United Ink Flight 913 - Cleared for Take-Off
Major props to Lou and Jackie Rubino, the United Ink braintrust, for coming up with the brilliant idea to have their latest tat convention at an air and space museum.
The Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, NY, served as the backdrop for the Rubino's United Ink: Flight 913 Expo last September, and the show was as badass a spectacle as any tat show in the 2K era.

Classic planes docked on the museum floor or suspended above the crowd, open cockpits for visitors to climb aboard, and other attractions, including a flight-simulation ride, added an amusement park vibe. At Flight 913, the excitement level of the multi-tiered body art hang never dipped below the boiling point before the show touched ground on Sunday evening.

The event also had something of a "funhouse" feel to it, as visitors roamed the floor to find artists and vendors inside the nooks and crannies of the museum space.

Artists you could find cranking out four-star tat work beneath historic flying machines included Myke Chambers, Roman, Big Gus, Jason Ackerman, Stefano Alcantara, Oleg Shepelenko, Jon Mesa, Lalo, and Shane O'Neil.

The venue also housed a spectacular theater, and the room was used for contests and various happenings. Perhaps the most talked-about event taking place in the theater were showings of the Tattoo Nation documentary, hosted by the legendary "Shanghai" Kate Hellenbrand.  As part of the screenings, Ms. H also engaged the viewers in Q&A and discussion forums after the movie. These sessions proved to be highly informational, enlightening, and loads of fun. Kate is amazing, and she continues to be one of the ink community's greatest assets and ambassadors.

Fans of the female gender also get their money's worth at each and every United Ink event. Jackie Rubino has assembled some of the most beautiful tattooed women in the good ol' USA, and presents them at her expos as the United Ink Angels.

Original winner of the "Miss United Ink" competition, held at the first UI Expo, Heather Moss is the featured attraction within the Angels. Other inked goddesses in the flock include Jenny Sunshine, Bella Ortiz, Kay Reynolds, and Kayla VanFleet. The Rebel Ink contingent were fortunate to enjoy many visits form the Angels that weekend, as the ladies continually took photos at our booth, signed autographs for fans, and rejected our advances.

Rebel Ink also launched its live broadcast series from the convention on Saturday night. The show included a Heather Moss photo shoot, as well as a sit-down conversation between Heather and Kayla VanFleet, where the girls answered questions pulled from the RI Twitter feed.

Fortunately, the performance stage at the Cradle of Aviation was outside of the building, not far from the front door. Because, it if were any closer, the museum probably would have ended up in a smoldering heap. Among the acts that took place on the Flight 913 stage were sideshow performances by the Freak Kings, a military-themed pin-up contest, a wedding, and a suspension show that looked as if it was born from an unholy union between Cirque Du Soleil and Satan.

It would be a crime not to mention and give thanks to the staff at the COA for the way they totally embraced this convention and those who were in attendance. The earlier United Ink shows, which took place inside the Nassau Coliseum, had more of an "us against them" vibe between visitors and the venue staff. However, the crew at the museum treated vendors, artists, and attendees as welcomed guests from the minute they entered the facility. Staff members gave photographers, models, and others total access to the museum exhibits for photo shoots. Floor workers continually came to our booth to see if we needed anything, and told us how much they enjoyed hosting the tattoo community at this event. The staff even kept the venue open way after hours to accommodate artists who needed to finish their work, but found themselves running late.

There was no shortage of entries in the various ink contests held over the three-day jaunt. Having so many established artists in the house, there was no doubt that a piece would have to be killer if there were any hope of the tat winning any kind of award. Lines of entries were the longest in such categories as Tattoo of the Day, Best Overall, and Best in Show.

I hope that Lou and Jackie have plans to return the United Ink show to the Cradle of Aviation next year. An amazing show in an amazing venue is a recipe for ink convention success. For tattoo fanatics, that's a win/win proposition.

For information on future United Ink Expos, visit newyorktattooshow.com.

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