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Far From Last Call for "Craby Joe's" Neon

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010, at 05:58PM
joe Ed Fuentes

The bar may be closed, but the Craby Joe's neon has had heard more last calls then the clients that walked into the 7th and Main watering hole ever did. The sign that once welcomed boozers and dreamers will have an official dedication in Raw Materials, its new transitional housing, on Saturday, March 27 at 4pm.

Presented by The Museum of Neon Art, Raw Materials, sign guardian Jeremy Hansen and Bert Green Fine Art, the Craby Joe's historic neon (if the timer is set on 11) is a flickering frenzy of blue and pink light that bounces off the white walls like a bad flashback.

The same year the "Volstead Act" was repealed, ending prohibition, the oddly spelled Craby Joe’s became part of Downtown’s landscape at 7th and Main. One story is that the original name of the bar was set to be Crazy Joe's until the "z" was switched with a "b" during the sign's manufacturing. No one knows for sure.

The sign was once part of a street filled with neon, but it became a loner as Skid Row took over that section of Main street. The neighborhood changed and the bar was ordered to close as part of a crackdown on drug sales. In December of 2007, fans of the bar and sign had a round on Christmas Eve, and in January 2008, the sign was noted as missing.

It was saved by Jeremy Hansen, and -- with the apostrophe never lit -- has been on temporary loan at MONA. For less than a few days, Craby Joe's neon skeleton was reinterpreted as an abstract by Richard Ankrom in the windows of Bert Green Fine Art.

Somehow, the sign also represents nefarious activity, the grit and edge that is John Fante-begat-Charles-Bukowski pop-culture identity.

The Nickel Diner and its Smack 'n Cheese; the Down N Out with its wall of celebrity mug shots and now infamous mural; Crack Gallery; the speakeasy knock-on-the-door bars near 5th and Main, all are reminders of Downtown's influence in literature and film.

Even today, the sign is a visual reference. The cover of James Ellroy's 2009 "Blood's A Rover" shows a moody 7th and Main at night, with Craby Joe's neon sign unlit.


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