Larry Hanks

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How did you get started in the tattoo industry?

I started scratching with a homemade rotary in my mom’s kitchen when I was 12 years old. One day I found an ad for Milton Zeis’ tattoo machine in Popular Mechanics; I ordered it, and gave my rotary to another scratcher with high hopes!

Tell us about the beginning of your career. Who did you work with? Who was your mentor?

I worked with a few people before I moved to San Diego in 1974. I wrote Doc Webb a letter asking if I could get a job at his shop; he wrote me back saying as long as I promised to NOT tattoo hands, faces, or penises, I was hired. I asked him if it was okay to tattoo tits, pussies, and asses and he said that’s fine! Doc taught me most of what I know about tattooing and about life as well. He taught me the importance of honesty and integrity, how to make good things happen in my life, and to stay away from people who could lead to my downfall.

Tell us about some of your most prestigious awards and what they mean to you.

Some of my most recent awards include: best of show at the Hawaii Ink and Art Expo; my brother and I also received an achievement award there for our establishments in Hawaii. A couple months ago I received the RJ Rosini award in Vancouver that is given for positive contributions to the tattoo industry; that one means a lot to me!

Have you tattooed anyone famous?

I’ve tattooed some famous people here and there but probably the most notable is Dennis Avner (Stalking Cat) from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. People know him best as the Cat Man; I tattooed his face and did some other work on him in 1984/85 in San Diego. He passed away a while back…

Tell us about the tattoo industry when you began and how it’s changed to what it is now. Is it better or worse?

When I was starting out it looked like an amazing opportunity for a fine young artist. Now it seems like an opportunity for all of the non-tattooers to capitalize on us, which doesn’t look good to me. It might be good for others, but I’ll just keep doing my thing.

Where are some of the most memorable places you’ve lived and tattooed?

I’ve worked in Reno, San Diego, Riverside, San Berdoo (San Bernardino), Hawaii, and the Topaz Lake area in Nevada…out in the fuckin country and away from the fuckin rat race!

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