The Quick 10: 10 Famous Neon Signs

You've probably heard of the neon graveyard in Las Vegas "“ it's where a lot of the historic signs in town go to bite the dust after the hotel they advertised has been torn down. I've never been there, but it's on my To Do list the next time I'm in town. It's too bad the graveyard is just limited to signs from Sin City, though "“ there are scores of vintage neon signs that could have used a good home. Check out these 10 that used to brighten up city landscapes "“ or, in some cases, still do.

schrafft1. Schrafft's, Boston. Schrafft's was once a candy and chocolate company based in Charlestown, Massachusetts, that expanded to restaurants around the turn of the century. By the 1960s they had 55 restaurants that were so popular Andy Warhol designed a commercial for them. These days, all that's left of the company is their premium ice cream label and their famous scattered neon sign in Boston. The building it sits atop used to be a Schrafft's factory, but that closed long ago and is now an office complex. If you remember (and miss) Schrafft's, there's a bit of nostalgia here "“ the old storefront picture is really cool and there's also a recipe for Schrafft's butterscotch cookies.

2. Vegas Vic, Las Vegas. Vic has been keeping an eye on downtown Las Vegas since 1951. He used to reside on the side of the Pioneer Club building, but since the Fremont Street Experience opened in 1995, the building has been a souvenir shop (go figure). He was so popular that the company who created him made his cousin, Wendover Will, just a year later. Wendover Will actually beat Vegas Vic for the Guinness World Record title of "World's Largest Mechanical Cowboy," which makes you wonder how many there are.

3. Grain Belt Beer, Minneapolis. This landmark has been in Minneapolis next to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge since about 1940. It used to flash the letters in sequence, but the once-impressive neon sign has been dark for quite some time. It's up for sale, though "“ the Eastman Family, who owns the site the sign sits on, is looking for a buyer to restore and relight the sign. Any takers?

4. The Coppertone Girl, Miami. The giant emblem of a little girl losing her britches to a puppy first showed up in billboard-sized form on Biscayne Boulevard in 1959. It's been relocated a few times and sat in a warehouse for a few years in the "˜90s, but today she's proudly mooning people on Biscayne again, just down the street from her original location. She did receive a bit of a makeover, though "“ during her restoration in the "˜90s, her neon lights were replaced with LED.

5. The Skipping Girl Sign, Abbotsford, Australia. "Little Audrey," as she was once known, was originally set up to advertise the Nycander company's "Skipping Girl" brand of vinegar. When the factory was torn down in 1968, Little Audrey went with her. The public was outraged to have lost their landmark, so much that a replica was built and erected on a nearby building just two years later.

oregon6. Made in Oregon sign, Portland. When this sign first showed up in Portland in 1941, it advertised "White Satin Sugar" in the Oregon state outline for all of downtown to see. By 1950, the sign had changed to show the state filling up with sugar. In 1959, the owners of the building decided to advertise their product instead "“ White Stag Sportswear "“ and so the sugar was nixed and a white stag silhouette replaced it. The company added a bit of whimsy at Christmas by giving the stag a red bulb for a noise "“ something that has been repeated nearly every year since 1959. The White Stag company hasn't been in the building since the "˜70s, but the sign has since been declared a historic landmark. It received a little renovation in the "˜90s to advertise a gift retailing company called "Made in Oregon," which seemed appropriate and has stuck ever since. At least, so far. At the moment, there's no company paying for the sign's upkeep and electricity bill. The electricity was shut off last month and there's some talk of dismantling the sign.

7. Westinghouse sign, Pittsburgh. This is the neon sign to end all neon signs (actually, it was probably an argon sign, if we're being totally truthful). The sign included nine Westinghouse logos lined up all in a row, but each logo had 10 individual pieces that could light up by themselves without lighting up the rest of the logo: the four slants of the "W," the three dots on top of the "W," the bar underscoring the letter, and both the top and bottom half of the circle. You can see how the sign was animated here, but the real sign is long gone "“ when the building it was mounted on was torn down in 1998 to make way for the Pirates' PNC Park, the sign went with it.

8. Magikist sign, Chicago. You can bet a giant pair of neon lips would catch the attention of a lot of people "“ and that's what the Magikist carpet company was banking on, too. The 41,100-pound neon lips were regarded as Chicago landmarks, noting when you were finally out of the suburbs and into the city. Most of them have been quietly torn down since the mid "˜90s, though.

reno9. Reno arch, Reno, Nevada. Believe it or not, the neon Reno Arch has been stretching over Reno since 1899. The neon version, however, wasn't built until 1927, when it was created to celebrate the Reno Transcontinental Highway Exposition. It's been through several incarnations since then (the town is currently on arch #6) and in November of last year, the old bulbs were replaced by LED versions (a growing trend, it would seem).

10. The Travelers Insurance umbrella, Des Moines. The cheery 40-foot umbrella has been a staple on the Des Moines skyline since 1963. Like a lot of these old advertising signs seem to, it fell into disrepair for many years until the Graham Group, who owns the building the umbrella brightens up, took responsibility for it in 2005.

It seems like a lot of towns have nearly-forgotten gems like these. Is yours one of them? Or do you remember one that has since been torn down? Share in the comments!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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