Cartoon boobs make Vancouver sad

The sticker reads “all selfish guys” and depicts a man’s penis dangling between the blades of a pair of scissors. This sticker, thrown onto his billboard by a lesbian couple, represents the only complaint West Coast Tattoo owner Thomas Lockhart has received in the “ten or fifteen years” he has used his storefront billboard, a wooden sign that features the painted upper body of a naked woman.

Despite not receiving any complaints in the decade-plus he has used the sign, both at his previous Davie street location and now at his East Hastings shop, Lockhart was visited this November by two men who he described as “dressed up in little blue outfits and shit.”

“Two of them came in,” said Lockhart, describing the visit, “at first I thought they were cops.” In fact, the men worked for the city, and had come to inform Lockhart that they had received a complaint about his sign, which he now must remove from the sidewalk. Failing to do so would result in fines Lockhart says are “now up to 250, possibly up to 10, 000 [dollars],” something he doesn’t seem to worry about, laughing as he says “as soon as they left, I put [the sign] right back out.”

Lockhart believes that his sign was targeted because of his store’s location on a major Olympic route. “We knew over a year ago where the main streets were for the venues. They’re using facilities up here like the PNE grounds, so I personally think it was more of an anti-Olympic cleanup thing.”

Theresa Beer, a City spokeswoman, disagrees, saying that the complaint was simply about “the content of the sign from a woman with young children” and that it was evaluated “in the context of the neighbourhood.” Despite her denial, the city’s actions raise the question “why now?” and the stew of vague government officials, threats of repercussions, and a sludgy layer of bureaucracy paints Lockhart as a Kafkaesque character, as if Josef K. had appeared in Vancouver with shoulder length hair and a body covered in tattoos.

Another criticism of Lockhart was recently painted on the CBC evening news, where West Coast Tattoo and Lululemon were accused of “ambush marketing” by VANOC and supported reporter Chris Brown, who condescendingly decried businesses like Lockhart’s, who he said unfairly use the Olympics to their advantage without paying for sponsorship.

The accusations of “ambush marketing” stem from a promotion that offers a free Olympic themed tattoo for Canadian medal winners. Personally, I think our medal winners should be treated as heroes for the incredible sacrifices they make and should be lauded with gifts of beer, fame, and free product. Lockhart is willing to step up and give his product away for free, and the publicity he gains from that is well deserved.

Luckily for Lockhart, it’s something he’s shrewdly managed to capitalize on. Basically, what he has done with both complaints is use a minor issue to generate major publicity for his shop, something he freely admits to, sagely stroking his beard as he told me how he responded to the city’s visit: “Well, I don’t have a huge advertising budget, and I can sniff publicity. So I said, ‘gimme your card!’”

Although some don’t feel this type of advertising is morally right, it seems completely justified until VANOC and the IOC clean up their own act. Until then, it remains a battle of hypocritical money-governed corporations refusing the locals the same liberties and advantages they use to further their own products (did James Cameron use this for the plot of Avatar?), and I will continue to wish happy hunting to people like Thomas Lockhart, who gamely take on these massive organizations with nothing more than a well-drawn pair of tits.

//Mac Fairbairn


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