Chicago’s gay grandaddy of tattooing | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

June 24, 2020 Slideshows » Arts & Culture

Chicago’s gay grandaddy of tattooing 

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courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
Cliff Raven tattooing in Milwaukee in 1963. When the tattoo age was raised in Chicago, Phil Sparrow started a shop in Milwaukee where he and Raven would tattoo sailors together on the weekends. These photos are the longest surviving photos of that time and specifically Sparrow's work, and according to Justin Sprague's The Secret Historian, they were likely taken by Chuck Arnett, one of Raven's lovers.
courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
In the 60s, tattooing was part of many leather meet-ups, including a large one in New York that also involved legendary piercer, Sailor Sid Diller. This is a freshly completed tattoo by Raven.
courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
An example of Raven's work in which he tattooed a "bear" in the slang sense to resemble a bear in the animal sense.
courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
This is a photo taken by Chuck Renslow for Kris Studio. It likely appeared in Mars or Triumph. Both tattooing and beholding tattoos were a way to celebrate the body.
courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
Some studio photos of Raven's life partner, Pierre Mitchell. Looking similar and having similar shoulder tattoos helped convince people they were brothers.
courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
The Drummer cover is a painting Raven did directly on the model for a leather fetish magazine, but it's worth noting that one of the stories advertised is by Phil Sparrow, using Sparrow's pen name Phil Andros.
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courtesy Nick Colella/Great Lakes Tattoo
Cliff Raven tattooing in Milwaukee in 1963. When the tattoo age was raised in Chicago, Phil Sparrow started a shop in Milwaukee where he and Raven would tattoo sailors together on the weekends. These photos are the longest surviving photos of that time and specifically Sparrow's work, and according to Justin Sprague's The Secret Historian, they were likely taken by Chuck Arnett, one of Raven's lovers.

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