Transform | Transcend By David Jenison
hat happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but that is not always true for the people who make these things happen. John Huntington is the Sin City icon behind the Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company (of A&E’s Inked fame) and party events like Club Rubber, the Pimp ‘N Ho Ball and the Summer of Love pool parties. Not even the economic downturn could stop him, but something else did, and it changed his life. “I was in Wyoming doing a DJ gig, and I started getting sick to my stomach, so I went to my doctor back in California,” says Huntington by phone from the Thai island of Koh Tao. “I had Minimal Change Disorder, which is when the walls of your kidneys flare out and you can no longer hold water. I was supposed to be in the hospital for a few days, but it turned into two and a half months. My body had turned against itself and blew out my kidneys. They had me on the oncology floor with all the cancer patients literally waiting for me to die. I am one of the few people who 28 CULTURE • OCTOBER 2013
survived this, and I reevaluated what I was doing with my life.” Huntington faced his own mortality and paid the price for years of partying and stress. Many years earlier, the California native worked at Club Med in Mexico and at a trance club in Holland, and in 1997, he used this experience to launch Club Rubber in So Cal. As the immensely popular club night expanded
to other venues, Huntington introduced what became his premiere event, Pimp ‘N Ho, where attendees dressed as pimps and prostitutes. The following year, he took the event to the Rio Hotel, one of the only Vegas casinos with a nightclub. Huntington’s Pimp ‘N Ho craze sold out the 10,000-person arena at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. This got the attention of the casino execs and helped ignite the party culture the city enjoys today. Huntington became a Vegas celebrity, but it
nearly cost him his soul. “You never know how much you want to live until you almost die,” he explains. “I have always been a swimmer, surfer, lifeguard and water polo player, and I decided to go back to being a waterman. I literally sold everything. I kept my tour bus, two surfboards and a spear gun. I dumped all my material binds. I wanted to live free again.” “I am now a fulltime instructor with Big Blue Diving,” he exclaims. “Koh Tao is 12 square kilometers with 54 dive schools, and we certify over half of the world’s international divers. It is a diving hub. I love my job, and I love paying forward the knowledge I have learned.” The experience has been transformative. While he believes his partypromoting days are behind him, he does have some big ideas for Big Blue Diving. “I am starting to work with them on merchandizing and getting into the TV game,” he explains. “My agency says there are a few networks interested in a show about changing my life and how anyone can do it [with a backdrop featuring] the dive industry, hot chicks in bikinis, partying and a beautiful island. [Wanting to do a show] is not about money. There is a story to be told. You can go from owning everything in Vegas to cutting it and living on an island or anywhere you want. If you are truly diligent, anything in life is possible.” c
A Reason to Believe
While the lifestyle change improved his health, Huntington notes that medical cannabis also played a role in his recovery. “I was sick to my stomach and couldn’t stop throwing up,” he explains. “A buddy snuck some [cannabis] oil [into the hospital], and it totally changed everything. It gave me my appetite back, stopped the stomach sickness and got me sleeping comfortably again. I didn’t know much about it medically until I was in the hospital. I am a huge believer now.” Healthy once again, Huntington pursues a Buddhist way of life and passionately references The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a book about a high-powered New York attorney who sold everything and moved to Thailand to become a monk.
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