It might not be considered Reality Television, but a trip to Rick’s Restoration in Las Vegas leaves a visitor knowing that the crew of the popular History Network series are clearly the real deal.
I met with Rick and Kelly Dale while vacationing in Vegas in early march of 2015. Kelly answered my email directly (on a weekend) and set up an interview with Rick the following Monday. Two days later I was sitting with an internationally recognized celebrity in a small office that clearly reflected the humble personality of the man I was speaking with.
Rick Dale comes by that humility naturally. It originates within the same roots where he found his passion for restoration. It was as much by necessity as by choice. “When I was a kid, I was always taking stuff apart and building stuff. My dad would never…well we couldn’t afford new stuff… so if I wanted something he would always bring home some pile of junk and say ‘If you want something and you want to appreciate it, you got to build it yourself. You’ll like it more and you’ll take care of it better'”.
Childhood paved the road to bigger and better builds. Bicycles led to motorcycles. Soon he was working building houses, and then advancing to owning his own construction company. Somewhere along the line the company expanded into an equipment rental business. Owning various machines for renting further honed his skills in repair and restoration.
When the building industry stalled in the early 1980’s Rick turned to his love of restoring and selling vintage Coca Cola machines to fill the void. It was his prowess and knowledge of the vintage machines that landed him a role making guest appearances on the History Network’s popular Pawn Stars series. Those experiences resulted in turning the television cameras in his direction.
Even then, with producers knocking at his door, Rick Dale was the most reluctant of celebrities. “I didn’t want to do it. I even told Pawn Stars no. I said no like five times. I did like 13 episodes of that (Pawn Stars)…then all of a sudden people were coming to the house. They were jumping the fences to get in. It was just insane. So Kelly and I decided, if this is that popular maybe we would do it.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Now owning his very own hit series, there are still times when fame has its drawbacks. For Dale, mostly it is when production disrupts his day to day business. “They don’t understand that when a production crew comes in and is filming, that you’re not getting anything done anymore. The show will absorb all the time you have. When you’re filming on a project all the 25 guys on my payroll are standing watching…because it’s quiet on the set. Anything that goes along with business, grinders, hammers power tools, become silent. If there is no noise going on, then it means everybody is standing still and no work is getting done.”
Despite the interruptions, fame has brought something even more valuable to Dale. One of his deepest passions, aside from restoration, is the effect his work has on his clients. For him it is something that greatly outweighs any acclaim or monetary gain. “They bring in this something…this antique that they want restored and along with that comes their stories…and their memories that have been lost. Like maybe it was their great-grandfather’s bicycle…the son had received it after the dad died and he wants to build this bike. So all this emotion is trapped inside this restoration. That’s what brings me back to loving what I do. All he has is a memory of what it used to look like and now it is just wasted. So when I get to restore it, and bring it back to life, and they come back and I get to unveil it….there is just these emotions so deep that sometimes they begin to cry. I love that. I love that I’m doing something that people appreciate.”
As for his take on Canadians? Dale answers with a hearty laugh. “I don’t know why, but sometimes people talk to me and they think I’m from Canada. Must be my attitude. We’ve gone to Toronto; we are going up to Red Deer. I love up there. The people are very nice.” He goes on to explain how Canadians were some of his earliest fans. “They were the beginning fans. They were here more than any of the American fans when the show first came out. As soon as they got a couple episodes they were in the door non-stop. At that time we might get a couple hundred people in, and ninety percent of them were Canadian. I was just blown away that they were all coming down here. Also (chuckling again) their money was higher at the time too. I love Canadians.”
If you make it to Vegas, stop by Rick’s Restorations and say hello from Canada.