Oxford man leads 'ink'redible life
Little hands, a blond mop and a big smile lurk at the bottom of the narrow white steps leading to Vertigo Tattoo and Body Piercing, 117 E. High St.
"My name is Myles: M-Y-L-E-S," Myles Napier Cupp said while playing with an Angry Bird toy. "Dad, that picture looks like an angry bird!"
Myles stood on tip-toe to point at a painting of a parrot and looked to his dad, Steve Cupp.
"You can't work here unless you are artistically talented," Cupp said, gesturing toward a string of portraits, including Freddy Krueger and Jimi Hendrix. "All of the paintings you see here are paintings that I did. I'm kind of burnt out on them because I throw out like 30 in a year."
Cupp has owned Vertigo since it arrived in Oxford 16 years ago, and said it will soon be a fully functional art gallery. Only two years beforehand was his first tattoo experience.
"I was in college... I took some of our slush money to take a speech class. I was married," Cupp said. "[I thought], 'If I get a tattoo, I can do a speech on getting a tattoo-and I can get a tattoo!'"
Those 18 years ago, when getting his tattoo, the artist asked Cupp if he wanted to learn how it was done.
"Of course I said no," Cupp said. "Then he wouldn't teach me for a long time because I wasn't enthusiastic about it right away."
Myles sang and hummed face down on the long, black tattoo bed on which his father has created myriad tattoos.
"I've done just about anything you can imagine," Cupp said. "I've tattooed people just about every place you could think of."
"Last Thursday, I came in and there was a lady, she was born in 1952." Cupp chuckled. "She was so dry - her skin was so dry - it took me probably twice as long to keep from cutting her open."
Cupp said the most bizarre tattoo he has ever given was a face tattoo.
"No, no," Cupp said, when asked if it was a Mike Tyson-esque tattoo. "But right after Mike Tyson lost his last fight, I did a portrait of Mike Tyson on a guy that worked at Skippers."
Cupp said at first, he turned away a man who came to his parlor looking to tattoo half his face in order to look like a character from a "Star Trek" spinoff.
"[I said], 'Your life is over-it's over; it's finished if you get tattooed,'" Cupp said. "[But], He persisted and persisted and I ended up doing it."
Cupp said he was worried when he saw the man return a couple of weeks later.
"I saw him coming and thought, 'Oh man, he's realized and he wants to yell at me,'" Cupp said. "And he wanted me to add shading to it."
Cupp said it's been 10 years since he last saw him.
"I have not heard from him; I have not heard of him," Cupp said. "In this business, word of mouth is key. You would think someone would come to me and say, 'Hey, I saw that face tattoo you did.' And that way I could ask them if he killed himself."
Cupp's phone rang in the front pocket of his short-sleeve button down. Myles tried to answer it, but Cupp smiled and told his son he was busy.
Cupp said Vertigo, located under Bagel and Deli, has left their mark at the bagel shop with one of their own sandwich creations.
"We have our own bagel up there. I don't like it." Cupp shrugged. "It's called The Vertigo. But I like the Italian."
Cupp gestures to a wall of celebrity headshots opposite the wall of paintings.
"I've met everybody up there except Cesar Romero and Whoopi," Cupp said. "[I] met Marilyn Munster, she was a sweet old lady. Butch Patrick was next to her. He played Eddie Munster. He was a jerk."
When asked about a signed picture of a notoriously bundled-up Randy from A Christmas Story, Cupp laughed.
"Weird kid," Cupp said. "I mean nobody cared about this guy."
However, Goldberg's headshot was a longer, more flavorful story.
"Believe it or not, but at some point in time I was writing a book about soup," Cupp said. "I went online and found everybody's address that I wanted to ask initially and I sent them a form and asked them to fill it out: what kind of soup do you like? It was really stupid: nobody responded."
A few months later, Whoopi sent back an autographed headshot and no soup form.
"I never asked her for it."
"Where was I going to go with that?" Cupp asked. "It'd be a year of my life for nothing. And I only got like two good soup recipes anyway."
Thankfully, Cupp stuck to tattooing.
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