July 29 2014

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warning: think before you ink



If you’ve ever considered getting a tattoo and, possibly in a moment of questionable sobriety, thought of forgoing the usual floral fare for, say, a large rendering of Dr. Phil’s face on your back, it might be worth your while to flip through Aviva Yael, P. M. Chen, and David Cross’ “No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever” (Grand Central Publishing) before taking the plunge. The epic book chronicles a year’s worth of reporting and photographing at tattoo conventions and studios all over the country, documenting just about every motif you could possibly dream up (and some that transcend the limits of the human imagination), needled in ink—for perpetuity. #$%*ing ridiculous, indeed. Yael sat down with to discuss her adventures in body art.

What prompted you to embark on this veritable tattoo safari?

It basically started as a joke in a bar. Some friends of mine were sitting around and someone started telling us about an awful date he’d just had with a girl who had Lucky Charms cereal tattooed across her toes. It was around the time that those oversized fishnets were in—I think 2003—so she was able to poke her toes through her stockings, a vision he described as “vile.”

Did you find a general consensus as to why people choose exaggeration over subtlety when it comes to tattoos?

Everyone has different reasons for getting their tattoos. People who get these crazy tattoos for the most part love them. They know what they’re doing. For instance, the girl who got a lower-back piece that says in block letters, “I’M GONNA KILL YOU, RAY ROMANO,” got that with her best friend. They decided to pick the worst tattoos they could imagine for each other. But it’s obviously hilarious and that joke will never get old. Anyone who sees it on her for the rest of her life is going to crack up laughing, and she knows that. That’s my favorite tattoo in the book.

Speaking of favorites, what were the worst and most ridiculous pieces you saw?

I feel like I’m always on a quest to find the all-time funniest, most ridiculous tattoo, but the ideas floating around out there on people’s skin are endless—I wish I could see them all. Even the worst tattoos are sometimes the best. There was one girl who wouldn’t let us put her in the book, but I’d say her Oprah Winfrey bench-pressing with a warm-up jacket was pretty up there.

Are there any specific shops that stand out for their fine—or not so fine—craftsmanship?

Definitely Marco and his team at Lit Fuse Tattoo in Olympia, Washington. They have a great sense of humor and they’re really skilled. Then there are the famous artists who contributed, like Scott Campbell from Saved in Brooklyn—he designed the Olympic uniforms and did the Camel campaign recently. There are a few that aren’t in the book who I genuinely admire, too, like Roman and Cholo from Artistic Element in Yucaipa, California.

Do you have any tattoos—or any ideas in the works for future tattoos?

No tattoos for me. I’m still too scared to commit! I hope to get one someday, but I think I need to make sure it’s one I can live with forever, especially after seeing all the crazy stuff in this book. I’ve been thinking about that awful moon-faced, piano-playing, Sinatra-singing “Mac Tonight” guy who wears Ray-Bans. I hated him so much when I was little and I still cringe when I think about those awful McDonald’s commercials—but as a tattoo I think it would be hilarious forever and sort of mean something to me.