Thursday, July 27, 2006

Neon Los Angeles

The L.A. Times today takes in the Neon Cruise (run by the Museum of Neon Art):

In 1923, Los Angeles became home to America's first neon signs when a Packard car dealership downtown purchased a pair from Claude.

Over the next two decades, neon signs sprouted in Los Angeles' theater district, on grand apartment buildings such as the Gaylord and on cheap motels lining Route 66 (now Sunset Boulevard), bringing the night skyline to life with a splash of futuristic colors.

Plastics technology leaped forward during World War II, and plastic signs lighted with fluorescent tubing became cheaper than neon. The number of neon craftsmen in the United States declined from about 5,000 at the end of World War II to fewer than 500 in the early 1970s.

Neon has since experienced something of a resurgence, and newly minted neon graces Amoeba Music on Sunset, as well as the ubiquitous red-and-blue "Open" signs in restaurant windows.

Thankfully, several vintage neon signs throughout the city -- such as in the MacArthur Park/Westlake Park area -- have been restored. But plenty more have been lost.

Check out Public Art in LA's excellent roundup of L.A. neon signs to find out where to look. And also check out the excellent book on Los Angeles neon.

Meanwhile, I'm floored by this quote from the story, as uttered by someone else on the neon tour:

"I've lived here for 22 years, and I know very little about the history," said Sandy Ivanhoe, 56, a writer and retired nurse from Pacific Palisades who was on the neon tour with her husband and another couple. "The Bunker Hill part was really interesting — I wasn't even sure where it was before."

Whaaa? You've lived here 22 years, and you didn't know where Bunker Hill was??

Ahh, Los Angeles!

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