Bob Shaw Interview.

I could sit and read these interviews all day. Another one from the very gracious Jonathan Shaw; this time interviewing the legendary Bob Shaw. Bob (1926-1993) was known as an innovative flash painter and letterer. He had full sleeves from Bert Grimm by the time he was sixteen years old and later went on to run Bert’s shop at the Pike. If you haven’t already read the Col. Todd interview I posted, check it out!

Originally Published in 1993, International Tattoo Art magazine Vol. 1 Number 5.

Bob Shaw: The Life and Times of a Tattoo Hero.

Paul Rogers and Bob Shaw.

This interview was conducted with Bob Shaw, several months before his death, at his Aransas Pass home. His frankness, humor and generosity of spirit are clearly felt through his words and anecdotes. Even at death’s door, he was never too preoccupied to share his all with the tattoo world to which he lovingly dedicated to his life and times.

Jonathan Shaw: Bob, you’ve been tattooing for a long time now, over fifty years, right?

Bob Shaw: Fifty-one years.

JS: Fifty-one years. Thats a long time to be doing anything. How did it all start?

BS: It’s kind of strange, I guess. My father died when I was a kid, and my mother remarried when I was 13, and the fellow she married wasn’t very good at taking care of the family. Everything I did was ass-backwards. My brother two years older than me had left home and went into the city about six months before that, and he invited me there in the summer of 1941.

JS: What part of the country was this?

BS: That was in St. Louis, Missouri. So I went up. He had a could tattoos and I got a couple. Summer was over, and that year I had just graduated from the eight grade. I was planning on attending more, but I got mad and left home and went to St. Louis, and never went back to school. It was kind of strange in St. Louis, I think it’s been told before, but when I went there I was under 16 and couldn’t get a job any place where they had the insurance and that kind of stuff. So I got a job washing dishes right around the corner from Bert [Grimm]. I had to be there about seven o’clock in the morning, and sometimes I worked until eight, nine o’clock at night. To tell you the truth, I think it paid about 15 dollars a week.

When I’d work until nine o’clock I’d get picked picked up for curfew. So I’d go around the corner to Bert’s and my brother would pick me up, he was on the swing shift, he got off about 11. He pick me up about 11:30. Needless to say, staying up late like that I couldn’t get up early for the job so they fired me.

I was bitching about the thing, and Bert says, “I could use you.” So he taught me how to develop quick-finish pictures, which is a stinky, smelly job, and I could see why he didn’t want to do it. You had to wear a rubber glove on one hand or the chemicals would turn your hand black.

JS: This was kind of a sideline in the tattoo shop, a lot of tattoos shops in those days used to have sidelines like a photo booth or something, right?

BS: I’ll tell you, the photo business was probably better than the tattoo shop at the time. It was a pretty good size building, maybe fifty foot wide and a hundred and fifty foot deep. They had six different sized photographs, and they had a posing studio for wedding pictures, or whatever.

JS: That’s why a lot of those old-time photographs of people will full-body tattoos by Bert Grimm look like they were professionally photographed back then.

BS: Yeah. Now that was in front of the building. Down one side and across the back was all kinds of arcade equipment, look in the submarine, shoot the cowboy, pinballs machines. And the tattoo shop was in the back.

JS: So it was a real penny arcade.

BS: Yeah, it was an arcade type thing. In the back, about two thirds of the way down, was the tattoo shop. It was about fifteen by twenty foot square. I had a darkroom back in the other corner, and when I wasn’t working, naturally, I’d stand around the tattooing.

Bert was working the National Guard that come in, and the soldiers stationed at Jefferson Barracks, which was right outside St. Louis. I’d talk to them guys and they’d ask me about tattoos. I’d show them mine, and I’d say “Let me put you in line so you can get your turn,” because they would be standing completely outside the tattoo shop.

JS: So you became the kind of front-room helper.

BS: I became the flunky helper. (laughs) And that was so successful that I didn’t do the pictures any more. Bert wore a particular kind of jacket, and he wore an eyeshade. I did too, I looked like him.

JS: A younger version.

BS: Yeah. So after three months of that I said, “I would like to put a tattoo on my brother.” And he said, “Sure. Do it while I’m at lunch.”

So I put one on and when he came back he said “That’s not bad.” And I don’t remember what got the thing started, but he said “We got that section of tattoos that are twenty-five cents to a dollar and a half, and you can put them on ’cause there’s no shading in there, just outline and color. If you could learn to do that, you could branch up to something different.” I said, “Well, how do I learn?” He said, “I get you a couple of winos.”

