In the earlier post Left Turn OK, we presented a trio of mid-20th-century motels, with most of their period styling still intact. With the advent of shorter days and earlier sunsets, now offer a few night photographs to show off their signs to the best advantage. But why do we bother? It's simply because, like the motels they adorn, these illuminated signs are utterly evocative of the same postwar commercial aesthetic. In the older cities of the east, pedestrian focal points such as Times Square have long played host to a wild variety of neon-illuminated hucksterism.
Today, neon signs have become less popular as an advertising medium, and when we do see them they usually advertise alcoholic beverages and places in which to consume them. By contrast, in postwar depictions of Times Square, for example, we see elaborately lighted signs touting not only expensive things like air travel to exotic places, or addictive and highly profitable products like tobacco, but also such humbler wares as Planter's Peanuts. With the exception of trucks emblazoned with names like Frito-Lay, when was the last time you saw outdoor advertising for a cheap snack--of any kind, let alone neon?
These motel signs express that same ideal which is now nearly extinct.
We'll start with the Half Moon, holding forth at Sepulveda and Pigott.
|We're staying at the Half Moon tonight!|
Of all the three motels, this one undoubtedly has the best sign for the simple reason that it is exclusively neon. The intersection of Sepulveda and Pigott is not one of your pulsating and vibrant entertainment districts, but at least there's the Cinema bar across the street.
The Alpine Carpet store to the right seems to go well with a couple of other alpine or Swiss-related features to be seen in the area. In the earlier post we noted the vaguely chalet-like red-and-white decorations on the second floor railing.
But rather like the Swiss Motors garage, the owners of Alpine Carpet have been content to commemorate alpine life by their business name alone, and let it go at that.
There's also the Villa Italian restaurant a couple of doors down. Nothing much to say here, except possibly to mention the neon sign and the brand-new crescent moon floating above. Incidentally, the word neon in this context isn't always accurate; any of the stable inert gases will work in this type of lighting and can be used singly or in various mixtures to get different colors.
|Moon Over Villa Italian|
We already noted the rather overdone signage of Deano's, just up the street.
Rather overdone? Wildly excessive is more like it, but to really appreciate it in its full, glorious exuberance, you need to see it at night. You can almost hear the jarring background music as the main character in some film-noir drama, no doubt staggering from the effects of the Mickey he just got slipped in his drink, is running along here...running from something...running to someone...running, running, running ... until finally the oblivion of unconsciousness smothers him like a cold dark blanket.
Although they have upgraded COLOR TV to CABLE TV, the sign still touts the presence of TELEPHONES, giving off a decidedly retro vibe in view of the fact that nearly all adults these days carry their own mobile phones. As for the signs' design and arrangement, the daytime shot above betrays a certain cheap feel compared to the all-neon signs at the Half Moon. But after sundown, it shows up quite well indeed, aided by the one bit that actually is neon: namely the green-hued arrowhead. In daylight, you hardly even notice it. Or rather, you can see it, but without the illumination to set it off it looks like it's only there to old up the actual signs.
As for the Astro, we hoped that the Jetsons-like abstract structure upholding the words Astro and Motel would similarly be outlined in neon, but sadly that isn't the case. It was a missed opportunity to be sure.
But at least the horticultural business next door has a herd of dinosaurs. During business hours they can be seen in various places around the grounds, but here we see them penned up for the night, where they must have already fallen asleep by the time this photo was taken.
The dino that looks like a Bactrian camel is a new one to me.