Tattoos: Issue 71, November 1993

Tattoos: November 1994


See, here’s what happened: A month or so ago, Gianni and I were sitting at Casa Blanca trying to decide what we could do with the paper to make it more interesting and get the interest level up a notch or two. So we did the rockabilly thing, and we did the B-movie thing and me, being the brainiac that I am, said, “Let’s do a special issue on tattoos.” Gianni said, “Excellent, dude. You do it.” And, being the idiot I am, said I would take care of it. So we ran a couple of ads saying we were going to do a tattoo issue in November. Now, I don’t know what in the hell I was thinking. I thought there were a lot of people involved in tattooing so people would respond. Wrong answer. One person, a friend of a tattooist, came up to me and said, “Hey, dude. My friend works at this tattoo shop and he’s really good and you should talk to him.” I guess for some reason, I thought people would join in. 

I never expected to learn as much as I did when I started this project, but I had some great experiences while researching this stuff. Issue 71, November 1994

Well, apathy aside, I have spent the last five years involved in tattooing and the lifestyle that goes with it. You will have to excuse my lack of writing abilities—I don’t claim to be a good writer and I don’t claim to know a lot about tattooing, but I like tattoos. Since I have kept a keen interest in tattooing, I have spent a lot of time in tattoo shops, read almost every tattoo book and magazine released in the past few years and checked out as many tattoos as I could.

Being the publisher of a magazine for way too long, I had the opportunity to do trade work for most of the tattoos I now have. I also spend way too much time in bars so I get to meet a lot of people who share a common interest. I have learned one major thing: People with tattoos are usually a step above the common folk. Tattooed people are usually free thinking and not afraid to be different. I know that tattooing has always separated people from the norm, but I have to say that I think it gives people an advantage. I really only say that because for way too many years, people with tattoos have been looked down upon as the weirdos, freaks and rebels. Fuck that. Not only has tattooing become more socially acceptable, but it’s almost trendy. I used to be one of those people that thought once something became socially cool I wouldn’t want it any more. 

Ever since “alternative” music became cool, a lot of things came with it: grungy clothes, body piercing and the new “slacker generation” that followed. It wasn’t the music that did it—it was pure fucking boredom. I really should complain because I have always tried to steer away from the norm in some way or another, but now it’s cool to do it. I had the advantage of being the publisher of a magazine called Salt Lake UnderGround. For your information, it was never underground, but it gave people something the day-to-day newspapers didn’t. Back to the point: The alternative explosion hit us like a ton of bricks and we rode the wagon. Now you can buy the Circle Jerks and SoundOff and people who work at ZCMI have nose rings. 

Tattooing went with it. Five years ago the only people really publishing tattoo were outlaw bikers. God bless the bikers, they weren’t afraid of the norm and did it anyway. Now check the adult section of any magazine shop and if you can wade through the tits and ass magazines you will see ten or 12 regular magazines all dedicated to tattooing. Models have ‘em, musicians require them and society has deemed them socially acceptable. 

At this point I am not going to tell you something about tattoos that is going to change your world, make you decide to get one or hate people who have them. I will, however, tell you about some of the shops that are open in town. I never expected to learn as much as I did when I started this project, but I had some great experiences while researching this stuff.

I used to buy any tattoo magazine or book on tattooing I could get my hands on. Now there are so many mags available that I can’t afford them all. I sat down one day and started reading some of the articles. I know, I know—they are like my Playboys. I just look at the pictures. So I decided to read the stories on the artists and the people who have dedicated their lives to tattooing. It is pretty interesting stuff. If you have never checked out any of these books or mags, check them out. I got my own rise out of getting tattoos, but by reading other people’s opinions it made me appreciate things I never noticed before. The experience will be yours. I wouldn’t try to explain fully what someone else might gain by the experience. 

