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Michael Malone, 1942-2007

Michael Malone, the former Austinite and tattoo artist known as Rollo Banks, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Chicago home April 18. Malone, 64, suffered from diabetes and a debilitating leg injury received last year. Credited with helping bring tattoos out of the sailor/biker/prison subcultures, Malone was also, by virtue of his friendship with former music columnist Michael Corcoran and marriage to senior writer Margaret Moser, Chronicle family. "It's hard to remember when tattooing was a real underground art instead of the Hallmark greeting card it's become, but Rollo was part of the reason it went 'from the gutter to the curb,' as he always joked," she says. "He was one of the true visionaries of the art, a pirate with ink in his veins." After inheriting legendary Honolulu tattoo shop Sailor Jerry's in 1973, Malone, a California native, moved to Austin in '84 and opened China Sea Tattoo near the original Chronicle office in West Campus. He tattooed a number of local musicians, including Jimmie Vaughan, Keith Ferguson, Preston Hubbard, and Chris Gates of the Big Boys. "Rollo was an artist," says Gates, who sports several Banks tattoos. "He would sit there and encourage you to think of something new. He wanted to do stuff he hadn't done, which is why he liked Austin." One of Banks' most famous tattoos is the full-body, Japanese-style mural of Godzilla characters on Atomic City proprietor Prince, which took a decade to finish and made the pages of Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. "Combining new mythology with the old style made it a one-of-a-kind, groundbreaking tattoo," Prince says. "At that time, it had never been done before." See further Rollo rememberances in "Page Two," "After a Fashion," and online.
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    Remembering a tattoo legend, bracing for Texas' upcoming festival season, and saying so long to 'hippie hour.'

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Christopher Gray, June 29, 2007

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