 hours, the museum welcomed two new family members: The signs for Jerry’s Nugget and the Liberace Museum—which had been sitting in the Boneyard dust, waiting for their moment to shine—have joined La Concha, the Silver Slipper and others as part of the proud, the few, the illuminated.
The Jerry’s Nugget sign was the first to arrive on September 11, as workers from YESCO put it on a truck around dawn and drove it down the Strip. The once-peeling red paint has been redone, and the neon letters and light bulb-studded giant gold nugget are back to pristine condition; in fact, the sign now looks just as it did when it glowed over the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard in 1964, the year the North Las Vegas casino opened.
The following morning, Liberace arrived, looking stunning despite the early hour. Workers from Jones Sign used a crane to lift the enormous piece—which once adorned the Liberace Museum complex on Tropicana Avenue—and put it in place. “Liberace was a treasured entertainer and member of the Las Vegas community,” says Danielle Kelly, executive director of the Neon Museum. “We are thrilled to honor him and his memory through the restoration.”
The Shulman Family Foundation sponsored the Liberace face-lift, which brought the black-framed, hot pink-neon swirling script and gold-trimmed silhouette of a candelabra-topped piano back to its too-much-of-a-good-thing glory.
For Kelly, these two refurbished gems—as well as their 13 predecessors—are more than just symbols of old Vegas glory. “When a donor comes forward to support the restoration of the sign,” she says, “it signifies a shared commitment to the Neon Museum and its mission.”
Vegas PBS is producing a documentary on the restoration of both signs, which is scheduled to air October 27. Although Kelly didn’t reveal the next neon icon scheduled to go under the knife, we’re crossing our fingers for the elaborately curlicued Yucca Motel. Or that giant yellow ducky from the Ugly Duckling Car Wash on Boulder Highway.