At The Intersection of Ink & Noise: Pt. 2

by , September 17, 2020

Richmond Pigs, GWAR and The Wall Of Doom

Derby, CT 1989

I’d been hanging around Spider Webb’s tattoo shop for a couple of years. I was fascinated by this eccentric, well-educated crazy man who seemed determined to break all of the rules and have one hell of a good time doing it. I was in my late 20’s, there were pretty girls all around and it was a cash business. I wanted in.

There was a Tattoo Convention coming up and I planned on going. Now, for those of you who aren’t as old as fuck (like me), let me ‘splain somethin’ to ya. There was a time when tattoo conventions were about as common as frog hair. There wasn’t one happening every other weekend within an hour’s drive from your home. It was a once (maybe, twice) a year kind of event and you saved up all your pennies to travel across the country and buy cool t-shirts and check out tat-work from shops all over the world. This was before the internet. And cell phones. Back when tattoos and the societal detritus that wore them were still dangerous. Don’t get me started…..

Anyway, there’s a convention coming up in Richmond, VA and the whole Spider Webb Traveling Sideshow is gonna be there (along with yours truly). We spend a week painting giant banners and tearing down the walls of the tattoo shop. We need to make an impression on these folks if they’re going to remember our names. Little did we know just how wild the freakfest was going to be.


Spider and his crew drive down from Connecticut. I was working construction for a large travel company so I scored cheap airfare. The hotel hosting the convention is one of those big, fancy places. There’s a six-story atrium in the lobby. It’s a Hilton or a Radisson or a Clarion or something. Definitely not the local Motel 6. We all meet up and get to work. The first thing that goes up is a 20 foot tall banner hanging over the railing into the atrium. Next is the “Wall Of Doom”. It’s basically a big collage of every weird photo, illustration, magazine story, Weekly World News cover and sick, twisted piece of artwork we could find. Much of it came off the walls of the bathroom of the tattoo shop up in Connecticut. Did I mention that this was before rubber gloves and single-use needles were a thing in the tattoo world? Anyway, in the photo you can see the banner hanging and the Wall in the foreground, lower right. It’s a big X shaped display stand.

After the prep work is finished we go set up our booth. As you walk into the ballroom we are at the opposite end, left side of the stage. This location will feature prominently later on in the story. We’ve got two tattoo stations set up, Spider’s comic books, tons of flash, books, etc. We’re here to make $$$ and tattooing is just the beginning. We’ve even got a pair of tighty-whities with a swastika drawn on the front in magic marker. ”For sale. Hitler’s Underwear. $400 or Best Offer.” This was before political correctness made the world a much more boring place. This was also the weekend that my pal Dinosaur Diane made her debut into the tattoo world. She was just finishing up her apprenticeship under Spider and he decided to throw her to the wolves and see what she was made of. So another sign was hung: “Free Tattoos”. The catch was that there was only one design and one color. A little black pig.  You get to choose where it goes. Diane was busy all weekend. And definitely had what it took to survive. She went on to open her own shop and can still be found lurking in dark alleys, offering youngsters their first tattoo (this one is free, kid).


We were about two hours into the show when the promoter, Crazy Ace Daniels, shows up at our booth. I had met Ace (the proprietor of Way Cool Tattoos in Richmond) on a few occasions. I liked Ace but I also recognized that he had “the look”. If you’ve ever hung out around the 1% crowd you know what I’m talking about. It’s not necessarily mean or dangerous, it’s just that very little bullshit will be tolerated. Enough said.

Ace says there’s a problem and he needs to talk to Spider. Now.

It seems that a few of the photos on the Wall Of Doom featured members of a well-known motorcycle club wearing their colors. A representative of a different 1% club (that claimed Richmond as part of its territory) took umbrage at the fact that we had disrespected them by putting these pictures on display. Another lesson in Biker Etiquette: don’t piss off the local club that’s having an ongoing war with some of your pals back home. So the Wall Of Doom was quickly edited. I think we may have even taken the whole damn thing down. Crisis averted. Back to work.

An hour or so later there is a general uptick in the noise level of the room and then I notice a bunch of people are standing around applauding. It turns out that Jonathan Shaw had gotten the award for “Having The First Client To Pass Out While Being Tattooed”. Some big hairy dude was getting a chest piece done and just went down. Watch out for that solar plexus area. It’ll scramble your signals. Jon takes a bow and goes about the business of reviving his client. That evening some rock band played, there were awards presented and a rare performance was given by The Whistling Assholes as they attempted to whistle “Dixie” into a microphone that was held way too close to their mouths….