JS: So you must have had a natural ability.

BS: I’ll tell you, I was always quick to pick up anything. And I could draw- maybe not like a Rembrandt, but I could draw things.

JS: Still, that’s not too bad. In the interview I did with Col. Todd he mentioned that you were both pretty good carpenters and good at other things.

BS: I’ll tell you, I know people that are clumsy and can’t write their name so you can read it and that kind of stuff. I used to ask people to write “mother” and “father” on a piece of paper, and here’s a guy that’s got something slanted so you can’t read it, and I’d tell ’em, “Well, I could be wrong, but you won’t make a good tattooer. You might scratch somebody’s arm, you might put something on them and not kill ’em, but you’re not going to be artistic”.

I taught a guy for money that couldn’t write his name, and I think his career ended when his lessons did (laughs). Somebody told me he was over in East St. Louis, sitting over there nervous, afraid somebody was going to come in. Three months over there and I doubt very seriously that he put on more than a dozen tattoos. I told him that I didn’t think he could learn it.

What you usually have to do when you learn tattooing- there’s no school as you know- is you have to be around it a lot, or you have to get somebody to give you an idea of something. I’ve heard people say, and I’m sure they half right, “Oh, I’m self taught.” What they don’t realize is that when they’re around somebody tattooing, it gives them ideas one way or another. They’ve had help, but they won’t admit it.

JS: Guess they’re too proud or something. There are pictures of you that show that you’re covered in tattoos but it looked like you barely had hair on your face.

BS: I’ll tell you, I got my arm, my chest, my back, I got all that from the waist up done before I was 17.

JS: So that’s when you were still working as a helper for Bert?

BS: No, I had started tattooing. When I started tattooing, I only had like five or six tattoos on each arm, and believe it or not, I had paid for all of them. But like I said, the were a dollar and a half at most. Bert said, “If you’re going to make good at this, at least you’re going to have to get your arms covered from the elbows down. Or you might want to get tattooed all over, who knows?” That’s what got that started. He put a pair of bracelets on my arms and started working up.

I worked in St. Louis until 1949, and then they closed the Jefferson Barracks.

JS: So it dried right up.

BS: Right. And there wasn’t no swing shift, people went back to a 40 hour work week. In 1948 they had kind of a recession. Things weren’t so hot, and I was either going to have to get a job or go someplace else. People would come through and tell me different places, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle. One day a tattooer came in from San Antonio. I said, “What’s in San Antonio?” He said, “Well, there’s Fort Sam Houston, this airbase, that airbase. Five different military places.” Of course, they only got paid once a month, but he said he worked two weeks, noon to midnight, didn’t even take a day off. I looked and he was driving a Lincoln Continental, had a couple of sparkling rings on, expensive cowboy boots, so I knew he was making some money. Bert said that he knew Sailor Jack there. So he sent him a letter. He got back a letter about a month later that he worked in a circus wagon parked off the street.

JS: That was the one they called the Original Sailor Jack?

BS: Yeah, Jack Tyron. He said, “Well, if he’s as good as you say he is, send him on down and I’ll give him a try.” So a couple of days later I jumped in the car and drove down. To tell you the truth, it was the fall of ’49, and I wasn’t too crazy about the looks of the joint.

Anyway, I was there and I’d give it a try. And it wasn’t too busy. And I was thinking about-truthfully- I met a guy named Soldier Mack, and he was going to Panama. I was single then, and I was thinking very strongly about going with him. [In Houston] I could make enough to pay my rent and eat and all that kind of stuff, have a few drinks or whatever, even save a couple of bucks. Nothing to write home about.

While we were planning this trip, the Korean War broke out, I guess this would be 1950. Boy, they started loading up the camps. They had one that was closed, 15 miles out of town, they loaded that up with GIs, and of course people were joining the Air Force because they didn’t want to do that hand-to-hand fighting. It got so busy that you could work all night if you wanted to. But usually what happens when you get a place that’s that busy, you get a couple of dozen tattooers there. But I’ll tell you, that didn’t make any difference. I was a young kid and most of them were sleazy looking fort or fifty year old people. So I got all the business. Plus I was pretty fast and I talked their language.

San Antonio stayed busy until the end of the Korean war and past that, because there were all these GIs around. The the tragedy hit San Antonio that I thought might be coming everywhere.

JS: What was that?

BS: The city stepped in and wanted to take off tattooing. San Antonio closed up. This was 1955. It didn’t get opened again until about 1975.

