Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bowery Stan and the Hammerfish

“You still got room? Where you got room? Lemme see. Lemme take a look” He said, wanting to get down to it. It was twenty past noon on a warm, bright, sunny Saturday afternoon about an hour south of Tampa, FL. I was anxious as well to get this show on the road.

“How about here?” The man asked with hints of good ideas in his tone as he ran his right pointer finger back and forth up on the back of my right arm.

“Seems like a logical place to me. He will be hanging out with the Rocktopuss and the bloody Great White on the same arm.” I eagerly answered all but sealing the deal with my enthusiasm.

“OK fine. I like the way this is all moving along.  Have a seat. I’ll get the rest of everything else ready now.” He said as he took a step back and gazed over the whole station making mental notes of what he needs to do.

“So uh yeah. Have a seat and this show will raise its curtain in no more than five minutes” He flashed a funny and warm grin and then went about his business.

That was how my tattoo session with legendary tattoo artist “Bowery” Stan Moskowitz started. One of the remaining “Old Timers”, Stan is not one to be fucked with. He has seen it all and has no problem speaking his mind, and that mind is still sharp as a tack at 80 years old. There is the infamous story of his first day as a professional tattoo artist back in 1948 in down in New Yorks Bowery at his families tattoo shop.  It involves a ballpeen hammer and Stan sending a message to any one who thought they were going to be able to take advantage of him.  Soon after the iconic Hammerfish came into being.  An image to serve as a reminder to not mess with Stan and that the even the little fish can pack a punch. 64 years later, Stan is still showing us why he is the man.

I remember seeing that Bowery Stan and Philadelphia Eddie were going to be at the Tampa Tattoo Fest when I started planning the three thousand mile round trip road warrior jaunt for work , but I didn’t think Stan was going to be tattooing. I thought that maybe he was doing promo work for his tattoo ink brand or maybe had a new book like Eddy did. When I heard Stan was doing tattoos, I knew I wanted in and did not want to miss the chance to collect a piece from such a legend.  When I made it to the show Friday evening, my friend Terry Brown, who perfectly enough is an amazing tattooer who did my shrimp, was getting the iconic hammerfish done. I had been met by his fiancé when I got there and she had walked me over to the booth. Stan was fast at work, while Philadelphia Eddy was dressed to the nines in one of his trademarked suits and grinning ear to ear.  I made sure right then and there I found out when he was going to be free so I could make an appointment.

“Hows about noon tomorrah?” Stan asked

“Ill be here at 11:59” I eagerly replied

“hmm. Ok. I will try to be too but no promises” he replied with a laugh as he turned to get back to Terry’s leg.

I thanked him and got back to my booth at the show and was happy knowing that had been all sorted. Fast forward to Saturday afternoon around 12:30pm and we were getting it all underway.

Stan had on his Lowes Home Store apron, a modified Jonesey machine and tube in hand, and the iconic stencil applied to the back of my right arm. I have a feeling Stan could have probably done the whole thing freehand and not have missed a detail. We had a great talk about the old Bowery in NYC, stories about Jonsey and his dad, and the evolution of the tattoo game in the America and beyond. I was expecting this grizzly older tough man, but in reality Stan is rather soft-spoken, funny, warm, and very excited about the new breed of tattooers and some of the new school art.

“Well ya know, every generation has a look. That’s how all this mess moves forward ya know? He said.

“Hey Stan, take care of this kid. He’s from Philly. 4th street even” Philadelphia Eddy came over and said half way through. He gave me a wink and looked over the progress, smiled and went back to talk to some people who were lingering around the booth wanting to buy some of his books. Next thing you know Stan was cleaning up the new tattoo and snapping some photos on his pocket sized digital camera. He laughed a little bit and shook his head.

“What’s up Stan?” I ask

“From ballpeen hammers and computer chips. Life is fucking funny” He replied.

“Very true Stan. Very true.” I said as a smile creeped on my face as I took a look at my own small piece of history now on my arm.

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