Tattooing A to Z #10: Charles “Cash” Cooper

Charles “Cash” Cooper: “Professor” – “Cash the Rash”

Charles “Cash” Cooper was born in 1927, and he was tattooing at Piccadilly Circus in the 1950s and 1960s in what has been called “the smallest tattoo booth in the world”, at the Sports Garden, Coventry Street, which was under the stairs of the arcade. After the London years he moved to open a tattoo studio in Manchester in the north of England. Cash returned to London in 1978 and set up a tattooing booth in the back of a Handbag shop at 22a Wardour Street, Soho. Sadly, Cash passed away the following year, 1979, in his armchair at the shop.

Cooper got his first tattoo during his time in the military, like many other English men. When he was in the British Navy, other sailors showed him how to do hand-poke tattoos with low-tech homemade tools. “In the Navy, they don’t have electric needles – he explains – an ordinary needle, with a beer-cork handle, is used to stab out the designs. Various printing inks, including India ink, are pressed into the wounds, which may fester uncomfortably for several weeks before healing”. Cash had better equipment at his tattoo parlor in London’s Leicester Square, which was a downscale “fun fair” area in 1964.

Cash Cooper, watercolor by Pepe
Cash Cooper, watercolor by Pepe

In 1964 in America, England and other “civilized” countries, tattoos were much less socially acceptable than they are today, especially on women. Apparently, even Cash Cooper dissed some women who wanted tattoos, or at least their taste. In the 1964 Men in Danger article, Cooper is quoted as saying: “There’s two kinds of women, usually, who ask for strange tattoos: the frustrated type who can’t get a man, and the older type who feels that her natural charms are no longer enough”.

A little anecdote: Cash Cooper tattooed a mustache onto his own upper lip in the 1960s after hearing that a local newspaper was going to run a competition to find the person with the most unique tattoo in Great Britain. But Cooper was later disgusted when he heard that the prize was a box of chocolates and refused to enter. Cash ended up growing a real mustache over his tattooed one.