Eric’s Adventures with Philadelphia Eddie
I am so excited today. Today, I get to share with you all a brand new guest post by none other than Eric Foemmel, who is currently ghost-writing Philadelphia Eddie’s series of books (one of which I’ve reviewed here- look out for more reviews as soon as the Royal Mail lets me!). Eric is travelling around the US right now with Eddie, going to tattoo conventions and marketing the book. He’s also been extremely kind by writing up his travels for us here at Tattoosday UK to read! Fantastic stuff! This is the first instalment- click after the jump to see his guest blog, some great pictures of conventions from Facebook, and some links you should check out. Thanks very much, Eric!
2011: This is Crazy Philadelphia Eddie’s year. His grandmother told him, “Life is a roller coaster—ups and downs, twists and turns—hang on and enjoy the ride.” Eddie has been on this roller coaster for seventy-four years, and it has been a hell of a ride: opening tattoo shops and a supply company; tattooing lines of sailors, tough guys, and people at amusement parks; interrupting the business of several competitors’ shops; disturbing the peace and keeping the peace; traveling around the world; stepping up to help friends and underdogs; betting on horses; dating burlesque dancers; suffering through four marriages—he married one woman twice; helping many tattooers get their start; and emptying countless glass. Disneyland used to sell an E-Ticket, which entitled the customer to ride all of the attractions at the amusement park. Reviewing all of the crazy things Eddie has done in his life, it is safe to say that Crazy Philadelphia Eddie was born with an E-Ticket to life in his hands.
At seventy-four-years-old, his body may show the signs of wear resulting from living a life filled with fun and adventure punctuated by some headaches and setbacks. For Christ’s sake, he had a severe heart attack at the age of sixty-nine, but that didn’t kill him. He told me the paramedics revived him by shaking a screwdriver in front of him. Knowing Eddie and his habit of ordering two drinks at a time, he probably asked the paramedics where the other drink was.
Even if Crazy Philadelphia Eddie has just entered the winter of his years, don’t be fooled. Life has not worn this cat down. He is always decked to the nines with every hair in place. He has a ready smile, and is he always joking. Also, he always has something to say that makes the young ladies blush. Most importantly, he is always happy to see a friend.
As his ghost-writer, he has given me the opportunity to travel with him to conventions as he sells his books, Tattooing: The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, My Vida Loca, Vols. 1-6. I knew at the start of this year, it was going to be a wild ride with Eddie.
Our adventures for 2011 began on January 10. Nine days before this date, I woke up around noon on New Year’s Day in my new apartment and my brother was passed out on the floor. I put the neighbour’s empty cocktail glasses on my counter, noticed all of the bottles were empty, and called Eddie and his girlfriend, Margueritte, to wish them a happy New Year. Looking at the aftermath of a party while talking to him on the phone, I had the strong feeling this was an auspicious sign that my year of adventures with Eddie had begun. At seventy-four, Eddie is ready to go. At thirty-nine, I am ready to follow with an E-Ticket in my hand!
I landed in Orlando around noon, and Eddie was there to meet me at the airport. The first order of business was to go to Applebee’s to get a drink—rather, several drinks. He really likes this place because they have happy hour all day long. He can get two drinks for the price of one. With a smile, Eddie told me his left hand drinks for free at this bar. Eddie started with a beer like an Olympiad starts with stretches, after that he switched to rum and pineapple juice. Jokingly, he says, “This ain’t the best pineapple juice in the world, but it is the best rum in the world!” After finishing several rounds of two-for-one drinks, we went home to have dinner with Margueritte, which is always delicious as Margueritte is an artist in the kitchen.
At dinner, the rum and pineapple juice kept coming. Eddie’s neighbours stopped by, and before they could make it through the door, Margueritte was putting more plates on the table saying, “Youse come in and eat, there’s plenty!” Eddie made more drinks and Margueritte dished out dinner. Once everyone was served, Margueritte finally sat down to eat and joined the conversation. After hours of dinner, drinks, conversation, and laughter, Eddie smiled and said, “Eric, I am going to bed. Make yourself at home, my friend.”
The next day, Eddie and I started to tackle our list of things to do: mail books purchased on the internet; buy oranges; buy more rum; hassle the printers; and locate the hotel for our first convention of the year—The Marked for Life Women’s Tattoo Convention. Driving with Eddie is an experience in it’s self. Stop signs only exist if a cop is there. If there is no cop, he looks both ways and then blows right through the sign if there is no oncoming traffic. “Just because there is a sign there doesn’t mean you have to do what it says,” he told me.
