Well it seems it’s time for another column from me and while I do want to tell you some more about the history of the NTA I came back from a trip to Japan with Anna Paige & Bill Funk and Iva (piercer) & Mony (Tattooist) Karageorgiev and their daughter Gabriela (Gabby) and I’d like to share some of our adventures from February in Japan.
I’m including a few photos of the fun we had playing dress-up.
What was funny was that even the Japanese girls who rented their kimono’s for the day asked if they could take a photo with Anna & I.
In the photo with the blond lady she was watching us taking photos with locals and then came over to me and asked, “Would it be OK for me to take a photo with you?” I didn’t say a word but bowed my head slightly and motioned for her to stand between Anna and me. Her husband took several pictures and then she turned to me and said, “Thank you so very much. I said, “You’re Welcome,” She said, “Oh you speak English.” I said, “Yes, I’m American.” Her husband added, “Your face is done up so perfectly we thought you were real. Then the wife said, “Oh yes I see you have blue eyes.” I think I should have let them think I was the real deal because I thought they looked a little disappointed when they realized we were not really Geisha’s Ha Ha
Iva & Mony & Gabby were there to celebrate Gabby Turning 6 and Mony turning 50. And Gabby wanted to be a Samurai like her dad and Bill, while Iva, Anna & I were the Geisha’s. As you can see in the photo’s we had a great time doing that.
But… as much fun as that was - the highlight for us was when we got to visit with Horiyoshi III in his studio. Anna, Bill & I had met him several times at NTA Conventions but it was Iva, Mony & Gabby’s first time meeting him. When we arrived he was tattooing Manuel a tattooist also. I brought Horiyoshi an engraved tattoo machine which as soon as he opened it up he hooked up to the power supply and listened to it and then gave me a thumb’s up. He had a sheet with his hand print on it that he signed in Japanese and a little saying for each of us and a small little tool kit with his name on it to remember our visit with him. We took lots of photos and talked for quite a bit and then his next client came in and so we said Sayonara and left him to take care of his next client. It was so nice seeing him again. There are a few photos (I hope) along with this article. He also has a tattoo museum but unfortunately we did not have time to go visit since it is not in that building – perhaps next time…..
I must say Anna was a great guide for all of us as she lived in Japan for some time years ago and so does speak Japanese. What a help that was because the rest of us did not and she got us from place to place on the subways with only one screw up and it wasn’t her mistake but the person who gave us our tickets – they had us going the wrong way – but Anna got it straightened out and we were back on track (pun intended – train - track – Ok, ok I’ll quit now.) It was a lot of fun – and even though I don’t like sushi I’m very glad I got to go. ☺☺
Horiyoshi III powers on a newly gifted machine.
The Master demonstrates a beautiful hand as he signs these prints.
OK so let’s get back to the NTA history…
The Jan./Feb. 1986 issue we featured tattooists: Bjorn Thunberg of Skarholkmen, Sweden, Patty Kelley & Fip Buchanan of then Richmond, Virginia, and P.A. Stephens of Seattle, Washington who took over as our Security Director at the 1985 NTA Seattle Convention, and Enthusiast Warren Henderson also of Seattle who was our videographer in Seattle at the 1985 NTA Seattle convention and who was going to do it again for us in New Orleans this March 1986. We included photos of work that was done by as many of the tattooists who would be in New Orleans as possible as well as the people we featured.
And, as usual we had a column from C.W. Eldridge. This time his column was on Edison’s electric tattoo machine which was very interesting.
Our March/April issue was all about the NTA’s 1986 New Orleans Convention. It was our biggest convention issue yet with - 64 pages, with only 20 of them my story on the convention. It had only 4 pages of black & white photos and 40 pages of color photos. The Black & White cover (included in the 4 black & white pages) was the cover which was done by Mike “Doc” Doyle. Doc drew a Paddle Wheel River Boat along with an Eagle holding a banner that seemed perfect for the cover of this New Orleans issue.
