On a hot April day amidst a global pandemic, the Blue Angel stood on the rooftop above PublicUs, waving at passing cars. At first glance, it appeared the statue created by Betty Willis — the designer behind the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign — had migrated to a new perch on Fremont Street. The ethereal figure was actually local artist Victoria Hogan, bringing the inert icon to life.
“I identify with the Blue Angel as a concept, being that she is sort of a lone wolf,” Hogan says of the statue that stood watch over the now closed Blue Angel Motel for about 60 years.
Hogan originally imagined the Blue Angel character as a wedding officiant. She owns a pop-up wedding service called Flora Pop, and runs Sure Thing Chapel in Downtown with two friends, one of whom just might be the city’s only female Elvis officiant. Hogan thought the Blue Angel would be an equally fitting Las Vegas legend to guide newlyweds through their vows, but when the COVID-19 crisis shuttered the city’s chapels, she took to the streets. “She kind of became this beacon of social distancing, because she was up on that little pedestal for years,” Hogan says. “She’s inaccessible in a lot of ways, so that’s the turn that it took once we were all forced to stay home.”
While planning her living Blue Angel, Hogan stopped by Heddy’s Fabrics — a family-owned fabric shop that’s been in Las Vegas since 1966 — and learned that the women at the store had spent time at the Blue Angel Motel as teenagers. They told her stories about it while helping her choose the exact right blue fabric for the Blue Angel’s dress. For the character’s signature yellow-blonde hair, she stopped by the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet and found a little booth called Vegas Girl Wigs. “They’ve been around forever, and they do so many wigs for performers on the Strip,” Hogan says. “I had the same kind of interaction that I had at the fabric shop. The lady who owns Vegas Girl Wigs styled one for me as best as she could from her memory, because she said she’d loved going to the Blue Angel Motel, as well.”
That was how she ended up on the rooftop, practicing social distancing in the most Las Vegas way imaginable. Her Blue Angel has also appeared outside of friend’s homes, on now-abandoned streets, and is available to visit quarantined Las Vegans upon request. “I like the idea of standing outside someone’s living room window and just kind of being there,” she says. “Since a lot of people can’t visit with their friends and family, I want to be as safe as possible but create a little bit of joy in someone’s day.”
What’s next for the Blue Angel? After COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted, Hogan imagines that the Blue Angel will finally get to officiate weddings as planned, but she can also see her performing burlesque or pole dancing.
“I am actually working on a book of poems from her perspective,” Hogan says. “She might be a lifelong character that takes on different faces depending on how I’m feeling and what’s available.”
Below: The Blue Angel atop PublicUs