Tattooing Since ’76–Even during the Bootleg Days
Mike Bakaty draws tattoos with a signed picture of Gandhi hanging in a frame over his shoulder: “To Mike. Your man, Mahatma.” He traveled a lot as a young sailor, and the navy is where he got a taste for tattooing. Then, during what Bakaty refers to as the bootleg years–the period in which tattooing was illegal in New York–he started practicing the art behind closed doors on the Lower East Side. His only advertisement was word-of-mouth and eventually an ad in the back of the Village Voice. The last tattoo parlor still around from those days, Fineline Tattoo, is the oldest such establishment in Manhattan.
Such celebs as James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano) and Wilford Brimley (the old man from the Quaker commercials) have been inked here, in addition to Cindy Lauper (during the bootleg years). “I never would have imagined that tattooing would get as popular as it has,” Bakaty says, tattoo gun in hand. Bakaty himself has gotten pretty popular too–even playing a tattoo artist in 2006’s Forgiveness, directed by Udi Aloni. Oh, and as for the autographed Gandhi photo, Bakaty reveals with a laugh that he signed it himself.