Las Vegas Tattoo Company opened its doors on July 13, 1977- making it the very first tattoo shop to open in Vegas. The history of this shop is legendary.
Doc Dog had been driving to Vegas a few times a year, from his home in San Fernando Valley, California and on one of his first trips he stopped by the health department asking for a set of health laws governing tattooing. Doc was informed that there were no health laws. They said tattooing was illegal in the state of Nevada, and informed him that it was also not wanted. The year was 1974.
In 1975 Doc’s partner Smilin’ Paul got out of the army. Paul was stationed in Germany where he had been tattooing all his army buddies. Doc at that time had 2 tattoo shops in San Fernando Valley, (for you tattoo trivia history buffs Doc opened the first shop there also) Paul went to work in the Reseda shop.
Doc and Paul started going to Nevada quite frequently, not just to gamble but also Deer and Elk hunting, plus a little prospecting. Well every trip they would stop by the Health Dept. and make inquires about this law that said tattooing was not legal. As it turned out there was no law, but it would be another 6 or 7 months before that fact would come to light. During that time Doc and Paul stayed on their case relentlessly!! When Doc finally found that there was no law against tattooing he approached the Health Officials and informed them that Nevada had a right to work law and plus there was no law saying it was illegal, Doc knew at this point their was nothing they could do to stop them from opening. But Doc also knew that if he opened without a set of health laws it would be suicide. Doc told them that he would be more than happy to write as set for them. The officials said they’d think about it. That was around Sept of 1976. Jan of 1977 much to Doc’s surprise he received a phone call from the Clark County Health Dept. asking him to come to Vegas and help them outline the Health Department tattoo laws not just for Las Vegas but the entire state of Nevada. Doc must have done a hell of a job because those same laws governing tattooing in Nevada are still in effect to this day.
For the next 14 yrs LVTC was the only shop in Las Vegas, wow talk about a gold mine! Doc and Paul were known for their Las Vegas hospitality, Las Vegas Tattoo Co. was second to none. During those 14 yrs over 300 tattoo artist from around the world came to party with Doc Dog and Smilin’ Paul. Bert Grim, Bob Shaw, Col. Todd, Zeke Owens, Cliff Raven just to mention a few. During the late 70’s and 80’s Doc Dog and Smilin’ Paul were 2 of the most well known tattooist in the world because of that kind of hospitality.
In 1993 Paul wanted to go traveling and Doc bought him out. Around 95 Doc was getting pretty bored and decided it was time to live out his dream. Doc bought a 70 ft yatch and started to live the pirate life. He turned the shop over to Paul’s little brother to run in his absence. Doc, his friends and family began cruzin the Pacific Ocean doing Marlin tournaments, eventually they wound up in Puerto Vallarta Mexico and liked it, too much. Doc and his wife Belle decided it would be a marvelous spot to put a tattoo shop, which they did. Las Vegas Tattoo Co. South was born. There were already 2 tattoo shops in P.V. ran by Mexicans. Doc noticed their shops could use a little help and so he did just that, teaching them about cross contamination, neither one of them had an autoclave so Doc would let them use his. But through all of this Doc could not find a Mexican to work with him. Doc only wanted to hire Mexicans to work the P.V shop, hell it’s their country. One day Doc was on the beach sipping a Coco Loco when he was approached by a young Mexican of about 26 yrs of age. His name was Jorge Garcia. They started talking tattoos. Jorge said he was a tattooist also and asked Doc if he would like to see some of his work. Doc said sure. Jorge called his friend over who was standing nearby and Doc could hardly believe his eyes. The work was good and done with a homemade machine. Doc invited Jorge to stop by the tattoo shop if he was interested in learning tattooing the right way, which he did and was hired. The speed that Jorge picked up modern tattooing was nothing short of incredible. It seemed like Doc couldn’t teach him the “secrets” fast enough. Jorge was the “one” Doc had been looking for and the catalos that gave Las Vegas Tattoo Co South well … that Mexican flavor. Another plus Jorge brought to the shop was woman. Jorge knew every hot chick in P.V. it seemed and they all hung around the tattoo shop. So many at times the tourist weren’t sure we were a tattoo shop or a whore house. Approximately 3 yrs went by and Jorge met a girl from England, fell in major lust, married her and told Doc he wanted to move to London. He didn’t want to quit working for LVTC. Jorge and Doc at this point were very good friends. Doc told him no problem. Thus was born Las Vegas Tattoo Co. London England.
By this time 1997, the Vegas shop was sliding, you know what they say, “when the cat’s away the mice will rob ya fuckin’ blind.” Las Vegas was starting to lose its allure to a man who had moved there in the 70’s. They were starting to blow up all the old landmarks. All of the old Wild West ways were being pushed aside by big business. The mob presence was all but gone. Corporations were taking over. Las Vegas was getting tame. In Jan of 2000 Doc closed the doors and bid Las Vegas goodbye. It was off to retirement with Belle and their son Colt. They found a real nice 40 acre place in Texas with a 2 acre bass pond. Life was good, good until 9/11. Doc lost much of his retirement fund, and so much for retirement. Back to work. Longview Texas was opened Nov 2001. Doc fell in with the infamous Rikki Bailey. Rikki had been tattooing East Texas for about 10 yrs. Doc and Rikki tattooed at that spot for another 2 yrs. It was also there, that Colt started his tattoo apprenticeship. They did pretty good; even in East Texas they knew the name Las Vegas Tattoo Co.
But the sea kept calling her ole’ mate Doc Dog home, once a pirate always a pirate! Doc’s new plan was to move to Tampa, Florida, open his very first east coast location of LVTC, buy another big boat and start looking for some sunken treasure. It was also around that time when he along with a few of his friends in the industry had discussed plans to create a tattoo reality show. And so the adventure continued as Doc Belle and Colt along with Rikki Bailey were off to Florida. On October 12, 2003 Las Vegas Tattoo Co. opened its doors in Ybor City, Tampa.
Las Vegas Tattoo Co. is now one of the most popular tattoo shops in the Tampa Bay area carrying on the fun and professional high quality that they are all about. July 13 th 2007 will mark 3O yrs of pioneering LVTC history! Doc’s wife Belle pierces, Doc’s son Colt tattoos along with Doc’s good pal, the world famous internationally known Mike Parsons and a man named Fish make up the Florida crew.
Tattoo Underground a tattoo reality show unlike anything else on television at the time, was created, and ran every weekend on the local WB for almost 2 full years.
Doc got another boat, this time a 40ft Sportfisher. And now along with his pal Mike Parsons, Colt and the rest of the LVTC crew are preparing the boat to do a little treasure hunting real soon. Las Vegas Tattoo Co’s logo has always been and will always be the skull and crossbones… cuz it’s a pirate’s life for me
A special thanks to the key players in the history of Las Vegas Tattoo Co that have helped keep the name LVTC alive and well for 30 yrs:
Smilin’ Paul – LVTC Vegas
Jorge Garcia (Vlad the Impaler) – LVTC South Mexico and England
Rikki Bailey- LVTC Texas
Mike Parsons – LVTC Florida
Asa Lee Crow – LVTC Vegas
Colt Baker and Belle- LVTC for LIFE
Smilin’ Paul Hubbard I’m sorry to say passed away Sept 23 2006.