I have to explain some of the things I learned because you are obviously still reading this and not just looking at pictures. The greatest thing I gained from my tattoo experience is the ability to handle pain and the many wonderful things it has to offer. I remember a year ago I tripped in a bar and cracked my skull and had to go to the hospital to get some stitches. I remember when they gave me the shot in my head I was prepared for the experience and actually sort of enjoyed it. It’s not that I am some sort of a pain freak. It’s that I have gone into a tattoo shop knowing it was going to hurt and did not care because I knew when all was said and done I would get something out of it. It is hard to explain unless you have been there, but those of you have experienced pain, think back on it. Does it really matter now? I spent an hour or two in a tattoo artist’s chair and now I have something I can enjoy for the rest of my life. 

My mother doesn’t seem to understand the passion I have for my tattoos. Go figure. She always tells me I am going to regret it. Well, I have had some of my tattoos for a long time and, for the most part, I like them more every day. On this note, I have to say be careful about what you decide to do with your skin. It is permanent and you need to like looking at that piece of art in five or ten years. I am getting tattoos now that I would never have dreamed of getting five years ago, and I have tattoos now that I certainly would not get again in a million years. However, I am happy with all the tattoos I own and I have no regrets for getting any of them.  

Well, enough about me. Let’s take a small tour of Salt Lake and the many tattoo shops here. I have focused on the shops in town even though there are a lot of people in town that tattoo. I have the feeling that the people who make the sacrifice to tattoo in a shop should be patronized. The shops have to pass health requirements and every shop I have ever been in will guarantee their work. I have only had one tattoo done on me that wasn’t in a shop and it turned out okay, but the day after I got the tattoo I was scared. The artist that tattooed me used needles that weren’t sharp and it bruised my skin. No permanent damage, but the first few days after, the tattoo was red and tender and it did not look good. I am glad that nothing serious happened and it is still one of my favorite tattoos, but it convinced me that anything could happen. Most shops use hospital sterilization so you don’t have to worry about AIDS or some other disease. Every shop in town that I have been in keeps these standards and guarantees their work.  


1136 South State 

I have a definite place in my heart for Don and Sharon at ASI. Don gave me my first tattoo, and to this day It is still my favorite. Sharon put someone’s name on my body, then covered it for me, laughed her ass off and is still my personal consultant for all my serious tattoo decisions. ASI is the oldest shop In town and probably has the biggest name. I am not saying it is best shop. Every artist Is good in his or her own way, and every shop In town offers something that the others don’t. 

Don has been tattooing professionally for 10 years. He learned his trade from Bud who owned the shop originally and subsequently sold the shop to him. With all the shops that have come and gone, ASI has stayed. It seems that State street has always been the place to get a tattoo, and at one time most of the shops were on state. Since that time shops have opened off of State street but I would be surprised if Don and Sharon ever move shop. 

Don is great at taking a piece of art and reproducing It on your skin. Most of my tattoos I have now are done by Don, and I have been quite pleased with his work. Sharon has also done tattoos on me. Sharon recently won an award at the Tattoo Rendezvous in Kansas for “Best of Tribal” on a back piece. Don and Sharon attend most of the conventions in the United States and want help to spread the word about shop. I have seen both of their work in national magazines. 

Right now, ASI seems to be one of the biggest shops, and they are probably doing most of the work in town. The guys working there are Kent, Cary, Shane, Bobby and Rich. Kent worked out on Ave Tattoo (5th Ave Is not doing tattoos anymore) for a while and just recently started at ASI. Kent has done a few tattoos on me and is very good at celtic and tribal. Actually, all the tattoos he has done on me were traditional, but the work is great. Bobby and Cary are both great artists and have drawn tattoos that I crave. Rich has been at the shop for a while and moved up here from Arizona. Consequently it was Rich’s friend who approached me for the story. 

Check out ASI for a tattoo. The shop is on State street, so it gets a lot of walk-in customers. It can be a bit chaotic at the times in the shop, but don’t be scared. There are a lot of great artists there, and I have seen a ton of great work come out of the shop. Besides, they have about a billion pieces of flash art on the walls and are available. So, if you don’t have an idea for a tattoo, they probably do.



