By Marissa Willman
Maybe you’ve seen him at his tattoo shop in Palm Desert. Maybe you’ve seen him teaching spin classes at Gold’s Gym. Or maybe you saw him spitting cow hearts into a bucket from a tank of cow blood on national television last year.
Wherever you’ve seen him, one thing’s for sure: Ron Sharp knows how to be seen.
“I’m kind of like the low-budget Jesse James,” Sharp laughs. “That’s why I named myself the ‘Palm Desert Badass.’”
The tattoo artist and “Fear Factor” champion moved to the desert in 1999 after touring with Tesla. He quickly set out to make a name for himself as a tattoo artist and, 13 years later, he owns his own shop, 111 Tattoo. Sharp has also been a fixture in the local metal scene as a guitarist for local bands. Aside from tattooing and rocking out, Sharp manages to find time to teach spin class at Gold’s Gym.
“For me, that’s my outlet for keeping myself sane, having a crowd to entertain,” he says.
And after entertaining the sweaty masses in spin class, Sharp set his sights on entertaining on the small screen.
“The spin thing and the music thing and the tattoo thing all kind of built up together and kind of got me on TV,” Sharp says. He hosted his own show, Deluxe TV, for five years before moving it to YouTube, where Ron Sharp’s Deluxe TV covers everything from guitar techniques and Fender factory tours to motorcycle stunts and even a thumb war showdown with former pro wrestler Chyna.
For anyone who’s curious, Chyna pinned Sharp’s thumb within seconds.
Chyna’s far from the only celebrity Sharp has rubbed elbows or wrestled thumbs with. In Alcoholics Anonymous, Sharp watched Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler receive his 90-day sobriety chip. Tyler once visited Sharp’s tattoo shop where one of his artists mistook the singer for Mick Jagger.
“We all just started laughing,” Sharp says. “I don’t think anyone has ever said to him, genuinely, ‘Hey, are you Mick Jagger?’”
After hosting his own TV show and making plenty of high-profile connections, Sharp was ready to go for the big leagues: national television.
“After meeting all this kind of heavy duty people, I went to Hollywood and started auditioning for TV shows,” Sharp says.
He was cast in a show called “Road Warriors” that was set to air on the History Channel. On it, Sharp would have ridden across the country on his bike sampling weird foods.
“They had me and another handsome guy,” Sharp says, “but then they changed the name of the show to ‘Hairy Bikers’ and they had these big fat hairy guys and their bikes sucked.”
Although “Road Warriors” fell through, Sharp was determined to land a spot on a reality show. With experience as a cook, Sharp lined up an audition for “Master Chef” and once again came close.
“I got up to meeting Gordon Ramsey,” Sharp explains, “and for some reason at the last minute they put another ‘edgy’ guy in.”
But the casting call experiences paid off when then-girlfriend Julie Hill landed the pair an audition with “Fear Factor,” a reality show where contestants face their fears while completing a series of gut-wrenching stunts.
“My ex-girlfriend got us a casting for ‘Fear Factor’ and I didn’t want to do it,” Sharp explains. “And then we went down there and it turned out that all the girls in the casting agency were girls that I’d already went in and done screen tests for.”
But the fates conspired again against Sharp’s reality TV dreams.
“We got in a huge fight on the way home,” Sharp explains. “We broke up and I said I wasn’t doing ‘Fear Factor.’ If they wanted us to do, I wasn’t calling.”
Then they got the call.
“Within an hour, the producer of ‘Fear Factor’ is on the phone going, ‘You guys are on the show. We want you on the show.’ And we both said we’re not doing it.”
But the producers wouldn’t take no for an answer. They came up with an idea for an “exes” show and Sharp and Hill agreed to compete. Although their episodes were edited to look like the former couple was headed for a reunion, Sharp says one of the hardest things about the experience was being nice to each other behind the scenes.
“We fought [during] the whole thing tooth and nail,” Sharp says. “Just the night before [the shooting], she was walking home to Palm Desert from the motel in L.A.”
The two managed to keep it civil during the filming of their episode, “Broken Hearts and Blood Bathes.” They even managed to outperform two other ex-couples on what was the show’s biggest stunt to date, where Sharp and Hill scavenged for cow hearts in a tank filled with cow’s blood and took turns stuffing them into each other’s mouth and spitting them into a bucket.
In the end, Sharp and Hill took home the $50,000 prize—but they couldn’t say a word about it until the episode aired.
“We won the show and then had to keep our mouths shut for three months and not tell anybody. I didn’t even tell my children,” Sharp says.
With his half of the winnings, Sharp paid for his daughter’s tuition, shared some of the money with his mother and bought an old Harley.
“And now I’m broke again,” he laughs.
Now that he’s conquered reality television, Sharp is set to try his hand at acting in an upcoming episode of Spike’s “1000 Ways to Die.”
“I can’t talk about it [because of contractual obligations] but I can say that everyone who knows me is going to know it’s me,” Sharp says. The episode will air sometime in the show’s upcoming season.
Sharp can, however, talk about another project that has him equally stoked—his cameo in Pantera’s latest music video, “Piss.”
“I’ve always been a huge Pantera fan and the director of Pantera’s new video called me personally and asked me to be in their video and I was like, ‘Not only yes, but hell yes!’” Sharp says.
Released for the 20-year anniversary of the “Vulgar Display of Power” album, “Piss” is a lost track that Sharp says he’s proud to become a part of.
“It’s very dear to my heart that I’m in that video. I get to smash stuff up, mosh around and wear no shirt, like a crazed metaler,” Sharp says.
But perhaps what Sharp is most proud of are his children, Sye, 17, and Chloe, 16. His face can’t help but glow with fatherly pride when he talks about Sye’s achievements as a pianist or Chloe’s talent as a guitarist and singer.
“[Chloe] sings and plays the guitar like Jewel. My son went to Berkeley in Boston over the summer on a scholarship. He can sit down behind the piano and play anything you want to hear,” Sharp boasts. “My kids are freaking awesome.”
With musical talent in their genes, Sharp says a family band could be in their future.
“I would really like to ultimately have a family band with my kids,” Sharp says. “And then a reality show for the band.”
While his kids focus on finishing school, though, Sharp is looking to start up a new local band.
“Now that I’m settled down and everything’s going good I’m going to start up a new band, like a three-piece Motorhead-style band,” Sharp says, “and that’s ‘cause I love speed metal and just crushing it.”
Sharp is currently auditioning members for the band and hopes to be playing shows by the end of May.
In the meantime, Sharp will be celebrating his tattoo shop’s 5-year anniversary, its grand opening and his 45th birthday on Friday, April 20th with a party at the shop’s Palm Desert location.
“We’re going to give away raffle prizes for tattoos and for the smoke shop [next door], and we’re going to have hot dogs and a DJ,” Sharp says. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the public is welcome to party with the cow heart-spitting, Harley-riding and tattoo gun-wielding “Palm Desert Badass” as he celebrates another year of tattooing, rocking out and living it up in the desert.