MORE than 300 people gathered at Venice Beach in Los Angeles in memory of Worksop man and tattooist John ‘Swag’ Knowles.
Surfers paddled out into the Pacific Ocean to mark the emotional occasion for John who passed away suddenly in Los Angeles on 2nd December from a brain aneurysm, aged just 45.
Film maker Hso Hkam captured the moving ceremony on 9th December, attended by hundreds of people including John’s dad, also called John, and wife Patti.
John moved to the United States in 1993 and soon established his tattooing career, enjoying a whole host of clients including Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg and Dominic Purcell of Prison Break fame.
John even became firm friends with actress Whoopi Goldberg who lived opposite his tattoo parlour in Los Angeles.
This week his dad, also called John, 74, of Royds Crescent, Rhodesia, paid tribute to a ‘marvellous’ son who touched many people’s lives through his artwork, love of tattooing and sharp sense of humour.
“John had a great attitude to life and a brilliant comical wit. He made friends with everyone he met,” he said.
“It just showed how popular he was by the paddle-out the surfers did for him at Venice Beach. It’s not something they normally do and there were over 300 people there.”
Dad John said his son travelled to the States in 1993 and loved it so much he set up home there.
“He went there on holiday for two weeks and never came back. He really loved the weather and lifestyle out there,” he said.
“He met another Worksop man and tattooist Andrew Neville and started working for him, setting up his own Tattoo Lounge business with wife Patti in 2006.”
John said he was lucky to be able to make regular trips to the US and enjoyed many amazing holidays with his son.
“He was always the perfect host and never let me do a thing. He always used to cook for me and took me to Vegas, San Francisco and Arizona,” he said.
“I went out 25 times in total. We are both Scorpios with birthdays in November, so I often used to go out then - we had some great times.”
As well as shared birthday months, the pair also shared the same name, including the nickname Swag.
Said John: “It came from my brother who was called Stephen Winston Arthur Gwilliam and it just stuck.”
“When I used to go to the States, they used to say: ‘Little Swag, Big Swag has come to visit’.”
John’s eye for tattooing detail and design earnt him many loyal and happy customers over the years.
Said his dad: “He was really good at photography tattoos and had a great talent for them.”
“He also had some great tattoos of his own, including one of his landlord on one leg and one of me as a Mad Hatter on the other.”
“He was also a massive Beatles fan and was a Star Wars fanatic, and had a big statue of Darth Vader.”
He was also popular among his colleagues at the Tattoo Lounge, including Jake Cavaliere who said he was like ‘a brother’.
“Swag basically pulled me out of a hole. I had hit rock bottom and he was willing to give me a chance.” he said.
“He was so generous and fun to be around. I am eternally grateful, and glad I had a chance to get closer to him.”
John leaves his wife Patti, daughter Jessica, brothers Craig and Mark, and sisters Melanie, Melissa and Deborah.
Patti said he was her ‘one true love’ and that he will live in her heart forever.
“He was my husband, my best friend, the love of my life. My life began when I met him, he made my heart smile with his beautiful blue eyes and his funny smile,” she said.
“He was always making people laugh even when he was making fun of himself.”
“He had the kindest and biggest heart of anyone I know, always giving to others without ever expecting anything in return, a true gentlemen.”
You can also see Hso Hkam’s video by visiting: www.youtube.com/user/hsohkam