I wrote about The Great Pit Ball before when it was just a glimmer in its host's eye. A very defined kind of glimmer, true, but when we talked, everything for the grand event was only just coming together.
Today, I spoke to Mr. Bond again, with The Great Pit Ball — a star studded charity event held on March 14, 2009 in Las Vegas, NV to raise money for Villa Lobos Rescue Center, the world's largest pit bull rescue — already behind him and a resounding success.
Over 1,000 attendees from all over the globe were seen at the event, including:
- Michael Berryman (The Devil’s Rejects, The Hills Have Eyes, Weird Science, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest)
- Pixie Acia (LA Ink, Miami Ink, and Fear Factor game show winner)
- Tera Patrick, the number one porn star in the world, winner of the coveted "Best New Starlet" award, and star of over 100 adult films.
- Evan Seinfeld, well known lead vocalist of the multi-platinum album Biohazard; an adult film actor, director, photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and star of the HBO series Oz.
- James Madio (Hook, Basketball Diaries, Lost Boys, Band of Brothers)
- Alex Karalexis from the UFC reality series and three-time UFC veteran.
- "Razor" Rob McCullough, five-time world Muay Thai champion and former World Extreme Cage Fighting Weight Champion.
- Mario Barth, world renowned and celebrity tattoo artist, owner and chief tattoo artist at Starlight Tattoo.
- John Huntington, formally from the show INKED Hart & Huntington now known as Huntington Ink at the Palms Casino; also known as the country’s premiere nightclub promoter.
- Boo-yaa Tribe, a hip-hop group from California.
- Ice-T, rapper and actor.
Thousands of pictures are being uploaded directly to Brandon's studio website. I caught up with Brandon Bond just hours before his departure to L.A, to survey the spoils of victory at Villa Lobos, and to bask in the success of Vicktory to the Underdog: From Hell and Back, his latest DVD release, which premiered at the Pit Ball event.
Let's jump right in.
Tell me, just what made you take up this elephantine project? And how much of a financial impact did the event make for Villa Lobos Rescue Center?
Tia Torres came to me late last year  and explained the financial situation. She asked me to help, so we did — as hard and intensely as we could. The first thing we did was hold an online auction on my websites and we raised about $20,000 for her within a month or so. We also started an online donation collection, which is still active, and we have already exceeded $5,000 that way. This all was wonderful, but her operating expenses exceeds these amounts, and dramatic action had to be taken.
I have effectively run all four of my companies into the ground finishing this film and working to create this huge Vegas fundraiser, all the way across the country dealing with casinos and flights and venues I had never even been inside of. It was an insane four months, but we did it. And according to Tia, we saved her operation, so we DID IT! Without all of this dramatic action, bankruptcy was imminent.
The fight is not over, but we are closer. Once her new TV show airs I believe that the donations will ROLL IN! Television can reach a much wider demographic than anything my companies can provide, so we are anxiously awaiting the show's debut. It's an incredible show, I've already seen a couple episodes, and I am, in fact, on my way to LA right now to film another episode with them.
Without our help, she would have been forced off her property and all the dogs would have again become homeless and hopeless. The first thing to dry up in dire economic circumstances is donations, and she is 100% dependent on donations to survive. She still needs help, but what we did kept them going! So, the answer is, the financial impact was monumental.
The event was about more than just raising money – it was about awareness. Do you feel you have managed to reach the hearts and minds of people – not just the attendees (that's just preaching to the choir!), but people to whom pit bulls are dangerous animals that we need to be protected from by legislature?
I believe that the film itself does that, yes. Anyone who watches it is affected, no matter who they are, how they feel about anything. The dogs in the film are simply a metaphor for so much more, and many widespread topics are explored – man vs nature, man vs man, prejudice, assumptions, media, and the ability for anyone to do some good in this world.
