Known for his intricate body ink and sexy moves, tattoo artist and gogo god Fly Tatem has been on the top of his game far longer than most. And this week, he’s helping Thotyssey and Wilsonmodels launch one of the most exciting new events of the season!
Thotyssey: Hi Fly! I understand you had a busy weekend!
Fly Tatem: Yeah, more like a busy couple weeks! I really need to take a whole day off.
No doubt! Dancing is fun and sexy and all, but those are long hours and there’s a lot of moving that needs to be done.
I really do love dancing; I always say it’s more of a hobby for me than work. Plus, it’s the best when it comes to getting your cardio in! But yeah, it can take some getting used to with the hours, and jumping around to dance different spots and nights.
Among other qualities, you’re known and admired for your heavily tattooed look.
Haha! Yeah, I guess you could say a lot of people remember that about me… whether I end up meeting them in person or not.
And you’re also a certified tattoo artist yourself. I’m guessing you must’ve put a ton of effort into designing your own tattoos, and then finding the right fellow artist to apply them!
I started getting tattooed fresh outta private school at 18 years old, and I’ve been tattooing as an artist for almost seven years now. I’ve had mostly coworkers and my mentor tattoo me, but I have actually tattooed a lot of my own tattoos on myself. I’ve done most all my legs, my face and the sides of my torso. Hurts less when you do them yourself, I feel! Most people will say, “you must love pain!” I give them the are you crazy look, and tell them it’s really the end result that is what I love. The pain’s just a necessary evil to get to that result… such is life!
Where are you from originally, and how did you get into gogo dancing?
I always tell people I’m from Pennsyltuckey, also known as Pennsylvania to most. I’m originally from Reading, PA which is 45 minutes west of Philly. So this was where I spent a majority of my years as a “gayby” (my late teens and early 20s) until I made the best decision of my life to move to New York!
So there was this gay bar / club in Allentown 45 minutes from where I lived called the Stonewall (not to be confused with the Stonewall Inn of the West Village; I’m pretty sure the name of the place was made as more of a tribute to the Stonewall riots). I went out to go dancing and drinking with my ex and some friends, and I’d seen or heard (I really can’t recall) that they were looking for some guys to join a gogo group to dance at the club, and go around to a few other bars in Pennsylvania in the Poconos area. At this time I had a lot less tattoos — maybe an arm sleeve and some on my chest — but I remember them thinking that I had a lot compared to most.
Anyway, they did a little interview on the spot and had me do a trial run the next week, and basically I’ve been dancing in the gay nightlife on and off ever since for the past 16 years or so. Which is unbelievable, I know since I’m only 25… lol!
Longevity in your business is rare and very respected. What’s the key to staying in the game, do you think?
Besides all the bukakke facials? JK (kinda)! But honestly, what I’ve found has worked for me most is: networking — getting to know the players in the trade and nightlife scene. Also, having a likeable personality; minding your p’s and q’s (manners and courtesy) when in these establishments while working and not working is also a big determination of whether someone will want to hire you, or have you back to their establishment, or recommend you to others. And also, just showing everyone respect and kindness will really help you go far. I have also found that dancers that are more personable with the patrons and know how to interact with them will make the bargoers’ experience better, and make places want to have you back because this will make you an asset to their business.
And of course, being able to swing those hips to the beat helps a lot! Most people think that you have to have this rockin’ bod to be a dancer. I mean, that can be the case for some of these parties and events that happen. But nowadays, I’ve noticed there are many more different types of gogo dancers and many more different body types out there in the trade… which I think is great! I applaud anyone with the confidence to dance around in next to nothing in front of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people a week. It’s not always the easiest thing to do and can be unnerving, especially when you’re not feeling on your A-game that day. I am happy to see that our community seems to becoming more body positive in that way somewhat.
Agreed! Do you have a “wildest moment ever” gogo boy story, either involving yourself or something you’ve witnessed?
I’m so bad with thinkin’ of these on the spot, being that my memory is something of someone with early onset dementia. But I remember there were these two gogo dancers that were partners at the time, and they were both dancing this event. The one, first of all, was not only holding a butt plug in his ass walking around in the club (which at the time I thought was brazen), but he was also dancing with the thing in and not having it fall out (which I thought was even more amazing, and that this guy must be a kegels coach or something).
So anyways, this butt plug was one that had a remote that a person could control it with from far away, and his partner had the remote. And any time the dancer with the plug in would get up in front of everyone to dance, he would turn that thing on and put it on high! And if you could only see the dancer’s face and mannerisms when that thing was on and vibrating… well, clearly it’s something that stuck in my mind!
Being a gogo, you tend to witness a lot of things most of the time more sober than the event attendees. Because although we are allowed to drink at most places you dance at, for many it is a job… and getting totally blitzed isn’t something that is really done if you dance more on a regular.
So, Jeff Eason of Wilsonmodels and Thotyssey are collaborating on our very first event together: this Wednesday, in a new Brooklyn venue called No Aloha! The hot Luis Fernando will be DJing; Neon Calypso, Chaka Khanvict and Danity Powers will be the resident queens… and you’ll be dancing! This is gonna be epic, right!?
You already know! I’ve come to know Jeff throughout the years, and for anyone that knows Jeff he is always at all the happening events throughout NYC, taking amazing shots of the people and happenings of that event; he has shot a lot of really big names in the community throughout the years. And anyone that knows Jeff also knows that he’s a total sweetheart, and is always such a pleasure to see and chat with whenever the opportunity arises.
So when he mentioned he was going to start this party in conjunction with you, whom I already knew runs a popular magazine and blog in the community… I was all about joining in. Jeff didn’t even have to tell me anymore! Then I came to find out I’ll be working alongside Neon Calypso, Chaka Khanvict and Danity D. Powers, and that made me that much more excited to be a part of this epic event that’s happening this coming Wednesday! It’ll definitely be a good time, and a great way to get everyone ready and in the spirits for all the great Pride events that will come to follow.
We can’t wait! Where else can the children find you this month?
So my schedule can fluctuate, but I will mainly be dancing on Fridays at Hush. I also do a tattoo pop-up shop for the House of X in the LES, typically on Saturdays… and I just started doing the same at [X’s sister venue] House of Yes this past week. You can also catch me on occasion dancing in Fire Island for the iconic Friday Night Underwear Party! You can always find the most up to date info on my whereabouts on my IG, and while your at it take a peep at my tattoo business’ IG. I do actually do private tattoo sessions still, in between all the dancing and club work! I have tons of projects in the works, so would love to be able to share that with anyone and everyone!
Which leads us to our final question: what’s your favorite tattoo on you!?
The bullseye around my …can you say hole on here? LOL, totally kidding, no tattoo around the rim quite yet! But it’s hard to say a particular one is a favorite… kinda like children, I guess. But I’ve always loved my neck and face tattoos — to me it’s really a declaration, and symbolizes to me that I’ve made it in the industry. At least, to the point where I am successful and secure enough that I am able to have those types of tattoos and not worry about being hired for a job, or having them hinder me in any way in the future. Plus, it’s the best free advertising!
Indeed! See you Wednesday, Fly!
Check Thotyssey’s calendar for Fly Tatem’s upcoming appearances, and follow him on Instagram (also his tattoo business’ IG) and Twitter.