LAKE MARY, FL – A veteran tanning salon owner is proud to have pieces of his head-bangin’, rock ‘n roll past recently immortalized in one of the nation’s most prestigious museums.
When one thinks of the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History, images of leather chaps, electric guitars and rock ‘n roll T-shirts don’t usually come to mind. Ironically, that’s exactly what Ken Wilkerson – owner of three Electric Beach Tanning Salons based in Lake Mary, FL – recently sent to the museum for inclusion in an upcoming exhibit. Ken was the bass guitarist for Nova Rex, a hair-metal band that achieved some success in the late 1980s and this year, his documentary about his days in the band and life afterward continues to be featured on the Documentary ChannelTM. The Smithsonian’s inclusion of his band gear comes on the heels of that success.
“I was thrilled when the Documentary Channel picked up our DVD, ‘Nova Rex: Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy’, because it gets broadcast to more than thirty million homes on a regular basis,” Wilkerson said. “As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of promotional interviews, as well as have exhibits in the Johnson County Museum of History, the Hard Rock Café International and the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Museum Library and Archives. My wife, Elizabeth, said, ‘If you really want to do something impressive, let me see you get it into the Smithsonian’, so I said, ‘You’re on!’”
No stranger to self-promotion, Ken picked up the phone and called the Smithsonian’s curator to ask if he could donate something to an exhibit. “I sent him a copy of the DVD and he loved it; but, since we shot it last year, it was too contemporary for them to use,” he said. “I told him that I have some clothing and musical gear from 1987 and he said they would be perfect for an exhibit about the history of flamboyant youth clothing. I started putting things together as soon as I hung up the phone!” Ken happily included an autographed pair of leather chaps, cow-skin boots and a studded vinyl jacket, as well as a Nova Rex T-shirt, electric bass guitar and an assortment of promotional posters and flyers.
When Ken found an old Nova Rex backstage pass, he knew he wanted to include it in the exhibit, but not without a lanyard attached. To get one, he decided to call his friends at lotion maker, Devoted Creations. “While having a product with our logo on it in the Smithsonian is a great honor, it’s an even bigger honor to help Ken,” said Lewis Henry, Devoted Creations President. “In the time we’ve gotten to know him as a customer, it’s easy to see that music has been his dream and life’s passion, and it’s great to be a part of that.”
While Ken enjoys reminiscing about his days as a “rock god”, he’s also happy being a salon owner, husband, and father of two children – son, Gunnar, and stepdaughter, Rosanna. “Since we didn’t get paid much for gigs back then, I took a job at a tanning salon in Hollywood to help make ends meet,” he said. “When my career in music took a different direction, I moved to Orlando, FL and opened my first salon in 1997, so I guess I’ve come full-circle!”
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
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helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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