Just as much as Eddie does things his way, he does everything with style and sense of humour, this includes buying oranges. We drove to a building that was shaped like a giant orange! At this store, they had a plate of samples, and Eddie asked the man for the juiciest, sweetest oranges they have. The man pointed to different sample oranges that were sliced into thin pieces and said, “Try this one.” Eddie looked at me and smiled, and said, “Give it a try, Eric.” I tried the sample and it was delicious. Eddie flashed a mischievous smile and said, “Good, it didn’t kill you. We’ll take a bag of those.”
We went into the giant orange of a store to pay for the oranges, and the place was packed with souvenirs. They had postcards, coffee cups, t-shirts, shot glasses, sunglasses, hats, beach towels, beach chairs, even alligator heads. There was a shelf of alligator heads I was looking at, and Eddie walked up and looked at the heads on the shelf. With a bit of sadness, Eddie said, “Poor little alligators. They were just sleeping, not hurting anybody.” That is one thing I noticed about Eddie, his kindness to children and animals.
After selecting the oranges, we went to the drug store to buy envelopes to mail some books. I needed to get some hair grease, and Eddie I picked out some large envelops to mail the books. Before heading the cash register to check out, Eddie dropped off his prescription and I went to use the bathroom. As I was in the bathroom washing my hands, Eddie came in with the envelopes and walked into the bathroom stall. “Did you get your hair grease?” he asked. I said, “Sure did, I’ll see you at the checkout counter.”
Five minutes later, he met me at the counter as I was paying for my hair grease. He said hello to the cashiers, and they said, “Hello, Eddie.” We walked to the car, and as he shut the car door, he pulled two large envelopes from his waistband just behind his coat. I just thought to myself, “Jesus Christ, Eddie is still crazy. You gotta love this guy.”
After mailing the books, Eddie tells me it is time to check out the hotel that hosted the convention. When Eddie checks out the hotel before a convention he checks out the convention hall, the restaurant, and the bar. He was surprised the bar was closed. Regardless, Eddie managed to convince the hotel staff to make him a Bloody Mary. Eddie often tells me he is walking around in a world filled with modern technology and business practices he no longer understands, but somehow he navigates through it with a grace and charm. With a sincere “please” and “thank you,” he manages to get whatever he wants. After our drinks, he says, “This hotel is a little out of the way, but it’ll work. Let’s go see if the printer has our books.”
There is something you must know about Crazy Philadelphia Eddie: a handshake seals the deal. It is your word, and you must do your very best to live up to your end of the deal. That being said, Eddie has a special relationship with the printers. At the beginning of this endeavour, they quoted him a price to print his books, but they tried to raise the price three hours after we dropped the master copy off at their print shop. In response to this, Eddie paid a special visit to the printer, put his hand on the printer’s hand and threatened to break his hand if he ever tried to raise the price on us. Around Halloween, Eddie took a fake severed hand to the print shop, slammed it on the counter, and threatened to cut off their hands if they miss the deadline. He even told them that he would keep their hands and give me the pinkies. Now, when Eddie goes to visit the printer, they call him, “Sir.” Needless to say, they are reluctant to shake hands with him.
They tell us they are still printing the books, but they will try their very best to have Volume Two ready for the convention that will take place that weekend. Eddie points at them, cocks his head, and gives them an icy stare. The printer looked at Eddie and tucked his hands into his pockets, and said, “We’ll have a few hundred ready for you on Thursday.” Eddie smiled and chuckled, but he did not stopping staring at him.
We received our book on Thursday, and Eddie signed several copies. We loaded the van with boxes of books, our banner, and a few other supplies. He said that we would finish getting ready the morning of the convention.
When Friday morning arrived, Margueritte cooked us breakfast, we got dressed, and Margueritte wished us luck as she saw us out the door. Eddie put the van in drive, and said, “We have four stops: the post office to mail off the pre-sale orders of Volume Two; the bank to get some change; the grocery store to get some pineapple and orange juice; and the liquor store to get more rum, vodka, and Kailua.”
