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Neon Speaks

Neon speaks

Excerpts from our interview with the noble gas and waning staple of Las Vegas signage

GOTTA TELL ya, chicks dig a noble gas.

MY NAME comes from the Greek for “new.” I mean, Greek = classy, right?

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VEGAS IS all digital signs these days. It’s just empty flash. Sure, it’s good for “special effects,” if that’s what you want, but it’s got no ring-a-ding-ding, you know?

WIKIPEDIA SAYS I’m, quote, “colorless, odorless, inert,” unquote. Odorless, that’s true; I take care of myself. But colorless? Inert? That crap bugs me. But my lawyers say to let it go.

SOME SAY I did my best work in old Times Square. But I think I really nail it in Tokyo: lotta energy, reflections on rainy streets ... that’s glamour. Plus, the food’s better.

NEON IS number five in what they call “cosmic abundance.” I’m cool with that. I mean, look who’s ahead of me: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon. Those cats do great work; there’s no shame being behind ’em. Right behind, though; let’s be clear about that.

I DON’T flatter easy, but when Bryan Ferry sings about a “neon wind” in “Hiroshima,” well, I appreciate a nod from one showman to another.

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YOU KNOW who wears me well? Vegas Vic. Love that guy. Not many of us could make a career out of bending an arm. Shame they put that ugly lid over him.

ONE OF my fondest memories is writer Tom Wolfe describin’ the styles of old Vegas signs, back in the ’60s. All these years later, I can quote it from memory: “Boomerang Modern, Palette Curvilinear, Flash Gordon Ming-Alert Spiral, McDonald’s Hamburger Parabola, Mint Casino Elliptical, Miami Beach Kidney.” It felt great to know that someone really got me, and got my work.

THEY REPLACED neon with LED on that cheesy arch in Reno. You kidding me — Reno?! Even the crap towns are disrespecting me now. I guess “noble” means nothing in 2018.

TWO WORDS that scare me: “Bone. Yard.” For obvious reasons.

WHAT WOULD Blade Runner be without me? Indiana Jones and the Temple of Who Gives a Damn, that’s what. Ridley gets the credit, but neon made that movie. I got swindled out of my points on the back end, by the way.

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ARGON IS always giving me shit: “I’m the most abundant noble gas in the Earth’s crust, sucka!” He’s just mad because, after all this time, I’m still a trim atomic number 10, while he’s an atomic number 18 — and, lemme tell ya, he carries every one of those protons on his waistline.

I’D BE lying if I said I wasn’t worried. I’m still doin’ okay with novelty beer signs, but the drop in big Vegas marquees really takes a bite out, ya know? One thing Wikipedia ain’t lying about is that I have “few commercial uses.” So this is it for me. Then it’s lights out.

I JUST want to be remembered as an entertainer. A monatomic gas that glows brightly in a vacuum-discharge tube who tried to show people a good time. I want them to think, “He did good work.” Maybe go pay your respects in the you-know-what-yard. 

(Editor's note: Scott Dickensheets no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)