Vegas Vic

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Photograph of a large painted sign in the form of a cowboy. The cowboy is winking one eye. He's lifting his left hand, and pointing that thumb towards the building to his right. A lighted cigarette dangles from the corner of his mouth. He's wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and a scarf. Glowing neon tubes highlight the outlines of the cowboy, the cigarette, his boots, and the folds of his tied scarf.
Vegas Vic post 1998 restoration

Vegas Vic is the unofficial, yet most widely used name for the Las Vegas, Nevada neon sign that resembles a cowboy that was erected on the exterior of The Pioneer Club in Las Vegas in 1951.[1] The sign was a departure in graphic design from typeface based neon signs, to a friendly and welcoming human form of a cowboy. The sign's human-like abilities of talking and waving its arm constituted an immediate acceptance as the unofficial welcoming sign reproduced thousands of times over the years and all over the world. The sign is currently owned by Schiff Enterprises and can still be found at 25 E Fremont Street, where he has been since 1951 on the exterior of what used to be The Pioneer Club but is currently a souvenir shop also owned by Schiff Enterprises.

History[edit]

1948 Postcard of Vegas Vic's first use

Although the Pioneer Club no longer operates as a casino, the 40-foot (12 m)[2] neon cowboy that was its mascot still exists. In 1947, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce hired a West-Marquis firm to draw visitors to Las Vegas. The company then created the first image of Vegas Vic and his friendly "Howdy Podner" greeting.[3] Due to the popularity of the cowboy, Young Electric Sign Company was commissioned to build a neon-sign version by the owners of the Pioneer Club. They then commissioned Pat Denner,[4] who modeled it after the image in use by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. The neon version was complete with a waving arm, a moving cigarette, and a recording of "Howdy Podner!" every 15 minutes. Vegas Vic was then erected on the exterior of the Pioneer club in 1951[5] on the southwest corner of First Street and Fremont Street replacing the sign that simply said Pioneer Club with an image of a horse drawn covered wagon.

In 1966, Lee Marvin was filming The Professionals and staying at the Mint Hotel. Marvin complained that Vegas Vic was too loud, so casino executives silenced Vegas Vic and it was left that way for nearly two decades.[2] The speaking was restored in the 1980s, but as of 2006 no longer works. The arm stopped waving in 1991.[5]

When the Fremont Street Experience was under construction in 1994, several feet were cut off of the brim of Vegas Vic's hat to make him fit properly under the curve of the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience. After the Pioneer Club closed in 1995, Vegas Vic fell into disrepair. The Neon Museum at the Fremont Street Experience stepped in and offered to restore and maintain the sign if Schiff Enterprises, who owned the building and the sign, paid for the electric bill to operate it. Under the proposal, Schiff Enterprises would retain ownership of the sign until they sold the building. If they sold the building then it would become the property of the Neon Museum who would then maintain it from that point on. Schiff Enterprises declined the offer and eventually restored the sign themselves.[5]

Bag of Durham tobacco

The red circle on his pocket is supposed to represent a Durham Tobacco tag that is dangling from a yellow string attached to the bag that is stowed away in his pocket (Vegas Vic represents a time when a cowboy rolled their own cigarettes from a bag of tobacco).

Vegas Vic was the first of what would become three neon cowboys at Nevada casinos. Wendover Will was erected a year later in 1952 at Stateline Casino and River Rick was erected in 1981 at the Pioneer Hotel & Gambling Hall in Laughlin. River Rick is virtually an identical copy of Vegas Vic, outfitted with a different color scheme.

In 1980 another neon sign, depicting a cowgirl in a fringed outfit seated with one leg kicking outward, was erected across Fremont Street. Originally dubbed Sassy Sally after a casino of that name (now Mermaids, she is currently known as Vegas Vicky and advertises the Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club. Vic and Vicky were "married" in a 1994 ceremony during construction of the Fremont Street Experience.

Vegas Vic has received new paint schemes through the years. Originally, from the 50's through the 60's, his shirt was white with yellow checkered stripes. Later during an early restoration in the 70's, his shirt was painted solid yellow. When he was restored in 1998 his shirt was painted a red and yellow checkered pattern.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the Obsidian Entertainment video game Fallout: New Vegas, a robot named Victor acts as an ally to the player and a servant of the owner of New Vegas, Mr. House. Victor is based on Vegas Vic, bearing a similar face and greeting the player with "Howdy, partner!"
  • The Belgian comics hero Lucky Luke strongly resembles Vegas Vic.
  • A 1994 commercial for Miller Genuine Draft beer has a neon cowboy and cowgirl, similar to Vegas Vic and Vicky, "coming to life" in downtown Vegas to the tune of JJ Cale's "After Midnight".

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Timeline". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Vegas Vic Lives!". Las Vegas Sun. 2000-06-25. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  3. ^ Eugene P. Moehring, Michael S. Green (2005). Las Vegas - A Centennial History. University of Nevada Press. ISBN 9780874176155. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  4. ^ Moreno, Richard (2008). Nevada Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff. Globe Pequot. p. 1880. ISBN 978-0-7627-4682-8. "Standing 40 feet tall, the illuminated buckaroo weighs about 6 tons and, at the time it was erected on top of the Pioneer Club in downtown Las Vegas, was the world's largest mechanical sign (his arm waved, his eye winked, and his cigarette moved and blew smoke rings." 
  5. ^ a b c "Faded Glory". Review Journal. 2000-01-16. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 

Coordinates: 36°10′14″N 115°08′37″W / 36.17056°N 115.14361°W / 36.17056; -115.14361