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."
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.
Another tattoo legend has passed: Huck Spaulding, whom many know -- not just for his tattoos -- but for having one of the first international tattoo supply companies, Spaulding & Rogers, which still going strong today. Huck also published what many deem the "tattoo bible," Tattooing A to Z: A Guide to Successful Tattooing.
Early this morning, this message appeared on the Facebook page of the Tom Spaulding Tattoo Studio:
We are all deeply saddened to let you know of the death of Tom's dad, Huck Spaulding. He was a pioneer in the tattoo industry. His innovations brought tattooing out of the back alleys, and into mainstream America, as well as around the world. He was the first worldwide distributor of quality tattoo equipment. He was at the forefront of tattoo safety, with disposable needles and autoclavable machine parts. He was a big man who lived a big life. He was a trapper, a stock car racer, a big game hunter, and a classic car enthusiast. He was a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was so proud of his wonderful family. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.RIP Huck.
Portrait tattoo of Billy Eason by Phillip Spearman.
The tattoo community has lost another one of its original badasses. Billy Eason, owner of Capital Tattoo and B.I.R.D. Productions, who put on the Richmond Tattoo Arts Festival in Virginia, just passed away. He was 72 years old. This past weekend, at the 18th annual Richmond show, Billy's tattoo family got to see him one last time. He was loved by many and even immortalized in this portrait tattoo above by Phillip Spearman. You can read tributes to Billy and see photos on his Facebook page.
I just learned that a gem of the tattoo world, Herbert Hoffman, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91. You can easily tell from the photo above (at the 2006 Milan Tattoo Convention) that Herbert was a warm, sweet man who was generally excited to meet people who shared his love of tattoo. In fact, he's been described as a "friendship collector."
On my bucket list was to travel to Switzerland to have him tattoo me with his iconic anchor design and signature. I regret I missed that chance.
Often, when I've mentioned a tattoo book that I love here, I say it is "one of my favorites." Herbert's Living Picture Books: Portraits of a Tattooing Passion 1878-1952 is the favorite. The book is a collection of photos and "the family stories" behind them of tattooed people--400 in total--born between 1878 and 1952. For thirty years, Herbert traveled around taking portraits of his favorite subject with his Rolleiflex camera. This collection of images is beautifully presented in a large format hardcover published by Memoria Pulp. While their site says the book is sold out, you can find it online at Book Mistress and on Amazon. You can also purchase his book of flash via Amazon.com as well.
To view photos from Herbert (and of Herbert) from 1955 on, check his online photo album.
Memoria Pulp also did a documentary featuring Herbert, as well as Albert Cornelisse and Karlmann Richter, called Flammend Herz or Blue Skin in 2004. It's a truly moving film about the passion these men had for tattooing and what they gave for it. It also delves into the complex relationship that they had with one another, a relationship that began when they met at Herbert's tattoo shop in Hamburg, "the oldest tattoo parlor in Germany." Eventually, that relationship soured when Herbert gave the shop to his cousin and not the others. The film brought them back together after all that time. Read more about this beautiful documentary on IMDB (particularly the reviews). The film is also available on Amazon.com.
For more on Herbert, including links to interviews and photos, go to his Facebook Fan Page.
I will miss Herbert dearly.
I'm saddened to learn that one of Old Guard of the tattoo world, Crazy Ace Daniels, died this Monday, March 8th, from natural causes. He would have been 59 years old on April 30th.
Ace described himself on his Facebook page as the "janitor" of Way Cool Tattoos in Woodstock, Ontario, adding "I mop the floors, clean the toilets and once in a while they let me do a tattoo!" It was his sense of humor and love for the art and history of tattooing that endeared him to so many in the community, even those like myself who never met him in person.
For just how much he was loved, read the stories on the FB memorial page dedicated to him.
I only spoke with Ace online. He was generous to school me in tattoo anthropology and lead me to information on his wonderful tattoo archive Bod-Mod.com, the online incarnation of his "World's Strangest Museum," which housed over a thousand artifacts and art surrounding all types of body modification, from tattooing to scarification to corsetting. [The museum closed in 2003 and re-opened as A.C.E.S. Place in 2003.]
Here's a time line of his life, from his first tattoo at 13 to opening Way Cool Tattoos in Woodstock on October 1, 2006. Also read a fun recent interview with Ace where he talks about his artifact collection, the best weed in the world, and GWAR.
This Saturday, March 13th, a celebration of Ace's life will take place at Way Cool's Woodstock studio from 2-4 PM. Then on Sunday, there will be a wake, or rather a goodbye party, in Toronto at the Cadillac Lounge starting at 7 PM.
For more information on these memorials, click here and here.