Jan201430
RIP Mike Bakaty
08:38 PM
Mike Bakaty.jpg
The NYC tattoo community -- rather, the worldwide tattoo community -- has lost a true gem with the recent passing of Mike Bakaty of Fineline Tattoo, the longest continually running tattoo shop in Manhattan since 1976.

I learned of Mike's passing through his friend Dana Brunson, who also pointed out a touching tribute by former Skin & Ink editor Bob Baxter. Bob encouraged Mike to write a column for Skin & Ink called "Bakaty's World," which showed the world what an amazing storyteller Mike was as well as an artist. In Bob's memorial post, he published one of Mike's stories. Here's an excerpt:

Back around the time that it dawned on me that I could draw better than what I was doing off of the few sheets of commercial flash I had, I was tattooing a number of young guys from the Lower East Side, aspiring bent-nosed types, you know what I mean? Whenever they got work, you'd be paid in single dollar bills. If you did an eighty-buck piece, you got eighty singles. The one time I asked about it, the response was, "You do dollar action, you get dollar bills."

One of these guys showed up one day wanting to get a grim reaper, which, of course, I had. The thing was, it was a piece of commercial flash. The image had passed through a hundred or more hands before it landed on that particular sheet. I thought it was really lame. The skull was lumpy and the teeth were disproportionate to the size. The fingers and arms looked like a bunch of weenies on the end of a stick. The drapery in the robes was non-existent. In other words, it looked like shit. I knew I could draw it better.

I ran this down to the kid and told him to give me a couple of days for the redraw. I did the skull without the lumps and made the teeth proportionate. The arms and fingers looked like bones, and it was more gestural. The robes looked like drapery out of a Renaissance painting. Not a bad job, if I said so myself. The upshot of the whole thing was, when the guy came back a few days later, I had him look at my drawing and compare it to the original. "Yours looks too real," he proclaimed, as though he'd come face-to-face with the Reaper himself. "But the other one looks more like a tattoo. That's the one I'll have." A tattoo's a tattoo's a tattoo.

Read more on Baxter's Tattoo Blog.

I'm lucky to have had to pleasure of meeting Mike. Back in my old Needled.com days, Mike and his son Mehai were the first artists featured in our tattooist video profiles (published in 2007), which I've embedded below. In the video, Mike talks about tattooing underground during NYC's tattoo ban, which was lifted in 1997, and also how he came to tattooing as a fine artist ("You didn't have to kiss dealers' asses to get an exhibition"). The video is a good way to spend 4:54 minutes.

Mike left his mark, and he will be fondly remembered by so many.




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Marisa Kakoulas
CONTRIBUTORS:
Miguel Collins
Craig Dershowitz
Brian Grosz
Sean Risley
Patrick Sullivan
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