Tattoo culture is rich in history and insight, as Grace Neutral discovers in SBS Viceland’s Needles & Pins. It’s a culture where anything can happen. And by 'anything', we obviously mean batshit crazy things.
But the stories behind the ink don’t always originate in stupidity, illiterate tattoo artists and drunken escapades. Here are some weird, wonderful, and even poignant tattoo tales that’ll leave an inky mind-mark on all who read about them:
The things a man will do to win a car. When a radio station ran a competition in 2011 challenging its listeners to come up with the craziest stunt to win a Mini Cooper, German Andreas Muller rose to the occasion. Naturally, he came up with the idea to have a todger-tatt that would label his willy ‘Mini’ in the ultimate product placement.
For a car then worth £20,000, it was a lucrative sacrifice in dollar terms at £5,000 a letter. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of pain to endure for some wheels all while radio listeners hear your yelps of pain. But Muller remained optimistic saying,
“Once I’m sitting in the car, it won’t matter anymore. Then the pain will be gone and it’ll be alright.”
Imagine if he had wanted to win a Lamborghini? That would require some serious real estate.
Paris Jackson found herself the subject of intense criticism on social media in 2016, according to The Sun, when she expressed her glee at seeing a very dodgy tattoo of her late dad Michael Jackson online. It was dodgy not only because of the frightfully bad representation of the icon’s face, but doubly so because of the wording that read: “He touched so many.”
Awkward, for obvious reasons.
“I’m laughing so f*cking hard,” Paris wrote on Instagram. She was later forced to clarify on the platform: “I was laughing at the f*cking photoshopped face.”
Police investigating this 2008 case had its resolution land straight in their lap thanks to a dim-witted thief who broke into a car and stole a GPS, according to The Daily Mail.
What Brit Aaron Evans, then 21, didn’t notice was the cameras the bobbies had rigged the car with to catch thieves just like him, captured a very obvious signpost to his identity: A tattoo on his neck read “Evans 19.9.87.”
Kim Mordue poignantly paid tribute to her late son in a very unusual way. She had his ashes mixed with ink to create a picturesque tattoo on her lower back. Her 24-year-old son Lloyd Evans had died after taking the party drug GHB.
“I’ve put Lloyd back where he started, he’s in my body again,” she told The Mirror.
“As soon as I knew it was possible, I wanted to have the ashes tattoos as a tribute to him. Now, he’ll be with me for the rest of my life.”
The Human Billboard
William Gibby, also known as 'Hostgator M. Dotcom' and ‘Billy the Billboard’, was so destitute that he decided to auction off advertising space on his face as a way to provide for his family. He became a walking corporate billboard, as Vice reports, ending up with over 30 tattoos on his face. It was a lucrative move at first, earning him thousands of dollars per tattoo, but it wasn’t to last.
His story has a poignant through-line. In 2005, Gibby struck up a conversation online with a woman who needed a kidney transplant. In a doubly altruistic act, he donated his kidney to her and funded his recovery with his first sponsored tattoo.
This one’s just plain bonkers. In 2010, Welsh 3 year-old Ruby Dickinson was set to become the world’s youngest tattoo artist reports The Daily Mail, following in the footsteps of her father Blane whose business is called Inkaholics Anonymous.
Ruby took tattoo lessons after pre-school, as so many of us have. Her Dad was in the process of getting a special ink gun designed for little hands imported from the US. She was on target to drawing a spider.
“She really loves it and I'm pleased I can teach her the skills,” said Dickinson.
Nothing like a bit of father-daughter quality time.
Late in 2016, excavators at an ancient burial site in Mukdahan, Thailand made the unusual discovery of a corpse preserved by “black magic” tribal bamboo tattoos, according to The Mirror.
Incredibly, the skin of the male corpse was still intact, authorities positing that the tattoos written in Sanskrit and featuring images of tigers, were inked as part of a black magic spell to make the skin “impenetrable” and stop the body from rotting. Ironically, this may have ultimately killed the man with the skin thought to be too tough to allow an operation for fatal appendicitis.
Go deeper into the world of tattoo's and body modification in the new series Needles and Pins, airing Tuesday nights at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND. The show is also streaming on SBS On Demand: