National Tattoo Association, Inc.
485 Business Park Lane
Allentown, PA 18109
National Tattoo Association originally started as the National Tattoo Club of the World . The owners of National Tattoo Supply started the club back in early 1976 as an unregistered organization. There were no dues to join because the National Tattoo Supply Company paid for everything. You did not have to be recommended to join; you did not have to send in photos of your work, etc. Whoever bought from National Tattoo Supply automatically became a member of the club.
April 1976 was the release of our first newsletter, and back then it was a 3 page stapled letter. The second issue had a few black and white photos of tattoos and stepped up to 8 pages. Our fourth issue (Oct. 1976) was the beginning of the Featured Artists sections of our newsletter. Our first featured artist was Jerry FLY Colewell from East Patchogue, NY. The Dec. 1976 issue started to list the nicknames of our members. August 1977, the 9th issue, was the newsletters’ debut in the form of a magazine. April/May 1978, the 13th issue, was the last free issue of the newsletter. This issue featured the Skuse Family and the Amsterdam I.T.A.A. (International Tattoo Artists Association) Convention.
The actual start of The National Tattoo Club of the World as a True Organization really began in 1978. When I.T.A.A. started to flounder Peter Tat2 Poulos and his wife Dianne called National Tattoo Supply to say they would help I.T.A.A. put on their conventions. Flo Makofske, one of the owners of National Tattoo Supply, called the president of I.T.A.A. with Peter and Dianne’s offer. The I.T.A.A. declined the offer. A few days later Peter and Diane called back and said why not make “The National Tattoo club of the World” a non-profit organization. It was talked over, and ground rules and regulations for joining were implemented. The owners of National Tattoo supply went to a lawyer and set it all up. The officers were then named: Philadelphia Eddie-President, Don Makofske – Vice President and Flo Makofske – Secretary/Treasurer. The by -laws were set up for a five (5) year term running from June 1978- May 1983 with no officers receiving any salaries. It was also set up that you would need to be recommended by two (2) Artist members to join and that we would cap the membership off at 1,000 members as we were looking for quality not quantity in our membership. Dues were set up to be $15.00 a year at that time. It was also set up that the Board of Directors, which just consisted of the officers, would form a quorum that would be able to change any of the by-laws at any time.
The first National Convention was set up for Denver, Colorado March 23rd – 25th, 1979 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The officers of the N.T.A.(National Tattoo Association) sat down with Peter, Dianne, and Larry Romano, as they were going to be in charge of the security and negotiating with the hotel and such, and discussed the rules and regulations of the contests, the dinner, the welcome party, having suppliers there, etc. This was to be a Convention to promote tattooing and only Tattooing.
After the Convention in Denver it was discussed which, if any, rules and regulations should be put into the by-laws. Since we weren’t quite unanimous in some of the subjects we sent out a questionnaire for the entire membership to vote on. We asked if they wanted conventions to continue, Should the Press be invited, should there be tattooing, if yes 1 day, 2 days, the entire convention?, Should awards be given out, and for which catagories?, How should they be voted on and by whom?, If no convention would they like a vacation meeting, what type of resort, summer or winter?, What month?, etc. Should suppliers be allowed to pass out catalogs and or sell their equipment? What would you like included or eliminated from conventions?, Should clubs continue?, Should newsletters continue?, Should Fans be allowed to join?, what qualifications for fans to join? Same for Artists?, Any other comments you’d like to say, etc.
The outcome was that you wanted conventions, every year. You wanted contests and wanted them judged by all attending. You wanted the club to continue along with the newsletter. Fans could join only if they were already members. If new ones wanted to join they had to be recommended by 2 tattooists in the club and have at least 4 tattoos, send in photos of themselves and the name or names of their tattooists. Artists who were already members could remain members any new tattooists wishing to join had to send in photos of their work, their business card, photo of themselves in their studio or the studio they worked in and they needed to be recommended by 2 artist members.
The NTA originally started as the “National Tattoo Club of the World” back in early 1976 (which is why Snake adds on 2 years to his membership as he was one of our very first customers). I said customer because back then that is how it started out. When the National Tattoo Supply Company started it, it was not a registered organization. There were no dues to join as the NTS paid for it all. Whoever bought from us automatically became a member of the club and we sent you a certificate to hang on your wall. You did not have to be recommended to join, and you did not have to send in photos of your work, etc, etc.
Our first newsletter was dated April 1976 and it was just three pages stapled together. The second issue had a few black and white photos of tattoos in them and had 8 pages to it. These were back to back whereas the first issue was 3 pages with nothing on the back side of each page.
The first time we had a photo of a car in the issue was in June 1976. It was Jack Armstrong’s 1966 Ford. We showed it as he had it decorated with dragons on the front fenders and the words, “Jack’s house of Tattoo” painted on each of the front doors of the car.
In our fourth issue (Oct. 1976) we tried something new. This was the beginning of the Featured Artists. Our first feature was on Jerry “FLY” Colwell from East Patchogue, NY. (I am happy to add here that Fly’s son, Greg, is carrying on with the tradition and is tattooing on Long Island, NY and is a member of the NTA.)
In the Dec. 1976 issue we started to list the nicknames of our members. Example: Jerry “FLY” Colwell, Good Time Charley Cartwright, King Arthur Bishop, Painless Jeff Baker and our Featured Artist was Frank “Diamond Tooth” Smith from North Carolina – he got that nickname because he had a diamond implanted in his front tooth.
In our April 1977 issue our Featured Artist was Peter Tat 2 Poulos from Denver, Colorado and Long Island, NY.
The June 1977 issue Featured both Bob Shaw and his partner Col. Todd both of Long Beach, California.
The August 1977 (9th issue) was the first issue to be in the form of a magazine. However, it only had 16 pages and our Featured Artist was Cliff Raven of Chicago, Illinois and then later on California.
October 1977’s Featured Artist was Terry Wrigley of Glasgow, Scotland.
Then with our 11th issue (Dec. 1977) we got a bit fancier as our front cover, inside front cover, inside back cover and outside back cover was on light blue colored paper. Each issue after this was a different color. The first was light blue, followed by pink, yellow and light green. In this issue we featured Husband and Wife Team – Ann & Tex Peace of Augusta, Georgia
Philadelphia Eddie of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was our Featured Artist in the Feb. 1978 issue.
The last free issue was our 13th issue. April/May 1978 and it featured the Skuse Family of England and the Amsterdam I.T.A.A. (International Tattoo Artists Association) Convention.
However, the actual start of the National Tattoo Club of the World as a TRUE Organization really began in 1978. Read on….
When I.T.A.A. started to flounder Peter Tat2 Poulos and his wife, Dianne called to say they would help I.T.A.A. put on their conventions if they’d like them too. I called the president of I.T.A.A. with Peter and Dianne’s offer. They declined it. When I told Peter and Dianne this they said OK. But… in a few days they called me back and said. “Why not make the National Tattoo club of the World a non-profit organization and they would be more than happy to help run the conventions for us since they had quite a lot of people in their shops that could help out with the security and such. We talked it over, sat down and set up the ground rules and regulations for joining. We went to a lawyer and set it all up. The officers then were: Philadelphia Eddie President, Don Makofske Vice President and Flo Makofske Secretary/Treasurer. The by-laws were set up for a five (5) year term running from June 1978-May 1983 with no officers receiving any salaries. It was also set up that you would need to be recommended by two (2) Artist Members to join and that we would cap the membership off at 1,000 members as we were looking for quality not quantity in our membership. Dues were set at $15.00 a year at that time. It was also set up that the Board of Directors (which just consisted of the officers) would form a quorum and would be able to change any of the by-laws at any time.