I left there. I had bought a house and I sold it. The money wasn’t a problem, bit I was thinking of different places I might want to go, I thought, “I’ll go down to Florida someplace.” And I starting that way I stopped in Biloxi, Mississippi. Well, I stopped in New Orleans first. I was in New Orleans about two or three weeks. I worked in a shop, there was an old guy there, to see what kind of package it was, and I discovered that there was no daytime or evening trade. You might as well stay home till nine o’clock at night.

JS: And then all you get is drunks.

BS: In many cases, yeah. The people don’t come out until nine o’clock at night. Then you work all night. I had a wife and kids, and I had to bypass that. So I never really gave New Orleans a chance. I can’t remember what the old man’s name was. He was right there at the end of Canal street. He was some kind of night watchman on the docks, and he don that until eight or nine o’clock, then he opened up the tattoo shop. Downtown, there wasn’t anybody. At that time, somebody told me that hardly anybody ever stays in New Orleans permanently.

JS: Very few.

BS: From there, I stopped in Biloxi. I new a guy there, and I thought, let me open up a shop here and give this a try. The wheels in my head always worked pretty good. I got the paper while we were having lunch or dinner or whatever we were having, and saw that you could get an apartment for twenty-five dollars. You could rent a house for fifty dollars.

I went to see the tattooer. I knew him from St. Louis, a fellow named Earl Brown. Well, I went to see him and he said, “You don’t want to open up a shop, you want to work in here with me.”

JS: Earl Brown. I’ve seen a lot of his old flash, and it was very different than the kind of stuff that you or Bert Grimm would do. It almost looks like it was etched in there with a ballpoint pen or something.

BS: He didn’t paint stuff like we did, and he didn’t tattoo like we did either, but that’s a long story. I went in with him there. We hadn’t been in there two months and he wanted to get into a bigger place. And talking about designs, I painted 150 or 200 sheets of 15×20 flash. He had maybe ten sheets up. He had an idea- and I went with it, because if you can make any money you might as well try anything- there was a little bit of business on paydays, and at that time they got paid twice a month. I did the outlines and the shading and he did the color. And the tattoos came out looking better than if he had done them himself.

We got along pretty good until a hurricane came through Houma, Louisiana. That was in 1958. When that happened they took the troops out of the camp and used them as guards in all them little southern Louisiana towns. The business really slowed down. On payday you did maybe four or five jobs. And tattooing was real cheap, you know what I mean? You had little Air Force wings for a dollar and a half.

He made me mad and I never did get over it. I lived out of town and he lived two blocks from the shop. He’d say, “Well there ain’t nothing doing, let’s close up.” So we’d close up at 8:00, and 8:30 he was back open again. We opened up at noon, and he was always there when I got there, but I found out he was getting there at nine o’clock in the morning, and he was telling the guys, “Now, you come back at nine thirty tonight, and I’ll put this on your for like half price.” I didn’t say too much to him, but I made up my mind to leave there.

That’s when I met [“Col.” William] Todd. Coincidence, I guess. He called on the telephone, Todd did, and he got Earl. And Earl was telling him “You don’t want that lazy bum”- he was talking about me- “I’ve got all kinds of tattoo equipment. I taught him everything he knows. Some things he can’t get- he can’t do a complete tattoo, you know.”

I talked to Todd later, and he said he’d talked to Sailor Jack. And he said, “What is Earl Brown?” and Jack said, “He’s a carnie. He’s a guy with a birthmark on his face. He’s like all those carnies. Jerks. Anything that wasn’t tied down and he’d come by it, he’d pick it up.” Todd was pretty smart. He said, “Well, I’ll think about it.” And he went to the phone company and got my home phone number. He wanted to know if I wanted to go to Clarksville, Tennessee.

JS: So you went in with Todd?

BS: Yeah, Todd’s shop looked nice, it was clean. After he got acquainted with me he encouraged me to paint a lot of designs. We got along just great.

JS: You guys worked as a famous team the same way, one would do the shading and one would do the outlining, right? Who did what?

BS: I did the outlining and the collecting.

JS: The hard stuff.

BS: Right (laughs). We had a couple of benches in the shop, and these guys would sit down over there and waif for the tattoo to get colored in. Sometimes I’d have four or five people outlined and I’d stop to do a little coloring. When more people come in I’d go ahead and do the next guy. We’d sit them down over there on the bench and give them a piece of soft paper towel and tell them to hold this over it and we’d be with them in a minute.

JS: So you stayed busy there, you and Todd.