At this convention we booked a cruise on that river boat and so I hired 6 buses to take those going on it to the port. Well the bus company tried to put one over on us – but….. They only sent 5 buses as the first bus came back as the 6th bus. But… since Don & I stayed back to be on the last bus we recognized the bus driver from that first bus. His excuse was that the 6th bus got caught in traffic due to a parade that was going on – which we got to see as it passed down the block from us. However, that first bus got through and there was no reason for him to come get us as if he got through then the 6th bus should have gotten through and the first bus shouldn’t have even been coming back to the hotel… So… I called the bus company the following day to say I shouldn’t have had to pay for 6 buses when I only had 5. Argued back and forth and got nowhere with them and so just hung up. Donna was going home before me so told her to go to the bank and cancel the check to the bus company. Called the bus company and told them I put a stop payment on the check and whittled them down to agreeing to pay for 5 going and 6 back as they did then send 6 buses all waiting for us when we got off the ship to take us back to the hotel. Wrote them a new check and told them we aren’t country bumpkins – we’re from NY. He laughed – so did I… The hotel people said, “Yeah that’s New Orleans for you.” And laughed – as did we… ☺☺
While on the river boat one of the waitresses came up to me to say… “When the other 2 waitresses and I heard we would be having a group of tattooed people tonight we didn’t want to come to work. We have to tell you this… You are the greatest group we have worked for. You really know what life is all about, you have it all together and you know what it is like to work for a living. You are the best tippers we have ever seen. We really enjoyed working tonight and want to tell the girl who booked you for the cruise that we would love to have you every night over any of the other groups she has ever booked for this cruise.” I told her that this is what is felt by all before they meet us and then when they do they too change their tune. That is the truth too. When we first started doing conventions it was kind of hard to get them to even talk to me once I said a tattoo convention. They didn’t want us - plain and simple. So I learned not to mention tattooing until I could get more info on prices for rooms and meals and such and of course dates as I had to avoid military paydays back then which are the first and fifteenth of every month. But once I had the contract signed I found out that the person who booked us sweated out our coming to their hotel and once the convention was over their boss told them to book us again. After a while our reputation for being a great group to have the hotels started calling me and asking us to come to their town and their hotel. That was when we finally had the upper hand as they wanted us more than we needed them and our numbers grew – because back then there were only 2 conventions going on – ours and Dave Yurkew’s. So, I could get better deals. (Now with all the conventions being held the hotels don’t have to cater to us that much as there are at least 2 conventions going on every weekend. So the hotels don’t have to come down in their pricing as if we don’t book their hotel someone else will.)
But back to this convention in 1986… We were also told that our group had to stay on our floor of the paddleboat and not to disturb the other groups – well they should have told that to the group above us because they came down to our level and said we were the best group on the boat ha ha. They were some sort of doctors and they said our floor was the floor where all the action was and hoped we didn’t mind their intrusion ha ha.
On Saturday, Don Ed Hardy did a lecture on Cover-Ups and Pati Pavlik did one on Cosmetic Tattooing. Warren taped both of these and we played them back again on Sunday for those who didn’t get a chance to see them on Saturday. Of course since this was the taped version on Sunday there were no live question and answer periods. Roy Boy Cooper showed his video called No Boundaries. We also showed the video tape that Warren Henderson did on the NTA 1985 Seattle convention.
Our May/June 1986 issue featured artists: Tattoo Hango of Berlin, W Germany, Little Dave Spellman of Garden Grove, California , Jolly Roger of Matthews, North Carolina, and Len Weber of Bricktown, New Jersey. The front cover was still the eagle and tattoo machine that Apache Jil did for us but the background was blue – the back cover had a beautiful photo of Elizabeth Weinzirl on it that was taken by Dianne Mansfield. And this is the last issue for the fiscal year July 1, 1985 – June 30, 1986.
Rather than start a new fiscal year in this column I’m going to relate some tattoo trivia here. Years ago while listening to the radio the commentator told of an interesting item he learned about R.H. Macy of the Macy’s store chains throughout the USA. It seems R. H. Macy was a merchant marine when he was just a teenager traveling the world. He got a RED STAR tattoo on his bicep at one of the ports along his journey. Later when he came back home to the USA he opened his first store which at that time was called a mercantile store but he had the name MACY*S on the store front. If you notice I did what Macy did and instead of using an apostrophe in Macy’s I and he used a RED STAR in the name MACY*S. He loved his red star tattoo so much as it reminded him of his adventures on the seas that he used it in his name and it became his logo.
Well that’s about it for this time – keep those machines humming – catch ya next time
[As much as I would love to preserve the integrity of Flo’s writing and feature the word, MACY*S in red, the limitation of the application doesn’t allow me to color the type —Ed.]
Would just like to add a little something right here though…..
