When something sureal goes down in Hollywood, it ’s safe to assume reality TV is involved. How else would Denise Richards, a 37-year-old actress and single mom, wind up linked to 26-year-old tattoo artist Kat Von D? Here’s the story: Kat, who stars in the ever-popular LA Ink, actually ended up on Richards’ new E! reality show, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, when Richards (and her camera crew) visited Kat’s shop (no LA Ink camera crew that day) to cover up Richards’ tattoo of her ex-husband’s name (more on that later). It’s a confusing story, but then, not much in Richards’ life is simple. In fact, it’s complicated.
A former cheerleader at El Camino High School, in Oceanside, CA, Richards began modeling after graduation, and eventually made her way on to television shows such as Saved by The Bell and Seinfeld. Her breakthrough came after roles in the sci-fi classic Starship Troopers in 1997, and oversexed thriller Wild Things in 1998. But shortly after playing Dr. Christmas Jones in the 1999 Bond flick The World Is Not Enough, her personal life eclipsed her career. In 2002, she married actor Charlie Sheen and the couple had two daughters, Sam and Lola. When their marriage deteriorated, the messy divorce played out tabloid-style, with vicious rumors and a restraining order, followed by a relationship between Richards and Richie Sambora, the ex-husband of her friend Heather Locklear. Just when things settled down after her relationship with Sambora ended in the spring of 2007, Richards mother passed away suddenly. Determined to set straight the tabloid view of her, Richards agreed to star in a new reality show.
INKED caught up with her to talk about family, her buddy Kat, her new show, and her fresh tattoo.
INKED: What made you want to do a reality show?
Denise Richards: I’ve been asked for the last few years to do a reality show and I wasn’t interested because I was going through so much with my personal life. But my mom and my father were pushing me to do it because there was so much negative press on me, and they wanted the chance for people to see who I really was. So, when Ryan Seacrest called to talk about a show, I decided to meet with him because I have a lot of respect for him. While we were still negotiating the deal to do the show, my mom passed away. And right after she died, I decided it was something I really wanted to do. Because I knew it was something my mom wanted me to do.
Who else is featured on your show?
My father. Since my mom passed away, my dad’s been staying at my house and we’re kind of helping each other through this time. We weren’t expecting my mom to pass away when she did, so that was a bit of a shock. My sister, who’s a year and half younger than me, is also in the show with her husband and their kids. There’s also my best friend, two more of my girlfriends, and my assistant.
And your daughters are also featured, right?
Yes. In making a decision to do a reality show, I wanted it to be real. And that’s why I chose to have my children be a part of it. The show is not about my kids. But, you know, I’m a single mom. I’m a hands-on mom, and if I didn’t have the kids in the show people would wonder where my kids are, and be like, ‘I thought she said she was a hands-on mom and her kids aren’t even in it!’ And if I did have them on the show? Well, now people have said I’m exploiting them. But I personally feel my ex-husband is the one who drew attention to that. There are many reality shows with kids, and no one has ever made, that I know of, negative comments about seeing them on TV.
Your ex-husband, Charlie Sheen, went to court to block you from featuring your daughters on the show. Were you surprised?
When I first mentioned it to him, he was fine with it. I needed a signed waiver from him, and he never said that he was concerned or anything. Charlie knows I’m a good mom and that I would never exploit them. But then it became something for him to fight about, and not necessarily about the kids. And it became a conflict.
Is being on a reality show anything like you expected it would be?
The hardest thing for me is realizing I have the freedom to do what I want. You know, I’m used having marks and having to wait for cameras to focus. I’m not used to just being able to walk around wherever I want in front of a camera.
Now you’re a reality TV star, but most people know you from your work in sitcoms and movies. What were some of your favorite roles?
I loved doing Friends because I was such a huge fan of the show. So I was excited and also very intimidated to work with them. And one of my favorite movies is still Starship Troopers, because it was my first big movie. Everyone was so new and so excited to be working together. It was just fun.
Those might be your favorites, but you realize everyone else still remembers your role in Wild Things.
Everybody asks me about Wild Things [laughs]. As an unknown, I was so blessed to be working with Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, and Bill Murray. It was such a risqué role. When that was released you were 27. What was it like playing a high school girl? I always play younger than my age. And my character was a very mature high school girl, very in touch with her sexuality.
That’s an understatement. That threesome scene with Neve Campbell and Matt Dillon is pretty famous. What was it like to shoot it?
I think the sex scenes are uncomfortable. You’ve got so many people around. It’s awkward and very technical. And one of the scenes with Neve, where she and I are in the pool, we were shooting that at, like, three or four o’clock in the morning. So you got to kiss Neve Campbell, and then in the movie Blonde and Blonder, you got to kiss Pamela Anderson. Were they different? Well with Neve, we used tongue, and with Pam we did not [laughs]. That was the difference.
What was it like working with Pam?
