“I didn’t give a fuck”
And he didn’t. Tattoo legend Eddie Funk, or better known as Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, passed away last month at the age of 80. Eddie was a true, rebellious pioneer in the tattoo world, delivering American traditional tattoos with the same flair and badass attitude he was and will always be known for. For more than half of a century, Eddie led a very exciting, and yes, crazy life, and completely blew up the tattoo world with his rawness, talent, and his devotion to tattooing as an art form.
For 50 plus years, Eddie owned many tattoo establishments while living up to the name of ‘Crazy’ Philadelphia Eddie, though he would admit he wasn’t THAT crazy—his notorious, harsh chuckle would tell you otherwise. He was given that name as a kid, and it stuck. You could say his craziness escalated as he entered the tattoo industry back in 1952, when he was immediately hooked after getting his first tattoo as a teenager on Coney Island; he was so hooked, in fact, he went back and paid for his second tattoo on the same day.
His artist, Max, who soon-after became his mentor, gave him a skull and cross bones as requested by Eddie, who believed he was a pirate in a past life. After paying Max $2.50 for the tattoo, he washed it two hours later and came back requesting the snake drawing he saw on the wall. Eddie idolized the life of Max, a hefty former prize fighter, who spent his days enjoying the cool Coney Island breeze while doing what he did best. Eddie wanted to learn.
Eddie practiced on kids in the neighborhood, and would later drive them over to Coney Island to receive some pointers and have Max fix them up a little. Most of them came out a little scratchy, Eddie admitted, but kept on working at it, even going so far as tattooing flowers on his own wrists—with his mother’s disapproval. Though with his dad on board with his new endeavor, Eddie advertised his new business by dropping off business cards throughout the city, and eventually transformed into what he called himself as the ‘Tattoo Man’.
Tattoos were once restricted to select groups of people, people who didn’t go to college or have nice jobs. Think more along the lines of gangsters, motorcycle riders, bad people, sailors, and “ladies of the evening.” Tattoos were simpler, with Eddie working in a time when there were only three colors: black, green, and red. Eddie enjoyed being a “tattoo man, like a pirate,” and eventually started working with a chemist to develop a broader range of colors that were safe for skin. The industry has certainly industrialized since, with tattoos being a little too upscale for Eddie’s taste.
It used to be a tough business, not like how it is today with tattoo shops affluent all over the country. Tattooing was cheap, but you had to fight. And Eddie did, learning as he went and gaining insanely wild and just as rugged friends along the way.
One of his earliest memories was back when he entered a shop owned by two brothers in New York, and wanted two blue birds on his chest. Each bird was $2.50. He questioned the artists’ placement and was retorted with a smack on the head; one was a male, one was a female, and had to be placed differently, you dummy. Brushing it off, Eddie handed him a $10 bill and expected $5 in change so he could tip him. The $5 was pocketed; tattoos on the chest were double, and Eddie was smacked yet again. Before Crazy Eddie could give him a hard time, the artists’ brother came around the corner with a hammer in one hand and a straight razor in the other asking Eddie if there were any problems. Eddie, obviously, had no issues at this point. The artist’s name was Bowie, and in true Eddie fashion, was friends with him ever since.
Bowie joined Eddie in many conventions; Eddie developed the first tattoo convention in 1979 in Denver, Colorado. Throughout his tattoo career, Eddie traveled throughout the U.S. attending one convention after another as a special guest and occasionally a judge in tattoo competitions. He went on to document his life in a series of books that will soon be converted into a documentary, which will tell the crazy story of how Eddie came to be Crazy Philadelphia Eddie.
Eddie was not short on friends, and would triumph in the fact that you could never have enough of them, even though “most of them are fucking shitheads.” He lived like a pirate, insane and unrated; he “got laid every fucking day”, and he married four times, two of which were sisters, and married one of them twice.
And he lived the rest of his days retired, doing absolutely nothing. He didn’t give a fuck.
-By Shannon Cole