I was born in Glasgow in the 50s. I never knew anyone with tattoos whilst I was growing up and was never particularly interested in them. In fact, I can remember seeing a programme on TV about ten years ago featuring people with multiple piercings and tattoos. Whilst watching it I actually said to my daughter, “How could anyone do that to themselves?”
Funnily enough, looking back at my schooldays, the only thing that I was interested in was art, not that I was particularly good at it. In fact, my strongpoint was arithmetic, something (maybe the only thing) I’m still good at today!
I started getting tattoos later on in life, at age 46. I was on holiday with my youngest daughter in Spain and we both got our first tattoo at the same time. She went first and kept smiling over at me and saying it wasn’t painful. I now know she was only saying that so I wouldn’t chicken out. Even then I must have known what my theme would be, because my first tattoo simply said, ‘Vegas’. I was such a wuss; I couldn’t even bear to get the whole thing, ‘Las Vegas’, tattooed. Before getting tattooed, I had been advised to choose something that I’d never get tired of, so I immediately thought of my favourite place in the whole world - Las Vegas. As we walked back to our hotel, I remember thinking, “Thank goodness that’s over. I never want to go through that pain again!”
On my return home from holiday, I discovered a local tattooist, Steven at Irezumi Tattoo Studio, Glasgow. I asked him to add something to my original tattoo. At the time, I was probably thinking of only adding ‘Las’ to my ‘Vegas’, but a few years down the line, I have ended up with most of my body covered in bright, colourful, Las Vegas-style tattoos - and I love them!
Over the past five years I have become more and more interested in tattoos; up until then I had scarcely given them a thought. Who knows; if my daughter hadn’t dragged me along with her the day she was getting her first tattoo, I might never have known anything about the world of ink.
I fell in love with Las Vegas the very first time I saw it, almost 20 years ago. Now I’m hooked. I only ever go to Las Vegas on holiday, as nowhere else comes close. This 24-hour city offers everything you could possibly think of and if you can’t find it in Las Vegas, then it probably doesn’t exist!
I have been an unofficial ambassador for Las Vegas for years now. Whenever anyone was going for the first time (usually after I had convinced them to go), I’d give them a list of all the best places to visit, restaurants to eat in, the best buffet in town, and, of course, the best places to stay, whether they are kid-friendly hotels, for their particular budget, etc.
What I really love about Las Vegas is that it never closes. You can wake up at three AM (as I often do, ‘cause I’m at that funny age now) and you can dress up or down and go for a meal or a drink, or even a gamble! Another thing I love about Vegas is that there’s no dress code; you can be standing in line for the fabulous buffet at Caesars Palace in your shorts and t-shirt and the couple behind you are in designer evening dress and tuxedo.
Las Vegas is truly like another planet, you can try and explain it, but until you’ve been there, you can’t really imagine what it’s like. I love the bright lights and all of the glitter of the strip and that is what I’ve tried to capture in my Vegas-style tattoos. I always win a jackpot, not millions, but almost always on the first night when I arrive. I put it down to my ‘Bag of Good Luck’, which my grandma made for me before she died many years ago. It contains all sorts of good luck charms etc, and of course, white heather from Scotland.
I have recently started selling them on my website. I thought that if it works for me, then why couldn’t it work for other people? Let’s face it; when you’re gambling, you need all the luck you can get! I want everyone to carry their very own ‘Bag of Good Luck’. The website is one of the most exciting projects I have ever been involved in. The reason that it’s called TATS2C.com is because I want the world and their granny to send me pictures of their tattoos to show to the world via the site. So, please log on now. I have put a load of my own photographs on too, as most people never see my tattoos and I tend to cover up most of the time. In fact, most people don’t even know I have any! So, I have at last decided to show my heavily tattooed body.
I was determined to keep to my Vegas theme right down to the flowers, which had to be Nevada desert flowers. So, when my father passed away, I did nothing for a long time. When I went to get my next tattoo months later, I just knew that I had to have my dad’s name tattooed on me, but I couldn’t figure out how to keep to the theme. Then it came to me in a flash – ‘Daddy loved Vegas’, so that’s what I had tattooed.
I think that out of all my tattoos, I love the showgirl on the inside of my left arm the best. She’s gorgeous and just sums up Vegas for me. Steven at Irezumi did most of my work for the first couple of years, but I now go to Leon at Chameleon in Paisley. He is currently working on my boobs and he assures me that he’s done loads of boobs in Australia, where he’s from.
A couple of years ago, I received the ‘Key to the City of Las Vegas’ from Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, for all of my art work promoting the city. I had sent him photographs of my arm and another of my leg, both covered in Vegas tattoos. He laughed as he recalled opening the envelope to see photos of legs and arms; he said it looked like something from CSI! I guess it’s not everyday you get photos of someone’s limbs sent to you. I was originally only supposed to be going to his office to meet him. The day before however, I had a call from his office informing me that he had decided to honour me with the ‘Key to the City of Las Vegas’, because he said I was promoting the city wherever I went. I informed him that when people come up to me and ask about Las Vegas, that’s when I really sell it to them! Although it seemed like half of the world’s press were there for the handing over of ‘The Key’, Mayor Goodman made me feel very much at ease. I guess that was my 15 minutes of fame.
