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Character Study Category Archive

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ernie Gosnell @ Seattle Tattoo Convention

posted by on August 11 at 10:15 AM


I left home when I was thirteen and first started tattooing in 1963 at a place called Buddy's in Atlanta; my friend’s dad owned the joint. Around that time I learned how to paint signs and that's mainly what I did back then, painting signs and pin striping hotrods. I roadied with a lot of rock and roll bands back in that day too.

Did you practice tattooing on those guys?
Yeah, I tattooed some of them. It was just a wild life, I was a young kid running around and was attracted to the tattoos because back then only hoodlums had them. Not too many bikers, mainly hoodlums.

Do you still paint signs and have your own tattoo shop?
Yeah, I still paint a lot but the demand for hand-painted signs just isn’t what it used to be. Most people just order stickers or velum for signs now. I paint for fun these days but I sell my paintings at conventions and do shows. I have some paintings down at my shop Lucky Devil on Rainier Avenue South. I had a shop in New Orleans for years too, but now just here. The shop on Rainier has some really cool stuff, man. Come by sometime. I bet you will dig the place.


To check out more photos from the convention go here

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Men. The Myths. The Mullets.

posted by on July 11 at 3:52 PM

This one goes out to Brad.

The resemblance is eerie, ain't it?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Joseph William Francis at Westlake Center

posted by on July 7 at 10:00 AM


How long have you been painting?
Since about 2004, but I've been drawing all my life. I like to use graphite, acrylic, charcoals—I do it all. I've been here in Seattle about three months, and I've been doing this technique for about seven months.

Where are you from?
I'm from Pennsylvania, Philly. I painted there, I painted in New York, Miami, Dallas. All over.

How long do you think you will be in Seattle?
The rest of my life; I am setting up shop right here.

I have never seen anything like this—where can we see more?
If you go to MySpace and type in "eccentric edge," it will pop right up.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Alan Jacobs on Second Avenue and Pike Street

posted by on June 30 at 10:30 AM


So, Alan, I know Leroy owns this fine establishment, but how long have you worked here?
Twenty years. The store has been here for 21 years—we used to be located where the Walgreens is now, up on Third.

I'm assuming you've seen some wild stuff go down, being on Pike Street for that long.
Yeah, you do see a lot of stuff here because of the location, like all the crack dealers and drugs. I've also seen stores though that come and try to sell the same clothing we carry, but they don't last more than a few months.

What is up with all the gold records on the wall?
Those are friends from the KFOX days back in the '80s. A guy, Doleman, had them in his shop and we had to do some trades to get these. They had a song out at the time called "Mack the Knife" which was the name of our old store back then.

Do recording artists stop by when they're in town?
Oh yeah—we had George Benson not too long ago, as well as Fleetwood Mac—they bought a lot from us. The drummer from Pearl Jam has stopped in, too.

Is most of the apparel you carry from the West Coast?
A few things are from California, but mainly everything is from New York.

What's your favorite shoe brand?
I would have to go with the Hugo Vitelli shoes. We carry a lot of these, and these are the newest ones right here.

Those are nice, really nice! Next time I need to pick up some pimp shoes, I know who to call.

* * *

Here's the latest Leroy's commercial starring Alan. Hey Leroy, please let me in on the next commercial! Two thumbs way up!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Denny on First Avenue and University Street

posted by on June 23 at 10:20 AM


What's your name?
Denny Collins

How long have you lived in the Diller Hotel?
16 years.

What was it like when you first moved in?
It was more like a flophouse then; this was skid row. This whole area has changed—the art museum, the famous Hammering man, Harbor Properties, the new Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, and on and on.

What was the rent the day you moved in?
[Long pause, then laughter] It’s been so long, I've forgotten!

How much has the rent gone up in 16 years?
I would say the rent, in 16 years, has gone up probably about double, 100 percent. Which is really good.

When I rented here a few years ago it was $325, and how I miss that price. What types of people are hanging out down here compared with a decade ago?
Most people are more tourist types. The ones that have moved into the area are the more, if I can use the word, “yuppie” type, with more money. I do feel safer now, but I miss the old days when it was lively, with a little mote partying, and more happy-go-lucky people. People now are a little less friendly. They get to be the big-city “yuppie” type, if I can use that word.

I know this used to be a hotel—has there has always been that vibe of people moving in and out so frequently?
Oh yeah, a lot of people in and out all the time. The top floor was actually a bordello when it was first built. That tells you what it used to be like here on First Avenue.