We open the booth and are soon informed by Spider that he and Diane are heading over to someplace called The Slave Pit. I kinda, sorta knew what that was but my job was to watch the booth while they were away. Damn. Oh well, Crazy Ace put on a hell of a good show and the previous night’s party in the Presidential Suite was the stuff of legends so I wasn’t gonna bitch too much. A couple hours later Spidey and Diane return with amazing stories of what they had seen and done. Now I was fuckin’ jealous.

That evening at about 9:00 the show is winding down for the day and the tables are being covered. Spider has us put plastic trash bags over everything and I was about to find out why. A band I can’t remember plays warm-up and then my life changed.

GWAR takes the stage and all hell breaks loose. I had heard of them but had no idea just how wild their show was. There’s half-nekkid slaves running around hooking up hoses to pressure tanks and blood is shooting all over the place. The mosh pit is in full swirl and folks are trying to take stage dives but keep tripping over and messing up the blood hoses.  Seeing as I had a front row seat at the side of the stage I told my clothes to go fuck themselves and positioned myself as stage right security, holding people back. I didn’t want to mess up anyone’s good time but I also didn’t want the band’s gear to get destroyed. The next thing I know Danielle (a.k.a. Slymenstra) is twirling fire batons over my head and I’m well on the way to one of the best nights in my life. Later that evening I got to meet Dewey, Hunter and Dave at the party upstairs. I had no idea that the Death Piggy “Love War” EP languishing on a shelf back home was even related to these monsters of mayhem. I was in awe of what I had just beheld and I needed more.

The only album they had released at that time was “Hell-O”, which I eventually had to steal back from Spider after a stack of records I’d lent to him somehow went “missing. I’ll be damned if I didn’t find it in his record cabinet six months later. He didn’t really steal it. He just forgot he borrowed it. I think.

Anyway, the following year “Scumdogs Of The Universe” was released and the rest, as they say, is history. If you’ve never seen the interview they did on “The Joan Rivers Show” then you owe it to yourself to go find it now. I’ll wait.

Like all tattoo convention hotel corridors on a Sunday morning this one smelled of Green Soap and debauchery.


Reality looms on the horizon. A grey cloud of 12 hour shifts and unmet responsibilities is gnawing at the back of my skull like a methed-up ferret. I tie a bandana tightly around my gourd in a feeble attempt to keep the goblin-like creature from pushing out my hair and shuffle out of the hotel room into the corridor. Like all tattoo convention hotel corridors on a Sunday morning this one smelled of Green Soap and debauchery. At least the sinning was done in a sterile manner. Half-eaten room service trays sit outside the doorways of rented dreamscapes. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Down to the ballroom. Time to pack up.

I meet up with other members of our crew, floating in like flotsam on the shipwrecked tide. We congratulate ourselves on surviving the storm. Diane has more customers waiting for their free tattoos. I have a 2:00 flight so I go back upstairs to pack my bags. The cleaning lady is already there, humming away. I bet she doesn’t have a damn ferret living in her head. As I’m walking out the door with my luggage she calls me back and opens the desk drawer for me. I’d accidently left a small quantity of the Devil’s Dandruff in a baggie there in the desk and she didn’t want me to fly away home without it. That was amazingly considerate of her. Ever since then I’ve always made a point to tip the people who clean up our messes for us after we walk away from them. They deserve our respect and our money. Without them the ferrets will take over and we’ll all become thralls of Rodentia and then the King Mongoose (who’s voice sounds disturbingly similar to Charles Nelson Reilly) will condemn us all to eternity as human hamsters trotting the Great Wheel of Monotony and……….yikes! Time to get back downstairs!

Pull down the big top. Pack up the wagons with the lions and tigers and jugglers and clowns. Move this show down the road and set it up again. Maybe we’ll be coming to a town near you……hurry, hurry, hurry….step right up……yes, these are the actual undershorts Der Fuhrer was wearing when he blew his brains all over the bunker walls……five dollars?  Deal.

Sounds: GWAR “Scumdogs Of The Universe” 

Words: Harlan Ellison “The Three Most Important Things In Life”:

Sights: Odorus Urungus reading “Good Night Moon”:

Ink: Whaddya want, a free tattoo? Go get a needle and some India ink, ya putz.

Photo: SuperCycle Magazine May 1990

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