There is something for everyone in this film. It is 100% uncensored, and untainted by corporate influence. As far as we're concerned, it's the pure definition of "independent film." This is nothing like what you would see on Animal Planet, it's extremely in your face, and it's a roller coaster.
Just to plug ourselves, I own 100% of the rights to all footage and we are currently seeking the best distribution deal. The money, of course, will go directly to Tia [of the Villa Lobos Rescue Center], less our hard costs. So, help us sell it!
The art auction featured some very striking pieces – can you tell me a little about the artists featured? How well did the pieces sell? Which was your favorite piece at the auction?
My favorite piece was a painting by Robert Pho, a well-known tattoo artist from Las Vegas. Unfortunately, while I was filming with Animal Planet someone outbid me on that piece, and I did not get to bring it home to my gallery. It was a bummer. I'm still upset about it.
Other artists included: Cam De Leon (famous for creating artwork for the band Tool), Damon Conklin, Durb Morrison, Dave Tedder, John Lloyd, Jace Masula, Short Parker, Ryan Downie, Matt Dunlap, myself, and many more. As you saw, the art show was an incredible and eclectic collection of paintings, photographs, sculpture, mixed media, and collage. The art was auctioned off by Heckles and Twitch. All proceeds from the art auction were also donated to Villa Lobos, and helped us cover the monumental costs of throwing this huge event.
Being an artist myself, and owning a gallery, it only made sense for me to use my connections in the art world to get a bunch of awesome pieces sent out for the event. Seeing as "art" is actually what funded the entire film project, it just made sense. My entire award-winning staff at All Or Nothing Tattoo also donated pieces to the show. It was a family effort for sure. I did purchase the Dave Tedder painting of a pit bull – it is amazing! His artwork can be viewed at All Or Nothing Tattoo's website.
What about the bands? The Great Pit Ball featured acts like Sick of it All, Madball, The Spyderz, and ToeTag – favorites of yours? Were there any other bands you wish could have attended in addition?
Yes, I personally contacted each band, and personally bought their flights and rooms and all that. I called in a lot of favors to pull this off, but the bands were awesome about helping. Evan Seinfeld is the pure definition of a rockstar/pornstar, but is extremely cool about charity stuff. I have been a longtime fan of his music, however, I, also, consider him a friend.
Sick of it All has been one of my favorite bands since I was in middle school! As was Madball, and I have been very close friends with John Wiley (CEO of Eulogy Recordings and guitar player for ToeTag and Until The End). He has helped us out on many projects to date.
Our first film, See You In Hell, exclusively features Eulogy music, and my instructional tattoo seminar DVD series, The Whole Enchilada Vol 1 and Vol 2, both feature all Eulogy music. He and I have worked on many projects together, and the original motion picture soundtrack to Vicktory to the Underdog is predominately Eulogy donated music.
As to adding any other bands, the show didn't even start until midnight west coast time. The poor guys had to play until like 6 am east coast time. There is no way I would have added any more bands! These bands are my favorites and my friends, both old and new, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the way they played their damn hearts out.
Sick of it All, for example, played one of the best shows I have ever seen them play – it was unbelievable! And the Spyderz unleashed some NEW songs at the event, which was awesome for everyone. The fact that Sick of It All dedicated the performance to the film they had just watched, Vicktory was also amazing. It was very touching.
You told me the Pit Ball would take a great deal of preparation. Have your expectations been realized, or was it even more difficult? Or, perhaps you swam right through? Did you encounter any surprises? Can you consider this the biggest party you've ever thrown?
To be perfectly honest, it was a long, terrible road. I was not able to sit back and enjoy my own premiere! I was constantly having to walk out of the theater to talk on my cell phone and prepare everything for the concert! My assistant and I (Nicole Webster, who is also in the film) have never worked so many grueling hours seven days a week. It was unbearable. We were pulling 20 hour shifts because of the different time zones, and the chaos, and the bands, and the flights. And she is eight months pregnant! Poor girl.
