FLO's 2 BITS Issue #5

May/June 2020

I hope this finds you all in good health and good spirits and that we will all be able to get back to work soon. Actually, I am hoping that by the time this gets up on our website and you are reading this, we will be back to work, and we are able to visit with one another once more.

 In my last column I did the story of how the NTA Conventions got started. Back then in the beginning we wanted to make sure that it was a strictly volunteer organization – No one and we meant NO ONE was to receive a salary, not the officers or the volunteers. And that is how the NTA was from the get-go even though it is legal to have salaried employees in a non-profit status. We decided that no one would profit from this organization. All profits would go to promoting the Art of Tattooing.

This is also why I want to THANK EACH and EVERYONE of YOU who VOLUNTEERED over the 40 year membership and 39 conventions. While I already thanked Peter & Dyane and their Associates in my last column, I want to make sure that every one of you who helped run the NTA over those 40 years & 39 conventions, that, it was because of YOUR SERVICES that it worked for so long. I Thank You from the bottom of my heart! Now on to some more of the history of the NTA….

After Peter’s passing, it seemed we were going to have a void in our security – I was wrong – Don Eaker and Jerry “Papa San” Blankenship stepped up and said they would take care of setting up the volunteer list and see to it that the security was taken care of. And so, we were OK for 1984 thanks to these two volunteers. But they did make it clear that it would only be for this one year, haha. Understood – I was just thankful that they stepped up for us for this year. Haha. This was also the first convention ever that had seminars for you to attend free of charge, thanks to Shotsie Gorman, who also volunteered to be the Host for this first NTA Philly convention in 1984. The Lecturers were: Clinton Sanders who is a sociologist and gave his lecture on the Careers of a Tattooist. Then Dermatologist, Gary Brauner gave his lecture on Tattooing and the skin and he also talked about tattoo removal. The third lecture was given by attorney Robert Wolhar on the Legal Rights of the Tattooist.

At the 1984 Philly convention, PA (Pete) Stephens, along with Danny Danzel were to be our co-hosts in 1985 at our first NTA Seattle convention. Pete said that he would also like to oversee the security. I said YES by all means 😊and Don Eaker and Papa San and Squatch said they would be glad to be PA’s assistants. Unfortunately, I have not been able to contact PA to ask him to tell his story himself for this column so I will do my best to do it for him. At the 1985 NTA Seattle convention, not only did PA do the security but he also set up entertainment for us for the banquet. A magician, who went to each table and did some amazing card tricks and other illusions and an exotic dancer as well – needless to say, everyone enjoyed all the entertainment that evening. PA also lined up our seminars for this one as well. However, I’m not going to list the seminars here as I intend to post a list of every seminar we ever had in a later column, I want to really focus on those who volunteered to be our Security directors right now. Reason being – there never would have been any NTA Conventions had it not been for those who volunteered to be, not only our Security Directors, but to also set up that first convention for us back in 1979. So, to Dyane, Peter and the Peter Tat 2 Associates our many THANKS for getting us started. We definitely would not have done it without you. And so, I wish to acknowledge and THANK all the members who stepped up and volunteered to do the security for the NTA after Peter’s death. YOU were there for the NTA and we THANK YOU so very much! OK, back to PA Pete Stephens and the years he gave as security director for the NTA. Pete had asked me to tattoo him at the Philly convention and I told him I didn’t tattoo. He said I had to learn and that he wanted to be my first client. He said I should practice and then do the tattoo at the Seattle convention. I told him since it was going to be my first, I wanted to pick the design and he agreed. I chose an Apache Jil Tong eagle head that I thought might not be too hard to do. Well things being what they are, we got so busy at the Seattle convention that we never had time to do it there. So, Pete said we should set it up for the day before the convention really starts at the next one which was in New Orleans. I jokingly said, “Oh, then you’re going to be our security director for that one too right?” He laughed and said, “So that’s how you get everyone to volunteer eh?” We both laughed but he agreed. YAY!!!! And so, Pete was our security director for 1995 Seattle, WA., 1986 New Orleans, LA. (where I did get to do that tattoo on Pete there), 1987 San Diego, CA. and 1988 our first Orlando, FL. convention and Squatch was his assistant at each of them. I would like to THANK them for the four years that they served – You really were appreciated more than I can say.