And so the first issue as The National Tattoo Club of the World, Inc. was the June/July 1978 issue and it Featured Bert Grimm of Portland, Oregon.
The first motorcycle to be shown was in our Aug. /Sept. 1978 issue. It belonged to J Ray Smith of Radcliffe, Kentucky. Ray used to wear a bright blue suit with sequined Eagles, Dragons, Stars, etc. all over it. He really looked sharp at the conventions in that suit. Our Featured Artist in this issue was “Cindy Ray” Robinson, Nichols of Melbourne, Australia and we Featured Peter De Haan of Amsterdam, Holland – the Netherlands in the Oct. /Nov. 1978 issue.
The Dec.’78/Jan 1979 issue Doc Webb of San Diego, California was our Featured artist. And, since the first of our conventions was coming up we featured our Hostess with the Mostess – Dianne Poulos in the Feb/March 1979 issue.
The First National Convention was set up for Denver, Colorado on March 23rd-25th, 1979 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. We sat down with Peter, Dianne and Larry Romano as they were going to be in charge of the security and negotiating with the hotel and such. We discussed the rules and regulations of the contests, the awards banquet dinner, the Welcome Party, having suppliers there, etc. Since Don Ed Hardy had brought the subject of piercings up at the I.T.A.A. Reno convention in 1977 (he felt, as did the overwhelming majority of artists there that piercing did not belong at a tattoo convention and should not be linked to tattooing. I.T.A.A. Members voted there and then not to have piercing at future conventions.) It was decided on (by the suggestion of Bob Shaw) not to allow facial tattoos or piercings at the National Tattoo conventions. This was to be a Convention to promote Tattooing and only Tattooing. We did decide to allow suppliers there but they were to be in separate rooms from the tattooing room and were supposed to only allow those with Artist Badges on in their room. This really didn’t work. There were only two suppliers there Huck Spaulding and us. However, one supplier left his catalogs all over the hotel and we saw several people going into his room that were not tattooers and so it was decided not to have suppliers at any future conventions.
Now this is an interesting account of how we started doing the conventions too money wise that is….
We decided to charge $10.00 registration for members and non-members alike. However, this fee included the dinner for the members but we charged $15.00 for non-members for their dinner. This dinner fee from non-members helped to offset the fact that we lost $2.00 on every dinner per member since the dinners cost the club $12.00. Our Welcome Party was not as lavish as they are now but we did have hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, fruits and vegetable to snack on. We charged $100.00 for a booth – there were 9 of them – yes I said 9 of them, and tattooing was only done on Sunday. The suppliers were allowed to open on Friday and Saturday only.
On Friday at our first convention, we also had speakers. Not seminars like we have now, but speakers to talk about competition, suppliers, conventions, etc. This was done at our Artists Only Meeting. The speakers were: Terry Wrigley, Peter Tat 2 Poulos, Dianne Poulos, Don Ed Hardy, Bob Shaw (who even back then spoke about the importance of using autoclaves and keeping you and your studio clean), Big Walt Kilkucki, Painless Jeff Baker, Dave Yurkew, and Arnold Rubin & Jan Stussy from U.C.L.A. After the speakers were finished Tattoo Samy of Frankfurt, Germany did a slide presentation of tattooed people.
On Saturday we held the contests. Some were judged by a panel of judges who consisted of: Don Ed Hardy, Peter Tat 2 Poulos, Philadelphia Eddie, Bob Shaw, and the last judge was either Terry Wrigley or Dave Yurkew. They judged the design sheet and the Best Individual Tattoo contest. The other contests were voted on by everyone attending.
That evening we held our Awards Banquet. And, the winners were: Enthusiast of the Year – Elizabeth Weinzirl, Best Black & Grey Design Sheet – Bob Roberts, Golden Age Award Winner – Bert Grimm, Best Individual Tattoo – Kim Schaefer tattooed by Peter Tat 2, Best Tattooed Female – Theresa Hannong, tattooed by Peter Tat 2, Best Tattooed Male – Dan Cunningham – tattooed by several tattooers, Best Male Tattooist – Peter Tat 2 Poulos, Best Female Tattooist – Barbara Chapman, and Man of the Year Award – Philadelphia Eddie.
Then the following special awards were given to: Our Hostess – Dianne Poulos, Dave Yurkew for holding the first tattoo convention in the USA, Bob Shaw for all he’s done to upgrade the profession, Terry Wrigley for all he’s done for the profession worldwide, and Lyle Tuttle for his contributions to the Tattoo World.
Sunday was our tattooing day and we opened the doors to the public at 10am. We only charged $5.00 for the walk-ins back then. The booths were supposed to close at 9pm but there were so many requests for tattoos that most of the 9 booths stayed open longer.
We also held our Farewell Party this evening and had chips, dips and nuts (and as I wrote back then – both human and mixed ha ha). This was the time when we got a few of us together to go over what we felt was good or bad about this one and to discuss whether we should do another one or not. Our free souvenirs were match books (most everyone smoked back then) and balloons.
The first NTC Convention issue April/May 1979 was next and covered the convention naturally. J It was 24 pages and our biggest issue as yet. Don was our photographer and Robin Donohoe acted as his assistant taking notes on each contestant so I could match them up afterwards for this special issue.
After the convention in Denver some of us sat down to discuss what, if any, rules & regulations should be put into the by-laws. Since we weren’t quite unanimous in some of the subjects we sent out a questionnaire for the entire membership to vote on. Questions asked were: Should we hold more conventions? If Yes – once a year, every other year, every 5 years or other? Should the press be invited? Should there be tattooing (if yes 1 day, 2 days, entire convention? Should awards be given out? If yes – what ones? How should they be voted on and by whom? If no convention would you like a vacation meeting? What type of resort, summer or winter? What month? What should be included at the convention – what should be left out? Should clubs continue? Should newsletters continue? What should the qualifications be to join? Any other comments and/or suggestions?
The outcome was that you wanted a convention once a year. You wanted the contests to be voted on by all attending. You wanted the club to continue along with the newsletter. Everyone who had been a member before it became a non-profit organization could remain a member – anyone new wanting to join now had to be recommended by 2 Artist members, send photos of tattoos they’ve done, their studio – or the studio they work in, their business card and a photo of themselves. Enthusiasts had to also be recommended by 2 member artists and they had to send in photos of their work and name of the artist who did them. Since we did not get these answers back in time to set up another convention in 1980 we did not hold one that year. But back to the 1979/1980 fiscal year.
We then switched up the months that the newsletters would come out so that our fiscal year would start in July and end in June as the IRS wanted it that way. So… the next issue became the July/Aug. 1979 issue and we Featured Ron Ackers of Hants, England.
Apache Jil Tong then of Arizona and now of Reno, Nevada was featured in the Sept. /Oct. 1979 issue. And Tattoo Samy Streckenbach of Frankfurt, Germany was featured in the Nov. /Dec. 1979 issue.
