Tattoo Ideas

An Original, Original  – InkedMag

Located on the Sunset Strip, Mark Mahoney’s Shamrock Social Club might be best described as a place where the elite and the underworld meet. A hangout for his celebrity friends, or a drop-in for anyone looking to ink an occasion with his classic black and gray aesthetic. The shop might as well be a confessional as those who sit and listen to his calm, cool drawl call him “Priest.”

The first time he walked into a tattoo shop at 14 years old, he knew he wanted to spend his life as a tattoo artist. The look, smell, artwork, and groups of outsiders always appealed to him.

“I was always attracted to counterculture,” Mahoney said.

Born and raised near Boston, Mahoney left art school in the mid-70s with his eye on Manhattan. He spent time tattooing bikers and outlaws before he met his people at the Chelsea Hotel. He once beat up a member of the Ramones at CBGB, and got stoned with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg before seeing his friend Nancy Spungen off to London. When she came back, she brought Sid Vicious.

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He moved to LA in 1980 and made friends with punk rockers and gangbangers. He ran with movie stars and musicians, and shot dope with intellectuals and degenerates. He’s a dying breed of 100% true originals and calls Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and Lana Del Rey friends.

He landed roles in a few movies, including playing a cool, Catholic, well-dressed man of many talents — not much of a stretch from his roots when he looked up to local heroes, gangs, and villains in his neighborhood. He thought about the priesthood as a young man, saying his prayers, following most rules, and trying to live up to expectations as a New England-born boy who loved motorcycles, leather jackets, and greasers from car magazines.

Most people will tell you his reputation and caring spirit extend beyond the famous to the infamous and unfamous alike. His shop is like a clubhouse for anyone looking to mark the good, bad, and ugly chapters of their lives. Mahoney sets the blueprint of what is cool and is a muse for creatives all over the world. If you’ve been in a tattoo shop recently, it’s probably built around the framework he and his colleagues laid down in the past half-century.

After almost 50 years of work, he routinely visits and catches up with old friends, even tattooing their children and grandchildren — imparting wisdom on ways to connect, meet likeminded people, sit, listen, and talk. “I think they keep coming back because I give a fuck,” Mahoney said. “Their pain is my pain; their joy is my joy.”

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The shop is decorated with images of hope and faith: relics of a time gone by, a quote overlooked, and a tribute to his Catholic upbringing. Faith plays a big role in his life, and he never gives up on the idea — putting all his trust and confidence into something underground, misunderstood, and illegal until not that long ago.

Mahoney has a lot of reasons to love his job. His shop is in the middle of Hollywood, along one of the most iconic strips in the world. He spends time with people who kept coming back and are now lifelong friends. He goes to work every day, does his job, and makes a living, but doesn’t consider himself an artist and isn’t concerned with the art side of his pursuits. He sees his single-needle, black-and-gray designs the same as he sees black-and-white photography or movies: an idea etched in time that gets softer and more beautiful. 

“I think black and gray ages more gracefully,” Mahoney said. “It has more drama to it.”

The clubhouse moved from its original location to 1114 Horn Ave in West Hollywood, just down the strip. Mahoney also started a clothing line called the Shamrock Social Club Collective that features his original designs screen printed on classic styles, the type of clothing you might expect anyone to wear in a tattoo shop.

Mahoney continues to keep tattoos affordable for everyone, not opting for a private studio and thousand-dollar designs. He’s still a modest tattooer inspired by the beauty he sees all around him. He believes in friendships, family, and the power to connect with clients over the good times, hard times, and everything in between.

“Tattoos are a joint effort,” Mahoney said. “Connection is the most important part.”

Don’t let the alligator shoes and vintage Cadillacs fool you — Mahoney believes in the power of connection; it’s what keeps him coming back. He’s one of the original outsiders, teaching the next generation and beyond about the power of being yourself, staying true, and authentic, and not following trends. When you lived through the 70s punk scene, the obnoxiousness of the 80s, and the death of originality, you look for what’s real, with true friends.

Appointments can be made by contacting the Shamrock Social Club at 310-271-9664. There is a bit of a waitlist, but you can expect the highest quality work, the finest conversation, and, if you’re up for it, a place to confess all your sins. Then, just sit back, watch a master, pay your respects, and believe in that power that faith brought you together with the Godfather.

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