Mesa’s diving lady, the animated neon sign in front of the Starlite Motel at 2710 E. Main St., is about to make a splash once again. (See exclusive video here.)
The owners of Starlite Motel and the Mesa Preservation Foundation are hoping people of the community who helped raise the nearly $120,000 to restore her will join them during a celebration at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 2.
She dived in front of the motel for 50 years, according to a press release from the Mesa Preservation Foundation, before she took a devastating tumble from her pole during a storm microburst Oct. 5, 2010.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith will throw the switch to bring the diving lady back to life nearly two and a half years after she took her near fatal plunge.
“It’s ironic in that it’s a hunk of sheet metal and glass tubing but people talk about the sign as a real person. There’s great affection for this sign,” Vic Linoff from the Mesa Preservation Foundation said in a phone interview with the Independent.
Mr. Linoff said the funds to have the diving lady restored at Graham’s Neon, 456 N. Country Club Drive, were entirely supported by private contributions. People of the community gave anywhere from $1 to $2,500, Mr. Linoff said.
Even though the sign is up and about to operate again, $10,000 still needs to be raised to finish paying for restoration, Mr. Linoff said.
People can make a contribution online via Paypal on the Mesa Preservation Foundation website or the foundation’s Facebook page. Links for both can be found at http://www.mesapreservationfoundation.org/.
Larry Graham of Graham’s Neon said the original neon artist of the diving lady, Paul Millet, is the man who taught him how to do neon.
“It was 100 percent damaged. I had to redo the skin and the entire infrastructure,” Mr. Graham said. “The sign has a big following. When we were transporting it people would honk and wave.”
The owner of Starlite Motel, Bob Patel, is just as eager as everyone else to have the iconic neon sign return.
“I think a lot of people find her interesting and I have many phone calls about her coming back on. People are excited,” Mr. Patel said in a phone interview with the Independent.
“It just brings back memories. It brings you back to age when you first saw it and you watched it. It’s just neat to sit there and watch it. It does the same thing over and over but it’s an eyecatcher for sure,” Mr. Graham said.
While funds trickled in, the diving lady was restored off and on at the shop. Before being placed in front of the motel, Mr. Graham said the sign was on display in local malls.
Mr. Linoff said a bronze plaque will eventually go up on the diving lady sign pole. It will describe what happened when she fell in 2010 and also honor the people who helped restore her.
“We have many testimonial letters from people who remember the sign, say it was their gateway into the East Valley. When they saw that sign they knew they were back home. We are confident that she’ll be up for another half century,” Mr. Linoff said.
For those wanting to go to the celebration ceremony, free public parking is available in the K-Mart parking lot at the northeast corner of Main Street and Lindsay. Music will be provided by The Nostalgics Harmonica Trio + One. It begins at 6:30 p.m.
News services assistant Pilar Arias can be contacted by calling 480-982-7799, via e-mail at email@example.com or on Twitter @PilarArias_MMJ.