Our beloved and decorated neighbor Lyle Tuttle hardly needs an introduction, but we certainly have a lot to say about him! Quite the raconteur, there’s always a good time to be had with the talented Lyle. The tattoo pioneer has led the life of leaving no stone unturned as he became one the most famous of tattoo artists of all time and major player of the burgeoning tattoo industry since the late 1940s. He’s traveled the world, met and inked some pretty major icons, made controversy with his cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in 1970, and chatted up Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. For those who wield their memories in ink on their bodies and those who admire, we have Lyle to thank for not only his talent, but also for implementing sterilization and medical practice as mainstream health regulations in the trade nationwide. And the man isn’t even close to finished with his bucket list.
We’ve had all sorts of events at our club, but hardly any could top our best memories with Lyle Tuttle’s 1st (1978) and 2nd Annual Tattoo Ball (1979). In celebration of the history of tattoos, the nights were not shy of all sorts of performers strutting their stuff – with some of his fire dancers setting the standards of building fire permits in practice today. Champagne flowed and stories told, and the swingin’ sounds with Mike Wilhelm, Girl George, Dick Bright and Bubba Lou, The Highballs and more kept the crowds dancing all night long on those epic SF evenings. Many a tattooed Lydia played the role as the Girl in the Fishbowl on those nights, but despite his tease, Lyle Tuttle never jumped in the tank himself. For a front-row seat at one of these historic events, check out a video of Lyle’s introduction to the first Tattoo Ball here.
What next is there for Lyle Tuttle? His vivacity for knowledge and life has made him a historian of the tattoo trade, North Beach and SF History and beyond. We’re anxiously giddy about the reopening of his Studio and Tattoo Art Museum down the street from our club to the public in the near future. Keep tabs on his 841 Columbus Avenue or his website, and you’ll be destined to be in the presence of greatness.