Industry Insiders: Carey Hart, the Illustrated Man

Heavily tattooed freestyle motocross racer/entrepreneur Carey Hart is living life large in the desert with a number of operations under his belt. He’s the owner of Hart and Huntington Tattoo Shop, opening the weekend of April 17-19 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. His first tattoo-shop-within-a-casino venture at the Palms will close, and relocate to the Hard Rock, which houses Hart’s nightclub Wasted Space, the new tattoo joint, and his newest reality TV undertaking, Hart Rock Life. The Vegas native talks about getting into the nightlife industry, tricking his pops into getting inked, and what he has in common with Lance Armstrong.

Tell us about the new shop. The new shop is an evolution of our previous shop. We’re twice as big; we’re evolving in a sense of technology. We’re doing touchscreen monitors. We’re not straying from our previous shop which was based on great customer service, great quality of tattooing, and a very good atmosphere. With all the hype in town these days, we’re trying to stay away from all the gimmicks and stay true to a great tattooing experience. we’ll also be featuring different artists’ print work. We’ll be doing art shows and press conferences for different tattoo and mainstream artists along with high-profile tattoo artists coming to do guest spots. We’ve taken the original concept at the Palms and evolving each aspect of it, in the world of art and tattooing.

Is this still the only tattoo shop in a Vegas casino? We’re still the original. Hart and Huntington Tattoo was the first tattoo shop in a casino, and now we’re just moving to a bigger and better casino.

Are more people getting tattoos now in these hard economic times? There has been a huge spike in tattooing over the last few years because of our TV show, Inked, and Miami Ink and LA Ink. Those three shows have brought so much awareness to tattooing, it’s come out of the back alleys and now it’s mainstream. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a big spike in tattooing. Drastic times often call for drastic measures, and sometimes the answer is to come in and get a big, nice, new tattoo.

What’s going on with your club Wasted Space? The club’s on fire. It’s my first nightclub, and it’s been a lot of fun and a great learning process. Now that I’m bringing Hart and Huntington to the Hard Rock, I’ll have everything under one roof.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in opening your first nightclub? Don’t underestimate what you’re signing up for. Originally, the idea was my creative concept, and over time, I’ve gotten very involved from day-to-day bookings to booking parties to programming control and helping the staff.

What’s on the schedule for Wasted Space in 2009? We’re gonna have a huge year coming up. Just in the six months that we’ve been open, we’ve had Katy Perry, Pink, and the Eagles of Death Metal. We’ve had a laundry list of celebs come through. We plan on maintaining that same persona in the next year. We have a lot of surprise shows planned and booking a great deal of talent for after parties.

What about on the reality TV front? We’re working on a new concept called Hart Rock Life. The show will be shot on Hard Rock property and will focus on the day to day and ups and downs of a bunch of temperamental people working together. It shows the chaos going on in my life, which heavily revolves around the Hard Rock. We’re greenlit and hope to start by summer. And I’m also a main person in Benji Madden’s TV show.

Who do you look up to? I’ve always looked up to my dad. He was a 22-year-old single parent raising a newborn, and he’s always had a great work ethic and given 100%. He’s provided me with everything that I needed to get to this point in my life.

Does your dad have any tattoos? He has one pretty big, solid chest piece, and I actually got him into tattooing. He was pretty anti-tattoo until I started getting tattooed, and I tricked him into getting his first tattoo.

How did you trick him? I started getting really heavily tattooed at a really young age, and when I was 25, I was buying my first house in Southern California. And my dad was helping me cosign some stuff. So, I call up my dad and I’m like, “This is an emergency. I need you to come sign some papers on this house or else I’m not going to be able to close on this house.” So he jumped in his truck and drove from Las Vegas to California. Well, what he didn’t know was that he was meeting me at my buddy’s tattoo shop to get his first tattoo. So he comes tearing into the parking lot, thinking he’s signing papers on a house, and in the end he was walking into a tattoo shop with me and my buddies. Ever since, he’s been adding to it.

What was mental process you went through before deciding to do Surreal Life 5? I was just coming off a pretty heavy injury that sidelined me for about three years. The opportunity came up, and I talked to my manager about it, and he was like, “Listen, it’s a good opportunity to get your face back in the mainstream.” And I can take a step back and realize that I’m not going to get drunk or break down and cry, and I know that I won’t make a fool of myself on a TV show. So I thought, what’s the harm? Honestly, in the end, I came out pretty squeaky clean. I think it helped me in the mainstream, because typically, people think of motocross racers as these wild, crazy, stunt-men maniacs, and I brought a level-headed aspect to it. It was just two weeks locked in a house with some crazy people.

Where do Vegas locals hang out? My favorite bar is Double Down Saloon. It’s a good ol’ fashion punk rock bar. I don’t really go to clubs. I get a little socially awkward in big, massive, denim-and-silver-shirt nightclubs. My favorite restaurant is a place called Cracked Egg, and it’s heaven on earth to me.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I just started getting into road cycling, like Lance Armstrong. My guilty pleasure is that I have like 15 full spandex matching setups. I am full spandex man with shaved legs, and I have one that is fire engine red.

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