When we got the convention, Eddie smiled and said, “Eric, grab a cart, get the books and booze, set up the booth, and make me a drink. I’ll park the car.” As I was taking care of these things, Eddie strolled into the convention hall with a smile as people started hugging him. He sat behind the table, stacked the books the way he likes them, sipped his drink, and he wrote a sign for the table, “Free Massage with Every Three Books.” After a man bought six books, Eddie added, “Must Have Tits, Please show me.” Friday was a blast, and Eddie had a great time at the booth visiting with friends who came by the booth to say hello.
On Saturday morning, we made another stop at the liquor store, where we bought more than rum. He added Bailey’s Irish Cream and Blackberry Brandy to the shopping list to make a special cocktail— a Slippery Nipple. With this special drink came a new sign, “Buy a Book and Get a Slippery Nipple.” Every time I offered a pretty woman a Slippery Nipple, Eddie would say, “He’ll give you a slippery nipple, but I’ll make your nipple slippery.”
As the day went by, many people came by and told us about their experiences as a tattooer or an apprentice. They complained about all of the new shops, people missing their appointments, the need to take deposits, and so on. Eddie wrote another sign saying, “Touch this glass and I’ll break your hand! <3Thank You<3, Crazy Philadelphia Eddie,” then he said, “Eric, let’s get lunch.” At the table, he said to me, “Jesus Christ, there are too many tattooers today. How can anyone make a living? They say words I never heard before in tattooing: appointment, deposit, and apprentice? If you walked in, we tattooed you. Fuck appointments and deposits—if you want the tattoo sit down and give me your money. Jesus Christ, I’m walking around in a world that I don’t understand!”
After the convention, Eddie and I went to the bar. We had a great time with Majenta Monroe and Michelle Helmer, who were a two tattooers attending the convention. The bartender, Mary, kept our party going. Eddie said, “Mary, you’re my favourite bartender.” She stopped what she was doing, and said, “Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, you have no idea what that means to me!” I said, “Eddie, we’ll have to make the Crazy Philadelphia Eddie’s Favourite Bartender Award and send it to her.” Eddie told me to do it, and to send one to the bartender at the Shady Lady, which is a bar in Sacramento, California that Eddie enjoys. Eddie got kisses at the bar, and we got home, Margueritte started laughing at all the lipstick left on his face.
On the way to the convention Sunday morning, Eddie and I talked about starting a little club to go along with the Crazy Philadelphia Eddie’s Favourite Bartender Award. It is called the Crazy Philadelphia Eddie International Drinker’s Club. We plan to make membership cards in the near future.
Sunday was filled with friends and laughs at Eddie’s booth. Bowery Stan and Mikey came by for a visit and a few screwdrivers, and they stayed for Eddie’s roast. This roast was phenomenal! I do not have the skills to put this magnificent roast into words. If you missed it, perhaps you can see it on the internet. Margueritte roasted Eddie, but she said, “I didn’t roast him, I fried him!” At one point, a woman yelled out in a beautiful Southern accent, “You’re a hell of a woman, Margueritte!” People could not stop laughing while she roasted him.
After an amazing weekend at the Marked for Life Convention, Eddie was very pleased and kept chuckling to himself. We rested on Monday, and then drove to pick up more books. Eddie signed special copies for friends, and I put them in envelopes. I am certain Eddie is having fun writing and selling his books. Signing books, he would smile and chuckle as remembered the crazy times he had with some of these friends. After I stacked the packages and envelopes at the end of the table, I said good night to Eddie and Margueritte. It was a great way to end a quiet Monday night. Eddie was tired—no rum that night.
Tuesday morning, I loaded the van with everything we needed to send. Margueritte came out and gave me a big hug, and told me to call her when I got home. We went to the post office, and he dropped me off at the airport. He blew through a stop sign, and he quietly told the guy who honked his horn to “shut up.” When he dropped me off at the curb, true his character, Eddie waved good bye, but he did not leave until I looked back and he knew that I was safely in the airport—Crazy Philadelphia Eddie always watches out for his friends.
In February, I flew to Florida, loaded his van with books, and we drove to Philadelphia. My adventures with Crazy Philadelphia Eddie were about to continue.
Make sure to check out Eric’s research and publishing company, Uptown Research, LLC by clicking here. Eric can also be found on Facebook here, and Eddie himself can be found there by clicking here. Don’t want to miss a blog post by Eric? Then subscribe to the site by putting your email address into the column on your left!