Saturday Nights! JOIN US for a nighttime bus tour of neon signs, movie marquees and permanent installations of contemporary neon art through Downtown and Hollywood.
Developed by MONA beginning in 1985, this narrated tour points out neon’s aesthetic dimensions, placing them firmly within the context of 20th century Los Angeles cultural history. From the classic movie marquees of downtown Los Angeles’ theater district to the glittering lights of Hollywood and the glowing pagodas of Chinatown, you will see outstanding examples of contemporary neon art as well as innovative electrical advertising on this award-winning tour.
Jump on board the top deck of a convertible British bus and let your knowledgeable guide delight you with history and anecdotes about the urban electric jungle of L.A. Now in its 17th consecutive year, the Neon Cruise begins in the Historic Corridor of Downtown.
MEET THE GUIDES:
J. ERIC LYNXWILER is an L.A. native and long-time docent for the Los Angeles Conservancy and Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. As a board member for the Museum of Neon Art, he continues to celebrate LA’s neon heritage and guide the museum’s famed “Neon Cruise” — now in his eighteenth year! Lynxwiler researched the book “Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles” and co-authored “Knott’s Preserved: From Berry Stand to Theme Park, The History Of Knott’s Berry Farm” and “Spectacular Illumination: Los Angeles Neon 1925–1965.”
ERIC EVAVOLD, a Los Angeles native, has been interested in Los Angeles history since he was 13. Eric has over 30 years experience as a Los Angeles tour guide. First volunteering as a docent at Heritage Square and then with the Carroll Ave Restoration Foundation. He moved on to the Los Angeles Conservancy in the 90’s doing the Historic Theatres on Broadway Tour and Union Station Tour. Currently, Eric has been doing the Special MONA neon cruises. He served as Vice President on the MONA Board and has saved numerous signs for the museum’s permanent collection. As of February 2019, he was named “Honorary Ambassador & Tour Guide” of the historic Bullock’s Wilshire Building.
ANI MNATSAKANYAN is a Los Angeles native with an affinity for neon, horror, true crime, and the darker side of history. She has lived most of her life (so far) in the less-glamorous areas of Hollywood, where she would lose herself for hours on end in the town’s old buildings and neon signs. During the day, she is the Community Engagement and Program Coordinator at the Museum of Neon Art and a graduate student of USC’s Heritage Conservation program. After work hours, she unwinds with horror movies, true crime, and ghost stories.
CHINATOWN GIFT FAIR CHINAWARE
The unassuming 1940s and 1950s set of neon signs are original to LA’s Chinatown and were added by various shopkeepers over the years, but were removed by a long-running tenant who donated the signs to the Museum of Neon Art. The duo was welcomed into the museum collection, but was only there for a few years until the building’s new owner restored the structure’s architectural and rooftop neon. With trust in the more neon-friendly owner, the museum de-accessioned the Gift Fair Chinaware neon signs and returned them to their original perches over Gin Ling Way in LA’s Chinatown.
2015 brought neon lighting back to the restored façade of Clifton’s Cafeteria. It mimics the original neon pinstripes from the 1930s while also celebrating what turned out to be a historic discovery in the building’s basement – what could possibly be the world’s oldest operating neon tubes. Hidden behind a false wall and hardwired into the building’s electrical system, the secret neon tubes date to 1935 and have never been turned off in that time. The building’s owner plans to move the vintage tubes to a more public location.
LOS ANGELES THEATRE
Arguably the most grand theatre on the West coast is the namesake of the city, the Los Angeles Theatre. The ornate structure opened on the eve of the Great Depression in 1931 with a filigreed, neon vertical sign and matching, grand marquee. Over the years the marquee was replaced with a more streamlined, window-box-style sign with a prominent clock at it crux. The Broadway Theatre District has gone through its share of ups and downs, but the Los Angeles Theatre is still a grande dame and its neon vertical sign and marquee again shine brightly thanks to the 2004 restoration by the Museum of Neon Art and the City Redevelopment Agency.
HOLLYWOOD AND VINE RESTAURANT
The fancy Hollywood and Vine neon sign once promoted a restaurant within the Equitable Building, but that restaurant is now long gone. The modern neon with working clock and glittering stars once pronounced the word Diner, then Bar and now Lofts as its premier, promotional function changed with time. Don’t ignore the miniature, animated-neon Capitol Records building topping the sign.
One of the great bars from Hollywood’s Golden Age still haunts the corner of Hollywood near Vine in the 1930 Pantages Theatre building and its iconic neon sign has never burned more brightly. Stylistically, the design is a visual cacophony with multicolored neon tubes as a background for the streamlined lettering and boomerang design of its connected F and R. For those who believe that lettering cannot be art, we point to the Frolic Room’s amazing neon signage every time.