Here’s the latest addition of the Chronicles.
A LIFE IN INK—EPISODE 2
Bricks through tattoo shop windows. Pissed-off artists sledge-hammering competitors’ fingers. Setting fire to buildings. I hadn’t heard about any of this, but it was the ’90s and my exposure to the tattoo world was limited to the usual convict movies and gangland photos in the newspaper. I thought cobwebs on elbows and tattooed teardrops were simply fashion statements, like cigarette packs rolled up in the sleeves of T-shirts, sneakers without laces and solid-gold front teeth. It wasn’t until my son Riley and his older brother, Jesse, tried to open a shop in Las Vegas that I got an inkling of how the tattoo world really worked.
This was before Riley got hired by Sunset Strip or worked at Venice Bob’s. During their teens, my kids lived in Vegas with their mother, helping her out with a small ranch that demanded constant fixing. Hauling hay bails, cementing rock walls and sweeping sand off the porch were everyday chores. I remember Jesse telling me that, when he visited his mom, she, typically, opened the door and handed him a rake. Although Vegas was way too hot for me, they liked it well enough and had pretty much built a large cadre of friends. Jesse was tarring roofs for a living and Riley was into his rock ’n’ roll. Both of them were tattooing. Not full-time or at a shop, but mixed in between sessions of drawing T-shirt designs or posters for Riley’s various bands.
I was living in Los Angeles and got most of my family news by telephone or chance encounters. You know, friends of my kids who lived in SoCal and occasionally reported the latest adventures of the Baxter boys or, as they were more commonly known, the “Tuesday” boys. My three eldest children were born on Tuesday and given Tuesday as their middle name. They liked it so much, in fact, that, over the years, all three experimented with interchanging the Tuesday with Baxter and calling themselves Holly Tuesday, Riley Tuesday or Jesse Tuesday, a name he still uses today.
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We are starting a new TATTOO CHRONICLES series on www.vanishingtattoo.com. It’s all about my nearly fifteen years as editor-in-chief of Skin&Ink magazine, all the characters I met, places I visited and battles I fought. Following is a sample. We worked really hard on this project, and hope you take a look.
A LIFE IN INK
Lyle Tuttle says that tattooing began when primitive man accidentally poked himself with the sharp, burnt end of a stick he had plucked from a fire. And the stick left a mark. An accident that, subsequently, left its brand for over fifty million years. It seems, as Lyle tells it, the next day, the primitive man left his cave, encountered a saber-toothed tiger and slew the terrible beast. Since this was something this particular Neanderthal, Piltdown Man or monkey man or whatever had never accomplished before, his sudden prowess was attributed to the powerful, magical mark left on his skin. The one left by the carbon on the stick. The one left by the tattoo.
My first tattoo was also a mistake. An accident. I was in the fourth grade at San Mateo Park School, back when Eisenhower was president. Back before the current tattoo phenomenon. Back before I knew anything about tattooing. Back before I knew who Lyle Tuttle was. Or cared.
My tattoo was emblazoned on my knee, the result of my goofing off with a ballpoint pen and unexpectedly jamming the sharp end into my kneecap. My tattoo, as far as I can reckon, lasted for over forty years. Three times longer, in fact, than I served as the editor-in-chief of Skin&Ink, a magazine some say was the most respected tattoo publication on the newsstand. The fact is, when I was asked by the infamous Larry Flynt (universally dubbed “the king of porn,” in case you didn’t know) to take over Skin&Ink, a magazine he had owned and operated for about seven years, I didn’t know shit about tattoos.
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