“The Penis on Pecos.” I first heard the nickname when I was working at the old Guitar Center near the intersection of Tropicana and Pecos, and a co-worker pointed out a building to me as we drove past on a lunch break.
“On your left is the Penis on Pecos,” he said matter-of-factly, as though conducting a neighborhood tour.
It was one of my first days on the job, and apparently I didn’t know the area that well, having missed out on this legendary landmark.
“The what?” I asked.
“The Penis on Pecos. A porn star used to live there in the '70s. They had it custom built to look like that.”
Or so the legend goes.
Over the years I’ve heard similar stories from different people. The building’s quite notorious, and rightfully so. It’s not everyday you see the sculptural form of a giant male private part, unless you’re touring in Italy and staring at Michelangelo’s David.
Since its origin as a home, the Penis on Pecos has housed different businesses — none of which have seemed appropriate for the, um, interesting architectural design.
Formerly the Djanel Spa and Salon, the structure currently houses a foster-care agency, though it seems better suited for a porn store, a strip club, a dirty bookstore or really any business for which the building's bulbous shape could serve as a special brand of built-in marketing.
But amid all the rumors and through all the years, no one has seemed to know exactly who was the building’s original owner. Who was this now infamous porn star that had the balls — no pun intended — to make his or her house a penis-shaped home?
They couldn’t have been shy about their identity — the house spreads its girth in plain view of the intersection, not bothering to modestly hide behind the privacy of a gated community or tuck itself away in a remote location or even behind some large shrubs.
Five years after becoming aware of the structure surely causing envy to all its non-phallic neighbors, I decided to go in search of some answers, to “unpackage the truth,” so to speak.
With some background research and a bit of digging, I got in touch with Earl and Gloria Alger, who first acquired the building permit that would lead to the Penis on Pecos in 1975. Surprisingly, the retired Las Vegas natives still live in town, approximately two and a half blocks from their former home.
Even more surprising? Both Algers say they had no intention of constructing a penis house. In fact, it was a decade before someone pointed out the unique design’s genital nature to them.
“There was a guy that told me after it was built that it looked like a house of prostitution,” confessed Earl Alger. “He said, ‘I’ll speak frankly with you — the long end looks like penis, with two balls at the end of it.’ Evidentially, he used to fly around there and he said that’s exactly what it looks like.”
As for whether or not the penis shape ever popped out at him on paper when he initially saw the sketches of his future home, Earl Alger said that particular aspect of the design evaded him.
“No, it never came to mind,” Alger said. “I just thought it was a unique design.”
An architect friend — whose last name, Martinez, is all Alger can remember years later — actually is the one responsible for the peculiar shape. Something that Alger admitted he was a bit wary of at first.
“He came up with the design and said, ‘Don’t make a decision until you see the drawings, because of the round ends,’” Alger said. “I was questioning whether I really wanted it that way, but the more the wife and I looked at it we decided … it’d be all right. I said, ‘Well this is supposed to be a custom home,’ and it looked like a custom home.”
Although it took the Algers awhile to be told the winking X rating of their building, Earl admits he has since heard tall tales about his former home.
“That was some of the things going around, that a prostitute had built it,” Alger said.
Despite the rumors, Alger says the memories of his one-time home aren’t tainted, and he stands by the fact that it was a comfortable place to live.
“It doesn’t bother me at all; people say a lot of things. We thought [the house] was very nice. [Now], I just go right on by it. As I look back, your hindsight’s always 20/20. But you just keep on moving.”
The Penis on Pecos is no architectural dirty joke, and there’s no porn-star owner, but that doesn't sully the fact that there’s still a long, penis-shaped building for passersby to gawk at not too far down the road. That, in itself, can keep us perked up.