Vegas culture’s only skin deep!

Aug 26, 2003 7:17 AM

I was checking out the cultural possibilities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas this week, trying to decide whether to spend time hanging out in LA or LV.

  Los Angeles looked promising, with the imminent opening, at long last, of the soaring Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown. It is a swirling fantasy of the spirit, a seductive palace of shining curves that is Los Angeles’ answer to the world famed opera house in Sydney harbor, in Australia.

  Reading about the place, I discovered the idea for this incredible building started 16 years ago when Lillian Disney, Walt’s widow, gave the city $50 million to build it. An architectural competition followed, with 72 entries from around the world, and the winner, two years later, was found right at home. Frank Gehry, the Los Angeles architect whose imaginative work spans the globe, was the winner, and work on the concert hall started. A decade later, fraught with controversy, it almost stopped.

  Billionaires stepped in and saved it, including the Disney family and foundation which came up with more than $30 million more, and other vastly wealthy benefactors, including the then mayor of Los Angeles Richard J. Riordan, who gave $5 million. It was lucky they did, because the concert hall — which winds up a world class attraction for the city — will have cost $274 million by the time it opens in October. It is, by the way, the hottest ticket in the city. Not being on anyone’s preferred list in LA, I turned back to Las Vegas to see what cultural opportunities might be opening here.

  I found one quickly.

  The Palms Casino Resort, a release told me, expects to open an upscale tattoo parlor in February. It will be called Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company, and it will have three tattoo stations and a private guest station. The joint will have antique "leathered" walls — something I had in my office in Chicago 40 years ago, when they weren’t antique — and a custom sound system and a deejay, now and then.

  Oh, I almost forgot. It will feature some of the country’s premier tattoo artists.

  Who’s to blame for this cultural accomplishment?

  The idea, the release said, was crafted by Palms owner George Maloof, motorcross rider Carey Hart and nightclub promoter John Huntington.

  In case you are having trouble finding tattoo merchandise, Hard & Huntington expect to sell it, not only in the parlor but "at clothing stores and specialty shops worldwide, including T-shirts, sweaters, hats and other items."

  The release brought an amazing incident to mind.

  Ten or 15 years ago, I went to the Meadowlands racetrack in New Jersey early one morning to see a filly I owned. I took the lady of the house along, and we stopped for breakfast at the Sheraton Meadowlands, just across Route 3 from the track.

The hostess seated us, and then returned to seat a guy and a gal at the next table. They looked like they had just escaped from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey. Both were tattooed from the neck to the ankles, in muted pinks and blues and stark yellows and blacks. As we stared in wonderment, a second couple joined them, the dude in a cut-off T-shirt and his moll in short shorts and a bra, exposing a tattooed butt and decorated boobs.

  It turned out there was a convention of tattoo freaks at the Sheraton, all needled from head to toe, with snakes and dragons and daggers and anchors and vultures and "Love Me" and a few other exhortations which we’ll skip for the sake of this family newspaper’s more tender readers.

  I recall wondering where these people lived and what they did for a living. We did not stay for the competition, but I wish we had, for the filly raced beautifully for three quarters of a mile and then slowed to a walk.

  In any event, it is reassuring to know that I can find these folks again if I wish, in Hart and Huntington’s padded parlors. I doubt the ticket will be as hot as the concert hall in LA.