BIKERS,TATTOOS AND MY NEW YORK ODESSEY
 
 Part one ...The Tattoos......The Bikers

    A few years ago I was able to spend four days at the New York City Tattoo Convention.It was educational and interesting to say the least. My friend Matthew who I will introduce later had an effortless trip up there in spite of all I had reasoned about driving in NYC. After arriving and checking into the Sheraton Tower right on Broadway we decided to play tourist and check out the sites. We both knew it would be a hectic four days so we grabbed some good food and had a few nightcaps.(we are talking a well stocked bar here.) and called it a night.
    The next day as I was walking out of the elevator a young man was walking backwards toward me. He was being mobbed by people asking him for his autograph. Flash bulbs were popping everywhere reminding me of Fourth of July. I recognized his face but not his name. I practically caught him as I noticed the lobby was packed. It seems the Day Time Emmy's were in progress next door and many of the stars were staying here. For the next few days we saw quite a parade of limos, stars and red carpet looking down from our windows. After breakfast we had to get to the Roseland Ballroom to set up. Artists from Japan, Spain, Austria, Italy, Cypress, Germany, South America and the United States were there. This was a gathereing of the best of the best. Many of the shops and artists were familier to me through my life as a tattooed biker.
    Lets take a little trip baskwards a few years to when a group of scientists found the frozen body of a man believed to be at least six thousand years old. After close examination it was discovered he had several tattoos. It would seem tattooing has been around a long time.    When Captain Cook made his famous tirp around the globe he saw islanders with various tattoos. These tattoos were mainly for a "rite of passage".
They would include face and large area of the body and thighs. Early Christians would tattoo a small cross on their palms to recognize each other from their Roman oppressors. In 1853 when Admiral Perry opened up Japan, the Japanese outlawed tattoos thinking they would see them as barbaric. So tattooing was mainly kept as a way of maintaining  control and keeping track of lawbreakers.Today even in some conservative areas like Kyoto you can be turned away from bath houses for this connection.
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     Japan was a class system where everything was controlled from hair styles, weapons, travel to clothing. Only the upper classes could wear colorful attire. Often the lower classes would cover themselves in a full body tattoo and upon their deathbed throw off their kimono and show the tattoos in defiance. Some would even go further and have themselves skinned and the skin be mounted.The Japanese stylle of tattooing is very thematic and often result in years of time and thousands of dollars. Only after sailors from around the  world wanted tattoos did the Japanese allow tattooing to continue. Men such as Czar Nicholas and King George the V of England had dragons tattoed on their forearms. Even today sailors still get tattooed to document their travels.

   Ok, we're back to Friday now and the show is ready to start. Having been a biker and martial artist for 40 years I knew we were in for a long night and would have to prepare accordingly .So, I took a shot of scotch, put two cigars in my vest pocket, grabbed my trusty recorder and I knew I was ready for anything.
   Motorcycles were everywhere, many with the familier deaths head logo. The place was electric with everyone from Wall Streeters to yuppies ,rubrs(rich,urban bikers), and the truly bazzar. The familier smell of green soap filled my nostrills, as loud music, dancers, swordswallowers and a ninja demonstration took center stage. Lets not forget Ola the trapeeze artist and Linda Love Lace signing pics. The wild fashions, punk hair styles and incredible piercings reminded me of my old punk rock days. I'm talking serious platforms here! This was the World Series of Tattoo! I knew I had my work cut out for me! I'd better get me a beer!
   As I approached the front door of the Roseland Ball Room I saw The Biker your mom had always warned you about. This was my choice for the #1 doorman of all time! A large imposing gentleman with tattoos on his temples and pretty much everywhere else also. Mohawk hair style, wide leather wrist bands with spikes and all the biker accouterments you would expect to see. This would be my first victim.
  As I approched this guy, I asked who he rode with?" Friends " he replied. I was stunned to see across his neck were the words Dont Judge a Book By it's Cover. Never has a case for this statement been truer. His name is Mike and I asked him about his tat. He replied
"Self Explainatory" also about the name Corrine tattooed below it. It's my wife's name he replied. Corrine (the lovely) who was sitting next to Mike promptly showed me a tattoo of Mikes name"for enduring love". Mike snipped,"so I could rember her name". I jumped back three feet and we all laughed. Mike then went on to explain his different tatts."This was a tribute to my father, kind of a tombstone, a reminder of  how much you miss them." "Mike, could you explain your other tattoos? "I have a number of Indian tattoos. They have certain things in common like wanting to be free and sticking together. They also lived off the land and were close to nature with a free spirit. These tattoos help get me through the crazy, mechanical world we live in, more relaxed. I also have a lot of skulls, but I dont see them as skulls. When I was growing up I loved pirates, the freedom of the high seas. A lot of bikers get tattoos because they think it makes them look mean. I like them because they represent a life style of men making their own way, by their own rules not the crazy lifestyle of today. I have tattoos of tigers because they represent the same thing." 
         Mike, my friend Matthew says he has seen you before? "Yes, about four years ago while I was in the antiques business a man came in the shop and said I should send some photographs to an agent in Hollywood. Before I knew it was I was in several movies and soap operas. I love being typecast . For the last four years I have been on the HBO hit series OZ. Mike also has a fellow cast mate named Chuck Zito.He is former president of the NY Hells Angels.I have heard Mr. Zito is a member of the cast for the up coming new season of the TV hit show, Sons of Anarchy.
   ​Things keep getting better and better for me said Mike. Now dont go out and get tattooed to try and get into the movies, but if it works for me naturally fine, I would be the same anyway."
      I thanked Mike whole-heartedly and I have to say that Mike was a complete gentleman and a total professional. He is  warm, genuine and a "cool guy". 