Jan/Feb.1980 (#23rd issue) was our first Colored Issue. It contained Dave Yurkew’s Sacramento convention and also Featured Gene Bernardo of Asbury Park, NJ. It was our first try at doing color instead of black & white photos.
The next issue #24 March/April 1980 issue we went back to black & white photos, as we didn’t have enough money in the kitty to continue doing color without first asking our members if they wanted to raise the dues so we could go to color from then on. So we sent out another questionnaire. You voted and said you liked the newsletter in color and so agreed to raise the dues to $25.00 a year. Roger Ingerton of Wellington, New Zealand was also featured in this issue, and our May/June issue of 1980 George Bone of London, England was our Featured Artist.
The start of our new fiscal year of July 1, 1980-June 30, 1981 began with issue # 26 (July/Aug.). I started putting little photos of the people being featured on the front cover. Bob Roberts and Enthusiast Kathryn Rabanne were featured in this issue. This is also, to my knowledge, the rarest issue of the NTA as when I asked who had the complete set besides me some years back – most who did not have a complete set said they were missing this one. This also marked the beginning of using colored photos in every issue. It also meant raising the dues to $25 a year now to cover the costs of doing them in color according to the outcome voted on by the membership on the questionnaire sent out at the end of the last fiscal year. We also started listing the birth dates of members in this issue wishing them a Happy Birthday and continued this in the following issues of this fiscal year. This issue also had a joke from Doc Webb…. “Doc wants to know if you heard about the fellow that had a car wreck. He went to the Good Hands People with his claims. They gave him the finger.”
The Sept./Oct. 1980 issue featured the World’s # 1 Enthusiast – Elizabeth Weinzirl and Jerry Swallow of Canada. We also announced that our second convention would be in Reno on March 27, 28 and 29, 1981 at the Sundowner Hotel & Casino – set up for us by Carolyn & Guy Martynuik.
Julie Moon, and Tom Beasley of Glen Burnie, MD and Enthusiast Krystyne The Kolorful of Canada were our features for the Nov./Dec. 1980 issue. We didn’t have any riddles or puzzles but the thought of that issue was: When a man is so wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package – John Ruskin.
Peter Davidson of Australia and Enthusiast Gene Houghton of California were featured in the Jan./Feb.1981 issue. Back then, Gene was a teacher and Head of the Industrial Education Dept. at the Hiram W Johnson SR High School. He had a display entitled “Tattoo, an Art Throughout the Ages” in the teachers lounge in May of 1980. It was a hit with both the faculty and the students and even made the school year book (perhaps a first in tattooing) with a ½ page layout of Gene and his tattoos.
The NTC (National Tattoo Club of the World, Inc) Reno Convention was the subject of the March/April 1981 issue. Sat. & Sun. we had 5 booths at this convention – they were: Ed Nolte from San Francisco had a T-Shirt Booth. The tattoo booths were: Mike & Deb Mendonsa of San Pablo, CA., Danny Danzl’s Seattle Tattoo Emporium and working was P.A. Stephens & Greg Irons, Henry Goldfield & Moses from San Francisco had another, Cliff Raven, Robert Benedetti & Dennis Dwyer of Hollywood & San Francisco had one and the last tattooing booth was Wild Bill Hill’s from (then) Sacramento and also working with him was Corky Pineau.
On Sat. evening we held the Awards banquet. We gave a special Official Photographers Medal to James Nicoll’s of England for taking all the photos of the contestants for us. Elizabeth Weinzirl presented the Elizabeth Weinzirl Award (Enthusiast of the Year) to Hildegard Wesch of San Antonio, TX. Apache Jil Tong of California (back then – now in Reno) won the Best Black/Grey Design Sheet and PJ English of California took the Best Colored Design sheet honors. We had a tie in the Best Tattooed Male category – Art Livermore of CA. (work by Pat Martynuik) and Tom Alley of CO. (work by Peter Tat 2 Poulos) were the recipients here. Susan James of England (tattoos by Cliff Raven & Don Ed Hardy) won the Best Tattooed Female. Best Overseas Tattooist was won by Doc Forest of Sweden and Best Tattooist (American or Canadian) was won by Dennis Dwyer of CA at that time – now in AZ. The Golden Age Award (40 years or more in tattooing – and voted on from the top 5 nominations) went to Danny Danzl of Seattle. The first collector type souvenir given at our conventions was at this convention. It was a tray, white with the then eagle logo printed in the middle of it with the words National Tattoo Convention Reno 1981 imprinted around the outer edge. The convention issue had 20 pages and was our second convention. Carolyn & Guy Martynuik actually booked this convention on their own but then Carolyn got pregnant and so Guy called and asked if the NTA would step in and make it an NTA convention since they couldn’t do it on their own since she was having a baby. We said we would and so this was the first NTA Reno convention but our second one.
The last issue for this fiscal year we featured J. Ray Smith of Kentucky. I am hoping that the photo of him in his bright blue suit with Sequined tattoo designs on them reprint well because he was a hit at every convention he attended wearing it….
We also featured Miss Roxy from Copenhagen, Denmark whom we met at the E.T.A.A. convention in Frankfurt, Germany.
The first issue of the new fiscal year was the July-August 1981 issue. We featured Vaughan Griffith from Melbourne, Australia and Merv O’Connor and Andre Jansen of Aukland, New Zealand.
I found Merv’s story to be quite interesting. When he was around 8 he watched his dad put a scroll and the name Butch on one of his friends. Merv was fascinated by that and started drawing designs that he felt would make nice tattoos. When he was 12 he started to tattoo his friends and was an apprentice jockey as well. Yes, I said jockey.
He trained horses for 16 years and was a jockey (starting at the age of 13) until an injury (broken hip) forced him out of this profession. But, he was still interested in horses and even had his own race horse named “Skin Deep”.
In 1960 he took a rest from riding and picked up two tattoo machines from a guy in Tokoroa and started to supplement his income while working at a mill. In 1962 he went to Wanganui and bought 6 more machines. And… after 16years, thousands of races and well over 100 winners, Merv said farewell to racing and went to Aukland and opened his first studio.
He also raced go-karts for 3 years with good success, but found it took up too much time And so he gave that up to pursue his career in Tattooing. I just thought his jockey days were quite interesting so wanted to share it here.
Coney Island Joe DeMatteo was on the back cover of this issue.
The Sept. /Oct. 1981 issue we featured the Farmer Brothers Jim & Norm. They weren’t actually brothers but went by the name Farmer Brothers. Their story was short as they would talk more about other tattooists they’ve met over the years more than themselves. But if you were lucky enough to have known them – then you know what I mean – they were great people and their tattoo stories made you laugh. Jim told me about the time (since he was the front man who helped people decide the tattoo they wanted) that a guy came in and asked for a tattoo of a panther – he asked Jim how much for one on a sheet on the wall and Jim said $25. Then the guy proceeded to ask prices of other tattoos and then came back to the first one and asked, “How Much?” Jim answered $50. The guy said you told me $25 a little while ago and Jim answered yeah well then you should have gotten it then, now it’s $50. JJ
Also featured in this issue was Lyle Tuttle’s Hall of Fame induction of Betty Broadbent into his Museum. Betty began her career as a circus tattooed lady back in 1927 and was billed as “The Youngest Tattooed Lady.”
She was 14 years old and in junior high school when she went to Atlantic City and met a few show people on the boardwalk. She decided she didn’t want to go back to school – she wanted to be independent and take care of herself.
