Vegas Tattoo Convention Redux & Photos
Finally recovering from the four-day debauchery that was the Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth in Las Vegas, which began last Thursday night and ended sometime around Monday morning. Like everything Vegas, it was glitzy, over the top, and a helluvalotta fun.
See my usual bad pics of the show here.
The minute I got to Vegas I saw an ad on top of a taxi cab for the convention. It was also heavily promoted in the media, with convention organizer (and tattoo mogul) Mario Barth hiring a PR firm to bring in a crowd. In the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which housed the show in one of its massive convention halls, there were people handing out wrist bands in the casino for reduced admission -- do well at roulette and treat yourself to a tattoo.
Despite the tireless promotion, however, a number of artists and vendors said that there were less people in attendance than last year. [This was my first time there.] But it all depended on who you asked. The experiences of those working the show widely varied. Some said they were completely booked. Others were trying to hustle for business. And then I spoke to a number of artists who were happy to do a few tattoos and mostly hang out and have fun, like a tattoo vacation with some extra dollars to pay for the trip.
Knuckle tattoos by the legendary Mark Mahoney
Vegas has it's velvet ropes and A-listers and this convention was no exception. As I mentioned last week, I was super-stoked to see legendary artists like Horitoshi, the Sulu'ape family, and Americana's bad boys Stanley Moskowitz and Crazy Philadelphia Eddie. [I bought Eddie's new book "Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, My Vida Loca, Vol 1" and will review it here soon.] Portrait prodigies Mike De Masi, Mike Devries, Nikko Hurtado were in attendance, and I also got to meet some Greek homies doing a wild fusion of abstract art and realism from Sake Tattoo in Athens, Tattooligans in Thessaloniki, & Fabz Tattoo Gold Coast Tattooligans. Baba & BJ Betts schooled young artists on lettering while Jime Litwalk and Tony Ciavarro worked their New School. Black & Gray maestros Shamrock Social Club, Bob Tyrrell, Tony Olivas, Andy Engel, Robert Pho, (among many other greats) dominated the tattoo competitions.
The competitions were MC'd by the rock/TV/porn star Evan Seinfeld, who was his usual brand of delishiousness. I was also hoping to ogle the cast of Sons of Anarchy (the one reason I own a TV these days) but it seemed the only thing going on in their large booth was airbrushing the show's new logo onto tees and tank tops.
The only other "celebrity" I spotted was skater/Jackass Bam Margera at the after party, which took place Friday and Saturday at King Ink, Mario's tattoo studio-boutique-dance club complete with velvet rope and a line of tattooed Snookies waiting to get in. Oh, and there were TONS of cougars hitting on young punks with stretched earlobes and neck tattoos. I had one 50+ woman come up and ask me what was best way to take one of these guys home. [Answer: Jack Daniels. Lots of it.] As for me, I stayed sober just to take in the scene. It was surreal.
Back piece by Louie of Under the Gun Tattoo
Overall, it was a convention for the masses. Serious collectors were there but it was far from an insider art snob show or hippie gathering. The airbrush artists, faux-tattoo sleeves vendor, and even the psychic readings kept spectators on a blackjack break busy. There was no mystique but it was accessible to all. It was Vegas.
Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth
Mike De Masi
Shamrock Social Club
Sons of Anarchy