The Diller is the last of its kind on First Avenue.
Even the old hotel where the Lusty Lady is doesn't rent rooms anymore. Yeah, so we are the last one left, I would say, from Pioneer Square all the way to Denny Way, especially on First Avenue. The building is family owned, so they fought to keep it, but they had to fight some pretty hard battles with all the big influence coming around on the block... The Seattle Art Museum, Harbor Properties—the really super rich and big-money people.

Will this building be around for another 10 years?
Oh, no. You can see here on this block, this is the only original thing left. Big money is gonna win here, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Carrot Top at Iron Maiden

posted by on June 16 at 10:30 AM


Shot in the parking lot before the Iron Maiden show at the White River Amphitheatre.

[Brayden to his photographic subject:] Hey, that security guy is coming for you!

[Security:] Hey, you two! What are you taking photos for? You can't have a camera with a detachable lens here! [Into radio:] We have a situation in the east parking lot... I'm going to need backup.

[Brayden:] What? Really? Can you make sure and ask someone on your walkie-talkie before I walk all the way back to the car?

[Security:] Just did—NO cameras with detachable lenses.

[Brayden:] Weird, well, I'll put it back in the car then.

[Security:] Hey, Carrot, you are gone, Do i need to personally remove you?

[Brayden, to Carrot:] What's going on, man?

[Carrot:] These dudes are kicking me out before I have even gotten in. These assholes don't know how to party. I pissed behind a bush; who cares? It's Iron Maiden—those fucking bastards!

[Security:] Hey wait there just one minute, Carrot! [Into radio:] They are now on the move in the east parking lot.

[Brayden:] I'm gone—later Carrot!

(And, for the record, I stuffed the camera in my the back of my pants.)


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Goodbye, Cruel Slog

posted by on June 4 at 12:20 PM

So this is how it ends.

I began helping Eli Sanders cover the presidential election about two months before the Iowa caucus—back when Bidens and Dodds still roamed the Earth. My job was to keep a close eye on the no-chance candidates, to act convinced that by some ugly stroke of luck the country would reject making history and instead put their bet on the competent shoulders and ridiculous hairdo of some old white guy.

And now all the old white guys (save for McCain) are back doing whatever it is they do. And I mean that in a very literal way. I have no idea what Tom Tancredo is up to now. It probably involves outlandish bondage gear, but that’s mere supposition.

I got to cover a couple of the no-chancers first hand: Mike Huckabee, who gave one of the most humane and well written speeches to be delivered by anyone running in a Republican primary, and Ron Paul, who gave one of the finest speeches to ever be delivered near a cafeteria at the University of Washington to a bunch of people who spend the majority of their days on Second Life.

Both men, in their own weird and valid way, were total historical throwbacks, and they were fascinating.

And then there was Mitt Romney, who wasn’t fascinating to listen to or a historical throwback, but is very, very tall.

Regardless, whatever cynicism you may hear about reporting on this race, you’re getting a chance to cover history, and there are incredible stories in every angle of it.

Which is why, despite the looming notion of the worthlessness of a journalism degree, you should be scratching and clawing desperately to get this internship. Journalism may be a collapsing industry where even the job you do get won’t pay you particularly well, but it’s a fun job. And this internship was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a lot of fun.

Thank you to all at the Stranger staff, and to the commenters. Despite the panic attacks and weeping inspired by some of our first meetings, you’re a cruel but fair mob. Except when you’re not, in which cases you should all be dumped into the ocean.

That’s all. To paraphrase one of my favorite crazed rightwing fanatics:

“Old interns never die, they simply write query letters to Cat Fancy.”

Monday, June 2, 2008

Clawdius Osiris at East John Street and Broadway

posted by on June 2 at 10:00 AM


Hey my man! Right now: six bucks for DVDs and two bucks for tapes.

You've definitely got some gems here.

Oh yeah! We have everything here; shoes, socks, DVDs, video games, books, CDs, art, TVs, computers... we got it all.

You're open every Sunday, right?

Every Sunday. Rain, sleet, snow, storms. We are always here.

You have some of those things that just need to be bought. Like those cosmic gold-framed paintings. Actually that photo of the orca family in orca paradise is nice, too.

Yeah, you like those? All of them for $20.


I am an artist myself. That's how I got into this business—by selling my own paintings in the U-District and then eventually started selling other people’s stuff on the side, too. I have been renting this space here for eight years. I got this spot and things are going really good.

In about three months I'm gonna show some new pieces that will blow your mind. People will ask, “What is that boy on?!” I am going to do it right here, too. It’s going to be like a gallery sidewalk.

Do you make those collages I see sometimes out here?