At the end of the Last NTA convention in 2018, I received letters from many of our members. All of them conveyed the fact that they were so sorry it had ended but that they were glad to have been a part of it for so many years. Lyle Tuttle once dubbed us the Geriatric Tattoo Club holding conventions. ☺☺ Yes, since it was started in 1976 for two free years and then became a non-profit organization in 1978 we’ve all aged in that time – even if you weren’t a member you’ve all aged along with us too. We had quite a lot of young kids coming to the conventions when we first started and they grew up with us – many of them are now tattooists themselves or off to college or in the service of our country, etc. etc. As I read them all it reminded me of what Rob “Mass I mi an o” wrote about a sign he saw in a store window that went out of business after 50 years. At the end it said, “Do not cry for what has passed – smile for what has been!” And Red stepped up to continue the NTA calling us the NTA Cruisers, a name Uncle Bud dubbed those of us who went on the NTA Cruises we had in the past too. At this time of the year it is time to renew your membership or join us for the first time. We will meet once a year like always – just not at an NTA convention – It may well be another tattoo convention like this year at Brian Everett’s in Albuquerque, NM July 10-14, 2019 or next year on the Cruise on April 4-11th , 2020 leaving from Cape Canaveral and sailing to Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas – Ocho Rios, Jamaica – George Town, Grand Cayman - Cozumel, Mexico and back to Cape Canaveral.
But what I’m getting at is that one letter to me hit me the most – It was from one of our younger members that kind of grew up at the NTA Conventions too along with her brothers Strider & Kutter Corley – It’s from Ryan “Miss Kitty” and she said I could share it with you.
Now I know she is praising me in this letter but… don’t look at that part look and feel what she wrote about the NTA and what it means to her and what you all mean to her and how she still wants to be a part of this NTA Family whether we are called National Tattoo Association or the NTA Cruisers it doesn’t matter - what matters is that we are still a family and she wants very much to be a part of it –
SO DO I!!!!! HOPE YOU DO TOO!!!!!
Here’s Ryan’s letter to me:
The first time I went to Nationals, the legend of Flo was already built in my mind by my parents. The venerated queen of the National Tattoo Family. A force to be reckoned with, respected, and revered. When I watched you announce the contests, I whispered to my friends, “I want to be her someday. I want to command the room like Flo. I want to be loved like that by these people.” (I also learned how to pronounce Mass-i-mi-an-o)
I didn’t start going to Nationals nearly soon enough, but once I did, I was hooked. I wanted to come every year, but most times it took me 2 years to save the money, $50 from each paycheck, to be able to participate. But I knew it would always be there, so I just kept on saving and going when I could. I had already bought my tickets this year (2018) before you announced it would be the last one. I spent that day crying and trying to accept and understand. When things got really low and I thought of quitting, I would remember that I needed to get up on stage at Nationals one day when you called for people tattooing 25 years or more. I only made it to 15. The only convention that really mattered, the only awards that really mattered, the only PEOPLE that really mattered - that’s Nationals. But I understood why things came to what they did, and I respected your decision as queen to bow out gracefully instead of letting it die a slow and sad death. I knew SOMETHING would continue, and the family would never be gone. I would pay my dues just for a card and to say I’m still part of this family. Just to stay connected to you all.
I never attended Nationals to make money. I went to see my tattoo family. I went to get tattooed. I went to win eagles. I went to wear a bikini and parade my tattoos on stage and feel normal and appreciated. I went to listen to legends and appreciate where I come from and who came before me. I went to BE THERE.
I want to THANK YOU and Don, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, for creating this legacy and captaining the ship for so long. I want to thank you for being a role model for me. I want to thank you for being the best herder of cats the world has ever seen. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of something incredible and welcoming us with open arms. Thank you for allowing me to feel like I achieved something with my tattoo career by being able to win awards and help fill our shop wall with eagles. For the look on my dad’s face when I won my first awards in 2010, for TRADITIONAL. For providing the place for me to meet some of the people who are most near and dear to me. For your friendship with my parents, which they value more than you could ever know.
This one was a great one. And I know it’s not the last of us. I’ll be seeing you soon!
With much love,
So let’s keep this family going - rejoin today or join for the first time – you’ll get to be a part of what Ryan spoke about above – you’ll get to know some of the greatest people in the tattoo world. I’m sure there are renewal forms on this website somewhere, so fill them out and send in your dues today – I just filled out ours and they will be in the mail tomorrow.
Hope to see you in Albuquerque!
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