It was horrendous, an event like this is usually planned out at least 8-12 months in advance, but Tia needed the money NOW, so, we had to step it all up. And with the last minute venue change a lot of people said it couldn't even be done. We did not relent. Tenacity is a trait I learned from my pit bulls and my father. We did not give up, and even in the face of all the chaos, Nicole and I persevered. Every single member of the Pit Ball committee fell off, quit, or disappeared as the event grew and approached. In the end, it was only us.
At the last minute, I reached out to Mario Barth, a long time friend and celebrity tattoo artist, who owns a studio in Mandalay Bay, and John Huntington [formerly of Hart and Huntington and the TV show INKED] who has a tattoo shop in the Palms. They and companies like Best Friends Animal Society and H20cean came in at the last second to help financially, and we did it! I am officially retiring from events altogether – it was a rough ride, I'm still exhausted!
Have you already received reviews of Vicktory to the Underdog? What are they saying? Was there anything you wish you could have added to the DVD? Will your next DVD pick up where Vicktory left off?
The reviews have been amazing, and inspiring. People are freaking out, it's an entirely different perspective portrayed in the film than the usual animal rescue BS. I would have done the movie much differently had we had more time, for sure. We were under a lot of pressure, and had numerous issues with production and the producer out in LA.
The hardest thing I have ever done was this film, and I have done a LOT of projects. It, too, was a hell ride, and was barely finished in time for the premiere! But the limited edition widescreen DVDs are shipping worldwide now, and they are being incredibly well received.
The next project coming out is not my film, however, I am helping to promote it and will also help financially if needed. It is by a young director, and friend, Michael Dinco, and it is called The Denver Dog Massacre. It is amazing and 99% complete! He is busy working as a producer on Tia's new Animal Planet show, so, it is on hold presently. He also did some work on the Vicktory project. Mikey D (as we call him) is also an amazing musician — he wrote and performed the title track on the Vicktory soundtrack.
The new movie (DDM) is completely unrelated to Vicktory, however, some of the same shots are found in both to tie them together. In the companion discs to Vicktory, you actually see Mikey leaving in his red Ford Explorer, filming, with pits in the back and on the way to Denver to make his film, so they do overlap, but it's subtle and very "artsy."
Companion discs? What do you mean? There is more than one DVD?
This two disc set is an entirely different version of Vicktory to the Underdog in addition to HOURS of deleted scenes and extended interviews. It is very "homemade" — yet high quality. In some ways, I much prefer this version of the film, even though a few key scenes are included in both, just from an entirely different perspective.
I directed both projects, however the companion discs were created by a producer here in Atlanta who was much easier to work with, so it has an extremely warm and comfortable vibe. It was way more fun making the companion discs.
Did the local laws and/or logistics allow for pit bull adoption during the show, via Villa Lobos? Has the event prompted many new adoptions in general? Are you yourself planning to add to your six anytime soon?
I am maxed out on dogs, taking in any more than the six I have would not be fair to those six or to my wife. She has to take care of all of them! And yes, the film has inspired a lot of adoptions already. We have been getting flooded with mail about how people are opening their eyes, and looking to adopt in their local area. Villa Lobos will inevitably see a LOT of adoptions once the show airs and the movie sees more distribution as well.
You mentioned Animal Planet expressing interest in your cause – I take it they on hand to film the event? Can viewers around the country expect to see the Great Pit Ball aired on their TVs?
Yes, actually Animal Planet was in Vegas filming for several days, and, yes, it will the be in the new season of Tia's show for sure. This June is the latest projected air time. The fact that they were there barking orders at all of us made the event 10 times more stressful for me and a few of the people involved, but it is for a great cause, and will inevitably create the best record of the event.
Animal Planet also had private interviews with some of the celebrities and bands in the BCS [Brenden Celebrity Suites] above the movie theater. It was incredible! I was involved in a lot of that, also. Did I tell you I am going to LA to take part in Tia's show?
