Debra Cooper 1986


I recently turned in an article for a new British tattoo zine about the tattoo videotapes that were mainstays in the  advertisment section of tattoo magazines of the late 1980s and early 1990s; highbrow offerings like the more structured documentaries that Michael O. Stearns put out through his Metamorphosis II label, erotic offerings from photographer/anthropologist Charles Gatewood’s FLASH VIDEO line and the gonzo films of the legendary Royboy & Debra Cooper of the Badlands of Gary Indiana. The Royboy series especially captures a time/place in tattoo (and biker) culture that’s really unique and were always among my personal favorites.

This photo, scanned from a 3×5 print in the Occult Vibrations archives, features Debra Cooper with work by Royboy. it was taken at a Tattoo Convention in Tennessee in 1986. You can see more of Royboy and Debra by using the Royboy tag.

Return to the Badlands

I really can’t speculate what Royboy’s motivation was with producing his videos; whether they were intended to document what was going on in Tattoo culture at the time or as an infomercial for his shops I’ll never really know. But you have to appreciate how many times in one video he can fit in his own name. In the flash, in the songs, on tshirts….  It’s all Royboy all the time.

This video, Return to the Badlands, is from 1987. Unlike his later films that feature the work of  other tattooists at conventions, Return to the Badlands was shot at Roy’s shop and features he and Debra tattooing. And working out. And playing guitar.

As with most Badlands videos there was a decent amount of random nudity that I had to cut out, but as a whole these are really amazing time capsules of 1980s tattooing.

Since this video features ‘no gloves’ content I’ll throw in my standard “it was a different time” disclaimer.

Speaking of- how long do you think it’ll be before the average tattooer doesn’t know what Speed Stick deodorant has to do with tattooing?