When she saw a Tattooed Man on the boardwalk she decided she would become the FIRST TATTOOED LADY as she had never seen one before. Actually there were 4 or 5 tattooed women in circuses and sideshows back then.
She was taken under the wing of a Fat Lady with a circus and saved her money for tattoos while doing odd jobs as an illusionists’ assistant and working with 4 trained alligators.
By 1926 she worked in a Boston bakery and moonlighted as a chorus girl, all the while saving her money for tattoos.
Betty went to NYC and got most of her work from Charlie Wagner over the next two years. Charlie had a friend in the circus named Clyde Ingalls and when he heard of her plan to become a Tattooed Lady he signed her to a contract even before her work was completed.
She was then working in Woolworths’ and because they didn’t have slacks for women back then she had to wear flesh colored stockings to cover her legs or she would have been fired. As she said, “People were funny in the old days, you know.”
When she finally joined the circus there were 1400 people, 4 trains, 56 elephants and 750 working head of horses. They opened each season for a month in Madison Square Garden and 3 weeks in Boston Garden. Then they would go under the Big Top (tent) in Baltimore and a sequence of 1 and 2 day stops that over 2 years would make a figure 8 over the country. North one year and south the next.
Back in those days your dress couldn’t be more than 4 inches above your knees so she couldn’t show all of her leg work. But, she sold pictures of herself exposing more of her tattoos for 25 cents. Since most people thought a tattooed lady had to be tough and seeing how sweet Betty really was they would wet their finger and try to rub off her tattoos thinking they were fake.
At the end of the season in 1931, fearing overexposure, she became a trick rider. This skill she picked up in her spare time while on the road with Tom Mix. She even rode jump horses and bucking mules with Harry Carey. Harry didn’t even know she was tattooed till he saw her one night in a sideshow.
She also became a tattooist herself and worked in NY and Montreal from time to time. She even had a studio in the Old Odeon Hotel in San Francisco in 1930 for a while.
In 1937 she spent 2 years working in independent shows in New Zealand and Australia. When she retired, she moved near Tampa, Florida and raised flowers and small show animals (rare species of dogs, chickens and rabbits). She loved the Netherland miniatures; the tiniest rabbits in the world, their ears are no bigger than an inch and a half.
Betty was flown out to Lyle’s place for her special induction in his Hall of Fame on Aug. 3, 1981. She was 72 years young at the time.
We also added that Bert Grimm would be inducted in Lyle’s Hall of Fame on Nov. 10, 1981 as well.
Also in this issue we announced that Mary Jane Haake would be the first, as far as we know, to receive “A Fine Arts Degree in Tattooing”. Back then the categories’ were generally limited to sculpture, painting or drawing. They got around that by calling people’s skins “extreme canvases” so that technically she fell into the painting category. And Bert Grimm was decreed her Professor under whom she had to study for 1 year.
We also gave out the info on our third convention that we set up with the help of our Hosts – Sandi & Grandpa Groovy. That was scheduled for McLean, VA. on March 5, 6 & 7, 1982 at the Holiday Inn.
And on the back cover there was a photo of Alberta & J Ray “The Ace” Smith – the tattooist with the Bright Blue suit shown in our last issue.
Our Nov. /Dec. 1981 issue Featured: Capt. Jack Colledge who started tattooing at the age of 17 and, as he put it, when I asked him if he ever thought about another profession other than tattooing, “NEVER! I love tattooing and always will. I’ve met a lot of people with a lot of different occupations and most of them aren’t as happy with their work as I am, so, why change? Tattooing isn’t just my profession it is my life.”
Jack had studios in Jacksonville, NC, Suffern, NY, Midland Park, NJ, and his last shop located on 91 Rte. 23 in Riverdale, NJ.
Also in this issue was a postcard that Pat Martynuik sent to me of Enthusiast Art Livermore’s arm that Pat had tattooed. Art had tied for Best Tattooed Male at the NTA 1981 Reno Convention, hosted by Pat’s son Guy. But the reason Pat sent me the card was to let me know that it was selected by the Contemporary Art Forum of Mexico City as their announcement card for their Sept. exhibit. This exhibit showed the work of 21 young artists in various media and was titled “A North American Costal Wave”. Art was asked to pose on a platform and show his tattoos and was also asked to show them again at “Another Evening of Art” on Oct. 29th in San Francisco, CA. As Pat pointed out to me, ‘What is interesting in both these cases is that different parts of the art world have decided that Tattoos are ART and have exhibited them side by side with other modern art. He added, I think you will agree it is about time – we did and this was back in 1981 – it was starting back then already. The picture of that postcard is in my column.
We started listing all our member’s names and where they were from with this issue until everyone’s name was in one of this fiscal year’s issues.
The then, upcoming McClean, VA convention was also discussed in this one. I wrote about 2 new contests we would be having at this convention. They were called – The Quick Draw and The Best Draw. I explained that we were going to use the NTA Eagle (the one we used as our logo at that time) as the image they had to copy. The Quick Draw had to be the one who drew it in the fastest time. The Best Draw had to resemble our eagle logo the most.
We included 2 poems as well. The first by tattooist PJ English of Sacramento, California:
Once again the fire burns searing in the flesh
Marking lines forever more in answer to the quest.
Few see beyond the torture, the flaming needles bring,
Blood and pigment mingle with the smell of Vaseline.
Skin forever altered, gripping muscles twitch,
Ideas from inside the mind take shape upon the flesh.
And some will seek to cower – shirk away in fear
The pain they see inside their mind they dare not to endure.
And some will see the glory elation to the soul
The fire of the needle and the images extolled.
For the body will recover with pride it will review
All the things the mind has seen open in full view.
And the flesh will long remember the stories that are told
On tinted skin scar tissue as an opening to the soul.
The second poem is from Enthusiast Ron Monnie of California and dedicated this to Apache Jil Tong, his tattooist.
What’s this? A buzz? A burn?
As into my skin her needles churn.
And now a line begins to form, it twists, it turns,
It moves in and out
Now I wonder, what it’s all about?
And soon a familiar shape is there
Where, once my arm was stark and bare.
A rose of sorts, it’s plain to see
As she looks up and grins at me.
And now she fiddles and twiddles and turns about
While I sit here with my arm stretched out.
Oops! Suddenly it starts anew
But now there is a spot of blue.
Then comes red and green and brown
Now she’s really going to town.
Those colors done and then there is more
By now I feel my arm is sore.
Suddenly the buzzing needles are still
Deep within I feel a thrill.
The inky smears are now wiped away
A rose has grown that is here to stay.
The special thoughts I once held within
Are now, emblazoned upon my skin.
No longer am I like the rest
Tattooed by Jil — She is the best!
Our Jan. /Feb. 1982 issue featured the E.T.A.A. (European Tattoo Artists Association) Deal, England Convention. The story was written by Painless Jeff Baker as he, his wife, Daphne and Terry Wrigley organized and ran this one.
Also featured in this issue was Danny Robinson JR & SR of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Danny Sr. got his first tattoo at age 14 and was so impressed with it he decided he wanted to be a tattooist too. He persuaded Tex Newall to sell him a tattoo machine after he had hung around his studio for about a year. He felt he was now in business and started tattooing his own legs and arms. To earn money while practicing tattooing he traveled around in a band he played in at the time. In his spare time he started drawing up flash all the while hoping to be able to open up his own tattoo studio. And so his career in tattooing started in 1960.
