Born in 1892 in the Surrey district of England, Horace Ridler came from a wealthy family and twice served in the British Army as administrative officer, leaving after World War I as major. Financially devastated, he decided to devote himself to show business. In 1922, he approached a Chinese-styled tattoo artist and began to turn into a tattooed attraction - with very crude tattoos, he made a modest living by performing at a show and fairs. But it was in 1927, when he visited the famous tattoo artist George Burchett, that Ridler began his major transformation, planning to become the largest tattooed attraction in the modern world. The project was so bold that Burchett had Ridler and his wife sign a pledge before they started getting tattoos, fearing that the guy would regret it.

In all, the process of covering Ridler's body with black stripes took about 150 hours! Although Ridler said in interviews that he spent $10,000 on tattoos, Burchett revealed that he had charged only $3,000 and that the amount was never paid in full. Covering his previous tattoos, the tribal motif ran from head to toe, and Ridler's image was complemented with ear and septum widening - the latter done by a veterinarian. He also hired a dentist to sand his teeth, making them pointy. Adopting the pseudonym of The great omi, or "The Great Omi." It was also called the "Zebra Man" because of the body stripes that resembled the animal's hair patterns.

Soon received proposals from various circuses and shows and over the years he began to improve his attire by also using lipstick and nail polish on his long nails. When signing his cards and photos, he always wrote “Barbaric beauty”(“ Barbaric beauty ”).

Before entering the stage, was introduced by his wife, Gladys Ridler, who adopted the nickname of The Omette. The number of The great omi consisted of a monologue in which Omi told great stories about his life - it was common for freaksinvent brave, action-packed life stories to conquer and surprise audiences. One of the stories about Omi's body modifications would be that he had been captured in New Guinea and tortured through tattoos.

In 1939 Omi and his wife arrived in New York to perform at the World's Fair, which would happen in Queens. Along with other attractions hired by the  John Hix's Odditorium, they were seen by over twenty million visitors and soon after Omi was invited to perform at Ripley's Odditorium Theaterwhere the Ripley's Believe It or Not, before becoming a television show (known in Brazil as "Believe it or not"). Working for Ripley for six months as the star, Omi was nine or ten shows per day!

In 1940 Omi traveled with the circuses Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and in 1941 he performed in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. In 1942, he also toured before returning to England. With the advance of World War II, he tried to enlist in the army again, but was rejected because of the visible tattoos. In a war-torn England, Omi donated his services, performing at charity events and on behalf of the troops. He continued to perform until the early 1950s, retiring at the height of fame. He died in 1969 in Sussex.


  • Original text by Francine Oliveira in the late Tattoo Tattoo

Tattoos, motorcycles, graffiti, music are some of my passions and my main topics on BlendUp.

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