weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Las Vegas’ Neon Museum rockin’ with Hard Rock Cafe sign — VIDEOS

Updated January 28, 2019 - 1:47 pm

The gentleman who commissioned the Hard Rock Cafe sign in Las Vegas said the sign satisfied some “pent-up, neon love.”

“In the 1980s, we started opening a whole lot of Hard Rock Cafes, but everywhere we went, neon was not allowed outside,” said Warwick Stone, known as “The Rock Collector” and former creative director of Hard Rock Cafe. “New Orleans? Neon not allowed. Honolulu? Neon not allowed. Maui? Neon not allowed.”

But when the rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant opened in Las Vegas in 1990, guess what happened?

“Neon allowed!” Warwick said Monday morning during a chat at the Neon Museum. “Whoo-hoo! Up went the sign!”

After standing for 28 years, the Hard Rock Cafe sign has come down from its original location on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road, been moved to YESCO headquarters and — this week — is being hauled and reassembled at the Neon Museum on Las Vegas Boulevard North, just south of Cashman Center.

The famed visage is being transported in six pieces. The work will be finished Friday, and the guitar will be up and operational within three weeks. But it won’t be lit up until March 5 when the general public will see the entire sign aglow again. A fund-raising effort has raised $230,000 of the $350,000 needed to fund the renovation and relocation with donations coming in from 43 states and 13 countries. (The campaign is is ongoing, and those interested in contributing can do so at www.neonmuseum.org.)

The guitar’s base has been reserved for the names of those who have donated $100 and $250 to the project.

“If you didn’t think this was an international museum before this fundraiser, you know it now,” Rob McCoy, chief executive officer of the Neon Museum, said. “This guitar is going to be an excellent, spectacular addition to the Boneyard.”

As it stands 80 feet tall, the Hard Rock Cafe sign is the largest assembled sign at the Neon Museum (or Neon Boneyard as its oft-applied nickname). The Stardust sign is larger, but it sits in several pieces. The HRC sign has a familiar Gibson design — with the Les Paul signature between its tuning pegs.

The famous sign went dark on New Year’s Eve 2016 as the cafe itself closed. It stood through October 2017 when officials from the Hard Rock Hotel — which owns the old Hard Rock Cafe parcel — began preparing for the ill-fated “The Voice: Neon Dreams” live production show. For months, the future of the sign was in question.

“I can tell you this guitar was within 48 hours of being demolished, in the late summer 2017,” McCoy said. “Hard Rock decided they didn’t want the sign, but YESCO stepped in and say, ‘You’re not destroying the sign, we’re donating it to the Neon Museum.’ “

Warwick, who made the sign a reality in Las Vegas, says he’s impressed the old guitar has survived the years. He’s also pleasantly surprised that the Hard Rock Cafe chain, which still operates Hard Rock Live on the Strip, has lived as long as it has.

“It’s stood the weather very well,” he says. “I don’t think we thought the whole brand would last 28 years, let alone this sign.”

The museum has been a focal point for locals and tourists interested in preserving and observing Las Vegas history. Star director Tim Burton is adding to its mystique and international appeal with his “Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum” art exhibit beginning in October.

But the permanent display of such famous signs as Golden Nugget, La Concha, Sahara, Silver Slipper, Binion’s Horseshoe and Sassy Sally’s is the Neon Museum’s central draw.

McCoy, standing just a few feet from the partially completed sign, grinned as the sun back-lit the new exhibit.

“At this point, this is our central piece,” he said, “but the Boneyard continues to grow. You know, they used to call Fremont Street Glitter Gulch. I think we’re the new Glitter Gulch.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter,@JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.