How did you meet Naked Vegas owner Kelly “Red” Belmonte and start working with her?
I met Red about eight or nine years ago, and I met her because she is also a makeup and hair stylist for feature films, commercials, TV, runway. That’s how I met her, because previously I worked in production as a production coordinator and a producer, so I had actually hired her on numerous commercial jobs, shooting local commercials here in Vegas. And we just hit it off really well the first time I worked with her.
How did you get involved in the body painting business?
I was approached when Red decided to create the Naked Vegas business. She’s been body painting I think the entire time that I’ve known her. I remember hearing stories about her body painting and seeing photos on her phone of zombies she’s done or lingerie and things like that. But I’d never been involved at all. And she’s always done it—body painting is a business where you could do it anywhere, so you don’t necessarily need a studio like we have at Naked Vegas. When she decided to make the business bigger and bring in other artists, she contacted me, and in her words she said she contacted me just because she knew that she could trust me and that she got along with me and that on all the jobs that I had hired her on, she thought I did a good job managing them, so I was the first person she thought of.
What was your reaction when you found out Naked Vegas was going to be featured on a reality show?
My immediate reaction was that I didn’t want to be involved at all. I was happy to still help with anything I could, but I certainly didn’t want to be on the show. I don’t mind being on camera, and I’ve actually been in several local commercials, and I enjoy being in front of the camera, but in more of a scripted, controlled sense. The idea of having cameras follow me around and invade my personal life mortified me. So I didn’t want anything to do with it at first.
What changed your mind?
There were two things that changed my mind. One was actually, when it came down to it, speaking with the producers of the show, and having them reassure me that they had no interest in my personal life at all, and that Syfy didn’t have any interest in my personal life, and that they were kind of—even though it was a reality show—going in a different direction. They don’t want family drama and personal drama. They want to focus on art and the process of the art, and if there is drama that revolves around that, sure, that’s fine, but they have no interest in talking to my wife or kids or causing any personal harm or ruining my marriage. So that made me feel better. But then I also kind of thought about it and realized that there could be some good things that would come out of it for me personally.
How close is the show to the reality of the work you guys do at Naked Vegas?
It’s actually really close. I think largely that’s because it’s art. These artists are actually painting and creating these things. The producers can’t come in and change that. How they get from Point A to Point B—from a naked body canvas to a finished product—each artist has a different way of getting there and has a different technique, and even uses different mediums or different paints. And the producers aren’t in any place to tell them how to do it, or when to do it, or what to do first. They kind of just have to sit back and watch us work, really.
Are there any high-profile guest stars we can hope to see appear on the show?
One would be Penn and Teller. That’s probably my favorite show on the Strip, so that was huge. The Jabbawockeez, which was really big, and for me, kind of a surprise. I knew very little about them, and their show was great, and they were really fun to work with. That could be another highlight, since they tried to teach me how to do a head spin. It didn’t work very well at all, but it could provide some comic relief. We got to work with Claire Sinclair, which was a lot of fun. One of the highlights for me, which probably wasn’t a highlight for anyone else on the show, was working with the Las Vegas Comic Expo, because that’s something I would’ve attended anyway.
For you personally, what do you hope to get out of appearing on the show? Are you looking to be the next Chumlee?
I am definitely not looking to be the next Chumlee. I think that there is only room for one Chumlee in Las Vegas, and he is definitely the best at it. He’s better than me at being Chumlee every day of the week. I’m a huge horror buff—I love horror movies, and I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a kid. One of my dreams is to be in horror movies in any capacity, and it’s kind of evolved into the goal in life to be killed in as many horror movies as possible, because that’s what I always remember from my favorite movies, are the great kills. So I’m hoping this could be some kind of stepping stone for that.
Who would be your dream clients for Naked Vegas?
Bruce Campbell, just because I’m a huge Evil Dead fan and I’m a Bruce Campbell fan, and pretty much everything he does I’m a fan of. If there was one person we could work with as an actor, it would be him. And the other person is George Romero. Obviously he doesn’t need Naked Vegas to come and create zombies for anything he does. He already has quite a stable of zombie effects artists, and pretty much anyone in special effects would love to work with him. But if for some strange reason George Romero needed body painting, that would be pretty amazing, too. Because that’s how I kind of cut my teeth as a horror fan, was watching Night of the Living Dead and following all the Dead films of his. So he’s been kind of an inspiration for me.
Naked Vegas Tuesdays, 10 p.m., Syfy.