He met Les Bowen in Brisbane and they worked together for a while. Danny then moved to Melbourne and opened his own Tattoo Studio.
Later he met Bev (Cindy Ray) and began tattooing her. They fell in love and she became his second wife. She wanted to learn to tattoo and so Danny taught her. She was featured in our Aug.-Sept. 1978 issue. They divorced years later and Bev opened her own studio in Williamstown
Danny also owned a gold mine with Jack Cody (no relation to Buffalo Bill). Back in 1982 Danny said it was working pretty well. J
Danny JR. used to spend every spare minute at the studio and asked his dad to teach him the art. But, Dan SR said he had to get a trade first and so Danny took up sign painting for 2 years in school. He figured that would help in the tattoo field as well. And it did. After he finished his schooling his dad said it was time to learn how to tattoo. His first tattoo was a flower on his dad’s leg. His dad gave him the nickname NUTZ.
Both Dan SR and Danny JR are musicians and they played in the same band for a while. Danny JR plays guitar and drums and so started his own band later on.
I left off with our Jan/Feb 1982 issue but hadn’t finished it as I wanted to tell you more about Bert Grimm’s induction into Lyle Tuttle’s Tattoo Hall of Fame.
Bert & Julia Grimm were picked up at the San Francisco airport on Sunday Nov. 8, 1981 by Chuck Eldridge, Dean Dennis, Bill Salmon, Erno Szbady and Lyle Tuttle and their ladies. They took them to the Holiday Inn in San Francisco where they had a nice chat about tattooing.
On Monday night they gave him a small private party at the Rose Café Restaurant where they did a “This is Your Life” type of show, with slides and photos of his career. Of course questions were asked and all answers written down for posterity.
Tuesday night Bert was inducted into the Hall of Fame where the following was read on Nov 10, 1981…
BERT GRIMM ENTERS THE TATTOO ART HALL OF FAME NOV. 10, 1981
Bert Grimm, a living legend among numerous tattoo artists, will become an “immortal member” of the Tattoo Art Hall of Fame on Nov. 10, 1981. Aside from the fact that Bert has tattooed consecutively and consistently longer than any other tattoo artist known among the tattoo art field, Bert has also been praised and recognized for his particular flair and style in applying tattoos. Instead of placing an emphasis upon details and exquisite intricacies, Bert succumbs to large flowing lines and fluid shadings. His large tattoos would cover large areas of the body without inflicting the same amount of discomfort a similar-sized tattoo would cause with more detailing; his particular style explains why he continues to be sought after for tattooing, especially by novices. His unique method of producing stars was the influence of Lyle Tuttle’s now famous “star trademark”.
Oregon born and raised, Bert headed to the seaport of Portland when he was ten. The hustle, bustle and excitement of tattoo parlors attracted him and soon he attached himself to a particular one owned by Sailor Gus, Sailor George and Charlie Westin. In 1914, then 14 years of age, Bert was given his first outfit and he started tattooing.
Portland, however, became too small to contain Bert Grimm’s curious mind, and he soon traveled east and eventually ended up in Chicago on State Street. Bert was just getting settled for the winter when Buffalo Bill paid a visit to him, asking him to replace a tattoo artist in his show who had gotten home sick. Bert finished up his business that evening and folded his business that night, reporting for work at Wild Bill Cody’s at sunrise the next day.
Bert faithfully toured with that show until old Wild Bill died and the show changed hands. The absence of Wild Bill made the show seem alien to Bert and he left the show soon after.
The next place Bert settled in became a significant step for him because he would soon marry and spend the next 32 years of his life there. In the 1930’s, St. Louis was the crossroads of America, especially for the mobster underground. Bert soon built quite a reputation for himself, and every known mobster who hit St. Louis came into Bert’s parlor for tattoos, including Al Capone’s bodyguard and gang, Bonnie & Clyde and their entire gang and Machine Gun Kelly. Business soon became so profitable, that Bert semi-retired on the weekends and became a gentleman farmer in Kentucky. His farm reflected Bert’s tendency not only to tattoo on a grand scale, but to live a grand lifestyle as well. His plantation sized farm had the best livestock and chickens in the entire country. Bert enjoyed this type of living until he suffered a massive heart attack and was requested, by his doctor, to live a milder existence and to move to a more temperate climate. Bert conformed to half his doctor’s orders & moved to Long Beach, California.
At the Pike, Bert set up a plushy parlor and continued on with his business until he decided to “retire” in the late ‘60’s, selling his business to Bob Shaw. The next ten years, Bert attempted to return from retirement on numerous occasions and opened businesses which would soon fold due to medical problems. When Bert was in his 70’s, he decided to retire from the business “for good” and he returned to his boyhood state of Oregon in a country home near Seaside.
When someone indulges themselves into their art, however, as deeply and extensively as Bert has, tattooing people from all walks of life, from gangsters to gentle folk like the Rockefellers and the Tiffany’s, retirement in the normal sense meant a complete shutdown of life.
It appeared destined for Bert to go in and out of retirement more times than Mohammed Ali. To this very day, Bert continues to tattoo in his home & continues to be sought after by people from numerous walks of life up there. Bert’s regular customers include loggers and Coast Guardsmen from Astoria. Recently there was a “rush” of female nurses from the county hospital, who wanted Bert to tattoo them when they saw his tattoos during a recent physical examination. Nowadays, Bert has a female assistant-intern (Mary Jane Haake) from the University of Oregon who helps him tackle his busy business. Bert finds it rather humorous “That a fourth grade drop out is responsible for turning in his assistant’s grades to the University”.
Although Bert is in his 80’s and stricken with arthritis, he always seems to find ways around his short comings. Lyle Tuttle recently said of Bert, “He is a 17 year old locked in an old man’s body”. How fitting it is that one of Lyles’ long-time heroes become immortally embellished in the Tattoo Art Hall of Fame.
Among the many guests were: Mary Jane Haake and husband Miles, Gary Fink, Mike Tandy, Col. William Todd, Bob Shaw, Danny Williams, Mr. & Mrs. Gene Grimm, Don Ed Hardy and Elizabeth Weinzirl.
During the 3 days that he was there, Bert was in demand for a tattoo. Everyone wanted to have a Bert Grimm Tattoo and so his free time was spent tattooing.
The back cover of that issue was done by Erno Szbady, who did a design to honor Bert’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Another poster was drawn by Don Ed Hardy with Bert’s picture in it which Ed tattooed on Bert’s son Gene’s arm and a photo of that tattoo was on the following page of that issue.
The next issue March/April 1082 featured the NTA McLean, Virginia Convention at the Tyson’s Corner Holiday Inn in March and was our third convention.
This was the first year of two new contests. The first was the Quick Draw contest the rules were you had to draw the NTC Eagle Logo the fastest – which was won by Mr. Tramp of Ft Worth, Texas who did it in .40.4 seconds yes that’s .40.4 seconds. The second was The Best Draw contest – rules were you had to duplicate the NTC eagle the best – time was not of the essence but we did limit it to 20 minutes I believe. This one was won by Tattoo Ole of Copenhagen, Denmark. The rest of the winners of this convention & every NTA Convention will be up on our website shortly – if not already there as I am making lots of files on the History of the NTA. One is a list of all our winners & categories and another is of all our featured enthusiast’s & artist’s. While writing this column I am also in the process of doing three other files. They are: all our covers, all our Columnists over the years and all the issues that had cars, motor homes or motorcycles of our members in them. After that I will also do one of all our seminars, and then all of our Roastee’s and their roasters, etc… So… keep checking out the website from time to time as they will be going up as soon as Curt can get them up there when I give them to him.
