Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2017

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“The only thing I have going for me is that I don’t sleep anymore”


Sam Morris

Tattoo artist, painter, writer and musician Dirk Vermin owns Pussykat Tattoo at Maryland and Tropicana.

Name: Dirk Vermin, artist, musician, writer

Age: 43, “but I read at a 44-year-old level”

Day job: Tattoo artist and owner of Pussykat Tattoo parlor

Music: Lead vocals and guitarist for the Vermin.

Medium: Acrylic, tattoo ink

Looks can be deceiving: This tattoo-covered darling of Vegas counterculture is not nearly as mean as he looks. Some might even call him a pussycat. Sure, he likes his whiskey, he likes his guitars and he speaks his mind and offends anyone in earshot. But he’s raising two daughters (ages 9 and 6), runs a small tattoo parlor and is an avid supporter of the arts. He plans to finish “Boredom Was The Reason,” a book that he’s writing on the late ’70s and early ’80s punk scene in Las Vegas, this year.

On music: Born in Las Vegas and a graduate of Bonanza High, Vermin was around when the punk bands were coming through what was then a very small town. He recorded his debut, “Vermin from Venus,” in 1986, and founded the Vermin with bassist Rob Ruckus and drummer Turbo Proctor in 1999. The band’s CDs are “A Fist Full of Hell” and “Joe’s Shanghai.”

Musical influence: L.A. punk band, Fear. Vermin was drawn to the band’s sense of humor and the lead singer’s level of maturity.

On tattoos: His tattoo career transpired after time spent in the Los Angeles art scene where his Bettie Page comic books were distributed and his work hung in galleries. He’s a walking gallery with a young Elvis Presley on his leg, skulls around his neck, Vegas Vic on his left hand and Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe and Frankenstein on his arms.

About 1999, Vermin quit giving tattoos out of his kitchen and opened Pussykat Tattoo in a strip mall at Maryland Parkway and Tropicana Avenue. It wasn’t easy, Vermin says, given that the industry was guarded and locked in by bikers. The shop has managed to survived even while corporate tattoo parlors seem to pop up on every corner.

On art: Wanting to give tattoo and underground artists some wall space, Vermin opened Gallery Au Go-Go next to his tattoo parlor. The first show was “White Trash Paradise,” where bologna sandwiches and Pabst beer were served. He had curated “Tattoos and Trash,” an exhibit of works by tattoo artists at the Funk House after a successful showing in Pomona, Calif. Gallery Au Go-Go ended after four years with the exhibit “Gallery Au Go-Go Must Be Destroyed,” but it gave us the exhibits “Mondo Erotica,” “Noche De Las Calaveras” and “Refrigerator Art,” an exhibit of children’s art.

Vermin still paints and last year completed a mural at Double Down in New York, a doppelgänger of the gritty Vegas dive dubbed “the birthplace of the bacon martini.” He one of eight artists who designed a tiki mug for the new Frankie’s Tiki Room on West Charleston Boulevard.

On Vegas: “There’s an edge to Vegas that you can’t find any other place. This town can eat you alive and destroy people because it doesn’t say no. Anyone can say, ‘It’s 2 a.m. I can go get some crack or some Thai food!’ It’s available. But I have a life here. The friends I have are so close that we’d do anything for each other. I’m treated well here. My reputation is earned. It’s real. It will stay intact.”

Snippets from the unpublished “Boredom Was The Reason”: “I’ve got ADHD with an OCD chaser and the attention span of a chimpanzee on a triple espresso. Reader, beware ...

“Las Vegas had one of the most active and thriving punk movements in the country. We ran our own shows, printed our own fliers, recorded our own music and caused our own demise. Whether or not the scene persisted is irrelevant. It happened then and it happened here ...

“The majority of bands who wear the punk moniker today are about as punk as an Osmond family reunion ...

Hobbies/interests: Whiskey, writing, music and art. “The only thing I have going for me is that I don’t sleep anymore.”

Sticking around? “Oh, yeah. I’ve got such tremendous roots here.”

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