Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Weirdest House in Vegas


If you've paid any attention to the quirky characters that dot the Las Vegas landscape, then surely you've heard of former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, the retired neurosurgeon and all-around happy-go-lucky wackjob. Most notably, you've heard of his wild house, actually three connecting homes overbuilt and stuffed with an absurd amount of memorabilia, scale models, weird shop projects and other junk.

Hammargren opens up that house each year around Nevada Day, which was this past weekend. The New York Times was desperately seeking some lighthearted non-political news to balance out all of our intense pre-election obsessions. Thus, I wrote this piece, which runs on Monday.

I took a number of photos for this blog and also so that when I sat down to write I could remember what I had seen. Walking through the place is intimidating, baffling, repulsing, amusing, fascinating. Just take a look at some of these, then magnify this clutter into dozens of rooms over three floors and three connected backyards...







Not sure what you're looking at? Well, imagine if you had to try to describe it in 900 words for a national audience? I know that the train above is Big Bertha, which I describe in detail in the beginning of my piece. Those chairs came from the Landmark, Lonnie thinks. The white things on the upper level deck has something to do with Hammargren's fascination with astronomy.



I remember that he's building a half-sized replica of Stonehenge in the photo below...


...and some version of the Thomas & Mack at UNLV...


...and this, below, is supposed to be replica of the Fremont Street Experience. Uh, yeah.


Throughout the house there are these cutouts guiding people from area to area...


Here's a car from a former ride atop the Stratosphere.



In this image, that's Lonnie explaining something to me. I must say that, as I explained in the piece, you kind of want to hook Hammargren up to an IV of ritalin when he starts to speak because he just goes and goes, from one thing to the next with no rhyme or reason to it. It may sound like fun, but actually when it actually caused me panic attacks this morning as I was trying to distill it and make something coherent out of it.


Then I took a moment to listen to KNPR's "State of Nevada" host Dave Berns spending 15 minutes with Hammargren on the air on Friday. Berns made an bemused observation about how difficult it is to follow Hammargren and how the jumble of his weird collection is an apt reflection of the jumble of his weird stream-of-consciousness utterances. Just hearing Berns deftly managing him made me realize that, with Hammargren, the details aren't as important as how he says it. You should take a moment to listen to Berns' conversation here.

Here are some more odd sights...



Doesn't just looking at all that stuff exhaust you? If not, you can be Lonnie's MySpace friend here and see some cool stuff that our friend Sparky of Las Vegas has pulled together for Lonnie. Also, here's a little YouTube action:


1 comments:

LinFromNJ said...

Wow! I love it. when can I go?