Dana Spins Another One
By Dana Brunson
One day I was tattooing a young fellow with his grandfather present. As the tattoo took shape, I couldn’t help but notice the interest the older man had in my vintage tattoo collection, which is largely displayed in my shop. As we talked, he explained that he had several tattoos from the Bowery in New York City during the 1940s. He said that his father had been heavily tattooed and had worked for a guy named Charlie Wagner. Did he say “Wagner”? My attention grew keener.
His father’s name was Mr. B. Lyeer, a name that I didn’t recall in my tattoo history. Our conversation continued as he related how his dad had told him about “the good old days.” It seems his father had been a childhood friend of Wagner’s and had followed him into the tattoo world, helping with the shop and supply business. Then the bomb fell. The old guy said he still had some stuff that his father had left him and would bring it by and show me someday. Yeah, right. So, time passed and my conversation with the old guy was almost forgotten. Lo and behold, a few months later, while I was tattooing, I looked up and there he was, looking at me with a big grin on his face. Placing a large box on the floor, he stated, “I’ve got that tattoo stuff for you to look at.” I stopped what I was doing and immediately began going through piles of photos of his father, Charlie Wagner and other tattoo-related stuff. The old man was proud and happy that I liked the collection and said, although he needed to keep the family photos, he had brought me some pieces for my collection. Oh happy day!
Inside the box were a couple of sheets of flash and the wooden box his father had used to sell electric tattoo machines for Wagner in the twenties and thirties. This was not just any box, but a beautiful, small oak container decorated with designs of the day―a sample case for Wagner’s electric tattoo machines. Complete with a side-switch operated, brass deluxe Wagner machine. I asked him, “How much?” “It’s a gift,” he replied. It sounded too good to be true.
And it is. Unfortunately, I am Mr. B. Lyeer (Mister Big Liar), and I painted the case myself, faked the old business card, previously owned the flash and bought the machine through eBay.
In all of my years of tattooing, I have heard and been a part of many an embellished tale. Storytelling drew me into tattooing, so don’t blame me. I’m just practicing an age-old part of our profession, creating new tales to be collected.
See ya in the funny papers, and keep your hat on so I’ll know ya.