Romeo, “The Aloha Monkey”


After much thought, Mike remembered a story that Jerry had told him long ago. A tale that Jerry insisted was the truth, as fantastic and far-fetched as it was. Apparently, at one point, Jerry had a monkey that he kept in the shop, whom he affectionately named ‘Romeo.’ Romeo was part of Jerry’s life as a sailor, stemming from the tradition of bringing exotic pets from far away places. Romeo amused Jerry to no end, having the unsavory habit of bending over and ‘mooning’ customers as they walked in. Jerry and one of his partners eventually came upon the idea of tattooing an “AL” and “HA” on each side of Romeo’s butt, so that when customers came in, they were greeted by Romeo’s “ALOHA.” Unfortunately, having a monkey in a tattoo shop was not the best of ideas. One day, it is told, Jerry came into the tiny 1033 Smith St. location to find that Romeo had gotten loose and, in the process of throwing needles around, tearing sheets of designs, and causing general havoc, Romeo had drunk a brand new bottle of black ink that Jerry had just bought. Infuriated, Jerry was cleaning the shop and yelling at Romeo for causing such a mess when one of Jerry’s good customers from the US Navy walked in with his brand new tropical white sailor’s suit. Romeo let up a screech, turned around to spread the ‘ALOHA,’ and sprayed black ink diarrhea all over the poor swabby’s pristine white outfit.

This story of Romeo, who was immortalized on one of Jerry’s sheets of tattoo designs (called flash), became the basis of Mike’s new shop name: The Aloha Monkey. It was also Mike’s way of tweaking the conservative noses of those who scoffed at tattooing; something Mike was always fond of doing.

As time went on, Mike realized that he would need help at his new location. He eventually brought in a young tattooist who was recommended to him by friends; this tattooist was named Josh Arment. Josh came to Burnsville to help Mike out with the Aloha Monkey while it got started, learning to expand his skills while under the tutelage and friendship of Mike. They became close friends, and Josh eventually made Burnsville and the Aloha Monkey his permanent home. It was a partnership for the ages.

Eventually, although Mike enjoyed tattooing, he realized more and more that he just wanted to focus on his painting and decided to retire. He knew that Josh would be the right man to hand over the wheel of the Monkey to, so he sold the shop to his young friend and moved on.

Written by Doug Hardy