ARTISTS WHO WORKED ON THE PIKE!
These are either confirmed or speculated (it will be mentioned in the post if it is unconfirmed) tattoo artists who worked on The Pike of Long Beach at some point. This page provides a brief overview of artists, their year of birth/death, and a bit of information about them. If you have any information you'd like to share with us, please email !
Fred owned a shop on 3 Pacific Way at The Pike in Long Beach. His shop was halfway down the stairs at the entrance by Hotel Stillman. This photograph is from 1959. The flash you see him holding was done by Chris Nelson.
Not much is known about Thornton, but he was one of the prominent names on The Pike. He eventually also worked at Expert Tattoo with Bert Grimm's rival, Capt. Jim Maloneson.
Phil Sims did his first professional tattoo at the age of 10 at Fred's shop.
At the end of the 1960s, Fred is also documented on The Pike at 310 Windsor Place.
At 8, Phil was working as a gopher (shop help) in at Fred Thornton's tattoo shop at 3 Pacific Way at The Pike, Long Beach. This is a photo of Phil at the age of 10, when he did his first tattoo. He also used to sell newspapers and shine sailors' shoes.
Phil loved every minute of it and got his start here. He eventually worked all over The Pike, including our shop at 22 Chestnut Place. Phil is still a well known figure in the industry currently.
LEE ROY MINUGH (1911-1994)
Lee Roy Minugh was a tattooist, Baptist Preacher and Mason who made his name in the tattoo business during the 1950’s at the Pike.
Minugh himself was first tattooed in 1924. He learned the art through the circus and came to Los Angeles in the 1930’s. His first shop was in the back of a book store. Later Lee Roy moved to the The Pike in Long Beach, CA. Minugh was one of the first tattooists to display his art on television when he tattooed Steve Allen, the first host of The Tonight Show on NBC in the late 1950’s. The design was four dots, and as the tattooist said: “It was just to say he was tattooed”.
According to the city directories of Long Beach, Lee Roy was at 16 Cedar Way for a short while before he went to 26 Chestnut Place, which later became "Lee Roy's Tattoo Parlor." Owen Jensen also worked here until his untimely death on The Pike in 1976. It is said that Lee Roy took Owen's flash designs and claimed them as his own after that. While it is worth mentioning, it is unconfirmed.
DONALD NOLAN (???-2019)
Don Nolan was born in Connecticut. Since 1955 Nolan has operated his tattoo shops in San Jose & Long Beach, California; Eugene, Oregon; Chicago, Illinois; Honolulu, Hawaii; Bremerton, Washington & 3 locations in Anchorage, Alaska before opening ACME Tattoo in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1988. During these decades of tattooing, his clients have traveled from around the globe in search of the combination of his gentle approach to skin & his in artistic execution.
Of the countless Nolan-created oil paintings, only 100 occupy shop space at ACME Tattoo. Don worked at Bert Grimm's in the 1950s - 1970s. His half brother, "Hong Kong Tom" Yeomans also worked there but there are no known photographs of him currently. Don passed in January of 2019.
BOB SHAW (1926-1993)
In 1941, Bob moved to St. Louis, Missouri to live with his older brother. Bob's first job was a dishwasher just around the corner from Bert Grimm's shop on Broadway. Soon Bob was hanging out at Bert's shop late in to the night and couldn't get up in the morning for his dishwashing job. When Bob was fired from this job, Bert gave him a part-time job helping Julia (Bert's wife) with their photograph business. Bob asked Bert to teach him tattooing and Bert said yes. By September 1941, Bob had done his first tattoo. By the end of his life, he had been tattooing for over 51 years.
Bert Grimm's World Famous Tattoo Studio stayed in the Shaw family after Bert sold it to him in 1969. He had about four shops in driving distance of Long Beach before moving to Houston and opening Shaw's Tattoo Studio in 1979. He ran two shops in Houston. His sons, Larry and Bobby, also tattooed. Both of them worked in our shop, but eventually moved to Houston as well. Shaw's Tattoo Studio is still running, owned by Larry Shaw.
Bob was also the President of the Worlds Largest Tattoo Association - National Tattoo Association when he passed away. He was the 3rd inductee into the Tattoo Hall of Fame - which was called the Golden Age Award - honoring those tattooing for 50 yrs - which was later changed to the Bob Shaw award. He was also known for the swing-gate design.
BOBBY SHAW & Larry Shaw
Bobby and Larry, two of Bob Shaw's sons, both became tattooers.
In 1972, Larry Shaw started tattooing at our Long Beach shop. In 1973, Col. Todd moved west where he and Bob Shaw took over management of Bert's Nu-Pike shop. That same year when Bobby got out of the Army, his dad and Todd opened a shop in Santa Ana so Bobby and Bob Roberts, could learn to tattoo.
They both tattoo out of Texas. Larry runs Shaw's Tattoo in Houston, which was Houston's first licensed tattoo shop.
