The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Fear and Tattooing in Las Vegas…

By John Niederkorn
Las Vegas… Home of the perpetual Affliction t-shirt and unnecessary plastic surgery… Wait. Do I really wanna go down this road? Do I really wanna start like this? Well, let’s start again… Vegas; it’s as if Hollywood, Times Square and Wrigleyville all had a fat overpriced tourist baby! There, that’s better…

When Kent called me and said, “Hey, do you wanna go to Vegas for a week?” I cringed… and thought, “Wait until he sees those god damn bats!” There is no doubt that a week in Vegas would be just short of some kinda sick, demented self-suicide with a blackout blizzard of shame setting its course, heading straight for me… no stopping it, no preparation could help me weather that storm. Buy the ticket, take the ride… Let’s just hope I make it to the Mirage Hotel and Casino before those god damn bats do…

Usually when I write these “convention pieces” I talk about big-assing around with my buddies, making new connections, being hungover with friends and how everything was swell and all is good. I think for this one I’m gonna change it up… Mostly because I feel like I’m boring everyone to death with my cookie-cutter convention story, and also, what’s the point of having a voice if you never talk about what’s on your mind…

However, an occurance happened in Vegas (it usually does) that made me wanna bring something more substantial to the maelstrom. But before we go down that dark path-less-traveled, there are a couple of things I would like to mention about the actual work I did in Vegas.

So, I’m in Vegas for a week. Why? Two shows, one week, back-to-back home runs! The first show was the 2nd Annual APT Trade Show. As always TAM is honored to be invited to this “tattooers only” show. It just so happened that this show and the Mario Barth show were in the same week. So I flew in on Tuesday for the APT show, which landed me at the massive, monolithic Mirage Hotel, my home for the next week. One solid week in a Vegas casino. What the FUCK am I thinking? This was a bad idea… I privately curse Kent’s name as I walk into the casino, the slot-machines clanging and clamoring as all the casinos’ calamity swirls and closes in on me…

After checking the lobby for circling bats… and dealing with the necessary hotel/shipping minutia, I find my quite little spot at the trade show.

Although I was not “busy” like at public convention, I did like the private setting. I was able to talk to people more intimately without some bozo in a Staind t-shirt asking me how much my “books” are and “where the tribal tattoos at?” So there’s that… (Note: There is nothing wrong with tribal tattoos, I have one covered-up on my arm… and Tony Hundahl and Kattie Sellergren will do them all day long and never complain, ask them… it’s true.)

But, I digest… I mean digress. The point is; if you are a new tattooer I would keep the APT Trade Show on your radar. The APT preaches education over ignorance, and justifiably so. They are trying to build the trade show up by adding new people, events and incentives for next year. If you are a young tattooer, what could be better than learning the subtleties of a black and grey tattoo from Jack Rudy, or the complexities of machine building from Dan Dringenberg? This information is priceless, I suggest you get it from them while you can.

Okay… but I’m still in Vegas. The only person I really know during the trade show is Dan Dringenberg. I meet up with Dan and his crew (Angel, Louie Perez and Andre Perales) that came up with him from L.A. all solid dudes… We decided to swing by Hart and Huntington at the Hard Rock because someone over there wanted to buy a machine from Danny. All the guys over there were really awesome and took care of us above and beyond… They offered us all kinds of shwag, I respectfully declined (remember, objective journalist) but Danny and his boys made out pretty well. Ha-ha!

After the Hard Rock we went to King Ink, which is Mario Barth’s tattoo shop inside the Mirage. The bats are circling… I can hear them screeching and swooping all round me now…

Whoa… this is not a tattoo shop. I mean it is… because they tattoo people there. But it is definitely not like any other tattoo shop I’ve ever seen in my life. It actually looks more like a bar/nightclub than a tattoo shop, which it is also… Then I have to remind myself while the bats bear down on me… I’m not anywhere near the sweet, sweet street shops of Chicago… Far from it… And I understand now. This is EXACTLY what a shop should look like in a Las Vegas casino. Exactly. So kudos to Mario… you hit the bat on the head with this one.

Also, watching Dan sell his machines in crowded bar full of people was probably one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen. And he actually did sell one… nuts!

This is the part of the trip that gets personal… Dan had to leave Thursday morning do to some “technical difficulties” at home, but I told him to come back if shit doesn’t work out and he can crash in my room…

I just wanna lay down a preface before I go any further. I met Dan at the Musink show in Dallas about two years ago. Since this time, our friendship has grown quickly. I guess when you find people in the community you “get” and they “get you” things can snowball from there…

As many of you know, I’m not a tattooer… just a hired geek. However, when I see a friend in need, or someone in pain I do everything in my power to help them out. I believe the tattoo community as a whole is like this. I know this is not an absolute truth, and let’s face it, it’s not an absolute truth in any business community. However, I feel like (from my own personal experiences and limited knowledge) the inter-workings of the tattoo community are tighter than the outside world’s, or at the very least more altruistic.

Dan needed a place to go… and I opened my door to him because I know that when I needed help several years ago the same door was opened to me. And, if it wasn’t for some very special people in the tattoo world I would not be here today… Or at least you wouldn’t be reading this…

Instead of telling you how I won $100 playing roulette, or how Dan and I went out socializing… I think I would rather tell you that the most important thing I did on my trip was being there to help a friend, and in a very small increment give back to a community of people who lifted me out of one of the darkest times in my life years ago. I was able to give back, help a friend out of some painful shit, and I just want to extend that to everyone out there… Tattoos don’t matter. Tattooing does…

It is the community that makes this trade so special, once you recognize this you will want to give back and help out and make this shit stronger everyday… Even if you are not a tattooer, like me… there is nothing more powerful than that!

Sorry… I got emo… deal with it!

The highlight of my weekend was when Bill Salmon came over to chat with me and see how things were going… and then he went and bought me a beer! Bill is a perfect example of why the tattoo community is so amazing. And… he is always the best dressed man in the room! Cheers…

(This blog is dedicated to Mike Malone (RIP), Keith & Kindel Underwood, Miles Maniaci, Chris Smith, Dan and Teresa Dringenberg and all my friends in Chicago… without you I am nothing!)

6 responses

  1. Absa-mutha-fuckin-lutely.

    Amen, brother!
    -C

    October 25, 2011 at 4:02 PM

  2. damn fine.

    October 25, 2011 at 5:27 PM

  3. Good article. Kudos to throwing props out to the “community”. I’m not a tattooer, but in my circle of friends, most people are and they are some of the most solid folks I’ve ever met. Cheers to lookin out for your friends.

    October 26, 2011 at 9:13 AM

  4. Great article! But, the “how much for the books” part left me feeling a little emo and salty myself. Had a kid give me a bunch snot-nosed attitude when that same query passed my lips at a recent show. I was asking about the amazing Dave Fox book (sans price tag) for my collection. I wish I had given my money to the nice book vendor we found later who was feeling under the weather. Wish I had shopped with her, even if she would have wanted twice the loot for it! Live and learn and don’t shop hastily at the last minute of a show, lol. Its all about community AND good attitude!

    October 26, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    • Kandy,

      Often times people mistake issues of TAM for a “book” hence, “How much for the books.” I guess when you hear that thousands of times over the years… It makes me wonder if the word “magazine” on our banner is legible? Ha ha! Cheers, and thanks for your support. -John

      October 26, 2011 at 12:10 PM

  5. Love your “book” haha! It’s just that good.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:32 PM

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