He Built An Empire Putting Ink on Skin
From the Long Beach Pike to International Fame, Ed Hardy Made His Dreams Come True
World famous Ink Man Ed Hardy showed off his new book at the Sunset Strip’s iconic Book Soup. Traveling with him was his co-author Joel Selvin, a raucous, funny, old time reporter, who prods the somewhat shy Hardy into talking about his amazing life in the Tat biz, which has now become an international fashion empire. Certainly another amazing story would be how long-time music critic Selvin hooked up with Ed Hardy. After seeing them at the Book Soup event, it would be hard to imagine them not being together for the book tour. Hardy is way too shy and reserved to go it alone, and Selvin is the perfect foil and knows the questions to ask to provoke a response and unlock the memory cabinet. As for Ed Hardy, if your image is a tough old guy swearing and talking about all the antics of the thousands of sailors and marines he’s tattooed, you’d be wrong. Ed Hardy is a very well spoken man. He is what you would call the real deal, someone passionate about art and artists, in this case he talks about tattoo artistry, but he is equally at ease discussing other art forms and classical artists. His intelligence shines through his very conservative demeanor, the plain blue sport coat and dark slacks. Selvin and Hardy look like the two regulars you see hanging out at a donut shop every morning.
And that’s another image that belies the truth. Selvin’s flamboyant career as a music writer at the San Fransisco Chronicle is somewhat legendary and controversial. As Ed Hardy frequently says about anyone controversial: “He’s a wild card.” You can check out Wikipedia for some Selvin scandals. A lot of it was based on the music business in the 1970’s. The days of rock and roll were good for music “reviewers” and columnists. Let’s just say there were a lot of perks. What is not really understood, though, by the public and some critics, is that the titans and bosses of the music business hardly ever told anyone what to write. As one of big guys at a top label said: “Write anything you want, criticize the hell out the group, call out their rotten families, their behavior, anything, but just mention them. Cover the concerts. Give ’em some publicity – good or bad – for Christ’s sake, and we’ll send you some concert tickets and we’ll send some ads to that rag that you write for. Just don’t ignore us.” That’s the way it was back then. Selvin came out of that era with his sense of humor intact, and his knowledge of the music game led him to author best-selling books on Ricky Nelson, Sammy Hagar, and a history of the Hard Rock Cafe. He’s the perfect guy to chronicle the doings of Ed Hardy and shepherd him along the book promotion trail.
And as for Ed Hardy – read his books for starters. The promo tour is for “Wear Your Dreams.” The most noticeable thing about Hardy is his personal appearance and demeanor as contrasted against his own billion dollar fashion empire, often controversial and incredibly profitable. He suits up in the plainest possible threads, the ultimate in down-dressing, not even a tie. He is obviously a really smart guy, but soft-spoken, reserved, possibly uber sensitive. His mass market fashion pieces are just the opposite, sometimes bombastic with lurid colors. He pumps out so much stuff that you could literally dress yourself and your entire extended family head to toe with Ed Hardy garb, including sun glasses and shoes with Ed Hardy’s stylistic name on them. The variety of product is mind-boggling, and selling at the high end of branded merchandise, like Ed Hardy T-Shirts at around $90 bucks. This has earned a lot of negative buzz on the net, easy enough to check out for yourself, but it’s also easy to picture Hardy saying “Hey, buzz this” on his way to the bank.
The duality of Ed Hardy is the fascinating element of this story. His artistry is bold, passionate. His personal demeanor is like one of the low-key mafia godfathers in the 1980s. Not the “Teflon Godfather”, but the Meyer Lansky type: driving a five year old Chevy, his speech a soft whisper, wearing a plain suit from Sears, living in a modest house in the ‘burbs. But don’t kid yourself, just put on the Ed Hardy sunglasses and you’ll see the rest of the picture: a vista of one of the greatest all-American, rags to fashion, tats to wealth, Horatio Alger success stories of all time.
Visit Book Soup to get a signed copy of Ed’s new book “Wear Your Dreams” or click here to go to their web site.
Watch the entire event above, or go to youtube, click here.
Watch Ed Hardy free hand draw a beautiful Tiger Dragon, click here.
Check out the Rat Fink Museum, click here.
The Don Ed Hardy Archives, click here.
Treat yourself to the documentary on Sailor Jerry: Click Here for part one, then follow the rest of the parts 1-8.