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BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | Jochen Auer, the creator of Wildstyle and Tattoo Messe, needed top players in the tattoo world to work at his show. This was 1995. Back then, America was the leading edge of what is best and next in the world of tattoo. I was the president of the Tattoo Society Of New York, so eventually he found his way to yours truly.
I was an invited artist/talent to come and showcase underground videos and photographs from the Clayton Archive, as well as invite sideshow and tattoo talent as guest stars. My booth partner, Steve Bonge, was one of the leading photographers in opening up the world of bikers and tattoos to an audience outside of the inner core. This was a time when outsiders were not appreciated in the world he documented.
Over the years, some of the talent I have brought to Wildstyle and Tattoo Messe includes Steve Bonge, Spider Webb, Shawn Vasquez, Mike Bellemy, Slymenstra Hymen of Gwar, Reverend Gary B. Dangerous, Harley Newman, Pain Proof Rubber Girls, Lucy Fire, Kiva the Diva, Indio, Vampire Lady Of Guadalupe and Lucky Rich Diamond.
By 1998, Steve Bonge and his partners, Lawrence Garcia and Wes Wood, who was a partner for just the first year, created the New York City International Tattoo Convention. I came on as an organizer/manager.
Steve had a vision of what a N.Y.C. international tattoo convention should look like, which made him determined to get his way on the location. The venue had to be world-class — not a hockey arena, or an armory, or a hotel, but a classic, historically important venue central to N.Y.C. He won the vote with his choice of Roseland Ballroom, at 230 W. 52nd St. Roseland became the convention’s home.
Steve and Lawrence’s convention, right from the start, became recognized as one of the most appreciated conventions in the world. What makes this Roseland show so critical is the talent, quality of venue, the fact that it is held in the heart of Times Square, is affordable to the working person, and simply cannot be topped as far as a world-class event goes.
The N.Y.C. International Tattoo Convention is not the world’s biggest. However, the convention became recognized as a showcase that offers the chance to get tattooed by some of the most sought-after talent in the business. The event is now a classic, and rated by all the authoritative tattoo magazines and media as one of the top five shows internationally. Tattoo conventions now cover the globe — Europe, Japan, China and South America, as well as America.
Both Steve and I were over in Austria as Jochen’s special invited guests to celebrate Jochen’s 15th anniversary of the Wildstyle and Tattoo Messe show. At this show, Steve came to meet and see Brent McCown, the incredible master of Pacific Islands traditional, hand-tapped tattoos made with original-styled equipment.
Originally from New Zealand, Brent now lives in Austria. He lived and grew up with aboriginal people adorned with traditional Maori tattoos. So there was nothing foreign about that obscure tattoo world, and he was a part of the community, though not ethnically, but as a neighbor.
It turns out that Brent was available to come to the N.Y.C. show. Watching Brent tattoo in the traditional style is worth the price of admittance alone. This is National Geographic meets Time Square — and more real than Walt Disney.
There is something of interest for the whole family at the convention. It is a safe, friendly and positive way to learn, by watching how tattoos are made. The $20 cost for an all-day, one-time entry pass has to be the cheapest-priced entertainment in the Theater District. There is also a meal-catering service priced for a family budget inside the venue.
Come watch the world work: Artists from the U.K., France, Brazil, Japan, China, New Zealand, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Scotland, Spain and across America — Texas, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, L.E.S. — will be inking.
The convention hours are Fri., May 18, from 4 p.m. to midnight; Sat., May 19, noon to midnight; Sun., May 20, noon to 8 p.m., at Roseland Ballroom, 239 W. 52nd St.