“Wanna meet me for a drink at my favorite bar, Hogs & Heifers?”
That question changed my life forever.
I had just moved to Vegas from Palmdale, CA after a traumatic event in 2016 (if you know, you know). I was working as a blackjack dealer at the SLS pool and a hostess at California Pizza Kitchen trying to make ends meet. It was stressful and…boring. One night I got the invitation to visit Hogs from a tattoo artist, and now friend of mine, after chatting about a piece I wanted to get done (that piece is now tatted on my leg).
“Sure why not?”
I had never heard of Hogs & Heifers and had no idea what I was getting myself into. When my Uber pulled up, I saw the sea of motorcycles and heard country music blaring over the speakers. Sounds like home. I walked into a sensory overload. Sassy bartenders talking shit over megaphones, flags and patches everywhere. The country turned into rock n roll. It reminded me of my old haunt, The Longhorn, in Lancaster.
I walked up and took a seat in what I would later learn was known as “The Dirty Old Man Corner”. The bartender Ashlee asked me for my drink order. A shot of Jameson, no chaser. After knocking it back I ordered another without hesitation. Ashlee looked impressed. A few moments later I found myself dancing on the bar. When I got down, she said, “You shoot whiskey, you’re cute as fuck, and you can shake your ass. You want a job here?”
“Sure why not?”
The next night I went to the “cattle call” and the rest was history. I had never felt so alive and free as I was dancing on top of the bar for song after song after song. Apparently, I had made an impression on the management team as well as several regulars. The next day, I traded in my swimsuit and hostess apron for cowboy boots.
The training and job itself was intense and fast-paced, but man, did it change me. There were a lot of challenges, learning moments, and cries in the walk-in freezer, but I stepped into my womanhood. I could control a room, throw a kickass party, and be my own businesswoman. I was fearless. I was independent. I was a Hogs Girl.
Laughlin River Run ’17 was the biggest moment for me when I learned, last minute, that I would be an MC. I hadn’t even been at Hogs for a full year, but Tiffany and Michelle trusted me with that honor. I could sit here and talk for hours about that event, but ain’t nobody got time for that right now. I will say, though, that was when the “Old Nyssa” died. The scared, insecure, and fragile bits of me that remained after years of personal struggle blew into the Colorado River.
From 2016 to 2019 I broke down and rebuilt myself several times and had the help of my Hogs Family to see it through. Literal blood, sweat, and tears were shed, and I still carry lessons learned there to this day. I may have traded in my bar key for a student ID, cowboy boots for a baby stroller, and drink more actual green tea than green tea shots these days, but the spirit of Hogs will always remain with me. It is an important chapter in The Story of Me.
Would I ever throw my boots on to stomp it out again for a night? Would I go back for a drink (or ten) and reminisce like some kind of wild family reunion? Would I go back in time and do it all over again?
“Sure why not.”
The History of Hogs & Heifers Saloon:
The idea for opening a bar and calling it Hogs & Heifers was conceived in, of all places, a bar. Allan Dell was a self-proclaimed functioning alcoholic and figured he spent enough time sitting at a bar and that he might as well make some money while he sat there. Allan’s two friends and drinking buddies were a Master Carpenter and a Graphic Design Artist and he talked them into helping him build a bar. They would all drink for free and get laid regularly and for three broke guys in their early to mid twenties, who could ask for anything more. Allan’s father agreed to finance his project if he could find an experienced bar owner to “father” him in the business. Enter Tom McNeil, legend in the Dive Bar business. McNeil owned the Village Idiot in Manhattan’s East Side, which was the Boys’ favorite watering hole, where they could sit for hours drinking ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon for a $1.75 a can. Allan knew that he wanted to open a bar that had to do with motorcycles and women and the original logo did, in fact, include an illustration of a chopper. The Boys were trying to come up with a name, while sitting in the Village Idiot one afternoon…”Hogs & something”. On the wall above the bar was a sign for a Heifer Auction, and a heifer being a cow that has not yet been bred, is essentially a virgin cow. The name Hogs & Heifers was born. The fact that the bar ended up being in a real meat market was simply due to the affordable rent at the time, but it was a perfect match and had a great deal to do with the success of the business.
Hogs & Heifers Saloon was to be an all American classic country and southern rock-n-roll dive bar. Allan knew he wanted it to have the look and feel of a gin mill and that he wanted to hang “stuff” all over the walls. Other than that, there was little else that he had thought about. He had a lot of friends who liked to drink and planned on throwing a party for them every night. Allan may never have imagined that it would turn into the famous bar it is today, but it was absolutely his pride and joy and he considered it his greatest achievement and reveled in its quick success.
Having entered the picture prior to its opening, Michelle Dell was the first bartender to be hired. The routine performed and style of dress worn by the bartenders behind the bar, which has made Hogs & Heifers famous, was born from Michelle’s heart. Hogs & Heifers opened in November of 1992 during an unseasonably cold winter. There was literally no heat source of any kind in the bar and it was so cold you could often see your own breath. Both Allan and Michelle believed in the notion of less is more when it came to dressing behind the bar and it was always freezing; did we mention the bar had no heat? Finally, Allan bought these little space heaters that did next to nothing to provide heat and with Necessity being the Mother of all Invention, Michelle began dancing on the bar–in the empty bar–as a means to keep warm. She would throw a few dollars in the jukebox and just get up on the bar and dance. Little did she know it would become the trademark theme of Hogs & Heifers and lead to countless celebrities dancing on the bar and donating their bras. The Julia Roberts photo was seen around the world and her bra still hangs there today, albeit hidden beneath some 18,000 bras! Michelle’s famous routine has inspired a Major Motion Picture and a league of copy cat bars.
Essentially, Allan and Michelle, and their friends, were just a bunch of kids with nothing to lose and they threw a party that they enjoyed. They were fortunate and blessed that so many others would love to come to their party and would do so repeatedly. The two were married in Reno, Nevada, on November 16th, 1993. Allan Dell passed away on June 7, 1997. Hogs & Heifers continues to be run by Michelle Dell who was the sole proprietor of the New York City location. She now lives in Las Vegas, close to her favorite saloon!