Left: Bob Shaw, Larry Shaw, and Col. Todd
Right: Bobby Shaw
"CALAMITY JANE" NEMHAUSER
“Calamity” Jane Nemhauser was a Colorado legend who worked at Bert Grimm's (our shop) at The Pike in the 1970's; her spirit and vision lives on through her successor Aaron LeGore at Calamity Jane's Tattoo (Est. 1978) in Grand Junction, CO. She picked a career in tattooing over cabinetmaking. She said she was not out to prove anything, she was just a tomboy. Nemhauser was an avid tattoo collector before tattooing. She was also very big on documenting everything about her life and where she worked, so her personal collection left behind after her passing is very vast. She was very close friends with Col. Todd and Sailor Vern Ingemarson, who was a disciple of August "Cap" Coleman. She really prided herself on being the only female tattooer during her time at Bert Grimm’s.
Here are some of her own words that are very relevant to this day:
"It has movement. It breathes. It's not hanging on a wall gathering dust. This art is very personal. The ultimate approval is not an art critic, but your customer. It's a fascinating job; you never know who's going to walk in the door. We're doing policemen to punk rockers. Today, everybody's getting tattooed. The lure of tattoo is the fantasy. Tattoos can be anything from your girlfriend's name to a skull and crossbones to a Frazetta painting. Whatever it is, it's yours forever. I think there's a lot of magic in tattooing. It's been a part of every primitive culture since the beginning of time. It's a primitive urge." Rest in Peace, Calamity Jane.
Sailor Vern, Jane Nemhauser, and Paul Rogers 1978
ZEKE OWEN (1940-???)
Zeke Owen, known as Tattoo Zeke, is an American tattoo legend. He has worked around the world and with most of the "greats." He did American traditional tattooing but also heavily took an interest in Japanese style because his grandfather was Japanese. He was a great storyteller, with style and wit - so much so that he wrote a popular advice column called, "Ask Zeke" in Skin & Ink magazine from 1997-1999. He began tattooing in 1958 and his first teacher was Ernie Sutton, who opened a tattoo shop in Guam in the early 1950s. Chicago tattooist Captain Jim Malonson, Don Nolan, Hong Kong Tom, and Al Miller also tutored him. He moved to San Diego, where he tattooed at Tahiti Felix in downtown and then moved to Hawaii where he became friends with Sailor Jerry.
He eventually moved to Long Beach in 1963 and worked for Bert Grimm on The PIke until 1966. His career flourished for years and years. Unfortunately, he had a stroke in 2006 and is still combatting the aftermath of this in his older years. His influence on the industry is profound.
lawrence Walter Duff "Duffy"
Known as Duffy, he worked where ever the tattooing was concentrated at the time. He did work in Los Angeles' S. Main Street tattoo scene in the 1940s at 433 Main with Pat Dimides.
It has been said that he did not have a license for tattooing, and thus was arrested many times for his work on Main Street. A washed up sidewalk/door-to-door salesman - he knew little about the craft and did not apparently did not do very well as a tattooer. Not much is known about Duffy, but it seems that others did not quite think very highly of him.
He eventually worked on The Pike as well. He worked with Jack Julian at 26 Chestnut Place (listed as Julian and Duffy's Tattooing Studio in the Long Beach City Directories), and eventually it would be presumed that Julian left and Duffy stayed.
He is also associated with 551 W. Seaside Blvd. The snippet of a Long Beach Press Telegram article shown on the right is from April 14, 1954. This is the only known photograph we have seen of Duffy after going through newspapers from this time. He was featured in this article due to a claim that a business competitor assaulted him on The Pike.
RIO DEGENNARO (1940-2014)
Rio began his tattoo career on Main Street, in Los Angeles, 1950, at 9 years old. Under the watchful eye of his father, Lou Lewis of Lewis and Sutton, he earned his keep by as shop helper at Bert Grimm’s. In 1954, Bert Grimm moved the shop to Long Beach, at the Nu-Pike Amusement Zone, In1957, Lou and Rio joined Grimm on the Pike,
Over the next thirteen years, Rio worked under his Father, and Bert Grimm, learning tricks of the trade, and living the daily ins-and-outs of the tattoo business. In 1973, Rio mentored his first student, Don Deaton. Between 1974 and 1976, Rio travelled from San Diego, to San Jose, and Niagara Falls, landing in Seattle, Washington. Rio opened his own shop in 1983, called Ace Tattoo, in Tillicum, Washington - which remained open for 8 - 9 years.
In 2002, Don Deaton opened the Sea Tramp Tattoo School. In 2003, Rio took over the school, and renamed it Oregon School of Tattoo Arts, and moved it upstairs from the tattoo shop.
Al Orsini worked at The Pike in the 1960s. At one time, Captain Jim Maloneson, Al Orsini & Fred Thornton owned Expert Tattoo - Long Beach Tattoo Studio, The World’s Largest, 7 Master Tattoo Artists to Serve You - located at #362 West Pike.
Al was from Buffalo, New York. He was one of the first people to give Phil Sims a job as a tattooer after he got back from the military.
Orsini and his family eventually moved to San Diego, where he took over one of Bert Grimm's shops and renamed it to the "Illustrated Man."