BS: Yeah, I’ll tell you, we had people that came out of the neighboring cities and even the neighboring states.

JS: Well, you guys got know for doing high quality work.

BS: Yeah, there wasn’t anybody through the midwest that did anything. We got a lot of people from Chicago and those places. We were right on a major highway , and in those days there weren’t any bypasses, you had to come right through the middle of town. Truck drivers would see the sign, stop and look, we’d put tattoos on ’em and they’d show ’em to other people, and that would attract quite a bit of business. But there’s a winter time and it snows. From October to March it snows, maybe two or three hard freezes, so if you did want to go to work, you had to wait till about noon, and you had to start home about 4:30. But we didn’t have any competition.

JS: How long did you both stay there? Todd was there first, right?

BS: We were in Clarksville, but we moved to Hopkinsville [Kentucky] because it was a better location, about a year after I went there. We were there from the summer of ’58 to the winter of ’64.

JS: What happened in ’64?

BS: Bert had been calling me and writing me letters, and he was going to retire. The last letter I remember getting he said that “in six months I’ll be 65, and I’m going to say goodbye to tattooing.” He said, “It’ll take me that long to get somebody roped into my schedule, and I’d rather have you than anybody else I know.” So eventually I decided, yeah, maybe I’ll go out there. Same old story. I had a house, furniture and an extra car to sell. In the wintertime people are tight with money around small areas. You can give stuff away for about half of what it’s worth.

But I went out there and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It was so good, I invited Todd out.

JS: This was the original Bert Grimm’s shop on the Pike in Long Beach, California?

BS: He went out there in 1954, but he started this stuff that he’d been out there since 1927. A lot of people have written about that place and said he’d been there since 1927, but Bert only went there in 1954.

JS: But that was a tattoo shop before Bert went out.

BS: Yeah, at the other end.

JS: You mean where the back room is now?

BS: Yeah. There was a tattoo artist back in there, and a gypsy fortune teller, a barber shop, they had quite a number of things running all around the bottom (laughs).

He had bought the entire basement. There was one or two vacancies, but everybody else, when their lease was up they moved.

JS: So Bert was doing a booming business out there.

BS: It was a funny thing, but the Pike had never attracted anybody that was any good. Usually it was drunks, dopies, or people that just worked when they needed the money. Back in the ’50s thing was cheap out there same as they were everywhere. Bert started putting on top notch tattooing, so anybody that wanted tattooing, they came to see Bert.

JS: So he got you talked into coming out there. That was a pretty jumping place back then. What was it like?

BS: It was kind of strange. I went out there, and at that particular time it wasn’t no snap, you didn’t just go out there and get your license and go to work.

JS: Oh no?

BS: No, you went up to the police department and they fingerprinted you and mugged you and asked you a hundred questions, and if they couldn’t find anything that you’d done, they gave you a slip. And that usually took two or three weeks. Then you went to the health department, and they gave you a chest X-ray, and a blood test and that kind of stuff, and that usually took two weeks. And if everything was alright, they would send you a license and a health permit through the mail. You had to have both. Then they had a guy come around, whenever he wanted to, a health inspector. I’ll tell you, that kept a lot of shops out of there. When I first went there O think the license was $125- a hundred for the license and $25 for the health inspection. The other day I talked to Todd, and he said the licenses are up to $625.

JS: That’d keep a lot of scratchers from opening up.

BS: I started out working the day shift, ten to six. You’ll get a following if you do halfway decent tattooing. People would come in and say, “Boy he’s fast.”

I’d be ready to go home and some guy’d come in and he’d say, “I want you to tattoo me.” And I’d say, “No, my shift’s over, I work till six at night.” And I’ve had a lot of them say they’d come back later. Anyway, it worked out pretty good. I was there for 15 years.

JS: Fifteen years. A lot of big name tattooers came through there. Who are some of the people that you remember working with there?

BS: Well, some of the more notable ones are Don Nolan, Zeke Owen, Rio de Janiero, Phil Simms, Bob Oslan, Bob Roberts, my sons Bobby and Larry, yourself…

JS: Ed Hardy used to hang around there when he was just a kid and watch Bert tattoo. So that was the birthplace of a lot of what they call modern tattooing.

BS: I’ll tell you what I think helps the whole thing a lot. I was constantly drawing and painting. Every year I had 20 or 25 new sheets of flash on the wall. Bert had the stuff painted with red and black and a little spot of green here and there. I guess I was the first person in the country to start highlighting a rose with yellow.