We also continued the listing of all of the members of the NTC (it was Club not Association back then) in this issue. There were two old time photos of Lyle showing his chest and back tattoos done by Bert Grimm – unfortunately I typed in that they were done by Bert’s son Gene by mistake. The only one to notice or let me know was Gene and he said he only corrected me because he didn’t want people to think he was old enough to have tattooed Lyle when he was that young JJ Even Bert didn’t let me know, but, I corrected it in the next issue
The back cover showed Shotsie tattooing Tattoo Stiggy, the Man with the most tattoos, back then, according to the Guinness Book of World Records – don’t know if he still holds that record or not – Chuck Helmke holds the record as the Most Tattooed Man now but Stiggy’s title was the Man With the Most Individual Tattoos (5,433).
Our last issue for the 1981-1982 fiscal year we featured Painless Jeff Baker of Deal, England and Robert Benedetti of Hollywood, California. And after reading that issue over again I decided I want to retell their features to you all – however- they are both a bit long & so I might have to do that in our next issue so stay tuned JJ
In this issue I wrote another THOUGHT – and I’d like to reprint that here because it fits the NTA so well. So…
To JOIN: To put together, unite or make continuous To put or bring into close association or relationship To connect. To form a junction with, combine with. To become a part or member of. To take a place among, in, or with; enter into the company of. To come or act together; form a connection, junction or alliance. To become a member of a group. To take part; participate.
Synonyms: join, combine, unite, consolidate link, connect, relate, associate. These verbs refer to the bringing together of persons or things. JOIN is applied to the physical attachment of things and to the coming together of persons, usually in a close relationship. COMBINE suggests mixing or merging of related components to effect a specific purpose. UNITE stresses the coherence or oneness of persons or things joined. CONSOLIDATE implies a particular compactness or closeness of merged components. LINK & especially CONNECT imply a looser relationship in which individual units retain their identity while coming together at some point, either through physical contact or mental association. RELATE refers to attachment of persons through kinship or to connection of things through logical association. ASSOCIATE implies a relationship of persons having common aims, interests, or the like, or a relationship of things that are similar, complimentary, or have a connection in ones thoughts.
That is from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
Now go back and read just the underlined words in Synonyms. Somehow I feel they are describing the MEMBERS of the NATIONAL TATTOO CLUB OF THE WORLD (NT ASSOCIATION). I had to look it up but all of you already knew the meaning of TO JOIN.
When I asked Robert Benedetti to be a Featured Artist he said he was honored but said he didn’t know what to say about himself and asked me if he could ask someone else to write his story. I said fine and so here is Roberts’ Story for the National Newsletter by Arnold Rubin of Santa Monica, California.
Robert Benedetti is doing a different kind of Tattoo. While rooted in the Japanese tradition, his approach to the Tattoo medium is organized around a comparatively muted and restrained aesthetic, emphasizing large-scale, harmonious, non-aggressive designs and low-key colors:
Tattoos for people who are special, Tattoos which will not go out of style, Tattoos which will fit easily and comfortably into people’s daily lives, Tattoos which will look good in the low-level lighting in which they will most often be seen. While Robert Benedetti is not trying to convince other artists of the validity of his approach, believing that there is plenty of room in the field for many points of view, he is trying to reach the prospective clients whom he believes might be looking for his kind of work.
As in any profession, ideas which are out of the ordinary –particularly ideas which are subtle rather than noisy –tend to be overwhelmed by the commercial pressures and the drum-beating/horn-blowing by which reputations are generally made. And where a person’s livelihood is at stake –particularly in fields like Tattoo which are based on choices between what are, fundamentally, equivalents –it may be hazardous to wander to far from the norms (or acceptable variations). Robert Benedetti’s response to this hazard has been to simplify his personal life to the point of austerity; few things outside putting on Tattoos are allowed to enter into the category of “needs” or “essentials” –even the ego-satisfaction of being “independent”, or having sole responsibility for major works. For example, Robert Benedetti has no present plans to establish his own studio. He considers himself to be “fortunate beyond belief” to be working for “two of my best friends, Cliff and Bob Raven,” in the Sunset Strip Tattoo Studio in Hollywood –particularly since, his artistic concerns and objectives overlap with those of the shop in so many areas. Also diverging from Tattoo Tradition, Robert Benedetti is currently collaborating with Cliff Raven in developing several large-scale custom pieces -from working out the design through the various stages of execution. This is not, he hastens to point out, the traditional Master/Apprentice relationship, where the Apprentice performs comparatively simple tasks under the close supervision of the Master; rather, the work benefits from the artistic and technical capabilities of two skilled and experienced professionals.
Unlike the rising percentage of Tattooists with formal training in art, Robert Benedetti found his way into the medium as a “natural” or instinctive artist. By the end of his high-school years he had his own art studio and was selling paintings, sculptures, and works in other media to galleries throughout California. His consciousness of Tattoo began with being taken along, at about 12 or 13 years of age, when his stepfather went to have work done at a Tattoo Studio in San Jose. Robert has a vivid recollection from that experience of a wall of photographs of extensively tattooed people. Shortly afterwards he began to do small Tattoos by hand on himself and friends, but STRONG parental disapproval brought these fledgling efforts to an end after only a few months — not to be resumed until his early 20’s. During this interim period, however, Robert and his friends continued to visit shops in the San Francisco Bay area. At this point, he himself had only one small Tattoo.
Beginning around the age of 20 (approximately) Robert Benedetti was supporting himself as a cosmetologist/hairdresser and Tattooing at night in his home in Menlo Park. After a while he began to cover the night-shift at a local Tattoo Shop. He took over the shop for about 1½ years until the owner returned in early 1976, whereupon he went back to tattooing at home. He then worked for a while with Steve Cameron in his studio in San Jose, and then once again returned to working at home. Robert next had his own shop in Palo Alto for two years. Then he worked for a short time in another shop in the San Francisco Bay area. After that, in 1978, he came to Hollywood to work with Cliff Raven at the Sunset Strip Studio.
Robert Benedetti began seriously to get his own Tattoos in 1973 or 1974. He worked with various Artists in developing designs without black shading or black lines. Early in 1976, when about half of his back was done, he met Cliff Raven and had his first exposure to large-scale Japanese-style Tattoo. In March, 1976, Cliff started cover-work on his back, which, since extended to pectorals, arms and hips.
While not a “celebrity collector”, working the Sunset Strip nightshift inevitably brings in a lot of famous names. Robert recalls having Tattooed Cher, Gordon Lightfoot, David Carradine, David Lee Roth (lead singer of Van Halen), Ozzy Ozbourne, and others who prefer to remain anonymous. For about the past three years (remember this is from 1982) — since coming to Hollywood Robert has done practically no work in media other than Tattooing, except for producing a large amount of flash. He maintains a lively interest in “fine art”, however. Robert Benedetti lists Rodin, Matisse and Picasso as his favorite European Artists, but his first love remains Japanese Art. He particularly misses being able to visit the Asian collections of the De Young Museum as frequently as he could when he was living in the San Francisco area. Among Tattooists (aside from Cliff Raven) he likes “little bits of a lot of people” — Bob Roberts’ handling of blacks and grays, Peter Tat 2 Poulos’ low-key colors and watercolor style, and Spider Webb’s conceptual innovations.