RICK WALTERS (1945-2019)
Rick was a world-renowned artist, machinist, shop owner, and long-time manager of Bert Grimm’s World Famous Tattoo on the Pike. In 1955, Rick started hand-poking tattoos on all of the neighborhood kids. Zeke Owen did Rick's first tattoo when he was 14 years old. By 1965, he opened a little shop with a partner because they did not need permits and licenses back then. He taught himself to tattoo and often went to the Pike to watch the artists to learn.
He worked on The Pike at Bert Grimm's in 1978, and managed it until 2003.
He often joked that he would die in a tattoo chair. As fate would have it, he died at his tattoo station in March of 2019.
"Hong Kong Tom"
He was best known as Hong Kong Tom. He worked on The Pike at Bert Grimm's, and was Don Nolan's half brother. Tragically, the story goes that he went to jail and passed away while there.
Not much is known about Hong Kong Tom, other than stories passed down anyway. Ed Hardy does mention him in his book, "Wear Your Dreams" and here is a small excerpt about Bert Grimm's on The Pike:
"Business was thriving. The place was a brilliant, gaudy success. There were six guys working and a big crowd gathered around the guy in the lead chair, about six or seven years older than me, doing the most fantastic work I had ever seen. His name was Hong Kong Tom Yeomans" (Page 53).
We do not currently have a photo of Tom, but here is an original acetate stencil of his flash from our shop back in the day.
COL. WILLIAM L. TODD
Col. Todd started tattooing in 1947. He was always interested in tattooing, although he rarely saw tattoos because he grew up on a farm. It was not until he was in the Air Force that he started to see lots of tattoos. When he first started tattooing, people wanted to have their tattoos come back black and bright - otherwise they were not considered good. William then switched to the way Bert Grimm tattooed. Bert introduced tattooing that healed faster and was less traumatic even though the tattoo was less "solid."
Col. Todd often spoke about his success as a tattooer merely coming from watching others and picking up techniques habits from the people around him.
Lyle was 10 years old the day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Throughout the war, servicemen returning home either on leave or discharge, many sporting tattoos. To young Lyle, those tattoos were living proof of a great adventure, with travel and romance combined.
At the age of 14, he got his first tattoo for $3.50. In 1949, he began tattooing professionally. His first shop on The Pike was working for Bert Grimm at # 16 Cedar Way from 1956 - 1957. His front and back pieces were done by Bert in 1957 and 1958 at # 22 Chestnut Place. Throughout his career, Tuttle tattooed Janis Joplin, Cher, Jo Baker, Henry Fonda, Paul Stanley, Joan Baez, the Allman Brothers and many other notable musicians, actors, and celebrities. He opened The Lyle Tuttle Tattoo & Museum in San Francisco. It features his own collection of tattoo memorabilia, in an effort to preserve the tattoo history for future generations.
Tuttle became a teacher and a legend in the industry. He tattooed on all 7 continents and had been tattooed on 6 continents. He officially retired in 1990 but did occasionally tattoo his signature on a friend or acquaintance.
LYLE TUTTLE (1931-2019)
"GOODTIME CHARLIE" CARTWRIGHT (1940-)
Charlie Cartwright, also known as “Goodtime Charlie,” came to the Pike amusement park in the early 1970’s to learn how to use electric machines. He had been giving flash tattoos to predominantly sailor customers who were arriving off the ships in Long Beach, when he met Jack Rudy. Both men loved the Chicano/prison style of tattooing but only flash was available on The Pike. Cartwright resolved that he would open up a tattoo shop one day that would encourage clients to come in for custom designs. Charlie, along with Rudy, decided to leave Long Beach to pursue something different. He opened up his own shop in East Los Angeles, where he offered Chicano-style custom tattoos and Rudy went with him. An entirely new tattoo movement was emerging for the public: Chicano-style, fine lined, black and gray.
Bill was a tattooer on The Pike from Buena Park, California. He went by “Papa Smurf “ or "Blue Bill" likely because of all the blue in his bodysuit.
Most of Bill's tattoos may have exclusively done by Lee Roy Minugh, as there are photographs that show Lee Roy working on a dragon tattoo that covers Bill's entire back.
Not a whole lot is known about Bill. He had his first name tattooed on the inside of his bottom lip.
We approximate the years he started on the Pike to be in the late 1960s to 1970s.
Don started as a helper or "gofer" at Bert Grimm’s in Long Beach in the 1970s. By 1972, Don started tattooing sailors, crazies, and ex-cons. From ’74 to ’78, he tattooed for Bert Grimm’s, rival Captain Jim Maloneson.
In 1978, Col. Todd asked him to move up to a Portland, Oregon and help run Bert Grimm’s Tattoo Shop along with Todd’s nephew, Dave Orlowski. They were asked to stay for two years. He planned to go home as soon as the two years were up, but he stayed because his wife liked Portland.
He changed the name of the shop to Sea Tramp once he owned it - it is the oldest tattoo shop in Portland, perhaps in all Oregon.