I was barely out of my teens when I visited Mike Wilson at Inksmith and Rogers and started working on my back piece. I don’t want to get sappy or nostalgic, but back then everything was so new and exciting for me when it came to getting tattooed, and taking a big trip up to a shop I had never been to and working on my first really giant tattoo was a pretty big deal for me. I still remember the twin prop plane ride up to Jax; a plane so small I could feel every bump and a seat so close to the cockpit that I could overhear the pilot’s conversation for all 55 mins of flying time. That’s when we weren’t almost crashing. So by the time I got to Jacksonville proper, I was already more nervous than necessary.
Mike introduced me to everyone at the shop; Eric came and went pretty early, Chris Nunez was guesting and taking walk-ins, and a quiet guy in the back named Frank was working on a few sheets of flash, occasionally popping in, showing us what he was working on, adding little bits of color to the conversation and then going back to his room to work on more flash. Years later, that flash would be in almost every tattoo shop I walked into. Iconic. But that day he was just some guy telling jokes about porn, wandering in and out of Mike’s station and helping me keep my mind off of the almost 12 hour sitting I had flown up for.
Over the years I’d run into him at conventions and he’d always make conversation, ask me if Mike had worked any more on my back, tell me a story or two and we’d go our separate ways. I remember once getting into a conversation with him in an elevator, it had to be three in the morning, and when we reached his floor he got off, turned around and held the doors open for another few minutes to finish the story. It never occurred to him to hop back into the elevator with me or to invite me to step out so we could finish up. Instead he stood there, arms keeping the doors open, elevator dinging and chastising us to ‘unblock the doors’ and him just going on with the conversation. Needless to say, the other folks on the elevator weren’t impressed in the least, but this was back in the ‘tattooed people must be ex-cons’ days, so they just shuffled their feet uncomfortably and checked their watches while Frank and I chatted.
I heard tonight that Frank passed away as the result of a motorcycle accident. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Frank’s family, friends and loved ones.
Thanks to Lori- click to read the Sun Sentinel article on Frank’s passing.
The video above is from Tattoo Artist Magazine.