by Ev Chase
A Boulder Artist
While the history of Hoover Dam could be read in the chiseled face of high-scaler Joe Kine and many dozens of his comrades who risked their lives on the canyon walls high above the Colorado River, it was left to others, such as Steve Liguori, who would preserve in bronze the story of these brave men. A story preserved for generations of people who would come to see, to remember, and be reminded what Liguori's sculptures represent. This is the story of an artist, this is .... Steve's story.
We were a generation apart, Steve and I, but grew up in the same neighborhood in Las Vegas. For me, the interview for Steve's Liguori's story brought about an interesting kinship.
After visiting the old John S. Park neighborhood in Las Vegas, which was recently outlined as a Historic District, and seeing Steve's old house and his work prominently displayed on the corner of Charleston Blvd and Park Paseo, I began to understand his contribution to my kinship. A unilateral kinship at this point, and not one by time or interest, but by place.
There was nothing unusual about 16-year-old Steve Liguori having a "blowup" with his father and leaving home. That story has been heard many times before and in many households.
But what was unusual about Steve was how he was able to find a job in a Las Vegas Strip casino. Steve was just 16 years old when he left home with little more than lessons learned in jewelry making from his father, Bruno Liguori. Bruno, who before moving from New York to Las Vegas, owned a wrecking yard and dreamed of being a miner. In 1950 the elder Liguori and his wife, made their move and headed west to Las Vegas to make a fortune from the silver mines in the mountains surrounding the Vegas Valley. As it turned out, whatever Bruno's fortune was came more from making silver and turquoise jewelry, a gift he would soon pass on to his son.
Steve was born in Las Vegas in 1962, the son of his maker and with rocks and minerals in his genes.
When he was seven he began learning the craft of jewelry from his father, and by the time he was nine he had taken over the laundry room, set up a studio, and under Bruno's tutorage and that of a neighborhood friend, Steve began carving turquoise.
"Some guy who lived on our street (Bonita in LV) who worked with cabachons (precious stones cut in convex shape and polished) would cut turquoise, agate, petrified wood, all kinds of stones. Then he would make cabs and set them in easy-mount settings and give them away as presents."
Steve was hooked. He wanted to cut stones. Bruno bought him a little slab saw and a grinder and polisher. And then, Steve wanted to cab.
After leaving home, the young Liguori went to work for the Desert Inn Hotel as a busboy, but it wasn't long before he was promoted to cashier.
Steve's connections, it seems, came about because of his jewelry making talent. Certainly at 16 he had no hotel or gambling repertoire to call upon.
"I started making jewelry and selling wholesale," he says. "I even made jewelry for Liberace and Glen Campbell."
He met Elvis, he says, but "never made jewelry for him."
Steve's adventures on the Las Vegas Strip lasted just long enough. He was ready to "patch things up" with Bruno.
"I had quit my job at the Desert Inn and my dad asked if I wanted to open a store with him and work together in Boulder City. We ended up working together until he died in 1997."
The relationship worked well for many years.
"The things he didn't do, I did, and the things I didn't do, he did. He would make jewelry and carvings and I liked to work with turquoise.
"I did the small monument of the Highscaler in 1995.