It was the morning of April 4, 1991. According to plan, Jill and John arrived at our home on State at 7:00 am. By 7:30 we were on our way to Garden Grove, and Orange County suburb of Los Angeles near Anaheim. John drove, while I navigated and punned. It was a groan experience. We arrived at the Hyatt at Harbor and Chapman in good time, before registration began at 2:30. It was obvious we were in the right place; as we drove up the stone-tiled drive past the giant pink flamingos in the fountain we could see illustrations on the strategically bared skin of those who had been drawn together there.
After an overpriced cocktail in the hotel bar we stood in a long line to register for the convention, getting our badge pins, ballots, and schedules. A brief fight erupted nearby, cause unknown. Afterward, peace reigned throughout. A party of sorts was next, for the tattooed to see and be seen. Unfortunately, we had charged an old battery, thus battering a dead horse, and the videocamera wouldn't cam. After feasting our eyes on hundreds of moving pictures, and proudly displaying our own, we chose one of many motels nearby. We were, after all, only a throne's stow away from the Magic Kingdom.
In our room, Shari and I gave the videocamera a thorough test, which it passed with flying colors. With the right battery charged, we were ready for action. Next day was the tattoo competition, when the conventioners voted to choose the best tattoos in various categories. Shari's dragon, done by Jill, was entered in best back or chest. Each tattoo was paraded on stage, accompanied by the person whose skin it was on. I recorded the events on videotape, a task which I discovered was not as easy as it looks on TV.
Nearby was a channel 5 news reporter inverviewing several artists and contestants, so I also taped him taping them. Later, on the 10:00 pm news, I saw that he had taped me taping him, so, pointing the camera at the TV, I taped him taping me taping him. Fortunately he was not there to tape me doing that, since it might have led to an infinite regression, leaving our objective reality to enter a spiral of mutually dependent electronic symbiosis. If a tree falls in a forest unwitnessed by Eyewitness News, does it make an unconfirmed report? Chances are, the other trees will leave, refusing to bark about it.
But, I digress. I was happy to see that the news report was quite positive Often the media tend to be snide or snooty about tattoos, or anything outside their narrow suburban lifestyles. Even the Arizona Republic had a well-written 2-page article with color pictures. The second night we stayed in Venice, taking late night and early morning walks on the beach, checking to see if it was like it used to be. The answer was yes and no.
Saturday there were tattooing booths open to the public for a $5 admission, an opportunity to choose from among the best tattoo artists from all over the world. The planners hadn't expected the size of the crowd. It was so packed that it was difficult to move or even stand, and videotaping was a real problem. More than 4000 attended Saturday and Sunday. Despite the congestion, it was interesting to watch.
There was a lecture by Jack Rudy on the history of black and grey tattooing. He is considered the originator of fine-line work, and specializes in doing portraits. I've seen him duplicate a photograph in a tattoo, which is not easy. The fine-line single-needle style began mostly in prisons, where self-taught artists with lots of time on their hands built their own machines from cassette-recorder motors, toothbrush handles, and guitar strings, many of whom did very good detailed work at a time when professional artists were using a much heavier line style. Rudy's contribution was a synthesis of the two.
We left Saturday evening, since Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday.