CBC Digital Archives

Doc Forbes, tattoo artist

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A dagger, an eagle, a lovebird, a rose: if you want one inked into your skin, Doc Forbes is the man to see in Victoria, B.C. The nearby naval base in Esquimalt sends Doc a steady stream of sailors, but his clientele isn't limited to any particular segment of society. In this 1964 profile called The Diary of a Tattooist, CBC host Harry Mannis meets a mother of four, an 82-year-old man, Doc's lady friend Helen and two sailors as they sit in Doc's chair. He even submits to the needle himself -- but no ink! -- just to find out how it feels.
• In a 1958 Globe and Mail profile, Toronto tattoo artist Sailor Joe Simmons said there were only three tattoo artists then working in Canada: himself, Charlie Snow in Halifax and Doc Forbes, "out near the navy base on Vancouver Island."

• Doc Forbes moved to Vancouver the same year this profile aired, setting up shop on Davie Street and tattooing there until 1977.

• "No ordinary tattooist, 'Doc' Forbes has been called upon by medical authorities to assist in plastic surgery by re-colouring discoloured areas of skin with a carefully matched pigment, tattooing eyebrows on a fire victim, or introducing natural colour to lips left colourless by skin-grafting." -- CBC Times program schedule, May 2-8, 1964.
Medium: Television
Program: 20/20
Broadcast Date: May 3, 1964
Host: Harry Mannis
Guest: Doc Forbes
Duration: 28:16

Last updated: August 25, 2014

Page consulted on August 25, 2014

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