Surreal Las Vegas Motels. My 1988 Music Video

I shot this video late one night with my friend Jerry Stefani in 1988.  We drove down the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street to capture the amazing neon-lit motels  that once were ubiquitous  but now have mostly vanished.  The video was shot while playing a cassette of Chris Isaak’s “Blue Hotel” on my car stereo and edited in-camera to the music.

I’ve been fascinated by America’s mom and pop motels since I was a kid, associating them with family vacations and adventure.  I especially like themed motels, and Las Vegas was full of them.  Not surprisingly, many were gambling or desert themed.  In the last few years, Jerry Stefani has researched the histories of the Vegas motels featured in our video as well as dozens of others on Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street.  He created a terrific website with Then & Now photos that documents his discoveries.

I hope you enjoy our 3-minute music video from the days before Steve Wynn destroyed everything we loved.

About Peter Moruzzi

Author and historian Peter Moruzzi is passionate about the middle decades of the 20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. Born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Hawaii, Moruzzi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1999, he founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) an architectural preservation group. He is the author of "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground," "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea," "Classic Dining:Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants," "Palm Springs Paradise: Vintage Photographs from America's Desert Playground," and "Greetings from Los Angeles." His latest pictorial history, "Greetings from Las Vegas" will be available in September, 2019.
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7 Responses to Surreal Las Vegas Motels. My 1988 Music Video

  1. The Chris Issack tune (Blue Hotel) was a great accompany to the video…..when we first came to Vegas in the mid 70’s we first stayed at a cheap motel right next to the old (Whimpy’s) on LVBLV….then we stayed on Boulder Hwy at two motels, the (Gateway) and the one next to it…..then we moved on down to Fremont Street, and stayed at the (Ferguson Motel) and I was just 15 years old, and when not watching old movies in the air-condition cheap rooms, I would hang out by the pools of these motels….and met some interesting characters, sat and drank beer with them and learned of their stories too…….and as a Air Force Brat kid, we in the past moved every 3 or 4 years, and while on the road, stayed in many of Blue Hotels…….take care, loved the video…….Ron Hunter.


  2. Tom Phelan says:

    I spent a couple of my honeymoon nights back in 1981 at the Fez…..just curious what ever happend to it thanks


  3. DeSoto says:

    Alas, I did not see the Fez Motel, or the Glass Pool Motel, or La Concha. Or the Tam O’Shanter…if I’m remembering these names correctly.

    Neon is incomparably wonderful stuff. But as those of us who are old enough will remember – and as this video shows – neon was/is delicate and temperamental. Consisting of thin glass tubing, it could be broken easily. More frequently, its electrical connections gradually wore out, causing tubing to flicker, darken, or die completely. Devices that controlled blinking ceased functioning. Every city and town had sign companies that not only fabricated new neon signs, but constantly worked to keep old ones running. Most of these companies are gone now, as are most of the signs themselves. And we are poorer for this lack.


    • I don’t remember why we didn’t include the Glass Pool Inn, which would have been terrific if the pool was lit, but the La Concha and Tam O’Shanter were a bit too big, well kept, and showy for the mood we were trying to create with the video. I’ve loved neon signs since I was a kid and have photographed them while on family trips to the mainland since the 1970s. I’ve also been collecting motel postcards since 1981 (and have amassed a collection of over 2000). The death of the American mom-and-pop motel has caused me great grief over the years; I still search for their remnants when traveling through small towns.


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