Vegas Myths Re-Shattered: Actor Lee Marvin shot Vegas Vic with an arrow

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Published on: January 19, 2024 at 08:04 pm.

Last updated on: January 18, 2024, 11:43 pm.

Editor’s note: “Vegas Myths Busted” posts new entries every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday release. Today’s post in our ongoing series was originally published on June 19, 2023.


Longtime visitors will remember that the Vegas Vic once had a sound. Taped inside the smiling neon sign greeting passersby with “Hello Bodner!” Every 15 minutes around the clock.

Vegas Vic, released in 1964.
The Vegas Vic, introduced in 1964, attracted “gamers” to the Pioneer Club Casino. (Photo: Bernard Gottfried)

This element of the Vegas attraction, installed above the Pioneer Club casino in 1951, was not very popular with guests trying to sleep inside the tower of the 26-story hotel The Mint, which opened directly across Fremont Street in May 1965.

According to persistent Las Vegas legend, actor Lee Marvin was one of those guests. He was in town filming “The Professionals” on location near Valley of Fire State Park in December 1965. He allegedly drove himself into a sleep-deprived rage and shot Vic in the voice box with an arrow.

This left the 40-foot-tall neon cowboy speechless for 20 years.

Lee Marvin in a movie
Lee Marvin in the movie “The Professionals.” (Image: Columbia Pictures)

That never happened – at least not like this.

First of all, if a mechanical sign breaks, especially a famous one that tourists come to see because it speaks famously, if they wait long enough, it will be fixed. This should have been the first red flag.

Understood myth

Arrows He was Shoot Vic. But Lee Marven never shot them, and they never kept quiet about you.

On December 11, 1965, a late-night drunken party was held in the 16th floor Mint Room rented to “The Professionals” actor Woody Strode and actor Tony Eber. The parties included any waiter, cook and maid who were off duty and caught by the wind, as well as several dancers from the Wild Topless Watusi troupe that performed at the casino hotel.

Woody Strode takes aim during rehearsal for the movie The Professionals"
Woody Strode takes aim during rehearsal for the 1965 film “The Professionals” at Valley of Fire State Park. The film’s director, Richard Brooks, looks to the right. (Photo: Hotelmarimari.com)

When the subject of the annoying Vegas Vic greeting came up every quarter hour, Strode, whose character in the film is an expert archer, grabbed his bow and arrow and did something about it.

“It was a five-foot bow, and I had to crawl out the window to get the angle,” Stroud wrote in his 1993 autobiography, Target Dust. “The Mint Hotel had ledges, and I was standing on one of them 16 stories high. Tony reached over and grabbed me by the belt in the back of my pants. I found the angle, set it, shot an arrow, and hit Howdy Podner right in the mouth. The sculpture began The whole thing was cracking. Sparks were flying everywhere. Then the song “Howdy Podner” fainted and stopped.

Vaughan Cannon, YESCO’s signage manager responsible for maintaining and repairing the Vic, later indicated that the damage was limited to broken neon tubes. Since Vic’s recording is played only intermittently, Strode may have been under the impression that the stock had silenced him, but this was not the case.

Arrow dynamics

After the attack, Stroud and Eber climbed several flights of stairs to Marvin’s room, where they woke him to ask if they could hide the bow there before the police arrived. He noticed that Marvin was asleep, which legend claims Vic would not allow to happen.

“Well, the crazy son of a bitch got so excited, he shot a gun out his window,” Stroud said. The explosion, which was aimed at the sky and not the Vic, led police to be immediately called to Marvin’s room, where they found the rifle and bow.

The Vegas Vic’s proximity to The Mint is perfectly displayed in this undated photo. (Image: Instagram)

It has not been explained why no charges were filed. The Las Vegas police may have given Marvin a metaphorical “get out of jail free” card because he was a decorated soldier who fought and was seriously wounded during the Battle of Saipan in World War II.

Perhaps one of them was among the throngs of young men inspired by the law enforcement operation by his portrayal of Lieutenant Frank Ballinger in NBC Television “M Band” from 1957 to 1960.

It is not unlikely that some signatures could be signed in exchange for looking the other way, a decision that neither party wanted to make public.

Or perhaps the police did not want the negative international publicity associated with the arrest of one of the biggest and most famous stars of the time. (Earlier that year, Marvin had won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance opposite Jane Fonda in “Cat Ballou.”)

It is also possible that the police never come; The responding uniformed officers only work hotel security.

While this fact seems to have been lost over time, there is another fact that becomes clearer as more research is done…

“I had absolutely nothing to do with this incident, which both Woody and Tony have confirmed to me,” said Dwayne Epstein, author of the exhaustively researched 2013 biography, “Lee Marvin: Point Blank.” he told journalist Jeremy Roberts in 2017.

“Lee passed out in his hotel room hours ago. Being a major star and recent Oscar winner, he took the blame to prevent his comrades from going to prison.

Robin Hood Party

The first mention of an arrow attack occurred in journalist Murray Hertz Las Vegas Journal Review Gossip column of December 12, 1965. Hertz coined the incident under the title “Robin Hood’s Party,” although he did not mention any of its participants by name. But word soon spread that Marvin was responsible.

“Lee was so proud,” Stroud wrote. “You must be the biggest joke in town.”

But Marvin wasn’t laughing in 1979. That’s when actress Michelle Triola, his former girlfriend, used the story as evidence during an alimony suit designed to make the actor appear out of control.

There are other variations on the Lee Marvin/Vegas Vic legend, including a rather dull take on the current Wikipedia page for the sign: “Marvin complained that Vegas Vic was too loud, so casino executives silenced Vegas Vic and left it that way for two years almost”. “Decades,” he announces, actually citing as reference a fake interview with the sign that appeared on Las Vegas Sun In 2000.

But what actually happened to the Vegas Vic sound was much more boring than that, and had nothing to do with casino executives. This was explained by A Las Vegas Journal Review The story was published on January 25, 1968…

City commissioners voted to direct the Pioneer Club to take down the acoustic portion of its iconic Vegas Vic sign on downtown Fremont Street. The famous “Howdy Podner” sign has been keeping sleepers in nearby hotels awake… Commissioners assure that the sign itself will continue to operate in its familiar manner, waving to passersby, but soundlessly.

Marvin was not mentioned, although that does not mean the legend was not on the minds of city officials.

Printed legend

Vic regained his voice on May 17, 1980, but lost it forever during the construction of the Fremont Street Experience canopy in 1994. That’s when the Pioneer Club became a souvenir shop and the building’s new owner decided he could record.

After The Professionals, Lee Marvin, who died of a heart attack in 1987, went on to play the lead role in much larger Westerns. The final scene in the 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance shows a newspaper editor making a statement that could not be more accurately applied here…

“When a myth becomes reality, print the myth.”

Look for “Vegas Legends Busted” every Monday Casino.org. To read previously debunked Vegas Myths, visit VegasMythsBusted.com. Do you have a suggestion for a Vegas legend that needs busting? Email corey@casino.org.

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