The veteran artist makes badass tats at his Nothern Liberties shop.
Eddie “Sailor Eddie” Denny, 49, the tattooist and owner of Bonnie & Clyde Tattoo Parlour on the border of Fishtown and Northern Liberties, took his first steps and spoke his first words in a tattoo parlor. His current shop has only been open since 2007, but he’s got 41 years of tattooing under his belt—many of them in the Philly area. His shop has a door that always seems to be open, and his greeter is Bonnie, a pit bull he rescued from a group of kids trying to fight her.
Inside, you’re greeted by a slew of colorful tattoos, all done in what Sailor Eddie describes as the “old-school” traditional style, which features bold outlines, often with a nautical subject or a text banner—think pictures of the “tattooed man” and “tattooed woman” you’ve seen from carnivals. All sorts of stories can be found at Bonnie & Clyde, including his all-time favorite: a heart-warming tale about an 80-year-old woman’s tattoo of her late husband’s name to honor a promise she had made to him decades earlier.
We didn’t get PW tramp stamps, but we did sit down with Denny to talk about sea monkeys and chest eagles.
So you’ve been in a tattoo parlor for, like, ever.
My grandparents started tattooing in 1933. They started traveling with a carnival back then, and my grandmother, she got in the box and got the sword stuck through it, got on the board and had knives thrown at her, and was a tattooed lady, and my grandfather handled snakes, ate fire, and was a tattooed man. And they did that up until the day after Pearl Harbor, and my grandfather signed up for the Navy. When he got out of the Navy, he started tattooing again in Philadelphia.
What was the first tattoo you worked on?
I colored in a butterfly on a nurse’s back from Cooper Hospital, and I was about 7 years old when I did my first [color-in].
How many tattoos do you have, estimate?
What’s your favorite?
We had pet sea monkeys in the tattoo shop that I was working at, and they passed away, so I have an “in memory of sea monkeys” tattoo; they only lived for six days, but that’s one of my favorites.
What are your favorite tattoos to tattoo on others?
Chest eagles. It’s an old-school thing, I just really like doing it.
What are some things that make you wonder, “Why are you getting this?”
If it’s like that, I won’t do it. I had a girl come in a couple of weeks ago and she wanted “fuck me” across her belt line. I’m not going to do that to somebody. Young kids, when they want me to tattoo their necks and their hands, that’s what I think about the most: How’s this going to affect people’s lives in the future?
11am-8pm. Closed Sundays. $60 and up. Bonnie & Clyde Tattoo Parlour, 111 W. Girard Ave. 215.278.2769.
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