While the holy grail of Good Time Tricycle Productions has to be the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival each spring, the event that helped launch it all for company founder Jon Henderson is the Atlantic City Drawin’ the Wild Card Tattoo Expo, which returns to the Bally’s Atlantic City sixth-floor ballroom Friday through Sunday, Nov. 1-3.
“The show’s one of the longest-running tattoo shows on the East Coast, so we’ve been doing it for a hot minute,” Henderson says. “And from when we started it (in 2001) until today, (tattooing) is just leaps and bounds different. We’ve got artists who specialize in pretty much every form of the art there is, from realism to portraits to cover-ups — you name it, there will be an artist there for it.”
Lucky Street Tattoo co-produces the event, which has grown to include dozens of ink artists from all over the country, and one, Alex Fico, from Bergamo, Italy.
A heavy dose of varied entertainment is always part of the festivities, including the popular “Stupid Sh*t People Do for Money” that awards cash — $100 bills in some cases — to those daring to partake in outrageous behavior.
“We don’t let that cat out of the bag,” Henderson says. “What they’ll be asked to do always remains a surprise.”
Each of the three days also features prizes in several categories for tattoos created at the expo, capped by a Best of Show winner Sunday night in which the color and black-and-gray tattoo winners from each of the three days battle for supremacy. Another contest starts 7 p.m. Saturday that awards prizes to pinup girls — calendar girls popular during the mid-20th century — in a sideshow that benefits the animal-activist group Pinups for Pitbulls.
“Every year we get about a dozen contestants in what ends up being a super-interactive and fun fundraiser,” Henderson says. “They raise money and donate to groups that have similar goals to theirs, which is to promote responsible pet ownership and educate people about pit-bull-type dogs that tend to get a bad rap.”
One of the special guests of the expo will be Don Peddicord, a star from Season 5 of “Ink Master,” a reality-competition TV series that is currently in its 12th season. The expo will also feature an arcade of 16 classic pinball machines and video games that show-goers can play for free.
Guests who get hungry can order from several Bally’s eateries, and have food delivered to the sixth-floor ballroom.
Benevolent Mr. Blue Sky
Gregory DiGiacinto, founder of Mr. Blue Sky Tattoo in Egg Harbor Township, is in his 20th year as a professional tattoo artist, and third year as one of the A.C. Tattoo Expo’s sponsors.
He also makes and markets his own tattoo machines, donating a few to be used as prizes for the expo’s best-in-show winners. As a member of the Freemasons, he also auctions off machines at the show and donates the proceeds to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia — a primary beneficiary of that fraternal organization.
DiGiacinto got into the machine-production side of the tattooing world primarily as a measure of quality control.
“I was always someone who felt strongly about knowing your tools as best you can, no matter what your job is,” DiGiacinto says. “And I don’t even consider tattooing a job. I consider it something you love, something spiritual and sacred, and something that’s part of your lifestyle. So if I make the machine myself, I get to know it intimately, if that makes any sense.
“I’ve always been into taking stuff apart and putting it back together,” he adds. “I’ve been building my own machines for about 16 or 17 years now.”
Having the right hardware is a crucial component to being an excellent tattoo artist, says DiGiacinto, but equally important is having a handle on your area of expertise.
“If you have any passion for something, or any real desire to do it right and make people happy with something, you’ll keep trying to get better at it,” he says. “At the same time, you’ve got to know what you can do, and what you’re best at, and try not to diverge too much from that.
“A nice, solid tattoo is my goal. If you’ve got a design in mind like a panther, a chest eagle, a dagger, a butterfly, I’ll rock it,” he says. “If you’ve got a portrait of a loved one you want tattooed? I’ll say ‘Go see my buddy Carlos Lopez at Fat Kats (Tattoo in Atlantic City).’ That’s his thing, and he rips it.”