I adore her. We had so much fun … She’s very girly, like I am. And at night, we’d be running our lines while we were getting our nails done in our rooms. I loved working with her. During the filming of that movie, you made news for throwing a photographer’s computers off a balcony. And the computers actually hit two women sitting below, who weren’t hurt. What happened? Pam and I were filming at this hotel-casino, and the paparazzi were actually staying there, too. And we were just having some difficulties filming, and there was some other personal stuff going on. So, I asked the photographer who was there, ‘If we give you a few pictures, could you leave and please let us finish filming?’ There were actually two photographers, and they got really nasty with me. They started to yell at me and call me all kinds of names. And they said things about my mom, who was sick, and they said things about my kids, and I just had had it. So I took this photographer’s two laptops that were sitting on his lap and I just threw them. It wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve done, but I was at my breaking point. I’d had so many things written about me that weren’t true, and when they crossed the line and said things about my family and my mom, who was dying, I just snapped.
How do you deal with the paparazzi now?
I’ve gotten used to [the paparazzi]. At first it’s really daunting when people wait outside your house and follow you wherever you go. But I’m very friendly with them, especially when my kids are around, because I don’t want my girls to get scared of them.
Let’s talk about tattoos. How many do you have?
I have one on my ankle. I saw a picture of you with one on your stomach. Oh, that was a fake tattoo for my character in the James Bond movie. I don’t even remember what it was, but they stenciled it on every time that I shot the scenes where my stomach was showing.
You had several scenes in the Bond movie, The World is Not Enough, with cropped shirts—but weren’t you playing a nuclear physicist?
Everyone gave me shit about that, saying I didn’t look like a scientist running around in hot pants and this and that. But, come on! If I really had been dressed like a scientist, it would not be a Bond movie. That’s why they’re called Bond Girls! So tell me about your real tattoo. I had ‘Charlie’ tattooed on my ankle after we got married. He took me to a place on Sunset, and the artist’s name was Greg. Did he get a tattoo of your name? He actually had my name tattooed on the inside of his wrist before we got married.
Sorry You two broke up a while ago, but you just recently decided to get rid of it. Why did you wait?
At first I just thought I’d leave it, for the girls, so they could see that I had their dad’s name tattooed on my ankle, and that one time we were married and were in love. And then, well, things went south quickly [laughs].
That’s when you went to see Kat Von D?
I heard about Kat through my mom and dad, because they watched her show. So after my mom and dad told me about her, I watched the show. Then I actually had an appointment with her last November, but I had to cancel it because my mom went into the hospital.
But you finally went in to see her in March. How did you two decide on the tattoo?
Even driving over there I still didn't know what I wanted to get. My best friend came with me, but my brother-in-law met me there, and he’s covered head to toe in tattoos, so I asked him what he thought. I wanted to get something really feminine. He suggested a fairy, which I thought was a really great idea. But Kat said I’d have to get a bigger tattoo if I wanted a fairy, and the ‘Charlie’ would become the wings of the fairy. So she drew two different versions. She drew a fairy and then she drew flowers that were beautiful and small and would just cover the Charlie. But I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, I want it to look hot.’ So I went with the fairy. It’s gorgeous. And the wings of the fairy, well, you can’t even see where Charlie’s name was. She did an unbelievable job. So, did you two hit it off right away? I loved her. She is just so very talented and beautiful and really fun to talk to.
You do have some things in common, such as the fact that you both dated rock stars. She’s dating Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and you used to date Richie Sambora.
Yeah, her boyfriend actually lives in my neighborhood, which is such a coincidence.
Did you give her any advice about dating a rock star?
We kind of didn’t get into that, I don’t think I needed to give her any advice [laughs] because she seems very happy. It wasn’t about the guys. We had fun. Her sister was there with her hairless cat, Tijuana, and I’ve never seen one in person so I was holding the cat. And then Kat did her thing.
You also got to spend time together at the INKED shoot. Will you hang out again?
My brother-in-law Brandon just turned 30, and for his birthday I got him a tattoo by Kat. So, I’ll absolutely go with him when he gets that done. For someone who gets a lot of tattoos, he said, ‘This is the best gift you could ever get me.’ And Kat’s going to do a portrait of his boys, my nephews. Do you think you’ll get another tattoo? I think I’m good. I mean, I’d have to get another, then one for each of my daughters, then I wouldn’t be able to stop. I love that I have one amazing, gorgeous tattoo, and I am just going to leave it at that.
If one of your daughters wanted a tattoo when she got older, what would you say?
Well, Lola looked at my tattoo and said, ‘I want a tattoo of your fairy.’ The girls love it. I can never say don’t do it. Because who am I to talk? But I’ll encourage them to wait until they’re 18, and get something they really want. Because once it’s there, it’s there—as I know [laughs]. I guess that’s one thing I can thank Charlie for. If it weren’t for him, I would never have gotten a tattoo. But because of him I have this amazing artistic creation from Kat, and it’s gorgeous.
INKED: What’s been going on in your life since we talked to you last?
