I really try to take advantage of every opportunity to challenge my artistic eye and digital camera skills so when I found out that The Neon Museum was holding a rare Open House I started making plans to attend but then when I found out that Slidin’ Thru food truck was going to be parked outside the gates that really sealed the deal.
In case you don’t know, The Neon Museum — established as a non-profit in 1996 — collects and exhibits the classic and much beloved Las Vegas art form…neon signs. Recently they have been involved in getting a few of the vintage favorites installed at key locations around the downtown Las Vegas area but most of the more than 150 historic, non-restored signs in the collection are stored within a fenced three acre area located near the corner of Las Vegas Blvd North and Casino Center Drive lovingly called “The Boneyard.” Some of the most famous and treasured signs of Las Vegas’ yesteryear (that range from the 1930s to the present) are in this unusual outdoor exhibition space: among them are Caesars Palace, Binions Horsehoe, Desert Inn, Golden Nugget, Moulin Rouge, and the Stardust.
For me one of the coolest things behind the fence is the historic La Concha Motel lobby: a curvy mid-century modern masterpiece designed by architect Paul Revere Williams that was saved from destruction in 2006 and moved to the Boneyard site in 2007 and is currently under restoration and rehabilitation to be used as the future visitor’s center.
If you’ve spent time in this town over the last 60 years or so you will recognize most of the collection…I did so with a great smile on my face. Granted, for many people the signs are weather-beaten rusty pieces of broken glass and worn out memories but for me each piece of tired neon and peeling paint represents a special kind of beauty you can only see in Las Vegas. As I walked around the site with about 400 or so others who took advantage of this opportunity I couldn’t help but overhear a gentleman with a few years on me trying to stump the volunteer docents on the history of particular signs and I was impressed with their depth of knowledge and obvious appreciation of the history behind the impressive collection. I even learned a few things myself.
Now you just can’t get in your car and go to this museum as it is not currently open for general admission (tours of the collection are possible only by appointment only) and forget about bringing all your camera gear when they do have the rare open house as you are only allowed one camera with one attached lens…no camera bags, no tripods, no gadgets or gizmos…OH, AND the images you take can only be for personal use only…no selling or reproducing or publishing of any kind anywhere so there will be no Boneyard images posted by me. It’s all explained in great detail on the release form you have to sign before entering. Now I usually would have a problem with signing a document limiting my photo publishing options. However, I actually agree with their hardcore stance: renting out the site for use by movie, television and photography shoots is a large part of their revenue stream so that The Boneyard can be a bonafide tourist attraction someday. For more information check out their Twitter and Facebook feeds or their website.
Once outside the gates I headed straight for the Slidin’ Thru food truck. Once dubbed “roach coaches” (at least by me and my friends) that were mostly found around construction sites, food trucks are enjoying a surge in popularity thanks to the inspiration of going upscale to attract local foodies as well as employing the use of social media to announce their location of the day to their fans.
I have been hearing a lot from my friends how awesome these teeny little burgers are so it was with great anticipation that I ordered three sliders from the friendly crew inside the cleverly designed transient metal behemoth: one Barby (melted cheddar with caramelized jalapeno, fried onion strips, bacon and BBQ sauce), one Yaya (lettuce, tomato, red onion and feta cheese, with tzatziki and a red wine vinaigrette) and one Captain’s Order (roma tomato, arugula, bacon, feta and sauteed onion with a balsamic reduction) and ponied up the $7…my mouth watering with anticipation.
I was not disappointed in the least. First off, these little burgers that would fit perfectly in the palm of your hand, are made of the the finest angus beef and cooked to a juicy and flavorful medium-well perfection, the toppings are all fresh and fabulous and the flavor combinations are clever yet somehow familiar. My only complaint (and trust me this is a very minor complaint) is that the toasted bun was a little bland yet I would still highly recommend that you track them down via their Facebook or Twitter feeds or their website for their location of the day and get your hands on some of these little treasures.
We also splurged on the “chef’s choice” for the day which ended up being not a slider but a taco filled with pulled pork and a sauce with a kick that might have spice wimps crying for their mommies. Yeah, I know, slider truck, taco and pulled pork are not terms you expect to work well together but in this case… Well let’s just say you know it’s good when you are holding one last bite of taco and it feels like the skin inside your mouth has blistered and you can feel the burn all the way down and yet you have every intention of taking that last bite anyway.
My face was the color of the big red Stardust sign and I felt the heat of 1000 incandescent bulbs radiating from my very being as I took one last look at the broken beauty of the Boneyard. It was a very good day.
[LLV Editor: The no-photo policy is an on-off-on-again in-flux policy, we’ve covered several events at the Neon Museum in recent years, and every time there seems to be a new wrinkle. Here are links to previous articles with some photos taken of signs at the Boneyard in some of the more photo-friendly periods]:
November, 2008 — Elvis puts in an appearance at the Boneyard!