The Neon Museum Oral History Project
Oscar Gonzalez | Neon Bender
When he was a teenager, Oscar Gonzalez got a job sweeping the floors of a neon shop in his hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. After all the workers had left for the night, Oscar would turn off the lights, switch on the neon signs, and pretend he owned a nightclub. He collected pieces of discarded glass tubing which the shop owner allowed him to use to practice welding. Soon, Oscar was learning to make angles and curves. Oscar thought his big chance had come when he was assigned to make a sign that said “VINO.” The owner went upstairs to his apartment, instructing Oscar not to leave until he was finished. Oscar was still working on the sign three hours later when the owner came downstairs in his pajamas and sent him home for the night. Despite this setback, Oscar became an accomplished neon bender, honing his skills on dozens of signs for the state of Jalisco’s most famous product, tequila. Oscar later worked in San Diego and Las Vegas. He has been a neon bender for Hartlauer signs in Las Vegas since 2013.