WHEN I FIRST met Dave D, I thought he’d mistaken me for somebody else. He had some vague and completely unofficial connection to a tattoo show I was covering for Ozbike and he took it upon himself to make sure I was okay — a drink, a seat in the shade, somewhere safe to leave the camera gear I wasn’t using, and the addition of his own trademark cheerful face to liven up a shot. He was buzzing around with what I came to recognise as his typically infectious grin: the high energy much loved King of Port Adelaide; everyone’s mate, into everything, full of mischief, devoid of malice.
Dave was one of the most engaging people you’d ever meet, and after 10 minutes you couldn’t help wishing he was really your friend rather than just a supremely friendly bloke whose orbit you’d briefly entered.
He was an unusually gifted tattooist, combining bold and subtly crafted lines with delicate shading, and his death in a car accident was one of those incidents that leave people shaking their heads, saying, “No, it couldn’t be Dave; must have been someone else.” It just seemed like he’d be around forever.
People like Dave engender intense loyalty from their mates, and his wife Emma, and business partner Bill (Dave and Bill started Burnin Hell Tattoo in Port Adelaide), with some help from his club mates in the Finks MC and a lot of other people, put on the Dave D Memorial Tattoo & Custom Show.
It’s a safe bet the Port Adelaide Rugby Club has seen some celebrations in its time, but there can’t have been that many to combine tattoos, some of the best motorcycles in Australia — by far the most extravagant and finely built I’ve seen in South Australia — and a handful of desirable cars from hotrods and classic Chevs through to hot four cylinders. The place was well designed for a gathering like this, combining the all-important bar facilities with a few acres of lawn and plenty of shade, plus a temporary stage for the 20 bands. That’s right, 20 bands; there’s no rush to leave. Now it’s only just to acknowledge that some of these bands were better than others, but that’s the beauty of this kind of arrangement. If you like them, you can enjoy them; if you don’t, well they’re only on for half an hour and somebody else here likes them anyway so butt out.
The tattoo competition had 24 well contested categories including the unique ‘Best Dave D’. You had to notice the popularity of cartoon characters here among the more conventional dragons, warriors, and busty maidens, but one simple design took a bit of working out — the ‘5015’ boldly inked across several sets of fingers. Being used to numbers representing letters, a few of us were trying hard to fathom what EOAE could possibly stand for. A few blokes had this design so it was unlikely to be a family member’s initials. Maybe it’s more complex than that. Looks a bit Greek, perhaps? Does zero really mean the letter ‘O’? Oh, yeah… 5015 — postcode for the King’s beloved Port Adelaide! Should have got that straight away!
Prizes were awarded to a broad range of entrants and an equally broad range of tattooists. You expect any studio putting on a show to do well when the winners are called, after all, they’re going to have the most entrants, but at the same time you expect the judging to be based primarily on the quality of work. Although there will never be unanimity when these decisions are made, it’s always a good feeling to walk away knowing the judges were as impartial as you could hope for. It gives the whole show a credibility that encourages you to go back the next year. On the subject of those who did go, it was quite a kick to see the duly elected Mayor enjoying the day out with his family.
Highlights are notoriously hard to agree upon, depending so much on who you talk to or remember talking to, as the hospitality seldom drops lower on the scale than ‘remarkable’ at any half decent tattoo show.
Gomer’s twin nine-year-old terrorists, tattooed by Shep as a mermaid and a Port Adelaide super hero, rated highly, as did Vanessa’s butterfly adorned arm (by Gomer), Wayne’s upper arm by Kelly, and Ben’s chest by Pete. But it’s probably fair to say that for most of us, the main highlight was the opportunity to get together with a crowd of people ranging from those we know well to those we hardly know at all, and to be able to say, “Yeah, I knew Dave.”
But like a lot of people who met Dave D, I wish I’d known him better.
Words & pics by Chris Randells