In 1989 at the Arlington, Texas NTA convention we had a new Security director. Duane “Bear” Roberts stepped up to take over the job and unfortunately, he too, I could not get a hold of. Bear did the honors for the following conventions: 1989 Arlington, TX;  1990 back to Philadelphia, PA; 1991 Garden Grove, CA;  1992 Meadowlands, NJ;  1994 San Francisco,  CA; 1995 Nashville, TN;  1996 Tucson, AZ;  and 1997 back for the fourth time in Philadelphia, PA;  Again, I THANK YOU so much for taking on that job for those 8 years. Appreciate it so very much. Yes, there was a year missing in that group wasn’t there? Or didn’t you notice? 😊1993 was the year of our first NTA cruise convention – which is where Uncle Bud Yates nicknamed those of us who went on it the NTA Cruisers (and why Armadillo Red decided to call the new NTA members the NTA Cruisers). We sailed to Freeport and Nassau on Carnival’s ship called FANTASY so of course this convention was called the 1993 NTA Fantasy Cruise Convention. Yes, we had contests on the ship but no - no tattooing as we weren’t allowed to do that, but we had lots of fun to be sure. And Yes! we did have a security director too – in fact, there were two of them… Bud Kowalek and Chet Staniorski. I know Bud had since passed away and I don’t know where Chet is now.  

And so, we now come to the 1998 LA convention where we had new security directors. However, I will let Peggy tell you her and Dave’s story here…

Our first NTA was 1988 and we were immediately captivated!  Meeting that Flo lady, Don, Terry, etc., putting faces to the ‘famous’ who treated us like old friends!  We attended a few more, having more ‘n more fun, making friends from all over this world. I recall Dave saying to Flo “I’d like to contribute more…,” and her eyes lit up as she replied, “you might be sorry ya ever said that!” Just a year or so later Dave got a call from Flo asking if he would take over the security position that Bear had handled for a while. I’m listening, thinking of the frustration Bear had in trying to herd the cats, er, tattooers, at every convention.  I recalled his last show where he was nearly in tears begging people to pull their duty or fill in as door and seminar guards….trying to get folks to WEAR their badges (most had a bad case of ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ badges’.)


"Egads, do you want to do that?" I asked Dave, "Are you NUTS?"

He was dead set to put his hat in the ring and took it on.  We talked about how Bear had been pulled in 100 different directions, so we approached Flo on the team concept, and she jumped on it! Two for one! Our first year nearly didn’t happen as we flew out of blizzard conditions from Chicago to the LA show. We were the last plane out of O’Hare…but made it.   We had talked about the situations and issues we had seen Bear struggle with, spoke to Flo on what her desires were, and went to work. As we started to set the standards (WEAR your badge for one) we got a lot of negative feedback and death stares….but hey, NTA was a class act show and we knew we had to answer to…ACK!....Flo!

I recall that year RJ Rosini was, well, RJ, and that made life quite interesting to begin our tenure! Nothing like a hotel clerk coming to us “there’s a guy pissing in the bushes” We checked, yeah, WWRD!  As we pushed everyone to wear their stinkin’ badges and relayed this to Flo she came up with the lanyard concept the next year…whew!  No excuses now (wishful thinking, right?)   We had a few run-ins with folks who had openly violated some of the show’s standards and yep, we were the bad guys but we soon learned to say, ‘Well, go ask Flo and see what she says.’  (That solved most every issue.)

There were shows where self-appointed super stars thought their dog in the booth and on the counter was just fine ‘cause, well, they were THEM, ya know!  Booth inspections with some were a nightmare, then ya had Brian Everett show up with his 10x12x20 tiny kit and in perfect compliance!  Dave and Red put up a brick wall every Saturday as booth holders came to set up but many of their staff didn’t understand the concept of BOOTH HOLDER on their badges (here we go again with badges, eh?)

Doing Saturday duty with Red was something Dave cherished…they solved many a problem of the universe those mornings! There was one show that some really nasty, rough, folks came to ‘have a talk’ with a tattooer and when I relayed that message to said tattooer they said ‘I gotta go get my gun’….WHAT??  Oh boy!

At each show prior to members meetings we would have a meeting with the hotel staff.  They would introduce beverage managers, chefs, housekeeping, etc.  As a group the NTA officers would explain hotel failures in the past…. never enough bars, food sites, etc. I recall when we met the staff at the Adams Mark in San Antonio—they only had three seats for the 10 of us.  Not one of their staff offered chairs or to go get chairs…I leaned into Flo and whispered, ‘we’re in trouble here, no respect’ and OH did they ever live up to THAT!  As we would tell them of situations in the past, they would foo us with ‘we are AM, we know how to handle this.’  Really?? Recall how they ran out of food on Saturday?  Alcohol on Friday?  They shuffled us off to a remote location for our show and wouldn’t allow signage but when Microsoft set up on Monday, there were signs everywhere! Heck they couldn’t even get Flo a dresser for her sparse room! Horrid hotel, awesome show anyway! Remember the person who always parachuted off the buildings? I think they broke their leg at the San Antonio show. And WHOEVER it was that kept setting off fire alarms at 3 am??? I’m still looking for them!