     On Saturday night friends of Matts arrived. One was named Jim or Jungle Jim. He would represent Independent Tattoo Studio in competition the next day. Since Jim was a biker I thought I would get his insights."Jim , I' ve been riding a long time and have seen lots of biker tats.But when I see you I see this magnificent full body tat of a tropical rain forest. Whats up?" "I like nature, the harmony of the flowers, plants and animals." So, it has nothing to do with the bike? I asked "No" he said. 
  So its really about your personality I asked. " Absolutely " said Jim. Matt had stated earlier since Jim had put on a few pounds he was the "only rain forest still expanding."
      Next we have Weasel from Savadge Creed MC. I told him I was writing an article for the International Star Riders On Line News Letter and would he explain his tats? "Some are art pieces and some have special meanings " he said showing me dice, gravestones, skulls, pretty girls, spider webs... you get the picture. I noticed many were just black ink with shading and little color in many of his tats.
 I asked him which tattoos ment the most to him. Weasel " I have some that are "in memorial" pieces for my friends who have been killed, sorta like they are always with me."  "Thanks for your time" I replied.
   
  The next gentleman is a devout Christian and biker for 18 years. His name is George Milne. A second genaration theater expert for the Shuman Organization. For the last eight years, George has been the the electrician and effects manager for the Broadway show Miss Saigon. George has also worked on Les Miserables for years and too many more to mention. He was working his "magic" at the Broadway Theater next door to the David Lettman Show for the hit show Blast. George, you even sing in the choir but you have tats all over. Can you explain?"
 George,"Its a new world out there and all my tats have meaning. Its about my soul, my wifes soul and our kids. On George's' arm is an armband  is a tattoo of  roses to represent each of his family members."These show the joy of them coming into the world" he stated.
  On his back is a "cave style " or a very rudimentary tattoo of a bear."This represents my soul and the protector.The three liones's which are my girls, watch the pride" said George. So you feel these spirits? I asked.  Absolutly said George. As a Christian do you have any conflicts with your beliefs? I enquired. George,"Christ teaches us to love each other and this is just part of the whole picture. What some one does with their body is their own business. I judge no one and I want no one judging me." He then tells me a funny story of an elderly lady that tried to wash off a Yin Yang tat on the back his neck while walking up the aisle at church thinking it was dirt.
     "We are more  socially accepted by the masses now. They have always wated to be part of our taboo underground. Now they want to express their thoughts, ideas and souls on their bodies. A lot of them are being trendy but a lot of them are coming out of their shells. First timers to bike shows and tattoo shows, many who have looked down on these things before, are older and more accepting and can enjoy themselves now." As I was taliking to George he was getting a full Chest piece from Matthew. It was a show stopper and people were gathering all around  to watch. The tattoo was of two rams butting heads. '"Why I asked " I guess I just butted heads with people all my life." said George.
  While I was there I saw a Veterans Mc come in and I wanted very much to interview them. I was sure they would have some interesting storys and nice art work. Unfortunately they left shortly and I was unable to interview them. I was dissapointed.
   One other type of tattoo is the "one percenter." This comes from the belief that 99% of all bikers are law abiding people and one percent is not. It was actually referring to "outlaw bikers" who would not race in American Motorcycle Association sanctioned races. 
      The shape is the outline of a diamond with a one percent sign in the middle. I have seen various versions of the diamond shape with a one percent sign, a wolfs head, lightning bolts, the number 13 and the letter M in the middle. These are the symbols of the hardcore and often referred to as Outlaw Bikes. Often the wives get tats of "property of so and so " on their person. They may also have this on a backpatch also.
   In a conversation some years back with me about working on their bikes in a shop during the mid 70s back in PG county and catching the great Roy Bucanon at the Crossroads in Bladensburg MD, the local ex- president of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, OC chapter, or sometimes called 16 Nation, (since the letter P is the 16th letter of the alphabet.) explained that contrary to popular belief, they had come up with this idea of the one percenter patch and other clubs out West adopted it.
 
​The most famous one percenters are the Hells Angels, The Pagans, The Outlaws and the Banditos.