I started working as a gofer at Bert Grimm’s Tattoo Shop in Long Beach, California sometime in 1970. It was ’72 before I had the guts to start tattooing sailors, street crazies, and ex-cons along with my kid brother’s hippie friends. From ’74 to ’78, I tattooed for Bert Grimm’s rival Captain Jim Malonson.
In the middle of January, ’78 Colonel Bill Todd asked me to move up to a Portland, Oregon and help run Bert Grimm’s Tattoo Shoppe (that’s the way he spelled it) along with Todd’s nephew, Dave Orlowsky. We were asked to stay for two years. Although my customers and all the winos, railroad tramps, homeless kids and street crazies seemed to love me, many university educated professionals told me that they didn’t like people from Southern California and that I should go back to LA as soon as possible. I planned, therefore, to go home as soon as my two years were up. However, my wife liked Portland, so I’ve been here ever since.
Once I came to own the shop I changed the name to Sea Tramp. We are now the oldest tattoo shop in Portland, perhaps in all Oregon.
Sadly our old mentor Bert Grimm died in 1985. The late but much loved tattooist Tom Slick, Bones Hadick, Eagle, and I were proud pallbearers at the great man’s funeral. Around the grave we were able to see many fresh Bert Grimm tattoos on the bare arms of the mourners. The legendary Bert tattooed almost right up to his last breath.
In spite of the disapproval of the elite intelligentsia of Portland, the last thirty four years have been an exciting adventure, and I’ve made thousands of friends and learned to love this city with all of my heart.