On the flip side, the hotel in Orlando treated us like royalty, I simply mentioned ‘bacon’ at the staff meeting and one of the kitchen staff surprised me with a PLATE of perfectly cooked bacon!  Talk about divine! There were so many members who were absolutely supportive and gave their all to volunteer, I cannot begin to mention names in fear I’d forget someone!  We would see their hands go up at the volunteers meeting and we KNEW they would be there, they would do their job. Then there were the ones who were quick to volunteer, and we would whisper ‘get another to stand by, they never show up’ C’est  la vie. On the other hand, one year in Reno the amazing Bill Salmon signed up for door duty during the competition. He delighted the pups who were lucky to have volunteered for the same time frame.  Bill told stories, shared trade secrets, and was beyond his usual class act self! Come the next shift, only one person showed up…Bill spoke up, “I’m staying, how about you folks?”  And they did. Next shift, same thing…. Bill and his new crew pulled THREE shifts! I’m sure those young tattooers had much to tell over the following years about three hours with this remarkable humble gentleman!

As tattooing progressed and states brought in tighter regs we had to adapt. Booth inspections became the norm and it was MORE that Flo and her crew had to organize. You all remember the ‘storeroom’ she would mention?  Within that storeroom Flo had sent 100’s of boxes. Each one had the assigned name and an inventory down to paperclips, scissors, etc. It never ceased to amaze me the organization, the devotion it took to do this year after year after year.  Along those 13 years we came to love this crazy family, to be a part of it, to help the shows function. We also realized that the job was intense, consuming and we weren’t getting any younger.  It was time to pass the torch. We were delighted to see Tim Corley and Heide Unger gleefully jump in with both feet.  HAHAHA! It didn’t take long for them to ‘enjoy’ the tasks but also to take the job to another level also.

I will never forget the day Flo texted me to tell me ‘it was over.’  The next show was the end.  I felt empty, crushed, like someone had kicked my puppy (ok, my cat.) I sure couldn’t blame her, but my heart was just broken. I don’t think many have a clue to the level of planning, organizing, checking every tidbit twice, three times, four times and again that it took to set up and pull off the shows. We saw it pretty close, not like home office, but we got a healthy taste. I can’t imagine doing it for THIRTY-NINE YEARS.  Flo, you created this family, you nurtured us, you kicked our butts when we deserved it, and you loved us through it all.  You balanced it on those tiny but mighty shoulders, and we are all the better for it. Thank you for giving Dave and I the chance to give back…thank you from our hearts. 

Wow Peggy’s Thanking us for giving them the chance to give back – Are you kidding me? THANK YOU, GUYS, for doing all you did for the NTA… They were our Security Directors for: 1998 Los Angeles, CA./Mexico Cruise (Catalina Island & Ensenada Mexico); 1999 Philly (for the 5th time there);  2000 San Antonio, TX; 2001  (2nd  time) Reno, NV;  2002 Philly (for the 6th  time);  2003 St. Louis, MO; 2004 back to Reno, NV. (for the 3rd  time); 2005 Miami Beach & cruise to Key West, FL;  2006 First NTA Cincinnati, OH; 2007 Seattle (2nd  time); 2008 Reno (for the 4th  time); That’s 11 years of doing convention security besides doing other volunteer jobs along the way. Thanks so much again!    

And now we come to another couple who graciously agreed to take over when they were asked to carry the torch for the next ten years of being the NTA Security Directors. Heide Unger and Tim Corley.  This is their story as written by Tim….

The first exposure that Heide and I had to the National Tattoo Association was our trip to the 1997 Philadelphia NTA Convention. We had always been drawn to the great stories and admired the list of featured artists and members. We had a wonderful time at the convention and were treated with the utmost respect as peers. We were hooked! We joined as associate members in 1997. At that time, membership was restricted to 1000 full members. From that year forward we paid our dues and tried to attend as many conventions as possible. As members dropped out or unfortunately passed away, we were moved closer to becoming full members. We wanted to tattoo at the conventions, however booths were limited. That is, until we were given the opportunity to start sharing a booth with Greg Piper. A requirement for being a booth holder was volunteering to help. Heide immediately started shadowing Uncle Bud Yates and volunteered wherever she was needed. I, on the other hand, wanted to do my part, but being a rather reserved person (Yeah I know), I volunteered to work the doors in the main room or anywhere I was needed as a door person. Not only being reserved, but being a large man, it was a good fit to be considered for the “bouncer” position. This also forced me to be more outgoing and meet more of the members. Heide had no problem in that department!

Though we were making many new friends, our friendship with the Security Directors, Dave and Peggy Sucher, gave them a natural opportunity to vette us as possible successors to the position. The Sucher’s were fantastic Co-Security Directors for NTA, but it is easy to serve too long. During Dave and Peggy's 2nd 5-year term, Heide and I were asked if we would be interested in being the Security Directors, when their 10 years were finished. We were completely flattered and humbled and gladly accepted. Heide and I served for two 5-year terms and were going to share a third term with Cristine and Brandon Lewis. But, sadly the NTA had run its course and this was not to be.

