One of the nicest guys I know in Las Vegas is Danny Koker, who is such a character, a Hollywood agent is finally shopping a reality show about him to TV networks.
TV viewers may remember Koker as the Elvis-loving "Count" vampire who presented movies on KVCW-TV, Channel 33 in the 1990s. "Count" was a sort of male Elvira, "but not as much cleavage, and a little bit hairier chest," he jokes.
Other Las Vegans know Koker as a business partner with Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil at a Rio tattoo shop; and at Feelgoods rock bar, where Neil celebrated his birthday Saturday night by singing "Dr. Feelgood."
Koker also owns a music and video studio where Neil just cut his first album in 10 years.
And yet, Koker's biggest passion is as a master motorcycle builder and classic car collector.
Since he started building bikes by hand in 1992, Koker and his crew at Count's Kustoms have built choppers for all of Mötley Crüe (except Mick Mars); Godsmack singer Sully Erna; country singers Tim McGraw and Keith Urban; and a list of other celebrities, athletes and gear heads.
In 2000, Ozzy Osbourne asked Koker to build him a long bike from scratch, with a taillight resembling the late Randy Rhoads' flying-V guitar, and an air cleaner bedazzled with 96 rubies in the shape of a cross.
Ozzy's bike was delivered to Ozzy's house on MTV, during an episode of "The Osbournes." With media exposure, Koker started getting client calls "from everybody on the planet," he says.
Koker, 45, could have raised his prices, hired more mechanics and expanded his shop on South Highland Drive into a little empire. But that's not how he rolls.
"I'm doing this because I love it. And I want to do it with people who love it, too. I've seen people (who) get a good reputation -- even if their work isn't that good -- and their prices quadruple. ... That is not cool. That is exactly the opposite of what I'm about.
"I'm so much more about the person than I am with the vehicle. We've had some people come through here before who were not nice people, and I don't care to work on their stuff. ... But I get other people in here who are really nice. So who cares what the vehicle is?"
Let's look around at some of his 50-plus cars, which Koker says "make your face stick to the glass" and aren't for sale.
The flashiest is his 1932 Ford Roadster, which Mattel used as the model to die-cast its iconic Hot Wheels dragster in the 1970s. It is bad-ass, running a 615 horsepower Corvette motor and a Dyers 671 supercharger on a lightweight 1,800 pounds; lacquered with red candy flames on the doors.
"This car is insane. It'll run low 11s (11 seconds) in a quarter mile at about 128 mph," Koker says.
A year ago, Sully Erna asked Koker to race his Hot Wheels up and down Highland Drive for Godsmack's music video for "Speak To Truth."
"So the cops closed the road, and we went drag racing all day long," Koker says with typical Koker excitement, smiling like a big kid. "I beat the crap out of this car, and it takes a beating."
And here's his mechanically restored 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, pimped out years ago by car-famous Les Dunham for the Blaxploitation "Super Fly" movie.
"These days, somebody buys an Escalade and puts 24-inch rims on it and goes, 'Wow, that's pimp,'" he says. "I'm gonna rebuild this car, and show them the definition of the word 'pimp.' ... My intention is to turn it into my daily drive."
But the car that ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons came in and stared at for an hour and a half is this radical 1941 Ford: chopped seven inches, channeled six inches over the frame, sectioned out of the body another four inches, with a genuine Carson removable top from the 1960s; paint-shot in satin black with flames hand-done in white ice pearl. It was first customized by George Barris, who designed the Batmobile.
"What would somebody pay for it?" Koker says when I ask for a price. "It's got history. You can't look it up in a book and say, 'What's it worth?' It's probably around a six-digit machine. ... But it's not for sale."
There's also the 1932 Ford that Koker built for Vince Neil. He and Neil became friends because they kept showing up at the same places in Vegas and bonding over cars and music. They would run into each other with their neighboring boxes at rock concerts and cabanas at fancy pool parties.
About three years ago, Neil went sober after he was persuaded to go into rehab by Neil's wife, his manager, other loved ones, and Koker.
Koker seems destined for this Vegas lifestyle. He grew up near Cleveland until his family -- dad, mom, older sister and Danny -- moved to Vegas when he was 13. His dad bought Danny a Honda 100 street bike when he was 8, and turned Danny onto cars when he bought a 1966 Shelby GT350.
After graduating at Valley High, Danny moved to Minneapolis then Miami where he learned to be a multicamera director for his dad, Dan's, TV station and production company.
Koker came back to Vegas in 1988 when his dad started Channel 33 (which the family sold in 1997).
"He's in heaven right now," Danny says of Dan. "He is honestly my best friend in the world, and my business partner in everything, and my mentor, and everything."
Danny gets choked up a little.
"He went to heaven two years ago this month. It's still like yesterday for me. I have a hard time with it."
He walks me over to his mom Mary's car, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air convertible, turquoise and ivory.
"Mom is the coolest!" he says.
"Check this out."
He opens the Bel Air's passenger side door, then closes it, sounding its classic American car "SHUT."
"That's like music right there!" he says.
And there again you see his childlike smile, coming on as fast as his two Lamborghini Countaches, as wide as his 1971 Pantera GT5.
"I'm a bad seller," he says. "I'm a good collector."
Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.