Blasphemy! I love that sign more than I love my kids.
If terms like “street art” seem a little disingenuous, I have to admit graffiti was never an issue that has really upset me much. But some jerks going at the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign Monday really upset me and a lot of people I have spoken to about this vandalism. Like many cities, we have graffiti everywhere, but no one has ever vandalized the welcome sign before in the memory of anyone I reached, and it seems likely that this may not have ever happened before. Take that in for a moment: Since the sign was first created to greet tourists in 1959, no one has put graffiti on it despite the countless alcohol-soaked tourists who must have posed with the welcome sign over the years. I don’t even think a fraternity has ever stolen it as a prank. This is one bit of Las Vegas history that no one has suggested replacing or taking to the Neon Boneyard (though it gets moved south occasionally to keep pace with the growth of the Strip). The welcome sign is the one link with old Vegas that remains totally relevant in 2009.
The Las Vegas Sun on reactions about the defaced sign:
Someone used a red Sharpie to scribble a few letters on a sign and the town went nuts. This was not just any sign. This one said, â€œWelcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.â€
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, whose city does not technically include the sign and who has previously called for cutting off the thumbs of vandals, demanded decapitation.
The reader comments on the Sunâ€™s Web site seethed with anger. Some blamed hippies. Others, the media. There were calls embracing Mayor Goodmanâ€™s earlier, more moderate call for merely cutting off vandalsâ€™ thumbs. One commenter called for flogging, another caning. Multiple people said the mob would never have allowed this. Still others called for the all-seeing eye of Big Brother.
â€œI am tired of the vandalism, hit & run accidents, and crime that goes on here,â€ a commenter with the moniker â€œhendersonâ€ wrote. â€œI want surveillance cameras everywhere catching criminals. These people do not deserve the â€˜privacyâ€™ to commit criminal acts.â€
What is it about this sign? After all, graffiti is fairly common and almost nobody likes it, but it rarely inspires calls for blood-drenched vengeance or state surveillance. And this is Las Vegas. Weâ€™re not exactly known for civic pride, community involvement, public spiritedness, sentimentality or even waving at our neighbors. And yet it seems there is one enormous exception.
What is it about this sign?