By Dave Waugh
Yesterday was the birthday of one of my biggest early influences in tattooing. His name was Mike Malone, his friends called him Rollo... I called him, Mr. Malone...
Portrait of Rollo M. By Thomas Woodruff 1992
I first met Mike way back in 1993. That was a big year for me. I won my first “first place” awards (or as some might say “best in show”) that I had ever received for my artwork. And still to this day they are the only ones that have ever mattered.
Apart from the obvious reason, this is also because these awards were handed to me by Mr. Malone himself. And that, to me, meant just as much.
Back before I stared tattooing professionally, around 1987-89 I picked up this Ed Hardy TattooTime book calked, Life and Death Tattoos.
And within, I saw this masterpiece by Mike Malone:
When I began tattooing I always remembered this image, and it was the basis for my philosophy of what to do in this industry. If you have imagination, you can make any design look cool. And I think even to this day, it is still the coolest tattoo I’ve ever seen. It was the indirect influence for the first backpiece I ever did on a guy named Chris Duncan, and it even won a first place award at the '92 Richmond Tattoo Convention.
And it was directly responsible for me starting this backpiece (never finished) on Josh Hoffman back around '94.
Later that same year I believe, I ran into Mike again at another convention. I didn’t know he would be there, and I couldn’t resist thanking him for being such a big influence, and wanted to show him that tattoo I had just mentioned. He took a few minutes to check it out, and told me it looked cool.
That’s all I ever wanted to hear.
At the time, since I couldn’t get a tattoo from him, I bought a few Sailor Jerry stencils instead. I asked if he had any sheets too… and he said yes. But back in Hawaii. A month later I received a letter with xerox copies if the sheets of Jerry flash he had for sale.
The only thing he asked was not to make or share any of these copies with anyone. This is only the second time since then I’ve shown these. Never made copies either, as per his request.
I never ended up buying any of the Jerry sheets, even after I ran into him a third time at another convention around '97-'98. I did however purchase a painting of his, one that had been recently published in the Hardy Marks Bull’s-Eyes & Black Eyes book.
I am now the lucky owner of the painting entitled “Fat Eight.”
To me this is worth way more than owning an original Sailor Jerry flash sheet, although those Jerry pieces now go for in excess of $5000… but having the Rollo art to me is priceless. I certainly wouldn’t mind having $5000 in my pocket though… but anyways…
Here are a few more shots of collector (and Godzilla fan) Jim Hughes’ Mike Malone bodysuit from the Bull’s-Eyes and Black Eyes book:
I was lucky enough to see these tattoos in person in Austin a few years ago, and I can say they are holding up beautifully and look just as amazing in person as they did in photos back in 1987.
Mike Malone was a master artist and master tattooer. I wish I was able to have gotten to know him better. Thanks for being a big influence on me Mr. Malone, I greatly appreciated it.
Mike “Rollo” Malone 1942-2007. Please read more about him at C. W. Eldridge Tattoo Archive
Dave Waugh is a tattooer and blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. Dave can be found at Jinx Proof Tattoo in Washington D.C. and his blog http://davewaugh.wordpress.com/.
Read more TAM Blog articles from Dave here: http://tattooartistmagazineblog.com/?s=dave+waugh