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Pay me or fight me.....Sailor Bill Killingsworth.....



for a few years now Scott Sterling and i have been taking these roadtrips to visit older tattooers,and friends...we both have a thing about tattoo history especially the word of mouth stories so we go see people and ask for the real skinny....Erik Inksmith said we kept him up until 4am wondering about some of the questions we had asked him the day before.

Anyway Scott Sterling and I decided after a few failed attempts previous years to go down and visit Mike Wilson, Angelo ,and Erik and Bev Inksmith and everyone at the inksmith and rogers .Christmas party ......Which was such a great week...the highlight was getting a tigerhead tattoo from Mike and Erik...Mike lined Erik shaded.....anyway......

On the drive down there we went thru georgia and Scott and I began talking about people that had shops there,nefarious and otherwise...Erik had a shop there screwy louie,fast freddie and Sailor bill killingsworth etc...Now there was a character SAILOR Bill killingsworth...carney....scoundrel....in some peoples eyes I do not know alot about bill but i know a little.

Sailor Bill worked alot of places... A few i know of are Norfolk Virginia,Columbus Georgia and on the pike. His address on the Pike is 26 chestnut pl. which was leeroy minughs address...(I think they were calling it tattoo headquarters when bill was there)so at some point bill worked there but someone like bill he probably worked anywhere there was a naval or army base or carnival.

Now throughout the years i have heard lots of great sailor bill stories...most of them involved bad tattoos and guns....or both....

One story was Zeke Owens was at bills shop and they were having a spat about something and Zeke went in the bathroom closed the door and went #2(for lack of a better description)anywho..a few moments after Zeke sat down a bullet came through the door above Zekes head...the kicker is bill did not know he was going #2...and if Zeke had been standing draining the main vein...well...you get the idea.....

Now Sailor Bill and Fast Freddie had a tattoo shop war going as they both not only had shops in the same town...(Which Scott and i had heard that they would driveby each others shops and shoot out windows etc..).well we found out not only were they in the same town but they shared a parking lot!!!!!!!! two guys that hate each other chasing the same nickel....

That was almost as good as hearing about Sailor eddie looking thru binoculars trying to get the designs off his rivals shop walls across the street.....

Deb Yarian who I see on here maybe able to enlighten us on more stories about Freddie and Bills war...Erik told me deb knew freddie well and i seem to remember Deb asking me if i knew freddie at some point.

Mike Wilson told me he saw some photos of Bills tattoos...one was a shark...but Mike said it looked more like a sardine/cigarette combo...are ya sure one of my tattoo photos did not slip into bills???

My favorite Sailor Bill story was a sailor or a customer came in and asked Bill to do a snake and an eagle on him. Bill says no problem,does the tattoo and after he had finished the sailor looks in the mirror and sees that Bill had forgot to put the eagles head on!!!!!!

I mean I can see forgetting a talon or two...or the tongue or a spot on the snake but to forget the eagles whole head!!!!!????

So the sailor says "hey bill you forgot the eagles head.....to which Sailor bill replied...."THE SNAKE BIT IT OFF....NOW PAY ME OR FIGHT ME"...............


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Ha, your stories are rich so thanks for no only taking the time to write them but share them on our tattoo forum. Shane, I eagerly await your next blog as I am sure many others do!!!!!!!!!

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Most of what I heard about bill was from other tattooers.

One dear friend who never said an unkind word about anyone else said " Sailor Bill was a pock or pox on tattooing!"

I believe it is public record that he shot a woman in the face and paid close to a million dollars to stay out of jail.

I worked at Fast Freddies for at least a couple of years with Bill still up the street.

Freddie used to tell a story of when Bill was working the carnival with his wife (Edie) he would bury her up to her neck in the sand and then surround

her with a huge spider body--- she was human/ spider girl.

One night he went and got drunk with his earnings and forgot Edie in the ground during a rain storm! Well she nearly drowned and when he got back to her she had ice-cream wrappers stuck to the side of her face.

Most of the war between Freddie and bill had become carny superstitiion-throwing peanut shells in front of a tattoo shop door ensures little$

Muskrat or raccoon urine in the air vent

Crazy days!

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Unfortunately, shootings did not end at Sailor Bill's door,

They occurred at Freddies too.

I just remembered that I tattooed Bill's daughter at freddie's shop

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Before we left Columbus,Ga - A friend of our's who had learnEd from Bill, brought us out to Bill's - cause he had some things for sale.

I remember driving out to this little shack in the woods in Alabama

I was a little nervous considering his reputation---

I just remember a dark shack with partially dirt floors -- and a giant snake cage.

Don got a couple of cool things.

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thanks deb...you know we know the guy was a scoundrel....we had heard he had murdered a couple people....the trip just took on that theme....like Scott getting pulled over and rolling down the window and saying to the tropper "fine me or fight me" but it was very clear that that guy had some bad kharma...

However you and i know and most people know that is the beautiful thing about tattooing(and one i fear will be destoyed by the mainstream of it all now) the characters that were into this hustle.


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I'd say, for better or worse--- it's gone pretty mainstream.

I'm sure Eric neglected to mention what crazy pay day weekends he'd have---Fast Freddie, Eric, Louie----Victory Drive

I was working in Daytona when I met Freddie at the 80 something convention in Mission Bay- and he offered me a job.

I was from Brooklyn, with little experience in the south - on a middle of the night Greyhound bus trip to Columbus, Georgia.

I had only met Freddie at the convention--- if I had to describe him I'd say he was a combination between Rodney Dangerfield and Philadelphia Eddie.

So, I arrived at the shop in the middle of the night and slept on the couch in Freddie's apartment behind the shop and started working the following day.

My first day there, there were 54 people on a waiting list and just 3 of us to tattoo them all!

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