Saturday, August 3, 1996

Coney Island's Tattoo Man was living work of art



By Judie Glave

   A sideshow performer who fascinated Coney Island audiences with his tattoo-covered body - and the occasional nail through his tongue - was found dead in his apartment in New York.
 Michael Wilson, known as the Tattoo Man, apparently had been dead for a couple of days when he was found Wednesday. An autopsy was inconclusive, but Wilson, 44, was a severe diabetic who needed daily insulin shots and had frequent seizures.
   The circular swirls, star bursts, skulls and daggers that covered 90 percent of Wilson's body, including his face and hands, were of his own creation, Dick Zigun, his friend and sometime employer, said Friday.
   "There were no stupid biker tattoos for Michael," Zigun said. "He never went into a tattoo artist's shop and said, 'Gimme that one.' He would create each design and say, 'This is what I want."
   Zigun said it appeared Wilson had fallen - perhaps from a seizure - and never woke up: "He clearly had a bad injury on his head."
   Wilson - tall, bald and covered in blue, black, red and green art - moved to New York from San Francsico in 1986 because he could not find a tattoo artist who would ink his face.
   "Michael made a real commitment to this," Zigun said. "He couldn't go home at the end of the day and change his clothes and change the way he looked; that was his commitment, his artwork, his life."
   He had worked on and off at the Coney Island USA sideshow for the past 10 years, Zigun said.
   Dressed in a tuxedo, gloves and hood, Wilson wouls slowly strip down to his undershorts during sideshow performances, Zigun said. He also worked the sideshow's bed of nails, often encouraging members of the audience - the larger, the better - to stand on top of him.
   One of Wilson's favorite acts was actually an illusion.
   "He would hammer nails through his tongue," Zigun said, "but what the audience didn't know was that he already had his tongue pierced".
   He also appeared recently in a few music videos and modeling layouts.

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Article found here.

2 comments:

sailrmarina said...

I am glad that someone took the time to make this blog, but sorry that nobody has posted yet.
Michael was my best friend the years I lived in NYC. I moved about 9 months before he died, and asked him all the time to come with me.
I few days before he died, he phoned me and said he was ready to move to Seattle with me. He was very depressed and his health was failing.
I loved him very much. It took me many years before I could even say his name without crying, and I still miss him every day.
Thanks for making this blog, he desereves to be remembered.

lynn said...

@sailrmarina
how lucky to have known him. i am still not sure why he intrigues me, but i just go with it. i think i would have liked knowing him. his pictures show a kind yet sad man. was he? do you think he may have harmed himself or was it accidental?
i hope he is at peace. and that you are okay now.
lynn