Daytimes, Robert Benedetti is likely to be found in the Pacific Ocean off Venice Beach, surfing or scuba-diving.
Story courtesy of Arnold Rubin
PAINLESS JEFF BAKER
Now when Painless Jeff Baker was asked to be a Featured Artist, Jeff was not exactly at a loss for words (sorry Jeff, just couldn’t resist) and immediately began dictating his story to his lovely wife, Daphne. Here is Jeff’s story as I received it from them;
Just read the News Mag from National and note, not without interest, that you seem to be stuck for hair raising saga’s from members … Well worry no more Flo … Just had a word in the little woman’s ear and she’s kindly captured it all on paper – leaving out the sordid incidents and bearing in mind this is a family show, she and we came up with this condensed version of the Rakes Progress…
I’m short on decent pics at the mo on account that the photography bit was just a passing whim – You have that one of meself Tattooing the little lady I sent in with the old subscription… But don’t let me keep you from the enthralling tale about to be unfolded!!!
Yours in Anticipation …
Me first tatt from Tuttle
The Painless Jeff Story as related to Mrs. Painless , Daphne…
Jeff joined the Signal Corps as a Boy Soldier in 1944, in the belief that this event would halt the conflict. His first remembered acquaintance with the Tattoo World was accompanying friends to George Burchett’s shop on Waterloo Road, not far from the Union Jack Servicemen’s Club where the odd leave was spent. His first overseas hitch was to Hong Kong in ’49, stuck in a tent on the Chinese border in the New Territories. Once a week a liberty truck took the guys to Kowloon to let off steam and shed a few dollars, the diversions indulged in were either visits to the movies, houses of ill repute, the bars or last but not least, The Tattoo Shop. Most of his friends were regular customers of Pinky’s but Jeff, to be different, kept his skin pure whilst indulging in not so pure activities. He often sketched his skin Pinky’s results, never dreaming years later he too would be drawn into that business. At one stage he became the Company Sign Writer, painting Divisional Badges on all the transport. He later came into contact with Dyack Trackers from Borneo and was intrigued with their symbolic tattoos. Jeff copied a few of their smaller motifs onto friends, with needle and boot polish, just for the fun of it.
In ’52 Jeff found himself in Germany. During odd periods he spent in Detention Barracks (Stockades), he would while away the time with a darning needle and polish, desecrating the skin of fellow inmates with what he considered replicas of the Pinky Yun designs he had sketched in Hong Kong. This often led to a punishment diet of bread and water in solitary. Being promoted later him on, he could get away with the things that had previously warranted him being locked up – so that put paid to a promising tattooing career – for a few years!
Demobbed in ’55, after a variety of short lived jobs, he settled in as a Canteen Assistant on Royal Navy Ships, once more becoming fascinated with the art work adorning the crewmen. At this stage the financial prospects of watering down the ice-cream and fruit juice was the immediate attraction, leading to an ambition to get into catering. This ambition was achieved a couple of years later with the help of a small loan and ice-cream money, he was able to put down the deposit on a Cafe opposite the Royal Marines Barracks in Deal. In no time at all he realized the potential for a Tattooist and soon acquired a “Super Delux” Tattoo Outfit for $30.00. The first noticeable thing about the machines was that they worked in exactly the same way as a Morse buzzer, something the army had used to demonstrate the effects and cause of electricity and magnetism, all those years had at last born fruit… Painless could now go out and leave his mark on the World! Which was something he had in mind for the future, to earn a crust whilst in foreign parts…
Most of the Marine clientele in the Cafe had served in Hong Kong and sported Pinky’s work. Marine friends were quizzed on the techniques and the designs were carefully studied – and stolen, reproduced and permutated with others. The local library dug up any book that even mentioned tattooing and Jeff experimented on himself with an inkless machine. The first Tattoo was on a heavily decorated Marine, who went through the stages as he remembered them. And so a business was born, although Jeff is the first to admit he had a helluva lot to learn, in fact he insists that once he considers he has learnt enough he may just as well quit. In search of knowledge, the obvious solution would have been to visit another Tattoo Artist, Jeff was reluctant to milk another guys brain and in the main the initial year or so was spent lifting designs from tattooed carcasses using Burchett’s book “Memoirs of a Tattooist” as a kind of bible, consulting with the Public Health Authority on hygiene, who incidentally condoned the old bucket and sponge and toilet roll. He well remembers Lyle Tuttle on a visit here in a later year, refusing to touch the trusted bucket for fear of contracting galloping lergy. But that was the way of things over here at the time!
The biggest event he can recall of the time, was being visited by one Charlie Bell, THE Tattooist of Kent – in those early years it was akin to being called upon by Royalty. Charlie has turned into lifelong friend and was best man at our wedding. The first artist Jeff visited was Leslie Burchett, who gave him a machine, now in Lyle Tuttle’s museum.
In the Cafe, which was decked out with Tattoo Flash, Jeff often had to stop a tattoo half way through to make up orders of burgers, etc., but this routine was accepted with good humor by the clientele. Some of his clients were crewmen from the Cross Channel ships. To get more experience under his belt he signed on for a season, sailing regularly to the French Ports. During shore leave in Boulogne he struck a deal with a Bar Proprietor, in exchange for smartening up some old P.O.W. tattoos he could tattoo in the bar, the L’Ecu de France, one week in every three. This was a useful enterprise, tattooing the local fishermen, sailors and U.S. servicemen and led Jeff to think of extending his activities further afield. This came when he acquired a small van and rigged it up as a mobile Tattoo Shop, travelling on the Continent and working on building sites and inside or outside of army barracks, the only money he carried was for gassing up the motor – as an inducement to tattoo or go hungry. A good friend he made in Hamburg on those trips was Herbert Hoffman who always had a meal waiting and provided washing facilities. He permitted him to browse through his extensive library of Tattoo photo albums and introduced Jeff to the original Tattoo Club of America. The shop at Deal was always headquarters, but the urge to seek new horizons was still there. In 1965, Jeff signed on as a crewman on the S.S. Canberra, shipping out with a complete tattoo shop and portable outfit. There were 900 crew on board, plus passengers, so business was more than brisk. In ports along the Mediterranean, he and a shipmate would take the gear ashore and set up in any bar that would have them. The best by far, was the notorious Texas Bar in Lisbon, who welcomed Jeff each time the ship hit the port – the lights were poor and the tattoos washed off in beer, but the sailors from half a dozen different navy’s and the bar girls loved it as a diverse form of entertainment. On the world cruises Jeff met up with such characters as Doc Forbes, Captain Ted, Phil Sparrow, Davy Jones and a whole bunch of Aussie Artists, thanks to Des Connolly, Lyle Tuttle came on board ship and had the smallest of tattoos on a vacant spot – I believe that one is still healing! To all these people and many others too numerous to mention, Jeff feels he owes a lot, from each he has learnt something, as he has from every tattoo shop he has ever visited, then and now.
