Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry - My Work Speaks For Itself

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Hori Smoku on Condensed Critics.com


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Hori Smoku on Condensed Critics.com

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry
Posted on November 5, 2009, 2:29 pm, by Ktapia,

Lucky me! I got to attend a screening of the documentary Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry at Mission Theater, complete with free drinks. Prior to my screening, I didn’t have much knowledge of tattoo history, so I learned a lot about its origins. Sailor Jerry has a story that seems ripped from a novel: grew up riding the rails, learned how to tattoo from the old timers who travelled with freak shows, purchased a small island in the Pacific where he could retreat in the event of the Federal government becoming too intrusive, general ‘f-you if you don’t like it’ attitude.

A lot of the old timers who were interviewed were very dismissive and angry at the current generation of tattoo artists, who they call the ‘black shirts.’ In their day, they had to make their own needles and had no sanitation laws to adhere to, or help from anyone. They had a wall of their flash, and a customer sat down, ponied up the cash, and got inked. And if you didn’t like them, well, sod off. I can see how they would be very dismissive of the way the industry has been infused with ‘the customer is always right’ mentality of other service industries.
The movie featured a lot of footage of Don Ed Hardy, Jerry’s protege. He’s gotten a really bad rap lately; his name has been bedazzled, surrounded by skulls eating dragons, and slapped on the backs of Jon Gosselin and his ilk. In the film, Hardy didn’t touch on the use of his designs by Christian Audiger, the man who brought the world the Von Dutch trucker hat. But in GQ a few months ago, there was a really interesting profile of Audiger that touched on the Ed Hardy shirts. In GQ, Audiger is made to seem like a delusional narcissist who stretches the truth provides breast enlargement as a health plan perk to his mostly female employees. Hardy signed over the rights to his intellectual property a few years ago, but didn’t read the contracts carefully enough. Hardy sued Audiger when he didn’t like the way his art was being used, but lost. Hardy seems like an intellectually curious and serious person in this documentary, far different from the flashy shirts that bear his name.

One of the final scenes of the documentary was an interview with an old timer who said that he thinks the explosion in popularity of tattoos will wane very soon. I’ll paraphrase his theory: a child born today sees a rose on his mother’s breast while nursing. When he’s shipped off to pre-school, he sees a butterfly on the teacher’s lower back while she bends to pick up toys. For some children, tattoos will be the mark of the authority figures in their lives, and will be totally undesirable.

If you’re interested in tattoo history, Hawaii during World War II, and old men cursing, I think you’d enjoy this movie.