Full Disclosure: I consider Dan Duke a friend and therefore cannot be objective at all. First caught sight of him while drinking my morning coffee downtown at the Monte V. He’s hard to miss, what with his shaved head all covered with a honeycomb tattoo and more tats on his ears—just the tip of the iceberg of ink that adorns him. My first thought was, “Gee, that guy’s scary looking, and I bet he’s really mean.”
Turns out nothing could be further from the truth. Duke may not be the nicest guy on the planet (my vote goes to the Dalai Lama), but he’s in the ballpark. Leastwise he’s tolerably sociable. Of course, that’s not to say he’s a pushover when shoved. I get the feeling that despite a generally easygoing demeanor, Duke brooks no bullshit. And of course he lets his freak flag fly, clearly visible to anyone paying the least attention to their surroundings.
You’ll have no trouble recognizing Duke even when he’s driving around town. The guy is often found behind the wheel of #notacopcar, a black and white retired Chevy Impala SS police cruiser with a V8 under the hood and a pair of fuzzy handcuffs dangling from the cage between officer and offender. In perfect LAPD scrollwork on the rear fenders you can read, “To punish and enslave.” A hidden GoPro records the reactions of confused tourists for later posting on Duke’s Facebook page. Passing motorists slow down at first, then drive like maniacs after they get the joke.
Since the apple don’t generally fall far from the tree—and his father lives in Clarkdale—I cajoled Duke into chauffeuring me down Oak Creek Canyon in #notacopcar for some additional research. Sure enough, Dad has a similar free spirit and the same rhythms in his speech. The elder Duke told me how offspring Duke, as a lad of just 16 years, saved the day when humongous waves threatened to swamp the crappy motorboat carrying the two of them plus Grandma and Grandpa. Luckily for everyone, Eagle Scout Duke had just got his Seamanship Merit Badge and piloted the craft safely to shore while Daddy bailed and the terrified grandparents cowered in the cuddy cabin.
This is just one of several exciting events in the 30-something’s dramatic and adventuresome life so far. Duke got married at 18 to a woman who divorced him six months later. He then lived in a converted school bus with his boyfriend of six years, during which time they toured the country on motorcycles. Duke got a tattoo in each state visited. He was in medical school when a serious accident ended his quest to enter the field.
He currently earns his keep as a full-time body-piercing artist at Woody’s Old School Tattoos and Piercings on South San Fran, where he’s worked since the place opened in 2012. Damn good at it far as I can tell. If you want holes poked in yer body, I highly recommend having a professional do it. Speakin’ from experience, too. Took me three tries to pierce my own left ear with a straightened safety pin when I was 19: too low, too high and ain’t trying a fourth time.
These days, many folks get their ears pierced at the mall to save a few bucks. Persnickety aficionados and parents getting earrings for their kids are the main exceptions. As a result, the three N’s comprise the bulk of Duke’s employment: nipples, noses and navels. Surface piercings are limited only by your imagination.
“If you can grab it, you can stab it,” says Duke.
Predictably less in demand, his genital needlework includes the Prince Albert penis glans piercing, plus the Vertical Hood Piercing, requested by both men and women. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m duty bound to note that reliable after-action reports indicate sundry bouncing metal gew-gaws enhance horizontal endeavors.
Now I know this is Ari-by-God-zona, but don’t think for a minute that only the gals like being impaled by jewelry. Some very manly men get pierced too. For instance, in his misspent youth, my Fort Worth buddy Gary Cooper—no relation to the High Noon Academy Award winner and HUAC toady—had his nipple pierced when a woman he met in a bar told him she’d go home with him if he did. Wasn’t done by Duke, but it done done the trick and Cooper done got lucky. ‘Nuff said.