Monday, July 13, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Having finished taping a red carpet to the chewing-gum-pimpled stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that defines the no man’s land between the Strip and downtown, Brian Perkins leads a tour into the classroom of Nevada’s newest institution of higher learning.
“This,” he says, gesturing to about a dozen chairs, a white board and a TV, “is where we’ll teach them about blood-borne pathogens and paperwork.”
Welcome to L.V. Ink School, which Perkins says is Nevada’s only and the nation’s second tattoo school, offering three-week courses for $3,995.
(It appears, based on an Internet search, that there are many tattoo schools, but no others in Nevada.)
It’s the opening day and though there are a few hitches — no electricity and hence no air conditioning to fight the 105 degree heat — Perkins and a dozen employees, friends and family members are excited that Mayor Oscar Goodman is coming to cut the ribbon across the school’s already necessarily open door. They have ordered what they believe to be the mayor’s favorite pizza and set out a punch bowl of iced Kool-Aid.
Goodman arrives with frightening punctuality at 1:30 and, natty in his pinstripes, walks into the warm school. Perkins points out the classroom. “That’s great,” Goodman says. Perkins points out a feature of the classroom. “Isn’t that something; that’s terrific,” Goodman says.
In the practical classroom — the one where students will learn their trade by tattooing citrus fruit, pig ears and fake skin before they get a crack at the real thing — Goodman asks about health codes, the supposed only other tattoo school in the nation (Goodman: “It’s in Shreveport, Louisiana? Who needs Shreveport?”) and how many students the school has (three so far, but classes don’t start until August).
Then Goodman asks: “What’s the name of a tattoo, you know, the guy who does them?”
Perkins: “A tattoo operator.”
Goodman: “No, that’s not it. I’ve heard it somewhere.”
Perkins (laughing nervously): “Grinder?”
Moving on to happier topics, Goodman reminisces about how when he was a courtroom lawyer, he tried to get tattooed jurors, on the theory that they would be freethinkers and favor the defense.
Attendee Ben Chow asks Goodman what he’ll do when his term as mayor is up. Goodman speculates that he might run for governor as an independent. There’s a smattering of applause.
“That’d be cool, to have a whole crew of supporters who have tattoos,” Goodman says.
“You already do,” Chow beams.
Goodman poses for photos, cuts the ribbon, declines pizza and is out in an efficient 10 minutes.
Perkins smiles over his collection of vintage flashes (the art customers are shown when choosing a tattoo). He’s been in the trade 35 years, since he was doing pin-striping for some biker friends and they asked him to tattoo them. “I said, ‘I don’t have the stuff.’ They said, ‘We’ll get it for you.’ ”
He’s had shops in Southern California and Hawaii. Along the way, he’s worked as a sport fishing boat operator, an executive chef and, until he was laid off in December, a construction superintendent. He already owned a tattoo studio, so he decided to open this school next to it. He emptied his savings into it. It’ll be a total of about $20,000, he figures, once he buys a new neon sign.
Is he worried about doing it in the middle of a recession?
Well, sure. But only a little, Perkins says.
“I don’t believe God’s gonna let me make something so bitchin’ and then fail at it.”