Artist Profile: Big Steve Pedone, Fun City Tattoo
One of the oldest, and certainly iconic, tattoo shops in NYC -- Fun City Tattoo -- has fresh new blood taking over: Big Steve Pedone and Maxx Starr.
The legendary outlaw tattooist Jonathan Shaw opened up Fun City in 1987 in Manhattan's East Village, decades before tattooing was legalized in the city in 1997. A lot of great artists came up in Shaw's shop, but it was also particularly renowned for the celebrity clientele that would hang there, like Johnny Depp, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. When Jonathan decided to retire from the industry, Michelle Myles & Brad Fink of Daredevil Tattoo bought the shop around 2005 and reinvigorated it. Now, with Michelle and Brad focusing on the new incarnation of Daredevil Tattoo by NYC's Bowery, the reigns have passed to Big Steve and Maxx. And it's a perfect fit.
Big Steve came up in Fun City, from his start as Shaw's "shop guy" to becoming a sought-after tattooer, and now boss man. Here's a quick Q&A I had with Steve, which sheds slight on that whole tattoo trajectory.
You have a long history with Fun City tattoo. When you first started working there for Jonathan Shaw and then Michelle & Brad, did you ever think you'd wind up owning the place?
Honestly, it has been a long road. I started working there as a shop guy and just kind of blindly got thrown into tattooing by Jonathan after he fired everyone and told me to sink or swim. It was on the table for me to take Fun City over from Jonathan, but I was a 20-year-old kid, who was completely awful at tattooing, so I brokered the deal between Jonathan and Michelle and Brad. I guess I was part of the deal because, regardless of my disappointing skills as a tattooer, I made up for it with the skill of making a ton of money.
What were some of the big changes you've seen at Fun City over the years? What changes do you have planned now that you're running the show?
Besides the obvious renovation that occurred about ten years ago, a lot has changed. The shop is more of a second home then ever. I mean everything, at some point, has to change for a business, especially a tattoo shop, to succeed in today's times. People are more educated, so we are planning to change a lot. A new website is going to happen soon. As we speak, the mural on the front of the shop is getting redone. And we are trying to cover the shop in our own paintings instead of just flash that you can buy anywhere. Somethings will change on the inside of the shop as well. You will have to check in, in a couple of months, and check it out.
How has your own tattoo work evolved over time?
Man, this is a crazy question. I mean, I didn't get a formal apprenticeship to be honest, so It took me a while to really figure things out. I learned mostly everything about the art of tattooing from various people, most importantly, Phil Luck. I learned how to hustle from the king of hustling, Jonathan Shaw. I went from a kid who was absolutely awful to someone who can do just about anything.
You can rock various styles of tattoos, but what types of tattoos do you really love doing?
I really enjoy tattooing, and for the most part, I don't have a distinct style because I do so many different things. But my mind really changes week to week: one week, I'm really into doing clunky traditional stuff; the next week, some Chicano-looking black and grey or Japanese; and next week, I'm doing some Polynesian tribal. I just like being able to provide for my family and have fun at work.
Fun City has been a place where one can get large-scale custom work but also come in for a walk-in. Will that stay the same?
Yeah, walk-ins will always be welcome at Fun City. I think that, over the years, besides the foul mouth of yours truly, we have done a great job at making customers happy and providing a good positive environment for people to come get tattooed and have a great time.
Tell us about your crew and what you think differentiates Fun City from other studios in NYC.
My crew is great: Maxx Starr, Mina Aoki, Claire Vuillemot, John Raftery and Benjamin Haft. And through the years of traveling, I have made a great extended family of tattooers, who will be visiting the shop on a frequent basis. I think our goal of making our clients happy sets us apart from other shops for sure -- no ego, no attitude, just a good positive mental attitude with a hint of sarcasm I guess. [laughs]
Anything else you want to add?
I would just like to thank everyone who helped me get to this point: Jonathan Shaw, Phil Luck, and Michelle and Brad for believing and putting a lot of effort into getting me this far. It sounds like I'm winning a Oscar award or something! And thanks Marisa for asking me to do this interview!
The new Funcitytattoo.com will be updated soon. Meanwhile, check Steve's work, as well as that of all the Fun City artists, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Big Steve, Michelle Myles, and Maxx Starr outside of Fun City Tattoo.