Yeah, I make those, and I am working on an Elvis one right now. In three months though you will see some wild new stuff! It’s a whole new art style i have been working on and It’s going to be good. It’s going to be great!

I would love to check it out. Keep me informed. Where do you get all this stuff?

I get this stuff from all over: People moving, garage sales, junk piles. Sometimes I find some stuff worth a lot of money, too. I found a Mayan mask and sold it for $80 and it turned out to be worth $800! I didn't know though. How would I know?

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt! How would you know, though? It’s a treasure hunt.

It is. And if people don’t have all the cash for something, and they want it, they just gotta say, “Hey Osiris, I don’t have quite enough this week.” I can work things out. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to treat people with goodness and kindness and leave it at that.

I have to hit the road, but I shall be back.

Just three months! Stop by again!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Maxine at Mother's Day Brunch

posted by on May 12 at 10:00 AM


In honor of Mother’s Day and the fact that my grandmother is the most awesome person I know, I decided to slow down on the free booze at brunch and ask my grandmother some questions.

There’s my grandson! We never see you; why can’t you come around once in a while? You can at least call. You have a phone, right?

I just saw you last week! How old are you now, Grandma?

Seventy-Eight dear. Oh my, what a horrible question to ask. Get out of here.

Come on, that’s not that old.

You know I was at church and Father was asking about you?

Come on, "Father" doesn't even know who I am. I went to church with you when I was 13. There is no way he remembers me!

He Does! He asks about you, and some girl there asks about you, too.

No way.

You got a girlfriend yet? When you getting married? Are you making good money?

No. Never. No.

My friend’s grandpa turned 100 today and threw a baseball at the Mariners game!

Does he play for them? Is he married?

No he doesn’t play for them, but he is 100 years old—he got to throw the first pitch because he was turning 100. I have no idea if he is married, but he is a little old for you, don’t you think?

Here, take five bucks. You know I always save five bucks for you. Take a nice girl out sometime. What about her? That girl right there.

That’s the neighbor, and she's, like, 14. Come on, what’s wrong with you? Stop pointing!

Girls look so much older these days. Maybe she has a sister?

So what number Mother’s Day is this for you now?

Well let’s see, I was born in 1930 and had Johnny when I was 18. So 1948 was the first… I believe this is my 60th Mother’s Day.

Wow that’s a shitload of Mother’s Days! Excuse me… sorry!

Brayden! I should wash your mouth out with soap. You used to be so cute! What happened?

Sorry! So, who do you want to win the election?

Oh dear, I don’t really care. Just get that damn Bush out! He is messing up the whole stinking world. We need women in charge—they are smarter and it is about time. You got a girlfriend yet? When you getting married? You need to meet a nice girl. Here, take five bucks!

Okay, no! I will be right back. I’m going to get a drink.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dan on the 358 Metro Bus on Aurora

posted by on May 5 at 9:45 AM

Sometimes you meet someone who restores your faith in humanity. Most would think he is completely insane, but I think he is just too smart for his own good.
I saw you messing with that camera. I shot a picture of Marilyn Monroe’s car there at the casino on 165th. Point and shoot—a Pentax point and shoot—and I get some of the damn best pictures you ever did want to see. They got one of mine in a gallery with this $10 camera from the flea market.
What gallery?
Kirsten gallery. I didn’t want to make any money, it wasn’t about that.
First you need to become a master of light. Study lighting. All right? Because it’s all light. You have to be an artist of light. What the hell do you think that camera is all about?
Right. A box that captures light.
Be enlightened: If you are enlightened, you are creative.
It’s a bummer; it’s a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. For the art… best way to go. Eighty-one years on the planet, gone the hard way.
Shit, I’ve been over there…. in all kinds of environments, and every kind of atmosphere.
Over in…?
War and all its violence.
I’ve been around Mystics, people that meditate all the time. They are the best people. Think of super-positive stuff—I empty my mind and go to that secret place. That’s what I’ve learned. Let go, let God. Turn off all that emotions and bullshit that goes through your mind. You meditate?
I skateboard.
Good Idea. That’s a good idea! Don’t follow me; do your own thing, alright? That’s what I say. That’s the way I play. When you do things for the fun of it, sometimes things turn out better. Right?
You got to fix your mind on a little better than perfect. That’s what my mom told me. Work perfect. Then if you come under that, you will still be perfect. Go for the highest; go for the best. Set your goals high. If you don’t to well, you'll still do okay. Keep healthy—health’s number one.
I'm going in now to bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A. Stone and Rick A. on 15th and Mercer

