And now the final frame/Love is a losing game

Breezy Sahara penthouse

It was my original intention to share some (dozens/probably close to 100!)  pics I took at the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas last week. But alas, the kind N/B volunteers actually make you sign your life away when you check-in for the tour: no pics can be posted on any type of blog or professional Web site. They even have my home address if I go rogue and break the rules, so I best not. I will share a couple of snapshots I took outside the Boneyard, but I’ll save those for a little later.

I guess (know, actually) the main thing on my mind is the death of Amy Winehouse. While not at all unexpected, it’s like the old saying about death goes: you never know how you’re going to feel until another person is dead and gone. True, it’s alot different when it’s someone you know, or a friend of a friend, an older relative, etc. But I think singers especially (see Michael Jackson, for starters) develop such a connection with their audience, and it’s also so easy to visit their work once they are gone. I YouTubed two Winehouse songs on Saturday, and that’s only because I was really restraining myself from an all-out vigil. After all, she had been warned for years that she’d be dead soon if she kept up her rampant drug use. It’s very easy to say she had it coming, but what does it say about me as a fellow addict if I have such a lack of sympathy for such a great talent lost at such a young age? Truth be told, it’s a wonder she lived as long as she did, thanks in no small part to the stop-and-go stays she spent at some of the finest rehab facilities in the world. There’s not much more for me to say that hasn’t been said already. It would’ve been nice to see her get clean and be able to perform again, though that could be said of any addict, famous or not. We all “want the best” for each other, and want to see each other “get back to normal,” whatever the definition of “best” and “normal” may be. Many times that’s much easier said than done, which was the case with Amy.

But back to Vegas: I enjoyed getting off the beaten path, AKA The Strip, this time around. I stayed downtown at the El Cortez the first night and am so glad I did. Granted, the size of my hotel room was teensy, but it was well-appointed and the staff couldn’t have been nicer at the El. Here’s a fun shot of their very, super-duper, vintage signage:

The Neon Boneyard has also partnered with the city to display some of their fully restored casino signage around downtown. YESCO, the sign company who manufactured most all the neon that Vegas is famous for, retained ownership of all the signage. They leased the signs to the casinos, which worked out well as far as maintenance and updating of the signage went. Here’s a few of the updated signs on display in the Fremont area of downtown Vegas:

Lamp from the original Aladdin casino (the lights flash on and off)


Clearly, this could go on and on for quite awhile, so I’ll leave the restored signs at that. Here’s a couple of shots outside the Neon Boneyard. The first one is the well-known Silver Slipper, from the casino of the same name. Howard Hughes was so sure that the slipper itself was being used to spy on him in his penthouse at the Desert Inn across the street. Solution? He bought the Silver Slipper casino and had the sneaky slipper filled with concrete. Completely rational, right?

Neon Boneyard park sign: new letters based on vintage ones

The sign for the Boneyard itself is a state-of-the-art green-certified sign in which the N-E-O-N are based on vintage casino letters: N from the Golden Nugget, E from Caesars, the O from Binion’s/Horseshoe, and the N from the Desert Inn (I believe). The park is non-profit and is still very much in need of funds to open the visitor’s center and more appropriately display the collection before opening to the public. Here’s their Web site, which also has a link to their Facebook page with plenty of pics of the signage on display. Besides it being like 106F during the hour-long tour, this was the most fun I’ve had in awhile. These signs are such a part of pop culture, and I think it’s remarkable that so many people are volunteering to restore them and present them for the public to enjoy.

After a quick stop at a downtown Strip antique store where I scored some amazing vintage casino matchbooks, I headed to the Sahara for their ongoing liquidation sale. The sale had already been going on over a month, so I didn’t expect to buy anything. But being the self-proclaimed hotel geek that I am, I was eager to nose around this historic property and see what I could I see. The pic at the top of the blog is from one of the penthouses I walked through; that bathtub was actually still for sale for $450! Creepy and sad are two words which don’t do this whole experience justice; most of the time I was up roaming the hotel floors, I could tell I was the only one on each floor. Actually, I only ran into anyone else in the two towers once; these two Hispanic sisters were buying drapes right off the wall for $10/set. I fully expect to have nightmares about this place soon, but maybe not since it was daylight and I had such a blast roaming around. Here’s a few pics:

First thing I saw when I walked in the hotel=so sad.

Elevator foyer...very 'The Shining'

Meeting of the vacuums

Some of the most amazing wallpaper I've ever laid my eyes on!

Penthouse balcony, AKA the pivotal scene of the crime in 'The Hills' where Heidi agrees to work for Sam Nazarian, the Sahara's last owner

The Thirsty Camel casino bar signage=$4500. No wonder it hasn't sold yet.

I was elated to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience of having free reign in a closed casino hotel. As I’ve mentioned in the blog several times before, I’m a big believer in the “If These Walls Could Talk” theory. There’s so much history in the halls and rooms of the Sahara–see my previous blog if you’d like to learn a bit about it. It’s probably for the better that it’s closing, as its better days were decades behind it. And now it can find a new life of some sort instead of continuing to deteriorate and go downhill. I wish it the best.

I’m going to wrap things up with some Winehouse lyrics–a couple of lines which I’ve used in the blog title–from her song “Love is a Losing Game.”

For you I was a flame
Love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came
Love is a losing game

Why do I wish I never played
Oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

Played out by the band
Love is a losing hand
More than I could stand
Love is a losing hand

Self professed… profound
‘Til the chips were down
Know you’re a gambling man
Love is a losing hand

Though I’m rather blind
Love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind
Love is a fate resigned

Over futile odds
And laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

One more thing and then I’m for real done: I read some very sage advice about a month ago from the author of Generation WTF, Dr. Christine Whelan. It’s this: “Spend $$ on experiences, not things, to be happy.” I’m so glad I took this trip to Vegas and experienced things there that were new to me. I usually do alot of clothes-shopping out there, but all I bought this trip was a 99-cent T-shirt from a trashy Fremont Street gift shop. I actually love it so much that I’ve worn it 3X and washed it to wear again! I’ll treasure this trip for the experiences it furnished me with, and what I learned about how fleeting life is from those experiences. None of us know how long we’ll be around, much like the old casino signs, the Sahara hotel, or drug-addled Amy Winehouse. It’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves and live life to the fullest.

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