Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cross Country - Road Trip With Scott & the Tattoo Video Magazine Crew - Part 2

Trader Bob's Tattoo: Matt Model, John Bell, Rob Gesinger, and Joe Alhoff

In our last road trippin' installment, I was visiting with Billy Jack and his Guys in Bowling Green, KY. Just before I left, Billy thought it would be a good idea for his apprentice to ride along with me, so Dustin, aka Lil D, Jumped in to help me drive and to learn some tattoo history on the trip. Dustin is a young artist, hungry to learn all he can about the business and ready to meet other artists. This trip is a great opportunity for him to do that.

Lil D and I headed off to St Louis to see "All American" Matt Model. I met Matt in Cocoa Beach at the SpaceCoast Tattoo Convention. We hung out at Ed Madigan's house after the show for a few days. Matt is a cool guy and funny as hell. We went swimming at Ed's. Matt didn't have a bathing suit, so he went to Wall-Mart and bought a women's one piece and wore that. Funny ass shit.

I wish I had a picture ... maybe not. Anyway, Matt works at the one of the oldest tattoo shops in America, Trader Bobs Tattoo in St. Louis, MO. The shop has been in constant operation since the '30s. It only moved one time do to the fact that the building they were in was torn down to make room for a highway.

Rob Gesinger at work

Allen Thompson

Nate Strautkalns

The Shop is currently owned by Nate and Allen of All-Star Tattoo. They acquired the shop from Honest Mitch's son Mike, who tried to run the shop for a few years after his father died. After a while he realized he needed some help and asked old friends Allen and Nate if they would consider buying the shop. The rest is history, as they say.

We spent a few days with Matt. He took us to a few other shops and we met some of his friends. We also went fishing at a secret spot he knows. He set up a trip with the artists he works with. Everyone caught fish, and I mean big fish, except for Matt for some reason. Lil D caught the most, and he has never been fishing before. We shot footage of everyone, and did some interviewing right there on the bank of the pond. Just like ESPN!

Dustin also wanted to tattoo someone on this trip, so Matt hooked him up. He got to do a hooker and a pimp.

Trader Bob's is located in the ghetto of St. Louis. The street in front is pretty crazy at night. I would suggest a daytime appointment. It's safe enough though. Who wants to fuck with a tattoo shop full of big dudes? Not me.

The artists are friendly enough with the neighborhood folks, and they seem to watch out for the shop out of respect. Bars on the windows and a security system don't hurt either.

Matt broke the rules and showed us the secret room where all of the old flash from the '20s and '30s is stashed. The security is really tight to get in there. We had to go through a couple of booby traps and lots of dark hallways to get to the dungeon were all the gems are kept. There were 1000's of acetate stencils made in the '20s, hand painted signs, original drawings by guys back in the '30s, and even an old machine rack and power supply that I believe Moses used to tattoo Jesus with!

There is some of the coolest old school flash I've ever seen. They have enough stuff to start a museum. The walls of the shop are also covered with original hand painted flash. Most of it has never been reproduced, and it only exists at Trader Bob's.

All the artists that work there feel a sense of pride in their shop. They have a responsibility to protect and to preserve the history that they have acquired. They feel they have an obligation to the artists that came before them to carry on the traditions of the oldest shop in America. The residents at Trader Bob's are fantastic people and excellent artists. They have fun, but are also very professional with the customers.

Nate and Allen are the best guys to take over the legacy. They have a huge respect for the history. They own two shops now, but rarely come to Trader Bob's, due to the fact that Matt Model and the other guys have got it together. They come by and bring food, beer and supplies for the shop. They provide everything the artist's need. They want all the artists to have what they need and they try to make life a little easier so they will stay, instead of opening a shop next door. They pretty much let the artists that work there handle everything themselves.

Ink Well Tattoo: Bard Humes, Matt Model, and Clark Medley

Clark Medley at work

Matt took us to meet some friends of his who have a shop called Ink Well Tattoo. The owners are Clark Medley And Don Wills. When we got there, we just bum-rushed them with the camera and started to interview them before they knew what was going on. Matt thought it would be the best way to do it, since he knew them well enough.

Clark was working on a huge Japanese rib piece. He talked with us on camera while he tattooed, then we talked with the other artists there. They even bought some of my videos. Thanks guys! Don Wills wasn't there at the time, so we decided to go to his house later in the evening.

We went to All-Star Tattoo to visit with Nate and Allen, and meet their other artists. I filmed Matt interviewing the owners. Allen talked with us while he was tattooing, telling us how he got to St. Louis, and about his influences in tattooing.

Matt Model with the All-Star Tattoo staff

Shawn Garrison at work

We met another one of their artists, Carrie, who has been tattooing for seven years. She says, "There's not to much of the ass grabbing going on here. I like that. People come here for the artwork and our friendly attitude. We all have enough business to go around. Sometimes we will pass on a tattoo to the right artist for the job, and it's about the art aspect, not so much the money. I love what I do everyday."

"When you're not working, what do you do?" I asked.

"I have two dogs, a garden, and I like to drink once in awhile. Life is good."

We also talked with Shawn Garrison, who used to work at Trader Bob's. He says it was a rough place back in the day. He had some stories about the old owner, Mitch. "Mitch was a intimidating guy. I worked there for two weeks before I even saw him. He taught me two things. One, never get your hands tattooed, which I did anyway, and two, how to tattoo a penis."

See and hear the whole story in a future video coming soon. I took some photos of the shop, said good-bye, and we skipped out to go meet Don Wills.

Scott McCool with Don Wills

Don is a collector of tattoo stuff. He has hundreds of tattoo machines, plus tons of old flash and paintings to see. He has a beautiful home and art studio, and lives in basically a tattoo museum. He showed us a bunch of old Machines and told us stories about each one. We had a great time visiting with Don. The video tour of his house is amazing.

I hated to leave St. Louis. We were having such a good time with Matt. He made a few suggestions of where we might go next, so Dustin and I headed north toward Chicago. Our next stop, Nick Wiggins of Mark of Cain Tattoo. More about that in the next installment of Road Trippin with McCool.

So much to see and do in St. Louis that I'll have to go back soon. The Old Timers Convention will be held there. I know I'll be back for that. Hopefully I'll have the St. Louis DVD available at that show.

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