Back once more shore side, Jeff ran the Tattoo Cafe in the evenings and worked the Arcade Gaff at Rendezvous Amusements in nearby Folkestone during the day. Eventually after all the haring around and working round the clock, although Jeff does not deem tattooing to be work, in the early 70’s he decided to settle back in the one location, from whence he started. The Cafe interfered with the tattooing, so he closed that – what to do with the vacant space? He figured engraving – that got out of hand and he brought me in to do the paper work and handle the customers. That has now developed into my own shop on the main street selling engravable items and trophies, whilst Jeff does the engraving, which he says fits in very well with the tattooing.
Jeff now appears to have settled, travelling strictly tourist. He has been to every Tattoo Meeting held since his first in Hamburg in 75; missing only the last one in Reno (received this story before the Va. Convention). After about 16 years in the business, he finally got that feeling – the urgent desire to be Tattooed … In ’74 he tripped off to San Francisco and Lyle Tuttle had the dubious honor of being the first to decorate him. Since then he has received souvenir tattoos from friends in the biz, Doc Forest, Bob Shaw, Ed Hardy and Doc Webb. He assures me he has plenty of space and will add to his collection in the future.
His philosophy is to improve one’s own business, to observe and learn and not to worry about the competition. Newcomers are often attracted to the profession on seeing rough work that they think they can equal – had he in the beginning, seen some of the magnificent work that has come from the West Coast of the U.S., he swears he would have stuck to his burgers.
Editor’s note: Painless Jeff is no longer with us but those of us who were lucky enough to have met him are definitely glad he didn’t stick to making burgers. Although if he were still with us I know he’d add this comment – “Well Flo, by that statement everyone knows you never received a Painless Jeff Tattoo J” – because that was Jeff’s sense of humor.
I hope you all enjoyed their stories and now to continue the NTA history we move on to the 1982-1983 fiscal year.
The first issue (July- August 1982) we featured Tattooist Barry Louvaine from London, England whom I had asked to be featured many months before his story arrived. His prologue to his story explained why it took him so long to get me his article and photos. I thought it so funny I included that explanation with his story. I still think it funny and so am including it again here…
I’m terribly sorry to be so long in sending you my photos & story. I hope you haven’t given up on me.
I don’t take photos of my work, so when you first asked me, I bought a camera and waited till customers with good work came in and then snapped them. After about a month, the film was used up so I sent it in for processing, only to find the flash was too bright and all the pictures were over-exposed. Back to square one and armed with a special filter for the lens, I repeated the process, only to find a month later that all the photos were too dark. In desperation I borrowed a very expensive reflex camera, getting the owner to set up the lenses for me so I could take close-ups. Nothing can go wrong this time, I thought… So once again I waited until really nice work arrived at my studio, photographed it and eagerly awaited the time when I could see the results in National’s magazine. You can imagine my horror when, upon collecting the film from the chemist, I was informed that the whole film had been ruined by my incorrectly removing it from the camera, somehow exposing it to the light. I finally gave up and got a professional photographer to sit in my studio all day one Saturday and just snap lads who were in that day. So, I’m afraid the enclosed slides are the best I can do. It’s such an honor to be selected for the magazine that I had hoped to be able to show only the best of my work. By the way, do you know anyone who would like to buy a very expensive reflex camera that has been thrown on the floor and jumped on?
I am sure there are those of you who can relate to Barry’s experience with trying to get good photos of your work and so had to share it with you all once more.
Although for some it is for the first time – since this is from 1982 and taking great photos of tattoos has gotten a lot easier since then as well…
Our Featured Enthusiast of that issue was Art Livermore from San Francisco, California who only started getting tattooed late in life but went on to get a complete body suit from Pat Martynuik. At the NTA Reno Convention in 1981, Art and Tom Alley tied for the Best Tattooed Male honors.
Then in 1983 at the NTA Phoenix Convention Art won the Best Tattooed Male contest once again, but, this time there was no tie.
The back cover was a photo of Barry tattooing a cliente.
And in our Sept./Oct. 1982 issue Tom Alley of Denver, Colorado was our Featured Enthusiast . Tom received his first tattoo from Dave Saleem of California. It was then he decided to get more tattoos and one day he walked into Peter Tat 2 Poulos’ shop in Denver and saw the work on Barbara Chapman’s legs and said that’s the kind of tattoos I want. So he sat down with Peter and worked out what he wanted for a full body suit and the rest is history. As stated in Art’s paragraph Tom & Art tied for the Best Tattooed Male honors in Reno in 1981. Then in 1982, at the NTA McLean, Virginia convention Tom went on to win this honor again once more but no tie this year.
Tom loved tattoos so much he was thinking of being a tattooist himself and Peter took him on as an apprentice – however after his apprenticeship was over, Tom felt he could never be as good as Peter and said every client deserves the kind of work Peter does and so he decided he’d rather be a collector of tattoos than a tattooist.
And our Featured Artist of this issue was Doc Forest of Hagersten, Sweden. Doc was instrumental in opening up the first Tattoo Studio in Sweden and also held numerous tattoo exhibitions. In fact, he held two in Sweden. In 1976 he had a display in the Museum of Modern Art, one in the Cultural Centre in 1978 and an exhibition in June 1982 in Poland. The latter was a biggy as it was the “First Tattoo Exhibition” inside the Iron Curtain where tattooing was banned at that time.
Doc won Best European Tattooist at the NTA’s Reno Convention in 1981. He also has built quite a few Street Rod Cars and one of a kind tattoo machines.
And now he even builds guitars as well.
And Painless Jeff Baker of England wrote his first column for the NTA newsletter called:
“THE SCENE” – In Europe as seen by “Painless” Jeff
Jeff reported on the goings on in the tattoo world in Europe. He has a great sense of humor and his column was fun to read. The following is the start of his column:
By courtesy of the “Wheels” of National – to brighten your day or simply dismiss these humble efforts as a “buncha rubbish” – they’ve asked me for my views of what’s what, this side of the pond. I am not one of the self- appointed spokesman for those of us engaged in this biz and my opinions might not reflect those of colleagues. I do have the benefit of chewing the fat with continental clients and artists on occasion. As these chit chats always seem to end with one or two for the road, it is sometimes rather difficult to even remember who one was with the previous evening, let alone what intellectual conversation was in progress… But, I have solved this problem by keeping notes, now the difficulty is finding the bits of paper… Somehow or other we’ll make it to the end, which is probably right now for most of you – for the rest, let me just say that after the initial years of dreaming of fame and fortune in this game I have gradually mellowed into accepting the facts of life, preaching only to the unconverted with a realization that there are many more facets for me to discover in this ‘ere noble art.
And then he went on to report a few funny things that was going on over on the other side of the pond JJ
Sadly Jeff left us in 2009 – but those of us who got to know him know what a character he was and is missed.
This issue I also started listing the members and where they were from: since we were now 5 years old I listed the 5 year members (Artists & Enthusiasts), then the 4 year members, the three year members, the two year members (Enthusiasts) and then ran out of room and continued the listing in the next few issues.
The back cover was an Old time Photo showing: Bill Brown of Long Beach, California, Doc Webb of San Diego, California tattooing Mac McKinney of Esparto, California and Frank Taylor (brother of Fred Thornton) of Long Beach, California. This photo was from around 1952-1954 era.
…More to come.