According to the tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, a tattoo is proof that the bearer "sat down and took it", and thus became "a member of an elite club". Tuttle makes this proclamation early in "Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry: The Life of Norman K. Collins", the 2008 documentary by Erich Weiss that is the extant definitive story of the legendary tattoo artist known as Sailor Jerry. Later in the film, the viewer will learn that Collins placed the 1970 Rolling Stone magazine cover that featured Tuttle in his toilet. This was Collins' statement against what he considered "flashy" tattoo artists, who he saw as more concerned with self promotion than the art form, which was against the grain of everything Collins stood for. Collins himself stopped tattooing for a number of years to protest against the IRS. In all, Collins actually inked for a total of 12 years. He was also a late night radio talk show host, a ship's captain, and a general philosopher who maintained that tattooing was "the ultimate rebellion against the squares".
Collins made it clear that his treasured collection of original flash art - a design printed or drawn on paper or cardboard as reference for customers - was to be left to one of his three proteges, Don Ed Hardy, Mike Malone or Zeke Owen, and if neither were up for the task, the entire collection was to be burned. Fortunately Mike Malone, whose professional name was Rollo Banks, bought Collins' company, China Sea Tattoo, in the Chinatown section of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins is widely recognized as the godfather of the American tattoo, and this Tuesday, January 14th, marks the 103rd anniversary of his birth. To commemorate and celebrate the day, Sailor Jerry, the company that crafts a line of clothing and accessories featuring the iconic imagery that Collins was known for, will be hosting birthday parties nationwide. The company, which is owned by William Grant & Sons, is also the purveyor of the famed 92 proof spiced rum that was concocted in the legendary tattoo artist's honor - Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. The bottle features two pieces of Collins' original flash art, a hula girl on the front label, and once the bottle is emptied, another of the artist's sultry sirens is revealed on the inner side of the back label. Many devout aficionados of the brand are known to save the bottles and turn them into unique keepsakes. Cocktails made with Sailor Jerry rum will be featured at bars across the nation on Tuesday, and tattoo artists all over the country will be paying homage to Collins' legacy by inking 103 of the biggest Norman fans with the same piece of flash art - the swallow.
The celebration in New York City will take place downtown at 169 Bar. One of the biggest tattoo shops in the city, Three Kings, will be inking at the bar from 2:00 PM to midnight. There will be Sailor Jerry rum cocktails (Hot Apple Jerry is one!), rum soaked nibbles and a boozy birthday cake. And, on a first come first served basis, 103 proud New Yorkers will walk away with a free swallow tattoo, so fans will want to head over to East Broadway early.
Paul Monahan, Sailor Jerry's Brand Ambassador, shared some of the events that will be taking place over on the West Coast for Collins' birthday. This will mark Brooklyn transplant Monahan's first Collins birthday celebration in California, where, he says, the Sailor Jerry brand has its biggest market. Combine the weather, the surf culture, and the various "great grass roots cultural styles" (Monahan's words) that Cali offers and you have a "great outside everyday drinking culture". He also makes note of the evolved tastes of American drinkers today, who expect a sophisticated concoction when it comes to crafting a cocktail. In Cali, Monahan will preside over an event at Huntington Beach's Tattoo Gallery where the first 103 Sailor Jerry fans to line up will get inked with the Collins swallow. There will be food trucks parked outside, an Argentinian sandwich truck and a taco truck, a DJ, and later, the party will move over to Johnny's Saloon at 17428 Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach.
So, New Yorkers, here is your chance to show them on the West Coast that the cold weather doesn't keep a New Yorker down! As Monahan says, "take a moment on January 14th to celebrate a prominent tattoo artist with a toast with a drink of Sailor Jerry rum in honor of Norman Collins". And head downtown to 169 Bar on East Broadway, get in line early, and show 'em that you are one of the ones who can take it.
169 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
646 833 7199