JS: You mean the blending of colors.

BS: Yellow and green in the leaves. I knew it would make a tattoo look better, using white and brown, and I eve got a good blue for blue eyes or something. I tried t make things look as artistic as possible. I’m sure it helped because a lot of people said the same thing; it turned out to be the number one shop in the country for a number of years.

JS:I think a lot of the things that you were doing there, blending colors and so on, have become the standard of American tattooing. You set a lot of standards for tattooers all over the country.

BS: One thing I will take credit for: I made the neatest lettering. Sometimes I’d spend the whole day just lettering. A lot of times I’d draw it on their arm or just draw it on a piece of paper.

JS:That style of lettering became known to people in the tattoo business as Pike style lettering or Shaw style lettering. It was very distinctive, flowing, almost like you see some metal engravers doing today, a lot of curlicues and stuff. People loved that.

BS: I knew they did. I started that in St. Louis.

JS: You must have had a lot of call for it all along.

BS: I got a calligraphy book one time, and for about six months I used to make calligraphy cards. I’d write people’s names and address on the cards, fat and skinny lines. Ten cents apiece is what I was getting at the time. You couldn’t make any money at that, it was just something to do when you weren’t doing anything else.

I’ll tell you, the people that came through [The Pike], a lot of them said they really got into tattooing when they got there. That’s why I say that if you’re going to learn tattooing you have to be around a lot of it. If you’re working around a bunch of people that are innovative and do a good tattoo, it’s going to rub off on you. If you’re going to learn about the machines, I don’t care who you a rem you can’t do it alone.

JS: That was like the big tattoo university for a lot of us, that was where you had the best tattooers like Bert Grimm, yourself, Todd, Zeke, and over the years many others, that was the place where the best people in the business were to be found.

BS: I’ll tell you, doing good tattooing, job after job, I think that was the best shop in the country.

JS: It set high standards for everybody that went through there. You couldn’t get away with doing so-so tattooing when there were so many people doing top-notch tattooing.

BS: With guys like that I used to tell them there just wasn’t enough business to keep them, even though there was. You’d get people that rushed through things, leave color out, overshoot their lines, just screw things up. Rather than make a scene just tell ’em there wasn’t enough money.

JS: The Pike itself was a pretty busy place, right?

BS: It was an amusement park, and people would could come in. They had a bus area where they could park. See, Disneyland wasn’t always there.

JS: This was way before Disneyland.

BS: Sure. The Pike goes back to the 1880s.

JS: That far. I didn’t know they had anything in California that far back.

BS: Long Beach normally was a bathing beach. People would come out of the general L.A. area, and there was hotels there. The Sovereign Building was one a hotel. The Pike used to be seasonal when it started.

BS: They had the biggest roller coaster made out of wood. And it was sinking. They tore it down because they said it was unsafe- they couldn’t get insurance for it even. It was 75 years old.

JS: So those tattoos shops down there must have been really busy with all those people running in and out.

BS: Tattooing was fairly busy.

JS:I’d been working for years in South America, before I came to the Pike. By the time I got there there wasn’t much left of the amusement park itself. There was a couple rides and a few attractions, but most of that stuff had been torn down. And even then we were busy as hell all the time.

BS: The Pike, I think at one time was probably the best in the country. I know at one time in ten years, eight different people worked in Bert Grimm’s shop. Todd and I worked in the day-time, two days on two days off, and we kind of shifted some of them around.

JS: You’ve seen a lot of tattooing, and seen a lot of people come and go, so here’s the big question. You’re probably in a better position than most to talk about where you see tattooing going, what direction you see tattooing taking.

BS: Tattooing can go anywhere it wants to. People took it up ad developed it into more of an artistic science than it was 40 years ago. Now you put all kind of women’s heads on, you put personalities like Elvis Presely’s head on. Forty years ago you ask people if they wanted Elvis’ head on them, they’d say, “I don’t want that asshole’s picture on my arm.” That kind of stuff. Or a dragon or a Japanese girl: “I don’t want that junk on me. I’m not CHinese or Japanese.

JS: You said once that tattooing reflects popular trends in culture, so I guess in that sense what we’re seeing now are things that are just more popular now. I guess that tattoos were more like emblems back then.

BS: You’d get a whole clique of guys who would get the same thing, and they wouldn’t get anything else. That would be your city people, like a fraternity. The people that got the most tattoos were the military who were far from home. They’d get a half a dozen of them. There were always people getting their arms covered, their chest, their back. There’s more people now than ever before, of course.

JS: Why do you think that is?

BS: It’s accepted now, more than it was 35 or 40 years ago. At one time, I regretted getting my hands tattooed, getting the back of both hands tattooed. I’d ride the bus and some old woman would get up and to go the opposite end like I was some kind of criminal or something.

JS: It’s inevitable that once in a while anybody who’s got a lot to tattoos is going to have to feel the stigma. Hopefully not all the time but once in a while they’re going to be reminded that they’re different by some asshole. But now you turn on the television and see some famous movie star and he’s got more tattoos than you do, you know?

BS: That’s true. There’s a number of them that’s got tattoos now.

JS: When did you move to Houston? What brought that on?

BS: I just got tired of working. I had four shops within driving distance of Long Beach, and it seemed like twice a week you had to be at one of them on account of trouble or something. Then, from 1970 to about 1979 I always had four or five who were getting covered all over, or large pieces where I had to come back after hours. And I just decided to go take it easy. You can’t take it easy at home. People know you they come to see you. I decided to take a trip, and when I got back I decided to just move. Keep the shops and just move. Todd stayed on to manage things.

JS: You didn’t have such a quiet life in Houston, either, as it turned out. You wound up running two shops there. Two pretty busy shops are I remember.

BS: Well, that was different. The one on Westheimer was always pretty busy. The other one on Bissionette, where you and me used to work the city messed up the street, taking the parking spaces away. That wasn’t as good as it was when it started. I didn’t want to work too much, and so I moved down to where I am now, in Aranasas Pass. But I didn’t have the house built 30 days before I started working on the flash for the walls. In one room I was going to make a tattoo shop. I thought, gosh, a guy couldn’t make anything. But you surprise yourself. It worked out so the first few months was nothing, but summer came and these shrimpers would come and wake me up at 7:30, 8:00 in the morning. They’d come in, three of four of them, and you’d get a whole day’s work out of them. You can’t get away from it.

JS: You’ve been in that same spot, in Aransas Pass for a long time now.

BS: Since March of ’83.

JS: That’ll be going on ten years now. You still get a lot of tattooers come down to visit you down there?

BS: Quite a few. Some of them I’ve never seen before, but they come by to have a cup of coffee. All that kind of malarky.

JS: I guess a lot of them know who you are by now.

BS: Yeah, a lot of people. It’s almost embarrassing. “I’ve heard so much about you, I actually go fifty miles of the way to see you.” You can’t slam the door in their face and say you’re not here.

JS: I guess a lot of people would be coming to you for technical advice, since the word’s out that you know how.

BS: I’ll tell you one of the biggest things that I get from people here, there and everywhere, is that people will call me and tell e what they’re doing, they’re disappointed, they’ve only been in the tattoo business a year or two. And I tell them that in the the winter time it slows down until Christmas. If I was planning on moving I’d wait until after Christmas, wait until the spring and stuff picked up. If you can’t afford it, get another job. Tattooing will be your sideline. They thank me.

Another thing is people will call and try to find out how to fix their machines. And if they call, to tell you the truth, I try to tell them.

JS: So you’re what a lot of people in the tattoo business would call a pioneer. I know I’m both the only one that feels that way, that the tattoo community owes you a great deal, and a few other guys like yourself. You’ve always been very generous with your advice and help to other tattooers to further the cause of good tattooing. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for what you’ve done for tattooing. You must see a lot of differences in tattooing from back in the older times.

BS: Yeah, I almost got the hell beat out of me one time (laughs). A guy come in an said, “How much are tattoos?” and I said “There’s little numbers on the walls.”

He says, “What’ll you do for fifteen cents?” And I said “I won’t do anything for fifteen cents.” He comes back about two hours later and says, “What do you think of that?” and shows me something on his arm. I said, “What are you, a boxer?” He says “Whattaya mean, boxer?”

“Well, aren’t those a pair of boxing gloves?”
“No, that’s two horses heads!”
So that’s the way it goes, that’s your fifteen cent tattoo. (Laughs) I’ve been in and out of hospitals, but I’ve been out this time, knock on wood, for two months.

A very special thanks to Jonathan Shawn for allowing these interviews to be posted on OV!



      1. Pffft, whatevs… it was still a killer read. Kudos for the sick dedication though!

        I am going back to the Col. Todd one now, since I have been putting off reading it.


  1. FINALLY , something that mentions Bert Grimm. Without Bert Grimm so much of our tattoo history would not be here but the tattoo world seems to ignor this ledgend!

    Liked by 1 person

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