949 South State 

I love hangin’ out at Tattoo Fever. I think that in all of the tattoo shops I have been in and around the USA, which surprisingly is a lot, Tattoo Fever is one of the more friendly shops. I had never gotten a tattoo from Chopper (owner) until I did the story, and I felt it would be good to get a tattoo at the shop to get the whole effect. I am happy I did. 

Chopper has a real traditional-looking shop. A shelf full of skulls and simple, traditional flash on the walls and people in the shop who encourage the trade. Chopper looks like your traditional biker. Harley Davidson is one of the main decorators in the shop. I find it quite comfortable when I’m there. Chopper has been tattooing for about 15 years and actually moved Tattoo Fever here from Arizona where he learned his trade. Besides tattooing, he also finds time to spend in Idaho and Wyoming where he is working with an organization to help preserve the diminishing wolf population. 

I chose a real traditional piece that Chopper drew and put on me. Chopper has a real steady hand and says he specializes in black work and wildlife. I have spoken to several people who he has done work on, and all them have been more than satisfied. With all the newfangled tricks and trends in the tattoo industry, it is really nice to have an old-style tattoo shop in town. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Dotty or Fang, who also work at Tattoo Fever, but in the many times I have been in the shop I have had several chances to chat with them, and they both have good portfolios of work. I can only say that if you decide to get a tattoo, check out all of the shops before you make your choice.



2023 South 800 E #3

I hate to write up Southern Thunder as last of the three shops I spent time with, but I seemed to have the best talk while at Mic’s place, and it is the freshest on my mind. Mic Radford just recently opened the first tattoo shop in Sugarhouse, which by Salt Lake standards is a first. 

Mic learned his trade from Keith at Living Art Tattoo, which used to be out on about 3400 South State. He has been involved in one form of art or another for most of his life but didn’t start tattooing until 1990. Since that time, he has learned his trade well and has opened up his own shop. The shop is advertised as one of the largest in the western United States, and I must say that it really is a nice shop. He works with his brother Bones, and recently Teresa has joined the staff. 

After talking to Mic, I decided that Mic should be writing this article instead of me. He could also be Salt Lake’s spokesperson for tattooing. Mic is quite articulate about tattooing and Is very forward with his opinions and knowledge about tattoos and the trade. I asked one question and he laid It all out for me in about 20 minutes. 

I was most Impressed with the conviction he had about pulling the art of tattoo out of the mud. I had to agree with him. Tattoos have had such a bad name for way too long, He feels that a tattoo experience should be a good one. How many people do we all know that visited a tattoo shop or got a tattoo that will never go back? Southern Thunder is a place where someone can go and feel comfortable about getting their work done. 

A good part of our conversation was about the trends and waves of fashion that move people to do and buy the things they do. Anyone can go Into a store and buy a pair slick jeans with a fancy name, but the tattoo is a way of setting you apart. No matter what piece of flash you pull off a studio wall, it will be different from anything that anybody else has. Mlc has dedicated himself to focusing his attention to any tattoo that he gives and making people comfortable and secure with their decision to get a tattoo or another tattoo. I have never gotten a tattoo from Mic, but I will. After being in his studio and talking with him, I feel quite pleased and assured that I could get a quality tattoo there. 

Teresa, who recently joined the team at Southern Thunder, is also another great tattoo artist. She is an art major a the U of U and has learned to tattoo skin like it is a canvas. She is working with paints. She has done two of my tattoos, and boy they are fantastic. She is one of the best artists I have ever met, and she Is great at transferring work to the skin. She has been tattooing for five years, and her work is as good as any I have seen. Check out Southern Thunder. If you can’t walk into the shop and feel comfortable, I’ll be surprised. 

I think I have babbled long enough. I can’t express the value of tattooing. It’s something that everyone has to experience for themselves. If you haven’t gotten a tattoo because you are afraid of the pain or social acceptance, you are way off. If you are afraid of the commitment, that is understandable. Just be careful, whatever you do. Remember that it is permanent, and that can be either good or bad. Happy ink. –JR Ruppel

Read more of Issue 71 from November 1994 here.