By Allison B. Siegel
Fineline Tattoo opened in 1976 during the New York City ban on tattooing and is considered the longest continually running tattoo shop in Manhattan. It’s located on 1st Street and First Avenue in the East Village. Previously, Mike Bakaty, the founder and owner, operated underground for 36 years in secret back rooms and loft apartments. With the walls adorned with Bakaty’s original flash art, Fineline is definitely near and dear to our skin and to the history of NYC.
We interviewed Bakaty and asked him about tattooing and New York City:
When did you first fall in love with tattooing?
I’m still falling in love with tattooing. I got interested back in ’74 when I went to get some work covered up…I got more interested in ’75…and then by 1976 my interest was such that I started tattooing myself.
And you didn’t care that tattooing was illegal at the time in NY?
Hell yeah, I cared. Every time the phone rang I jumped thinking it was the cops looking to bust me. After 21 years eventually I got over jumping at the phone.
How do you feel at the Bowery now and all the changes going on?
Well, you know, it’s not the Bowery I lived on for 34 years, you know? Don’t know how I feel about the changes. When they first built the Whole Foods down here I thought who the hell is gonna come down here and buy food? We tried to save the building we lived in (McGurk’s Suicide Hall). I lived there for 34 years. Check out more on McGurk’s.
What’s your opinion on Mildred Hull?
Millie Hull…well she was one of the first female tattooers I ever heard of. There’s a picture of her right there (points to picture on the wall).
This piece has her in it and some other legends like Charlie Wagner.
Well, it was us (Fineline) that brought tattooing back to the Bowery and the fact of the matter is I was totally blind to the fact that the Bowery had such tattoo history. I read somewhere the first heavily tattooed person exhibition was around 1876 right across from 295 (Bowery) where we lived…
Do you call this a parlor or a shop?
It’s a studio. I don’t see a parlor anywhere in here.
Can I ask how old you are?
Well, I’m 77.
G-d Bless you, man! You don’t look a day over 60.
Well, thank you, I just passed the big 77. If I knew I was gonna get this old I’d have taken better care of myself (laughter).
“Tattoo: Flash Art of Amund Dietzel.” The exhibit, which runs to the Fall, celebrates one of tattooing’s most remarkable forefathers, particularly the one hundred years since the Norwegian artist arrived in Milwaukee in 1913 and made it his home.
Dietzel’s studios attracted tattoo collectors far beyond Milwaukee. As the Museum notes, he “helped define the look of the traditional or old school tattoo,” and his tattoo flash remains just as powerful today as it was during the two world wars he tattooed through and the many years afterward until his death in 1974.
I’d venture a guess that, if Dietzel were alive today, he’d be having a laugh at the city’s museum featuring his work, especially as he put up a good fight against the Milwaukee City Council, along with Gib “Tatts” Thomas, when the city banned tattooing in 1967.
There are so many great stories of Amund Dietzel’s life, and they are wonderfully shared in tattooist Jon Reiter‘s book These Old Blue Arms: The Life & Work of Amund Dietzel, which I reviewed here in 2010.
This exhibit is drawn exclusively from the book and Jon’s collection of Dietzel flash, photos and “peripheral Dietzel Studio material.” It should be an excellent show for all tattoo lovers and Americana art buffs.
Here’s more on Dietzel from the museum:
Born in Kristiania, Norway, Dietzel (1891-1974) learned the art of hand-tattooing on a Norway merchant ship. When the ship was wrecked off the coast of Quebec, Dietzel and a few others decided to stay. Dietzel traveled with his close friend William Grimshaw, working carnivals as tattooed men and tattooing between shows.
Passing through Milwaukee at twenty-three, Dietzel decided to make the city his home. He opened a tattoo parlor and soon had a reputation as the region’s premier tattoo artist–and the one to whom World War I and II sailors and Marines went before leaving for battle. In 1964 at the age of seventy-three, Dietzel sold his shop to his friend Gib “Tatts” Thomas. The two worked together in the studio until the city banned tattooing, effective July 1, 1967. “At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out that it doesn’t want me,” said Dietzel.
By Dave Waugh
So I’ ll begin this weeks record reviews from low to high. It was a good score from Emmittsburg this week with both lows and highs. And lows that should have been highs. Up first, a bland 60′s comp of “danger music” movie and TV theme songs…
By Dave Waugh
So I received a lot of positive feedback on my recent Dio flash sheet, so I was inspired to do another Dio-esque piece, and this time it was for a trade…
By Dave Waugh
Here is a commission piece I did for fellow tattooer named Chris Smith. He was interested in purchasing a piece of artwork from me that had a similar format and he let me pick the subject matter… (more…)
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I was honored when Crash asked me to do this blog. I’ve never blogged before so I tried to get him to tell me what to do but he left it up to me. Thanks a lot Crash… Well, he did tell me what I can’t do. No cursing or shit talking…
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