posted by on April 28 at 9:59 AM

Excuse me sir, would would you like to join the CEG?
The CEG?
Yes, the Crystal Energy Group.
Huh? Go on...
Have you heard of the crystal pyramid energy? Have you heard of the path to the pyramid?
Please enlighten me.
We have witnessed meat turn to jerky. We have watched ill kittens heal themselves under the point of the pyramid. When the people realize this supreme power there will be no hesitation in becoming members of the CEG nation. You shall then receive our six rules to success and detailed instructions on mailing us your $50 initiation fee for salvation.
We will be seeing you soon then?
Is this a cult?
We will be seeing you. Oh yes, we will be seeing you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Marshall Reid on Broadway

posted by on April 21 at 9:45 AM


What is the deal with your shirt?
It is a photo from the SF zine Titty City. Manik Skateboards did a collaboration with the zine a few months back. All the shirts have funny shots like this one here.

When you put that shirt on did you realize your resemblance to it is almost scary?
It is pure coincidence that I look like a boob!

Best response to the shirt?
Today some kid at the skatepark said, "Wow that's cool, a shirt with your picture on it!"

What are you listening to?
My boy Red Head Steve.

Can we see some more of these lovely images anywhere?
Oh yeah! They have a website you should definitely check out:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Captain Stewart

posted by on April 14 at 9:50 AM


How long do you plan on being the captain of this fine ship?

As long as my voice holds up. I have been doing this three seasons.

How did you get into Duck driving?

In the 1990s I was a fisherman in Alaska and I worked on commercial fishing boats. To drive the Duck, you need to have a Coast Guard approved captain's license and a Washington State commercial driver's license.

Are there ever any ladies on the Duck who want to have a private tour with just the captain sometime?

Well you know it's a family tour and we meet people from all over the world, and that is the biggest perk. And seeing people have fun, it's great. I am showing my city, but sometimes occasions arise.

Do these things ever crash or have leaks in them?

No, no. We have mechanics. The captains visually inspect the Ducks. So we have never had any problems.

Really? Never?


I've heard about some pretty wild stuff involving alcohol on the Duck. Can we get a party Duck going on?

Well, when you rent private tours you get the whole Duck and it's up to the captain.

If you could take the Duck on a road trip, where would you go?

Florida, Hawaii maybe. Somewhere really warm.

If you could modify the Duck, what would you do? Tinted windows, maybe?

I would put in extra heavy-duty Duck-approved heaters! Oh no, the time! Well it's about time for me to go get my Duck on the road!

Thanks and adios.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Re: For Josh Feit

posted by on April 9 at 4:06 PM

For Josh Feit

posted by on April 9 at 3:41 PM

Monday, March 31, 2008

Leroy Cooper on MLK and Madison

posted by on March 31 at 9:50 AM


Sunday, 12:27 PM

Whew! It’s been a little nippy out here, not too nice of a spring kick-off if I do say so. I heard we are almost breaking records for coldest days during this time of the year.
You've got to layer up in this weather, but if i had a clean white suit like that I could tough it out. Actually, I would probably only wear it inside though because I look absolutely ridiculous in a suit.

You like the suit? Wait until you are about my age—you will have one. I just got back from church; now that warms the soul. I always look sharp for church! You go to church?

Can't say that I do, but i don't worship the devil though, either. What church do you attend?

Just right up the hill here, Madison Temple. Every Sunday and I never miss it.
Get my coffee right over here at the cafe and have my smokes too. It's my Sunday routine. You got to have routines to get through sometimes [chuckles].
Life’s a bitch and then you die, and it’s fast, very fast. Seems I was your age not too long ago—life’s a trip, son!

"Life’s a bitch and then you die." That's a NAS song, and despite the title, it's a positive message. He's a music artist and son of Olu Dara, the jazz musician. You heard of him?

Olu Dara! Oh yeah, he's an old-school cat. Did you know the actual translation of his name is "God Is Good"? I never knew his son followed in his steps.

I didn't know his name meant that. It's true though, you have to find something positive to do and do it everyday, or else you are wasting time. I think that is important.

True, very true, indeed. I was in a quartet years ago, but that’s all in the past now. Life is too fast. I need some new outlets, I guess. Well I do have plans with someone for brunch so I got to get a move on it. Hey, nice talking, see you around.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Montana on Second and Bell

posted by on March 24 at 9:45 AM


Holy shi** is that the ferret guy? It’s a opossum! Hey excuse me…

I have raised all sorts of animals, my pops gave me a bear cub when I was real young back in Montana; we got into all sorts of trouble! One time we got into it inside the bar—don’t ever take a beer away from a bear! The bartender learned that one the hard way.

