“His role model was PT Barnum,” Ms Sprinkle, who for several years let him use her New York apartment to do illegal tattoos, said in a phone interview. “He liked to put on a show. He was definitely a provocateur.
Although Spider did not win the court battle, he and others ultimately won the war. In 1997, the city lifted its ban, which was then widely flouted anyway. (Police are said to be among the best customers of illegal tattoo parlors.) And Spider, who had maintained a parlor in Mount Vernon, NY, just outside the city limits, and later in Woodstock, NY and Connecticut, had tattooed thousands of people and published influential books, including “Pushing Ink: The Fine Art of Tattooing”, in 1979.
In 2017, when the New-York Historical Society mounted an exhibit titled “Tattooed New York” he took note of his role. Spider, he said in the accompanying text, had “introduced modern tattooing to art galleries and auction houses, combining tattooing with concept art in works such as ‘X -1000″, in which he inked a small X on 1000 people, then 1000 X. on one person.
Ms Sprinkle said Spider had often been the life of the party at his “Sprinkle Salon” gatherings, and had worn many other hats, including that of frontman of a band called Electric Crutch, in which he brandished a guitar made out of a crutch.
“He didn’t really know how to play the guitar,” she said, “but it made sounds.” She was often one of the backup dancers in the group, the Webbolettes.