My father has three best friends, Billy, Buddy and Dever. He once told me that he felt much closer to them than he feels to his real brothers, and these men became my “uncles,” sending me presents, checking in on me (to this day), and generally being funny and weird. I love them all, though I only get to see one of them semi-regularly these days.
When I was a little girl, Daddy and Uncle Dever conspired to teach me a song. It was the first song I ever memorized, and once I had it down, Daddy would drag me out at parties and have me sing it to his friends. It must have been adorable to hear a tiny girl singing a colorful and rather bawdy song. However, at the time I didn’t know what I was singing – just that it had great visuals and got a roaring crowd response.
The song? The Tattooed Lady. The lyrics I was taught go something like this:
I went to town to see / that old tattooed lady / she was a sight to see / tattooed from head to knee. My Uncle Ned was there / he came to fetch a stare. “Never!” he declared / “have I seen a freak so bare.” And on her jaw / was a royal lion’s paw / and on her back was a union jack / and could you ask for more? And up and down her spine / there grew a garden vine / and over her left kidney / was a bird’s eye-view of Sydney. Around her hips / sailed a fleet of battleships / but on her chest / what I like best / is a home in Waikiki!
The lyrics are somewhat close to a Kingston Trio song of the same name, but not exactly. I figure Daddy and Dever must have learned their version at boy scout camp when they were teenagers.
Either way, the song had an unintended consequence for them: I grew up idolizing tattooed ladies, and desperately wanting to be one.