Magazine article Sunset

Los Angeles Neon, Past and Present

Magazine article Sunset

Los Angeles Neon, Past and Present

Article excerpt

Los Angeles neon, past and present As the lights of L.A. begin flickering on, you board a double-decker bus. Inside, the mood is festive: you receive a neon-bright badge for your lapel, waiters offer wine or mineral water. The evening tour of L.A.'s neon past and present has begun.

Tour guides from the sponsoring Museum of Neon Art (MONA) explain neon's origin--in early 20th-century France--and throughout the tour you de-bus occasionally for close looks at particular examples.

In Chinatown, the detailed design of a light blue Buddha and other shop signs typify the post-World War II state of neon art. Passing Philippe's famous French dip sandwich restaurant, you'll learn why the cursive neon sign's original orange and light blue were known as the "colors of the opera."

Along Broadway glow the ornate signs of the grand old theaters of the '20s and '30s. At the Jewelry Mart, the tour group's body heat activates artist Michael Hayden's 270-foot-long Generators of the Cylinder. Tubes flash in rainbow circles, creating a colorful tunnel of light. Along Wilshire Boulevard, you pass restored rooftop signs from the late '30s. …

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