I have been meaning to write this blog about Bobby since august and I am now doing it. He was such a fucking character, I totally loved seeing him and hanging out. Working on him was a trip, he had paper thin, old irish skin that bruised if you looked at it wrong. When he healed up though that color popped like crazy. I met him through Robin who ran my shop on the LES in the late 90’s. They both worked at Medical Arts detox and rehab on 57th street.
Bobby had a hell of a story and was clean and sober for many, many years, he helped so many sick and suffering addicts get clean and have a chance at a new life. He was brought up in Brooklyn and was a member of the brooklyn street gangs that Bruce Davidson photographed in the late 50’s. It is amazing to see those photos of Bobby (he went by the name Bengie) as a teenager, heartbreaking really as he was such a baby and went on to lead a very tough life with much loss. He co wrote a book with Emily Haas Davidson called Bobbys Book. Its a tough read about his life and being a drug addict and dealer in Brooklyn in the 60’s and 70’s. Its on amazon if your interested.
I’ve gotten to know his kids and grandkids over the past 16 years and its a pleasure to work with them always. Here’s a few photos of him by Bruce Davidson, his book cover, and photos of me and him and his grandson Peter. Peter was Bobbys daughter Carys son, she died when Peter was around 10, my own mother died when I was 9 so I always felt an affinity with Peter and a little motherly. Bobby missed his daughter terribly. Anyway Peter would come with Bobby while he was getting tattooed and sit on the sofa and complain about being bored, lol.
One story i’ll tell is that I was in the shop one time and I was going through a horrible divorce and Bobby was going on about what we should do to my ex husband, hypothetically speaking of course. He was going on like only Bobby could about “putting his fuckin head in a vice and squee-eeeezee his fuckin head’ all the while cackling and motioning him tightening the vice. As he started on this rant Heath Ledger walked in with a very pregnant Michelle Williams, I kid you not. I’m laughing my ass off at him and then I realize whose walked in and I’m like fuuuck-they are never gonna get tattooed after hearing this insane shit! But he did and probably because of Bobby! I often wish Bobby had stayed and had a good chat with Heath, he was the kind of guy that could get through to any drug addict.
I got to hang out with Bobby in the summer for the last time, his son Keith came by to get worked on and he brought him along. It was so great to see him and he was in good shape, he sat on the sofa, and I thought what music should I play him and and I picked The Everly Brothers, and he took a little nap on my sofa in the sunlight. I got a message from Dawnmarie-Keiths wife that he had passed on august 20th. I drove down to the city with my boys for the funeral, we couldn’t stay long but we payed our respects to a great guy.
Recently I got to tattoo Stinky the skunk on Peter, The original was I think Bobbys first tattoo and that day was photographed by Bruce Davidson in 1959. Heres a photo of Stinky that was redone by Mike Perfetto at some point in the 90’s maybe. For Petes piece we added sandwich because he has a Sandwich Shop in Brooklyn called Boomwich thats blowing up right now and Bobby had told him how proud he was of the success of the shop.
R.I.P Bobby Powers. You truly are missed.