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Stoney Knows How

Film by Alan Govenar, Bruce "Pacho" Lane
Produced by Alan Govenar
Cinematographer: Les Blank
Sound: Alan Govenar
Editing: Bruce
Copyright: 2006, Documentary Arts
29 minutes, Color
Original format: Film: 16mm, 1981
Distributor: Documentary Arts, Inc.
More Film Facts
Streaming only. For other permissions apply to Alan Govenar, Bruce "Pacho" Lane or to the distributor, Documentary Arts, Inc..


Preview one minute trailer - Comment on film


Stoney Knows How is a visit with a master of the oldest art in the world - Tattooing. Disabled by rheumatoid arthritis since the age of four, and forced to use a wheelchair, his growth stunted, Stoney St. Clair (1912 - 1980) joined the circus at 15 as a sword-swallower. A year later, he learned to tattoo, and for the next 50 years, he continued to work as a tattooist traveling with circus and carnivals across the country. As we watch him at work, we see the determination which led Stoney to overcome his handicap to heal himself and others with the magic of symbols. The film ends with a visit by New School master tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy who pays Stoney the highest compliment by asking him for a souvenier tattoo. For more information on the life of Leonard L. "Stoney" St. Clair, see Alan Govenar, Stoney Knows How: Life as a Sideshow Tattoo Artist", Schiffer Publishing, 2003.

For a DVD copy of this film contact http://www.docfilm.com.

Stoney Knows How is an extended interview with 'Stoney' St. Clair, an ebullient little man with the gift of gab of a circus tout and a fund of bizarre stories about tattooing and other matters. One of these is the tale of a Florida snake handler and tattoo artist who was squeezed to death by his own python. His widow made a fortune touring the South with the guilty snake. "After all," says Stoney, "how often do you get a chance to see a snake that's squeezed a man to death?" Not often, nor does one often have the opportunity to meet a man like Stoney. The film makers treat him with respect, fondness and appreciation, and he responds in kind.
--- Vincent Canby, The New York Times

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