The Tattoo Chronicles >> Archives >> Chronicle #1

Bob Baxter
Sailor Jerry
Tattoo Road Trip


I first started researching the history of tattooing in the mid-nineties, and to say there was a dearth of source material at that time -- online or elsewhere -- is a little bit like saying there's a chronic shortage of water in the Sahara. The magazines of that era that did cover tattooing where often sporadically printed, niche publications that seemed aimed at the fetish crowd, or were mostly interested in pretty girls with ink on the back of Harley's, which wasn't really a surprise, because they were off-shoots of biker mags. There was almost no mention of indigenous tattooing, or "tribal tattooing" as it was usually called, and even less printed of might be called casual cultural anthropology about tattoos. Most of what appeared in print that did mention "tribal tattoos" were first-person travel stories, the thrust of which would have been perfectly suited to a Ripley's, "Believe It or Not" panel in the Sunday Comics. "Look at what those crazy natives are up to!"

It was at this time that Bob Baxter showed up on the scene, and magazine coverage of tattoos and tattoo culture would never be the same. As Editor-in-Chief of Skin & Ink magazine for over fourteen years, Bob Baxter guided the publication to a Folio Magazine Editorial Excellence Award, making it America’s most respected and educational body art publication. I often called Skin & Ink, "the National Geographic of tattoo magazines", but that is something of a disservice to Bob and diminishes his editorial vision to cover the full spectrum of tattoo culture around the world. Such vision was and remains a rarity. Bob Baxter made Skin & Ink the best tattoo magazine in the world, bar none.

When I heard that Bob had left Skin & Ink, I reached out to him the same day on the telephone, urging him to write for the Vanishing Tattoo website and share with us his extraordinary experiences covering tattoo culture over the last decade and a half at Skin & Ink. The Tattoo Chronicles by Bob Baxter is the result of that exchange and just like every other regular visitor to www.vanishingtattoo.com, I can't wait to read his weekly reminiscences, scoops, untold stories, behind the scenes gossip and unexpurgated recollections. That means you'll get the full Bob Baxter - longer and uncut, complete and unabbreviated, uncensored and unabridged.

To ask questions, make comments or demand an apology, you can email Bob at baxter@tattooroadtrip.com.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Road Tripper.
-- Vince Hemingson

Tattoo Chronicle #1 ~ Bigger Than Brazil


By Bob Baxter
When Vince Hemingson asked me to write a weekly commentary on the tattoo scene, he mentioned my being the sort of “Vanishing Tattoo website’s Cassandra.” Kind of weird, considering Cassandra is a she and an imaginary Greek one to boot. In Greek, Cassandra translates as “she who entangles men.” I would have preferred “he who entangles good looking babes with lots of money,” but, when working for someone as erudite as Mr. Hemingson, I take what I can get.

Brazil mapI am able to live with the label that has been thrust upon me, because, I think Vince was referring to the part about Cassandra’s ability to foretell the future, you know, talk about where the world is headed, what might be the coming tends, what color suit Thomas Lockhart will wear at next year’s Nationals, that sort of thing. Well, Mr. Hemingson, you have it wrong. Wrong, I tell you. You might enjoy slipping in seemingly literate references to Greek mythology to impress other people, but that doesn’t impress me, no siree. Part of this is due, I am convinced, because Mr. Hemingson, much like his enormous vanishingtattoo.com website, has grown to such legendary proportions in the web world that he is accustomed to talking “big.” In another article in this very E-zine, I stated that Vince’s ego was “as big as Brazil.” This did not sit well with Mr. Hemingson. In fact, when he read my comment comparing him to the world’s fifth largest country in land mass, he immediately emailed me that he was offended and hurt that I had only placed his ego in fifth place and that he “hoped to do better.” Well, to my way of thinking, that kind of audacity immediately kicks Hemingson up one notch on the list, to the number four spot: The United States of America.

That might placate most people, but, since Hemingson is a died-in-the-wool Canadian (he calls Vancouver his home), being tagged with anything “Made in the USA” would rankle him even more. Tough titty. But then, in order to avoid his wrath (after all, he is my boss on this site), I will gladly move the size of his ego up yet another notch. Guess what? China. Well, that won’t due, if for no other reason than Vice wouldn’t look good in the clothes.

Okay, second, then. Good old Canada. That ought to please Vince no end to have his country and his ego described similarly. Hey, that’s a whale of a lot better than equating him to Kazakhstan (number nine) or Argentina (eight). Again, it’s all about clothes. Vince would look ridiculous in those jodhpurs stuffed into knee-high boots that those gauchos wear and Kazakhstan (wherever that is) is the planet’s largest landlocked country, an attribute that would be of no value to a world traveler of the caliber and sheer wanderlust of Mr. H. So, Canada it is. Hemingson’s ego is the size of Canada. I hope that makes him feel better. By the way, numero uno is Mother Russia, but I don’t think that even Vince wants to mess around with those guys.

But before Vince can start broadcasting from the rooftops about his new claim to fame, I might remind him that, yes, Cassandra was granted the gift of prophecy by Apollo, although, it is considered by people who study that kind of thing, to be a misinterpretation. The real skinny is that, in Greek mythology, Apollo’s gift was more about the ability to understand the languages of animals, rather than the ability to know the future. Maybe the fact that Apollo had Cassandra spend a night in her temple, at which time the temple snakes licked her ears clean, so that she was able to hear the future—maybe that’s the clincher. If anyone, I mean anyone, licked my ears, I’d howl like a coyote.

Hey, I’ll do a lot of things, but if Hemingson makes me stick snakes in my ears, I’m calling it quits.


As editor in chief of Skin&Ink magazine for over fourteen years, Bob Baxter guided the publication to a Folio Magazine Editorial Excellence Award, making it America’s most respected and educational body art publication. He currently edits and writes a Daily Blog at www.tattooroadtrip.com, the ultimate E-zine and resource site for international tattoo artists and collectors. To ask questions, make comments or demand an apology, you can email Bob at baxter@tattooroadtrip.com.

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The Tattoo Chronicles >> Archives >> Chronicle #1