Stoney Knows How (1981)

About the Film

Stoney Knows How is a visit with a master of the oldest art in the world - Tattooing. Disabled by rheumatoid arthritis since the age of four, and forced to use a wheelchair, his growth stunted, Stoney St. Clair (1912 - 1980) joined the circus at 15 as a sword-swallower. A year later, he learned to tattoo, and for the next 50 years, he continued to work as a tattooist traveling with circus and carnivals across the country. As we watch him at work, we see the determination which led Stoney to overcome his handicap to heal himself and others with the magic of symbols. The film ends with a visit by New School master tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy who pays Stoney the highest compliment by asking him for a souvenier tattoo. For more information on the life of Leonard L. "Stoney" St. Clair, see Alan Govenar, Stoney Knows How: Life as a Sideshow Tattoo Artist", Schiffer Publishing, 2003.

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More About This Film


  • CINE Golden Eagle; London Film Festival; Filmex; Margaret Mead Festival; Museum of Modern Art; Cinéma du Reel (Paris); Edinburgh Film Festival; Ann Arbor Film Festial.


For licensing, film rights and permissions, contact Alan Govenar, Bruce "Pacho" Lane, the distributor Documentary Arts, Inc., or Folkstreams.