The premise is that the parolees are helping the pit bulls, and the pit bulls are helping the parolees, it's amazing. I'm really proud to be taking part in it! Lots of tattooed folks, dogs, and chaos for sure. A news story about Villa Lobos kind of gives a window into whats going on out there, and you might want to check out the homemade pilot we used to get Tia the show.
You are a world-renowned tattoo artist – and many of the visitors at the Pit Ball were inked. It is clearly an artistic medium in its own right, but can you tell me, are they all customers of yours?
I would say 90% of all patrons were heavily tattooed, yes. It is my demographic for sure. I have the ability to reach these people in a way "Disney style, animal planet fluff" cannot. These are the people who actually own pit bulls, these are the people over-breeding them into oblivion, and these are the people who are joining together to speak for those without a voice. It is amazing.
There was an incredible collection of tattoos everywhere! It was awesome, like a tattoo convention, without the tattooing.
In our last interview you mentioned you were still waiting for a response from Michael Vick's attorneys, which they promised to give you after viewing the DVD. Did they "bite"?
I have not gotten a response yet, no, and honestly don't expect one. They are so focused on him going back to play football that unless this facilitates that, they probably will not want to respond. However, in the film we suggest that second chances are vital, and that even Vick deserves the voice to represent how cruelty to animals is sick and depraved. So, we may get something from his people.
Whether he actually means it or if his PR people are just telling him what to say is completely irrelevant to me, the message needs to get to the young kids that idolize him. I don't care if he means it or not, I just want him to scream it from the rooftops regardless. People are listening. in fact I will gladly meet with him and hook him up with a tattoo! We have a lot to talk about! Like the fact that I have one if his dogs sitting here licking my foot right now.
And finally, you mentioned earlier that L.A. is your next stop. What are your plans there, as far as promoting Vicktory to the Underdog and general pit bull awareness? What's next for you, as well? Personally, I mean, not just for the cause?
I am taking the trip out to Villa Lobos, to figure out all the money from the Pit Ball, and to visit Tia, and to film for another episode of her show. I am, also, going to see Evan Seinfeld's band Biohazard in their 20-year reunion tour and do a lot of drinking. I am very excited to go on this adventure. However, I am exhausted absolutely, so, I am slightly apprehensive. I need about a month's worth of sleep.
After that, I am returning to tattooing! And I am very excited, I book appointments about a year in advance normally, however, with all this charity chaos and movie crap we have not even booked a single '09 appointment! So Nicole is now compiling a massive list of eager clients flying in to get tattooed throughout the summer and fall, and we will be giving out dates starting as soon as April!
I beat my face against the corporate wall long enough with all this charity and movie crap, and I'm super excited to just go back to what made all of this possible. My artwork. I am making a "no talking about dogs or movies" rule in my new studio that is being built for me now. I may even hang a sign. Unfortunately, now everyone and their brother seems to want me to do portraits of pit bulls all over them!
I'm joking, kinda, I don't mind tattooing images of dogs, actually. I'm just tired of people talking to me about it! But I am thrilled to go back to my normal life and turn off my phone. This is me disappearing into what I know best and going out of the charity game fully knowing that we kicked a lot of ass.
So, stop sending us mail about dogs! The whole purpose was to incite OTHERS to do their part. Roll your sleeves up and get involved. We did our part! I'm going back to work and actually going to try and get my wife pregnant, which sounds like fun in a lot of ways!
Well there you have it.
Brandon Bond and his crew of heavily-tattooed humanitarian friends — both human and canine (the dogs being the less tattooed of the bunch) — being truly underdogs in this situation, came out on top. Villa Lobos was saved from certain bankruptcy, pit bull adoptions are up, Brandon's latest DVD, Vicktory to the Underdog, is spreading the message of second chances for both pit bulls and humans, and most importantly, people are becoming more aware of how we interact with the animals we breed, and with each other.
What could be more awesome than that? I, for one, will do my best to ensure that Brandon's message continues to be spread.