24 Apr Diving Girls at The Starlight Motel, Mesa, Arizona
For 50 years this 78 foot masterpiece of sign making has graced the parking lot of The Starlight Motel, on the old “Apache Trail” (or “Main Street”, US 60) which runs through Mesa, Arizona. I came across it a number of years ago when we were out visiting my husband, Richard’s parents. I gasped when I saw it and knew that I was destined to memorialize it on canvas! No question about it!
Sadly, on October 5, 2010 a powerful series of thunderstorms blew through town and the sign crashed to the ground, smashing all the neon tubing. At the time, Bob Patel, the motel owner said he couldn’t afford to restore the sign, despite the public outcry about its demise. His insurance wouldn’t cover the huge expense, and there were also considerations regarding new sign ordinances which no longer allowed flashing lights (the girls lit up as they descended).
But this sign was so beloved so many people, they would not let it die. Fans of not only this sign but other great signs that were being removed or destroyed, formed the Mesa Preservation Foundation which took on the challenge of raising the $100,000 required to rebuild this beacon from the past.
The original sign was designed by the late artist Stanley Russon in 1960 and built by Paul Millet, who worked at the time for Guerrero-Lindsey Sign Co. “Paul was a master of neon. You don’t look at people like that as a sign maker. They’re artists”, said Vic Linoff, President of MPF.
The restoration was done by Scott Houston, an associate of Millet protegé Larry Graham. It took Houston five weeks of painstaking work to restore one of the graceful ladies. He built a new head for her and distressed it a bit to “make it look old”. She has been painted with the original colors, using the same color neon tubes as well. One quirky touch is the modern addition of an on/off switch in her belly button! He also installed a new aluminum infrastructure to make the sign lighter and stronger than the original sheet metal. Happily, Hunt Construction and Abel Steel donated the installation of the new $12,000 custom-made pole that the letters “M-O-T-E-L” stand on. Each of the restored letters is 6 1/2′ tall!
Huge thanks go to the persistence of dedicated board members Vic Linoff and Barbara Meyerson among others, of The Mesa Preservation Foundation for their enormous fundraising efforts. On September 1, 2014 cheering crowds of people watched in awe as the beautiful neon diving ladies once again descended to splash into their tiny pool when the sign was relit!
If you would like to have a signed, limited edition giclee print of my painting “Diving Girls at The Starlight Motel” (print size 19 x 25″- image size 13 x 19″) on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308 the cost is $275 with $100 being donated directly to the Mesa Preservation Foundation. Go to this link (need to add new link) and follow the prompts to paypal. I will ship your print asap and send off a check to the MPF for $100. Please also send me an email confirmation of your mailing address to email@example.com.
If you’re inspired to donate to MPF to help their continued efforts to save other great signs in Mesa, mail your check to the foundation at PO Box 539, Mesa, AZ 85211.
Kudos to Vic, Barbara and their fellow board members who have worked so hard to help preserve these amazing beacons from the past! We so appreciate your efforts!
Oil on canvas, 24×40″
Giclee prints available for purchase here.