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Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry

A documentary on how to get "stewed, screwed and tattooed" ... plus booze!

NORMAN COLLINS: When in Honolulu, he could help you with the "tattoo" portion of your evening. Photo courtesy of Indiepix

On my forearm is a smallish tattoo of a flamingo. Essentially a stick-figure that I designed myself, it is colorless, crude and silly. I bought it for $40 when I was 18 years old after being fired from the door-to-door sales job I had been working for only two days. I can go for a week or two without remembering it exists. And, though the area of my arm where it is positioned is a very insensitive spot to get a tattoo, I winced and my eyes welled up when it was administered.

Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins ought to be rolling in his grave.

Coming to Tacoma on Friday is a documentary called Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, about the life and times of Norman K. Collins, a legendary tattoo artist. His style was distinct - often featuring nautical imagery, colorfully presented with much attention to detail and shading. Sailor Jerry tattoos, as they were called, were the epitome of masculinity. Administered in the red light districts of Honolulu, where Collins was based, sailors on shore leave would visit to get, as they called it, "stewed, screwed and tattooed."

"I've been getting tattooed since I was about 14, and I remember how damn scary walking into a tattoo shop felt back then," says Hori Smoku director Erich Weiss. "It was intimidating and unnerving to say the least. They were dangerous places. The walls were covered with flash - awesome pictures of a life far from the norm - and I loved it. And a lot of that flash I saw as a kid was drawn by Sailor Jerry, which I'm sure formed a lot of my later artistic decisions."

In the years since Collins' death in 1973, the Sailor Jerry images have continued on, perhaps most recognizably in products like ash trays, playing cards and Sailor Jerry rum, which features a classic Sailor Jerry hula girl on the label.

How would Norman Collins feel about the state of modern tattoos?

"I think he would appreciate the artistic level tattooing has achieved today," says Weiss. "But he would definitely shake his head at some of the cheese factor that's now involved. ... But s***, who knows?"

Catch Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry and judge for yourself.

Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry

Friday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m.,
Blue Mouse Theatre, 2611 N. Proctor, Tacoma
Bonus: There will be booze!

Comments for Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry (1)

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ha said on Dec. 02, 2010 at 2:11pm

and what's the 'cheese factor'? modern day white poser punk garage-rockabillies wearing old school tats for cred? ha

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