By the numbers, the life of freestyle motocross champ Carey Hart looks like this:
63: Broken bones.
6: Castmates on VH1's Surreal Life 5.
1: Divorce, from singer Pink, in February.
300: Approximate hours spent getting tattooed.
Among his other claims to fame, Hart is a tattoo enthusiast. He's nearly covered in body art, from the Vegas theme on his stomach to the Polynesian motif on his right arm. Fortunately there's some prime real estate left on his neck, where Hart plans to have an angel tattooed to honor his brother and fellow motocrosser Tony Hart, who died in August from injuries sustained at practice.
Hart also owns four Hart and Huntington tattoo parlors, including one at Universal CityWalk in Orlando. The A&E reality show Inked chronicles life at Hart's flagship location in Las Vegas, where celebs including Jaime Pressly, LeBron James, and Benji and Joel Madden have stopped in for tats.
Hart's latest venture is a coffee table book, Inked: 42 People, 42 Stories, which features portraits and anecdotes from tattoo lovers. Next Wednesday, he'll be in Tampa for a book signing.
Hart called tbt* from his hometown of Las Vegas.
What's the link between the motocross world and the tattoo world, if there is one?
Not just motocross, but in general, action sports. I think these are independent sports. It's not like baseball or basketball where it's a team thing. These are all individually driven sports where you have your own image, your own style. And I think that's so great about tattooing because very, very seldomly do you see two of the same tattoos.
Tell me about your first tattoo.
My first tattoo I actually got the day of my 18th birthday in my buddy's kitchen from his dad, who was a tattoo artist who'd just gotten out of jail. He was a professional tattoo artist, both inside and outside.
For those of us without any body art, describe what it feels like when the needle goes into your skin.
Different parts of the body obviously hurt more or less. Arms are a little bit easier, as opposed to rib cage or stomach. But it's nothing unbearable. You can't really think of the needle aspect. It's not it's going deep into your system. It only goes down a couple layers of your skin. Imagine having a sunburn and someone scratching you. It's not unbearable. If I can do 300 hours, anybody can go get a tattoo. (laughs)
Before you get them, do you consider what they'll look like 30 years from now?
The way I look at tattooing is, yeah, when I'm 60-some years old, they're probably gonna look pretty crappy, but at that point I'm old and I'll have great stories to go along with that stuff. My different tattoos represent different phases and different times in my life.
Do you regret any of them?
No. Not one.
Do you ever wish you could just take them all off for an hour?
The only time I wish I could take them off is so I could start over. (laughs) I'm relatively young — I'm 33 years old — and I've got probably 70 percent of my body tattooed. I would never want to not have tattoos. I just wish that I could start over. The great thing about tattooing is styles are always changing. The finished product is getting better and better as years go on and artists get better. I look at my tattoos and I love every tattoo that I have, but it would always be fun to take a magical pen and wake up in the morning with a clean slate and start all over.