High on Heavy Metal

Las Vegas’ own high-flying royalty has packaged rock ’n’ roll for the sky

From an unglamorous Henderson Executive Airport hangar, Mötley Crüe rocker/entrepreneur Vince Neil launched his newest business venture: Vince Neil Aviation, a heavy-metal luxury charter service with flame-painted jets and model flight attendants.

“It works in Las Vegas because Las Vegas is over the top and that’s why people come to Vegas,” says Neil, who owns multiple trademarked brands, many based in the neon city. “Everything is bigger and cooler. It has things you’ve never seen before.”

Neil says his jets—which he operates with Aerojet Aviation and two Atlanta-based silent partners— will attract high-rollers who want to be seen landing in style, despite current ground conditions. Which begs the question: How many high-rollers are left in this new city of slashed room rates and opulence oversaturation?

“Even though the economy is bad, to some people they don’t really feel the economy,” Neil says, while sitting inside his jet with leopard-print carpeting and mini televisions for every seat.

But his market group did downgrade into economy class over the last few years. Most high-end gamblers are flying commercial and getting flights comped, says Anthony Curtis, president of LasVegasAdvisor.com. The highest-tier gamblers (there are only a few upper-elite whales left in the world, he says) will use their own transportation, or the casino’s jet.

“There have been fewer high-rollers coming over the past two years for sure,” Curtis says. “But for the past two to three months the visitation numbers have been ticking up.”

That’s good news for Neil, and judging by his photo shoot (where he posed with his wife, Lia Gerardini, and her best friend, Marley Taylor of Zowie Bowie), his target audience wants to see enhanced blondes bursting out of slinky gowns and draped over the wing of the Hawker 700 and Learjet 35. The air charter service starts at about $1,800 an hour.

It’s clear that Neil, a Las Vegan for 15 years, doesn’t need his two jets to be successful. Neil’s success is based on his image—one that was forged touring with 80-million-album-selling Mötley Crüe—and its marketing power seems endless.

A natural at cross-promotion, Neil releases his new solo album, Tattoos & Tequila, in late June. His memoir, Tattoos & Tequila: The Life and Times of a Crüed Hellraiser (Grand Central Co.), penned with award-winning journalist and Esquire writer-at-large Mike Sager, hits stores this fall. The movie based on the best-selling Crüe autobiography, The Dirt (Harper Entertainment, 2001), will be released in 2011. Vince Neil Ink tattoo parlors and apparel shops are located on the Strip and at the Rio. Neil just may epitomize the Wild West entrepreneur in Vegas, one who has multiple revenue streams and an international fan base attracted to his history of sex scandals, brawls and drugs.

For a celebrity viewed (don’t forget that sex tape) as hard-living, Neil describes himself as “a normal guy … who’s over the top.” He owns a Lamborghini and two jets, but still flies Southwest. Neil splits his time between Las Vegas and San Francisco, and bought his first jet because his wife couldn’t bear to put their two cocker spaniels in a crate for the commute between homes. But the rock-star lifestyle isn’t just tolerated, it’s celebrated by adoring fans who attend the music festivals and buy the books. Vince Neil Aviation may not be a service every Crüe fan can enjoy–though Neil does anticipate some bachelor-party-bound boys pooling their money for a flight. But, if you need help imaging yourself there, his Tres Rios tequila is available at Neil’s Feelgoods Rock Bar & Grill on West Sahara Avenue.

Book your private flight online at vinceneilaviation.com. The website will soon feature packages that include limos and hotels.

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