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Jack Dracula fades away

It is fitting that a man who lived an underground life should die without notice in any newspaper. Or at least any notice that I could find.

Jack Dracula, aka Jack Martin, Jack Baker and Barcelona Jack, the man with somewhere around 400 tattoos on his face and body, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, in a Philadelphia nursing home after eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream. He was 75.

Or so the blogs report.

I only learned of his death this week, from my friend Dan Pierce, owner and operator of The Whaling City Tattoo Museum on Green Street.

Jack, who performed in freak shows in Times Square and on Coney Island, walked the streets of New London for four years, from 1958 to 1962. Perhaps it's a testament to how wild the city was back then that such a man never merited a story in The New London Evening Day.

It was in New London that Jack found, and lost, the great love of his life, a waitress named Lillian Devona. When I first asked Jack for an interview, he agreed, with two conditions: that I bring him two cheeseburgers from McDonald's, and I find out what happened to Lillian.

When I went to the nursing home and told him she was dead, his eyes filled with tears.

"I was hoping she'd still be alive," he said. "I've missed Lillian all these years. I don't know about other people, but she and I had the romance of the century."

Their love affair was tempestuous, ending with her aiming her car at his tattoo shop at 64 Bank St., preparing to ram it.

He remembered her fearsome jealousy when Diane Arbus, the famous photographer, took a now iconic picture of Jack, shirtless, lying on his side in a vacant lot on Bank Street.

But for one hot summer, the summer of '61, he was truly, for the first and only time of his life, in love.

"Ah, those were the days," he said. "I wish I could live one more weekend with Lillian."

The minute their eyes met, he said, sparks flew. How many times in a life, I asked him, does that happen?

"It's supposed to happen once," Jack said, and then he paused, staring off into the distance. "Yeah," he said. "Once was enough."

This is the opinion of Kenton Robinson.


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