Hanky Panky

Amsterdam Tattoo Convention 1995

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Twenty years ago today my brother Robert (who took the majority of these photos on honest to goodness 35mm film) and I were strolling around in Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District, winding down from Hanky Panky’s Amsterdam Tattoo Convention. We had spent the previous three days at the Beurs van Berlage, the Damrak’s former commodities exchange and current convention venue, snapping pictures, getting tattooed and- for two L7 farm boys from Florida (I was 20 at the time) enjoying an inescapable contact high from the dozens (or hundreds) of convention go-ers who were enjoying the city’s liberal drug policy. For the last twenty years I’ve used Henk’s event as the yardstick by which I’ve measured every other tattoo convention I’ve attended and one by one they’ve all fallen short. The vibe was perfect; casual and energetic with each booth pushing out one amazing tattoo after the other. As the nights wore on people didn’t leave- they’d grab some floor space to sit down with old and new friends to shoot the shit about tattoos, travel, whatever. The tattoo world was considerably smaller then and every person you met had the potential to be a new friend- I still maintain friendships with folks I met that weekend.

Everything lined up perfectly, including an Amsterdam tour date for the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow- which led to one of the more memorable  events of the weekend- The Enigma, tattooed head to toe in puzzle pieces- had 22 (or 23?) of the attending artists- from Henk and Horiyoshi III to Bob Vessels and Alex Binnie- fill in some of his open outlines with his trademark blue. At the same time. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get everyone working together, but the craziness of it fit in perfectly with the gonzo  goings on at the show and while I only managed to snap one photo of it (which I didn’t get a chance to scan tonight) I do have it on video. One of these days I’ll get a working 8mm video camera and will get that footage online.

It’s surreal to be able to look back on an event that still seems so fresh in my mind and realize that two decades have passed. I’m happy to be able to share these photos with you folks.

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Amsterdam Tattoo Museum

 

In May of 1995, a few months shy of my 21st birthday, my parents gifted my brother and I with a trip to Amsterdam, Holland to attend Hanky Panky’s Amsterdam Tattoo Convention. At the time, my folks had never even left the east coast of the US, but they wanted their children to see the world and worked overtime (literally) to make sure that we could travel abroad.

It was unlike any convention I’d ever been to. I fell in love with the city of Amsterdam and in one fell swoop all other tattoo conventions were ruined for me. At the time, Henk had a museum in his shop. Small, but packed to the walls with tattoo culture ephemera.

A year ago, he opened a much more ambitious museum in Amsterdam, and while I haven’t made it back overseas to check it out, I try to keep up with it via their website. Yesterday my Instagram feed was abuzz with a note from Henk letting folks know that the museum was facing some difficulties.

Dear Friends.

We need your support now more than ever. On November 5th 2011 we started the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, a home for tattoo and art lovers.
We started with in a partnership but it didn’t turn out as we imagined. After almost a

year of fighting this morning we were forbidden to access to our own museum and our collection is taken hostage. We are doing everything we can to, so please stay tuned and fight with us for what is ours!

Yours truly,
Hanky Panky and the crew

You can keep up to date with the issue- as well as how to support Henk and the Museum, on their Facebook Page.
With luck, everything will be resolved soon!