Dir: Kevin Moore
My buddy Eddie Peralta is a tattoo artist in New Jersey. I've been trying to persuade him to publish a book of all the shitty tattoo requests he's had to accommodate over the years, but he refuses. I'm not sure if he feels bad for the people who have to walk around with these awful works of "art" or if he's embarrassed that his name would be attached to them. Whatever his reasoning, he is doing a major disservice to the world by not sharing the photos of his earlier work, from when he was making his bones on the cutty side of Elizabeth, New Jersey, permanently ruining people's skin. For the record, Eddie is a fantastic artist, but during those early years of tattooing his talents were certainly wasted on unbelievably bad tattoos. And I'm not talking ironic hipster tattoos of bacon or Rambo; I'm talking praying hands pressed together holding a machete or an Uzi in preparation for a holy war. He's shown me so many epic photos that it's hard to remember my favorite. It might be the huge kanji symbol for strength with the word strength written in 244-point type below it in parentheses, just as it appeared on the flashcard. Eddie tried to dissuade the customer from getting the English translation below the symbol and said, "Hey, man. That's going to be redundant." The customer's English wasn't much better than his Japanese. He turned to his friends and said, "See! He said my shit is gonna be redundant, son!"
I'm pretty sure most of his photos were taken in the mid 90s, because I distinctly remember one depicting a sexy BBW with enormous, luscious breasts. She paid Ed to cover her left tit with a portrait of Tupac and her right tit with a portrait of Biggie Smalls. At her request, he drew a massive sacred heart on the chest plate between them, with the words forever in my heart running underneath.
Do you remember the video for Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut single, "Who Am I?" It's the one in which Snoop and his buddies transform into a pack of dogs (which I can only assume was inspired by the classic C. M. Coolidge paintings of dogs playing poker). The track was one of the few West Coast hits that was a huge success with the East Coast's often anti-G-funk-rap audience. I guess the song really struck a chord with a man in Elizabeth. He came into Ed's shop wanting to get his three sons tattooed on his shoulder. He brought in the clearest photo he had of the three young men and asked Ed to start sketching out a portrait. Before Ed's pencil could hit the paper, the loving father started asking Ed to freehand-improvise "just one more thing." First, he wanted all three boys to be wearing hats. Because the boys always wore hats, he said. The youngest one wore a baseball hat, always backward. The oldest son wore a Kangol, never straight. The middle son didn't have a hat preference, so the dad said Ed was free to draw whatever hat he liked, although the dad preferred it to be a fedora. Ed obliged and got to work. "Oh," the dad said. "Do you think you could draw them a bit younger? Not babies, but younger." Ed smiled, nodded, and went back to drawing. "And one more thing," the dad said. "Can you draw them as pit bulls?" Ed turned to the man, held up the photo, and asked, "Why did you bring me this picture?" "As a reference," the dad said, matter-of-factly. With that, Ed began sketching out the most magnificent portrait I'd ever seen of three pit bulls in hats. The only way he could've done better is if they'd been playing poker or rolling dice.