Where did you get this guy?

It’s a she, and I rescued her about two years ago. She has been with me ever since. They are very loyal to just one person. Never ran away or nothin’.

She ever bitten you? Those teeth are sharp and gnarly!

Oh no, opossums would never bite a human; they will play dead before they bite you. Just like the saying, “playin’ opossum.” They are more scared of us!

Is that a real opossum hat? What’s the story?

This here was road kill I found. I didn’t want it to just go to waste, got it right off the highway just a few months back.

You from Seattle? I have never seen you two before.

I am around, I take groups back to Montana and we camp out in the mountains and build camping sites every year. We build dugouts here in Seattle, too, and there is nothing like it, you gotta see it, electricity and all... but the city destroys ’em. Even when the neighbors let us run power down there and are okay with it, the city just don’t want us around.

One time I thought I was being arrested and people were protesting: “Montana didn’t do nothing!” they were shouting. Ended up the [police] needed my help and knew were to find me. They had a wild opossum they were trying to catch. She had just bitten right through an animal-catcher device! They said I was crazy for thinking I could get the thing, but I just stayed calm and talked to her. I get along with critters much better than humans.

Montana, thanks for talking to us! Let's do a full story sometime soon?

Oh yeah! Lets do it, look me up! See ya!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Remember This Guy?

posted by on March 19 at 11:43 AM


He still wins first prize in the Hard-to-Be-a-Fugitive-with-a-Face-Like-That Pageant, but the Bebees, a father-son duo from Florida (arrested separately), get runner-up:


The elder Bebee's forehead reads "Get R Dun" and, apparently, a tattoo on the back of his head reads "Get R Did."

Bebee, who does odd jobs like home remodeling and demolition, said that his wife had a succinct response to his forehead ink: "You crazy," she said. Bebee noted that since his son's eyes are open in his mug shot, the photo does not reveal a hidden surprise: Justin has the words "Fuck" and "You" tattooed on his eyelids.

(Via the Smoking Gun.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thomas on 45th and Roosevelt

posted by on March 17 at 9:45 AM


Thomas asked me for the time and then started talking about sailboats and sailing, so I went along:

Hey son, I’ve been around the world twice! What’s your name?
I’m Brayden.

What kind of name is that? [Laughs] Do you take lots of photos?
Well I think it’s from an 80s baby-name book my mom bought, and yeah I have my camera most the time.

If you were smart, you would take one of me! [Laughs again]
It's actually film, but I could mail you a copy if you would like.

Oh it's okay, and yes, I am a sailor. Like I said, I have sailed the world twice and hand built three boats. Let me tell you, there is nothing like taking out a boat you built for the first time.
Not many people do something like that. That’s pretty crazy.

Yeah, well they say we will all meet our mermaid someday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Scandal Gives Kristen's Music Career a Boost, Provokes Aggressively Unfunny "Crosscut" Parody

posted by on March 13 at 2:20 PM

As reported over on Line Out, in the latest "Kristen"-related news, the $1,000-an-hour prostitute--AKA Ashley Alexandra Dupré--has gotten a surprising career boost from the scandal: NYC's Z100, the most popular radio station in the country, has put her song "What We Want" in rotation. To listen to more of Ashley's R&B-inflected musical stylings, check out her page on AmieStreet--which she hastily updated with a new song this morning. Is it wrong that this makes me sort of love her?

In other Kristen-related non-news, Crosscut has a "parody" imagining what it would be like to interview the high-priced hooker. The joke: Whores are dumb! And they like to do it! That's why they're whores! HA!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wanna See a 4K Hooker?

posted by on March 12 at 4:24 PM

Via The Grey Lady, "Kristen" and her MySpace page!

Monday, March 10, 2008


posted by on March 10 at 9:45 AM

[Character Study is a new weekly feature—an interview with a person on the street by photographer Brayden Olson.]

LOCATION Denny Way and Bellevue Ave
TIME 3/08 3:03:41

Where do you get a bag like that?
Seattle Silk Company at the Convention Center across the way from Kinkos! They are 10 dollars and the logo is free... purple, blue, magenta, cream, teal... red—you know— any color you want.
Those dolphins are fresh! Ten bucks?
Oh yes, and they have all different types off logos on the wall and you can pick any of them to be put on for free. They steam press it right in front of you like magic.
Thanks for spilling the beans, man. When are they open?
From nine in the morning until six in the evening. I work very close to there, you know?
Where do you work?
Oh no, don't go there... it's a secret!
You know, Raymond, secrets hurt feelings.
Well, I am off to work, nice to talk to you.