El Gordo, 1950s, (9’x20’x1’), Gift of Camarena Contractors, Inc., 2001
The home of famous “Beeg Theek Steaks,” the El Gordo restaurant sign is one of America’s many mid-century, slightly offensive, racial-stereotype-promoting neon signs. A Mexican man is featured between two saguaro cacti and atop a sleepy burro. The figure wears sandals, a sombrero, a serape and holds a guitar in one hand and raises another to the sky. Look closely and you may note an artist’s error: the hand-painted sign background reveals that Señor Gordo has two right hands.
The El Gordo restaurant sign was saved from the San Gabriel restaurant while its building was rapidly being demolished. A museum volunteer rushed to its aid and the sign was thankfully donated then restored. Picture shows neon bender, Jim Dahlia, from Golden State Neon, who completed the sign’s restoration.
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