Speaking for both Heide and myself, being of service to the National Tattoo Association Family has been one of the most rewarding and wonderful elements of our tattooing careers. Being such a small part of such a phenomenal group of people, that love ALL aspects of tattooing and collecting is not something we would ever trade for anything! It is an honor to be adopted into the NTA family and a family we will remain. Our family has just morphed into the NTA Cruisers! Thank you to Flo and Don for their years of dedication to NTA and to us! FAMILY FOREVER!!!

Tim and Heide were our Security Directors for the following ten NTA Conventions:

2009 Concord, NC;  2010 Seattle (3rd  time); 2011Reno/Sparks (5th  time); 2012 Cincinnati (2nd time); 2013 Rapid City, SD; 2014 Garden Grove,  CA (2nd  time); 2015 Orlando, FL (2nd  time); 2015 Orlando (3rd  time); 2016 Orlando (4th  time); 2017 Orlando, FL  (5th  time) and 2018 Orlando, FL (for the 6th  time). That’s 10 years doing Security for the NTA Conventions besides doing a million and one other jobs before taking on that position.

I loved what Tim wrote and told him so – however, I also added the following statements. 😊– but…. I am going to add my two bits about you guys, if you don’t mind – well let me reword that statement - I am going to add my two bits about you guys whether you like it or not 😊😊 😊because this doesn’t say how much you guys did for the NTA so, I will take care of that. 😊   Yes, from the beginning of their attending the conventions they volunteered to do door duty. They didn’t hesitate they jumped right in. Even after their job was done, they’d come and ask me is there anything else you need help with? They just couldn’t do enough. Even when they got to share a booth at the conventions, they still not only took care of the security end but they both volunteered to do lectures for us as well. And for the last umpteen years I asked Heide if she wouldn’t mind helping me with the announcing of the contestants on Fridays. That way I was free to take care of other things during that time. She jumped right in with both feet. She did an excellent job at that as well. The first few years she did the contests she kept asking me if she was doing OK – my answer was “Hell yeah!” 😊😊   Tim, as he already told you made an excellent bouncer but his expertise as the Security Director was even more important as without someone strong, that was willing to do this job, it would fall apart. That was why Dave & Peggy asked Tim to take over for them. They knew he would handle that job perfectly as they had their eyes on him since the day he volunteered to help them while they oversaw security.  My sincere THANKS to Heide & Tim for their 10 years of service as the NTA Security Directors and the many other hats they wore throughout their involvement with the NTA since their first NTA convention in Philly in 1997.

We were sooooo lucky from day one to have had so many wonderful members that volunteered to do the job of Security Director. They had to make sure they had enough volunteers to man the doors at every function we had at each convention. If the person who volunteered didn’t show up, then they themselves would have to do that security job. That is why they learned to have at least 3 or 4 volunteers for a 2-person job. Like Peggy said they learned quickly the volunteers they could depend on and those they knew they would need backups for 😊But one thing is for sure the conventions would not have run as smoothly without all the members who volunteered to be our Security for NTA’s 39 Conventions.

Our sincere, heartfelt THANKS to all of you who were our Security Directors from the First NTA Convention in Denver in 1979 – our 39th and Final NTA Convention in Orlando in 2018. And so a Standing Ovation to our Security from day one: Dyane & Peter Tat 2 Poulos & the Peter Tat 2 Associates, Don Eaker & Jerry “Papa San” Blankenship, PA Pete Stephens & Squatch, Duane “Bear” Roberts, Dave & Peggy Sucher, and Heide Unger & Tim Corley for a job well done.   

And while they didn’t hold the Security Director Title – I’d like to add Cristine (who became Heide & Tim’s right hand gal at the conventions) & Branden Lewis here as they had already volunteered to be security directors along with Heide & Tim had the NTA conventions continued. I know they too would have been an asset in this department.

And… To all of you VOLUNTEERS from the First through the Final NTA Convention MANY. MANY Thanks for your services at the many jobs that have to be filled to make the conventions such a success – Convention Hosts, Convention Coordinators, giving out registration packets, contest registration table, contest screeners, display contest coordinators, Gophers (Go fors), information desk, escorts for the contests, judges for the contests, ballot counters, raffle ticket sellers & ticket checkers, lecturer’s, booth inspectors, videographers, photographers, and manning the doors. Whew makes me tired just thinking of all those jobs!😊 Thank You All for Volunteering to do these jobs for us – it was, and still is, much appreciated.

Well…that’s it for this time around – next issue I will continue with some more of the NTA History and some mighty important NTA members.  Hope you enjoyed hearing about all our Security Directors. Again stay well and safe – hope to see you all again soon….