Kat Von D: Lots has happened! We wrapped Season 2 of LA Ink and just got picked up for Season 3, which I’m excited and nervous about. I have so many projects going on that it’s tough to imagine how I’m going to balance all of this. How’s your shop, High Voltage, doing? Besides the City being dicks and making me take down the skate ramp I had installed in front of the store, my shop is up and running better than ever before. I have never been so fucking happy with my tattoo family there. I have about 10 artists working with me and it amazes me how much we all love and help each other on a daily basis. It’s so rare to find that in a tattoo shop.
One of your new projects is a makeup line with Sephora. What’s that all about?
Well, I think by the amount of makeup I wear on a daily basis, people can tell how much I love it. When Sephora approached me with the idea of creating a line I was beyond stoked. Like all of the projects I get myself into, it’s important for me to play as big a part in the creative process as possible. I hate it when people just slap their name on shit and try and sell it as if it were something they really believed in, when it’s obvious they are just doing it for the fast cash. I put a shitload of time into developing the line … I think naming each product was my favorite part of the process. There’s a lipstick called Turbo Lover, which is a Judas Priest song, and Dimebag, for Dimebag Darrell of Pantera—rest in peace. It’s a makeup line that has a rock ‘n’ roll edge to it, but at the same time my mom can wear it without looking like a hooker.
We heard you’re dating Nikki Sixx, who, like you, has been featured in INKED. Please tell us you met because you had that in common.
Ha! That’s not exactly how we met, but it would be cute. The funny thing is the last time INKED shot me for that cover [ed. –Jan. 2008], you guys were on your way to shoot Nikki right after. I remember saying, ‘Tell Nikki I said hello!’ Then Nikki texted me that day saying you guys actually sent my regards. That was so sweet and I meant to thank you for that. But we actually met before that. [Anthrax guitarist] Scott Ian and his girl Pearl Aday tried to set us up on a blind date long ago. I think Pearl thought we had a lot in common and, since we were both going through a divorce at the time. I wasn’t looking to be in a relationship, and surely not one that started on a blind date. But he got my number from Pearl, and we became friends. I later met a guy and dated him for about half a year and Nikki and I stayed friends through all of that, though we never actually met in person. But my dude and I broke up, and Nikki and I were still friends, so we went out for dinner. We were chatting and it felt like, man! I’ve never met a person who’s exactly like me. We had the same complaints about relationship problems, a very similar upbringing, mentality, and likes and dislikes in everything from music to fashion. Most of all we were both complete fucking nerds, and it was like, duh. Next thing you know, he tried to kiss me, and I almost karate chopped him. Ha! True story.
Have you and Nikki had any relationship-celebrating tattoos?
Of course! A love like this? You can’t not get a tattoo that’s inspired by it. I’ve always wanted to stay at the Bowery Hotel, in New York City, but I never had a chance. Being the workaholic that I am, for my 26th birthday this year I was in New York working on something for TLC, and Nikki surprised me by flying out and booking a room for us at that hotel. They have a cool logo, Billy the Butcher. We fell in love with the hotel and each other again, and went to New York Adorned where Thomas Hooper tattooed the Bowery Hotel Billy the Butcher on us. Thomas is the best. He also did my David Letterman tattoo last time I was in New York. Every time I need to get random tattoos that are way below his skill level, he always makes time for me.
How did you meet Denise Richards?
She contacted us to get tattooed before she started filming her reality show because she wanted to cover up a tattoo of her ex’s name. But because of both of our busy schedules, we weren’t able to do the tattoo until after she was filming, so they were able to make it part of her show, which I thought was cool.
How did you come up with the idea for her cover-up?
The original idea to cover it was a stiletto heel, which wouldn’t have worked. So after that idea was out the door, it was between something with a floral theme and a fairy. I drew her a mock-up of the two ideas, and she totally vibed on the fairy. And the wings worked perfectly to cover the majority of the name. For me, it was important to make the tattoo suit Denise’s personality. From the little I knew of her, she came off as a sweet and feminine woman. So I didn’t want to make anything bulky or harsh. In the end I think it was a success and we were all stoked.
How was she with the needle?
Denise totally fucking rocked! I was actually kinda nervous that she might not sit that well, just because I had never met her before and from what I could see she didn’t have many tattoos. But she sat like a rock. She was a real trooper.
What did you guys talk about?
Aside from lipstick, tampons, and wild orgies, we didn’t really talk about much. Totally kidding! We talked about her family and her mother. There is a lot of love in that family and anyone who knows me understands how family plays the biggest part in my life. And I can’t wait to go to her place and check out the crazy parade of animals she’s got going on. From what she’s told me it’s a regular farm over there! Did you give her any advice about being on a reality show? Since the day I’ve tattooed her and gotten to know Denise better, I can tell she doesn’t need anyone’s advice. Homegirl has her shit together, and there’s nothing more attractive than a hot, self-reliant woman who does things for herself and her family, regardless of what people think.