Born in 1892 in the Surrey district of England, Horace Ridler came from a well-to-do family and served twice in the British Army as an administrative officer, leaving after World War I as a major. Financially devastated, he decided to devote himself to show business. In 1922, he approached a tattooist who called himself Chinese and began to become a tattooed attraction ? with very crude tattoos, he made a modest living performing in show and fairs. But it was in 1927, when he visited the famous tattoo artist George Burchett, that Ridler began his great transformation, planning to become the biggest tattooed attraction in the modern world. The project was so bold that Burchett made Ridler and his wife sign a term of commitment before he started tattooing, fearing the subject 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 the tattoos, Burchett revealed that he had only charged $3,000 and that the amount was never paid in full. Covering his previous tattoos, the tribal motif went from head to toe, and Ridler's image was supplemented with ear and septum enlargements ? the latter done by a veterinarian. He also hired a dentist to grind his teeth into sharp points. Adopting the pseudonym The Great Omior "The Great Omi". He was also called "Zebra Man", because of the stripes on his body, which resembled the animal's hair patterns.

He soon received proposals from several circuses and shows and, as the years went by, she started to improve her outfit, also using lipstick and nail polish on her long fingernails. When signing her cards and photos, she always wrote ?Barbaric Beauty? (?barbaric beauty?).

Before going on stage, he was introduced by his wife, Gladys Ridler, who adopted the nickname The Omette. The number of The Great Omi consisted of a monologue, in which Omi told great stories about her life ? freaksto come up with whimsical, action-packed life stories to win over and surprise the audience. One of the stories regarding 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 Fairthat would take place in Queens. Along with other attractions hired by  John Hix?s OdditoriumOmi was invited to perform in the Ripley's Odditorium Theaterwhere the Ripley's Believe It or Notbefore it became a television show. Working for Ripley for six months as the main star, Omi would make as many as nine or ten shows per day!

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


  • Original text by Francine Oliveira at the late Tattoo Tattoo

Comments are closed.