Monday, July 04, 2022

A Gulch so Glittery

We'd had a lot of fun in Vegas so far but there was still some magic ahead of us.

We went full hobo and bought some tallboys at a convenience store and drank them on the street. Washington state I think must have had a mean alcoholic dad because the laws there are oddly strict, so it was nice to revel in my public boozy freedom.

It's still taking some getting used to the fact that Las Vegas has sports teams now. So weird.

I only play slot machines that are licensed after fun shows or movies. Hands down Crazy Rich Asians is the most prevalent machine.

We explored New York-New York Hotel & Casino. I thought they did a decent job theming the NYC city streets.

I really like this art style. It reminds me of our visits to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

It's funny I would never want to stay at Excalibur but I like to visit.

Luxor was my first Vegas hotel stay back in the day.

I've been wanting to do the international Coca-Cola tastings for a while. I think they do them here and maybe also in Atlanta. I was all excited to finally try it and we got there and it was closed. Sad.

We had lunch with our new friends from Seattle, Kuoling and Jason. They spend a lot of time in Vegas and seemed to know the local restaurants really well, especially the places off-strip. This was fun because I often get so wrapped up in the strip entertainment that I forget anywhere else even exists.

We ate at Shabuya which was a Japanese style shabu-shabu joint where you are given a pot of hot broth and thinly sliced meats, and you swish the meat around in the broth to quickly cook it. It was fun.

Afterwards we went to Sul & Beans for dessert. Their speciality is a type of Korean shaved ice called bingsoo where the ice is made of a frozen milk type substance. This gives the ice a nice flavor compared to a classic snow cone which often loses its flavor when the syrup rolls off of it.

I've been wanting to visit the Neon Museum for a while now. They collect and preserve the cool neon signs from casinos when they close or remodel. For some reason I like neon signs a whole lot, plus I like history too so this place was heaven.

The visitor center of the museum was made from an entire abandoned former hotel called La Concha.

The only way to see the museum's collection was via guided tour. On one hand this was fun because the tour guide knew a lot of fun facts and stories about the signs and the buildings they used to adorn, on the other it was a little annoying because I was stuck going at the pace of the group.

"The Golden Nugget opened in 1946, but its sign features the year 1905, celebrating the birth of Las Vegas."

"The Moulin Rouge opened on May 24, 1955. It was the first major integrated casino in what was still a segregated city. Black entertainers who performed on the Strip were generally not allowed to stay in the Strip hotels. Black people could not gamble or eat inside the casinos and restaurants of the Strip or Fremont Street. The "Rouge", as it was sometimes called, was a popular spot for people of all races including Strip performers who came for the "third show" at 2:30am. The Moulin Rouge was open only a few months before it temporarily closed again in October 1955. It had several owners over the years, including Sarann Knight Preddy, the first black woman to hold a gaming license in Nevada, but it never again achieved the same level of popularity. Today the hotel no longer exists.

The Moulin Rouge also played an important role in ending segregation in Las Vegas. In March 1960, hotel owners, Westside leaders and members of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, including Dr. James McMillan and Dr. Charles West, the state's first black dentist and physician, respectively, demanded a meeting to end segregation in the hotels. They threatened to bring a mass protest against racial segregation on the Strip. The mayor, the police chief, the county sheriff, Las Vegas Sun newspaper founder and publisher Hank Greenspun, and Governor Grant Sawyer agreed to meet with them in the coffee shop at the Moulin Rouge. They agreed to end segregation in most of the hotels, an understanding known as the Moulin Rouge Agreement. Although the "agreement" was just a handshake deal, not a legal contract or law, it was an important early step in the fight for civil rights for all people in Las Vegas.

This sign was designed by Betty Willis, one the few women sign designers in the 1950s. She is best known for the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at the south end of the Strip."

We were in the museum as night began to fall so it was cool to see the neon lights come to life in the darkness. Also since it was the Fourth of July, things really started to light up overhead as well. So light.

"Caesars Palace was one of the first Las Vegas properties to incorporate a fully-developed theme; its Greco-Roman design was present in every corner, from the fountains to the elegant rooms to the Corinthian columns that are currently the tallest in the world."

I don't recall "why" but Tim Burton has a connection with the museum and they had several original pieces that he designed on display.

"Lost Vegas" is very Burton.

Another creepy little Burton in gift shop.

The tour was over and we weren't allowed to backtrack. Sad.

On the happier side we weren't quite done with the neon magic just yet. They have a separate show called Brilliant! Jackpot, in which they project lights over a bunch of dead casino signs to bring them back to life and tell the story of the history of Vegas. I thought it was very magical.

Especially powerful for me was when they projected many of the demolitions of the elegant casinos of the past. I thought it was really sad that there were so many legendary places that I will never be able to see, but it's cool that a little piece of those places has survived.

They were pretty anal about not taking pictures of the show but at this point in my life I pretty much ignore such edicts. I feel like at the very least you need to announce you suck at the time of ticket purchase, not take my money then limit my experience later on.

I think my taste for classic Vegas must have been inflamed by the Neon Museum because we headed straight to Fremont Street afterwards.

Fremont in my head is always really fun but it's actually kind of scuzzy. For example there were metal detectors on either end which was a reminder that while Vegas is fun it also attracts a lot of dirtbags.

"Vegas Vickie
Circa 1980

Vegas Vickie, known as the neon cowgirl whose mechanical boot kicked playfully over crowds for more than three decades, has become synonymous with Downtown Las Vegas, one of the most historic neighborhoods in the country. As the area grew from it rough and tumble gamblin' hall days of the early 1900s, Fremont Street's ever-increasing colorful and bright signs moved locals and visitors alike to dub the corrido "Glitter Gulch", a badge that still conjures up images of Las Vegas' neon and dazzling lights.

First appearing in a newspaper ad in 1980, Vegas Vickie was imagined by a Las Vegas casino owner and entrepreneur Bob Stupak. The now-iconic light-up landmark made her debut on the dazzling Downtown landscape, residing over the Girls of Glitter Gulch and neighboring casino, Sassy Sally's.

Reaching 25 feet high and spanning just as wide, the sign was created by AD Art's corporate design team, consisting of Jack Dubois and Charles F. Barnard. Vegas Vickie gained national attention in 1994 when she "married" her neighboring neon cowboy, Vegas Vic, who lives above the Pioneer Club building. The ceremony was held to celebrate the construction of the world-renowned Fremont Street Experience.

In 2016, casino developers and brothers Derek and Greg Stevens acquired the storied sign as part of their Downtown expansion efforts. After a brief hiatus, Vegas Vickie returned to her Downtown roots in 2020. Debuting a fresh makeover, she is back and better than ever, offering a truly Vegas welcome to those who enter Circa Resort & Casino."

I couldn't resist playing this amazing Dune slot machine with a screen so tall it connected with the machines behind it.

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