Flesh vibe

BILL HOOPER has had his eye on the needle for the past two decades. The godfather of Scottish tattooing talks about his art. Words: Claire Prentice

NAKED WOMEN ARE out, dogs are in. Take heart boys - we're talking tattoos. As the sun comes out to play, enticing everyone to get their kit off, Scottish tattoo parlours are filling up with folks requesting the latest fashion. This year, apparently, all the girlies want Spice Girls- inspired Japanese symbols and snag-defying tongue piercing.

A surveyor of naked flesh for twenty years now, tattooist Bill Hooper has seen and heard it all - at the moment he's giving a rather hefty lass a belly ring. In his obsessively pristine little shop down Edinburgh's Leith Walk, he tells horror stories of cowboys new to the game who have botched-up body parts all over town. The first tattooist to set up shop in Edinburgh - there are seven now - this is one man who takes his art seriously.

'l've set my stall out for the sensible, intelligent people, looking for a good tattoo and strict hygiene,’ he asserts.

Be-kilted Bill Hooper has had his name linked with Robert De Niro, as the man who did the star’s bodywork for Cape Fear. But this, he admits with a chuckle, is sheer fallacy. As far as star-spotting goes, Hooper's greatest claim to fame is that he's embellished such prime flesh as the drummer from the Almighty and the Corries very own Ronnie Brown. Even Marti Pellow's been in, but he lost his bottle and walked straight back out.

People pop in and out, others glance around at the numerous designs - some beautiful, others less so while one poor bloke tries to maintain a

stiff upper lip while having ’mum' ingrained on his upper arm.

Notices warn punters that they can‘t rely on Dutch courage the inebriated will not be seen to. And any bloke who is feeling cocky is likely to wilt when Hooper pulls out his 'members only' board covered in pins to keep bits in place.

Among the unlikely requests Hooper has received are tattoos of people’s dead dogs and that of an old Bible-basher bloke. 'He kept coming in to get quotes from the Bible - the Psalms and everything all over his body. I think he must have been getting scared as he neared the end.’

Having shrugged off its scuzzy old-blokish image over the last decade, tattooing is now on the upsurge among women and ABC1s. 'It's the girls that are keeping shops in business,’ agrees Hooper. 'We used to do one in every 100 men and one in every 1000 women, now that's balanced out.’ But with Cher about to have hers removed, he reckons the stars will deem the whole thing passé before too long.

Cover-ups are also big business. One girl has just been ditched by Brian and is getting his name blacked out. Hooper proffers his own words of wisdom: ‘Tattoos last longer than romance every time.’

Bill’s Tattoo Parlour, 73 Elm Row, Leith Walk, 0131 556 5954. See listings for, next page more information.

Puppy love: naked girls are out, dogs are in at Bill's Tattoo Studio, Edinburgh


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