By Jim Linderman
When I recently posted one of these images on a Facebook page (the only one allowed… clothing clad, of course) it generated a bit of heat. In Caucasian cultures, tattoos have always been controversial… but some of the vitriolic comments got me wondering if the craze has crested.
Admittedly, these women took the art form to the extreme, but still the number of “yucks and ewws” from the plebian followers of the blog gave me pause… and produced equally abusive comments from devotees, most of them women presumably wearing ink.
Each of the women who wrote at those criticizing my post were one of the 31% of those who say their tattoo “makes them feel sexy” according to the Pew Research Center. Harris did a poll too… and they found for the first time, the number of women with tats outnumber men.
I love the art form, but personally own none of my own. My marks came from surgery, falling down, a few dog bites and some burns. I am only proud of the dog bites, as they were suffered in love and are fun to show off. I miss that dog, and I was sober and lucid when they happened.
Were tattoos controversial in any of the “primitive” tribal cultures from which they emerged? I don’t think so. The ritual coming of age is part of one’s first tattoo anywhere, and the procedure is a major boon for artisans here… quite likely one of the most successful “small business” crafts of the recent age. There are approximately 21,000 parlors. There are no tattoo major chains yet that I know of… thank God. Let the parlors remain the last holdout for the Mom and Pops. Even funeral homes and the local barber have lost their identity in our rush to destroy the private operators and the growth of corporate behemoths. We don’t need a “Tats R’ Us” or a “Tattoo Depot.”
A new TV show on A&E is devoted to obfuscating bad tats. The fellows doing the work are lovable, skinny buffoons tailor-made for the unreal “reality” format, but once the embarrassing mark is revealed (after a few lengthy commercials) the episode is over. Switch. On the other hand, the popular and quite lovely mother of three and neo-burlesker “Danny D” on American Pickers is a positive life form wearing a lovely chest of ink. Danielle Colby Cushman is sexy and fun. Someone has even bootlegged her picture and sells it on refrigerator magnets. The true measure of success in America. FREE SHIPPING!
Interestingly, and horrifyingly, the most famous tattoo artist all time, one Sailor Jerry, is now OWNED BY A RUM COMPANY who wants me to sign-in using Facebook or give them my birthday. Nope. I’ll SELL them my birthday, as the data is certainly of more value to them than it is to me. The image here is apparently in some kind of public domain, so let’s share it. Jerry died in 1973 and is now pushing up “Pua Aloalo Hibiscus brackenridgei,” the Hawaii state flower.
My favorite Tattoo source by far is Tattooed Women by Hal Zucker, a mysterious figure who hung around with early freedom of speech hero Samuel Roth. He co-edited Roth’s American Aphrodite magazine for a time. American Aphrodite was censored and banned so much it eventually made it to the Supreme Court, despite having literary qualities FAR beyond Fifty Shades of Grey. But that was the public Hal Zucker. I have learned he also published several quite scarce (and at the time, quite obscene) magazines under a pseudonym. That is for another article.
Here’s Groucho instead:
NOTES: All original photographs collection Jim Linderman. The splendid true story of Lydia the Tattooed Lady is HERE. Groucho, while being one of the best reasons to be alive in the 20th century, did not write it, a guy named Yip did. It used to have a line about Lydia sitting on Hitler, but they took it out. The company who now owns dead Sailor Jerry is HERE. Pew Research is HERE and Harris Polls is HERE. A&E’s Bad Ink television show is HERE. Danielle’s official website is HERE, but you can see her move HERE. The author has a crush on her. There is virtually nothing on the web about Hal Zucker. Yet.
Jim Linderman is a Grammy-nominated collector, popular culture historian and author. His network of blogs is approaching 4 million page views, and his VINTAGE SLEAZE BLOG which tells a true story from the golden age of smut every day has over 300,000 Facebook followers. For several years he has been working on TIMES SQUARE SMUT which will tell the story of several long forgotten writers, illustrators and mob-connected publishers from the 1950s who ultimately influenced contemporary culture.