I was shown from coast to coast, America and beyond. Everywhere I went in Las Vegas, people stopped me to have a photo taken with me. It was quite surreal. The Mayor had jokingly asked me about the chance of my keeping a space on my body for his portrait and we laughed about the possible spaces I had left. Within a few days I was inundated with offers from tattoo parlours wanting to do the work for free. In the end, the tattooist I chose to do the work was Dave Morton at PRICZ Tattoo Parlour, W.Sahara, Las Vegas. I was once again invited back to the Mayor’s office to show him his portrait on my left shoulder. This time his office was a little less hectic than the press conference the time before. A film crew were there making a documentary about this very popular man, known affectionately in Las Vegas as ‘the happiest Mayor in the world’.
I had mentioned that I liked Wayne Newton ever since I saw him in the movie, ‘Vegas Vacation’. As I was leaving his office, the Mayor asked one of his staff to call the theatre where Wayne Newton was appearing and arrange for me to see the show. The event was brilliant, even more so when Wayne surprised me by shining a spotlight on me and sending me a bottle of bubbly. He then proceeded to tell the audience all about my tattoos and my ‘Key to the City’. After the show, I met the great man himself and he was absolutely charming. That reminds me, I still have to find a space for my Wayne Newton tattoo… Well, he is known as Mr Vegas!
Although it is painful getting tattoos, it is strangely addictive - just ask anyone who has them and they will probably tell you the same. I suppose you are thinking about the end result and that certainly helps with the pain. The way I get through it myself is that I don’t even give it a single thought, not before I go in and not even as I lie on the table. What’s the point in worrying about something and getting in a state about it? As soon as a thought about pain comes into my head, I simply think about something completely different and it’s gone.
I have always found everyone I’ve met completely supportive of my tattoos, even older people will come up to me and ask if they can touch them! The main difference I have found is that in Britain if someone catches your eye as they are looking at your tatts, they will quickly look away - it’s as if they shouldn’t be looking. In the U.S. however, it’s completely different; people will look and say something like, “Hey girl, I love your ink”, and then they’ll come over and start to ask me all about the different tattoos. If I had a penny for everyone that has said to me over the years, “I guess you like Las Vegas”, I’d be a millionaire! I think times have changed a lot over the past few years, even since I started getting inked. People stop me all the time and say, “I’ve only got two tattoos, but I’m going to get more”, especially females. I see more and more women with whole back pieces so I think that women are definitely getting more and more into tattooing these days. At first my girls hated it, but I felt it was my time to do what I wanted to do; my family had grown up and I could now get the chance to express myself. Now they just accept it, and half the time they don’t even notice it anymore. In fact, two of my daughters have a couple of tatts themselves now. When I got the ‘Key to the City’, they were all very proud of me. They said that when they put ‘Key to the City’ into their laptops and it came up with names like, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and me, their mum, they just couldn’t believe it.
I don’t show my tattoos off much here. In fact, most people don’t even realise that I have them, because I’m covered up and wear jeans most of the time. When in Vegas, however, I do like to show them. Well, you can hardly wear a woolly cardigan in 96 degrees of heat. All the locals who work in the casinos remember me, everyone is so nice to me and I’m constantly being stopped and asked about my tatts. I get asked to all the best restaurants, people give me their cards and ask me to come to their place, “‘cause Tom Jones eats there”. It’s just brilliant and has totally changed my life.
When I was given the Key, I felt like I had officially become an ambassador for Las Vegas - Mayor Goodman names me as the official No.1 Las Vegas fan! I felt like I had a duty to at least try and look good if I was to represent such a glitzy, glamorous city. I did get a boob job, but I was at an age when I really needed help with them anyway! I am now a 36F and I do feel a lot more confident. I had lost weight but I couldn’t lose my tummy, so I had a tummy tuck and also had my eyes done at the same time. Well, you can’t be an advert for Las Vegas and go around looking like a bag lady, can you?
I have just started a website, and I want it to be the Facebook of the Tattoo World! I want to see and let everyone else see and appreciate all of the wonderful artwork that there is out there. Some pieces are so beautiful; it’s a shame that people don’t get to see this beautiful artwork that adorns so many of our population’s bodies nowadays. All too often it is hidden under their clothing and never sees the light of day. The London Tattoo Convention (which is where Ashley took these photos of me) was the first tattoo convention that I have ever attended, and I enjoyed it so much - to see so many tattooed people together was amazing. It was incredible to see some of the wonderful tattoos done by some of the world’s most talented artists. In fact, I was so excited by everything going on at the convention, I forgot to enter the competitions!
I was so happy when I was recently taken on to the books of the fabulous Ugly agency. I used to do stand-up comedy and was pretty good at it and that is something I would like to get back into that. I would also love to do some sort of TV or advertising work. My ambition is to star, (even in the background), of a music video! Ideally it would be The Killers, who are my favourite Las Vegas band. One of my next tattoos is definitely going to be The Killers.
Please, all you tattoo fans out there, show me your fab tattoos on my website: www.TATS2C.com. On the site you can also buy all sorts of lucky charms and your very own ‘Bag of Good Luck’!
Everyone who logs on will get a free car sticker. I also want to start our very own ‘Tattoo of the Month’ competition - so what are you waiting for, get your tatts out today! That’s actually the slogan on the t-shirts, ‘See my Tats @ TATS2C.COM’.