June 17, 2013

Artists donate talents to tattoo marathon

Aaron Cabrera drove all the way from Los Angeles to be at the Royal Peacock tattoo parlor on P Street on Saturday night.

Aaron Cabrera drove all the way from Los Angeles to be at the Royal Peacock tattoo parlor on P Street on Saturday night.

He left with a fresh tattoo on his shin – inked, no less, by Hector Fong, a well-known Oakland tattoo artist.

About 100 people came to the Royal Peacock over the weekend for a 24-hour tattoo marathon. All proceeds went to Richard Stell, a famed Oklahoma tattoo artist who recently suffered a heart attack, and the family of Ron Domstead, a local artist who died of a heart attack last year.

Royal Peacock owner Britton McFetridge said Stell was a legend among tattoo artists. He added that his own father had died of a heart attack last year.

"This is my kind of Father's Day present," he said.

About six hours into the marathon, McFetridge expressed high hopes.

"We got people coming from all over, and the weather's perfect," he said.

One patron from Lake Tahoe arrived at the parlor two hours before the fundraiser was scheduled to start, and he ended up getting three tattoos.

Expecting a large crowd, McFetridge said most of the new tattoos would about the size of a baseball and would cost $100 – considerably less than the usual rates of $200 to $300. McFetridge said about 150 tattoo parlors around the country also held benefits for Stell over the weekend.

McFetridge has contributed his skills to tattoo fundraisers before, but this was the first one he organized. A Sacramento band, the Peace Killers, was booked, and food vendors served up tacos, hot dogs and sandwiches.

McFetridge said his goal for the noon-to-noon effort was to raise between $10,000 and $20,000.

Customers were upbeat Saturday night.

Lucky McGovern came up from Stockton to get inked by one of the famous artists working at the Royal Peacock. McGovern was heavily inked already, from his forearms to his scalp and his eyebrows.

He ended up getting a tattoo of a skull wearing a top hat, a design fittingly called "Mr. Lucky," done on his calf.

As a tattoo artist himself, McGovern was also happy to raise money for Stell.

"We have no retirement," he said.

Cabrera could barely contain his passion as he pointed out a few artists who had just arrived. They were booked for months in advance, even years, and on Saturday they were taking walk-ins.

"It's not just a local thing. It's an international thing," Cabrera said. "These guys have devoted their lives to it."

Cabrera described himself as a tattoo collector, and compared himself to an art appreciator exploring the Louvre.

Some patrons were less tattooed than others.

Jenni Friedrichs and her friends Martha Lopez and Laura Narum had a few tattoos between them, but they came to the fundraiser that evening on "total impulse," Friedrichs said.

Lopez, who had decided to get a peacock feather tattooed on her bottom left rib, looked anxiously over the counter as Narum prepared to get two small tattoos done on her foot.

"Martha, what am I doing?" Narum shouted over the music and the buzzing of tattoo machines. "It's gonna hurt," she said as the artist fired up his tattoo machine.

Miguel Montgomery, who came from Long Beach to contribute his services, said he worked until about 2 in the morning.

"I slept in a car," he said. "And people were still working."

McFetridge said the crowd tapered off by around 6 a.m. Sunday, though a straggler floated in just before 11. The final tally stood at 100 tattoos given and about $10,000 raised.

Call The Bee's Jack Newsham, (916) 321-1100. Follow him in Twitter @TheNewsHam.

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