Tough times no sweat for Sailor Cher

By Jill Houser |
Photo by Jill Houser

Sailor Cher is not afraid of losing her job.

She curses and struts around in a mini skirt and stilettos, proudly displaying the colorful ink all over her body. At age 57, Sailor Cher has such a confident and vivacious personality that is hard not to stare in wonder.

As the piercer at Ms. Deborah’s Fountain of Youth Tattoo, Sailor Cher said that she hasn’t been hurt by the economy. But she didn’t always want to be in this business. And she wasn’t always covered from eyebrows to ankles in tattoos.

Sailor Cher grew up in Maryland in what she describes as a privileged childhood. Her father worked for NASA and he and her mother took their kids to theaters and symphonies. After high school, Sailor Cher joined the Navy to get to California. She became a journalist and found herself reporting in Vietnam.

“I loved being a journalist,” Sailor Cher said. “But just ‘cuz your good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it.”

After the Navy she did other jobs in the news industry. At one point she was a beer vendor on Blacks Beach, a nude beach in California. She met her current husband at the nude beach.

When she moved to St. Augustine, Sailor Cher opened up a clothing store near Flagler College. When Ms. Deborah met her, though, she immediately tried to recruit Sailor Cher to work at the shop. “Ew! I don’t want to touch people!” Sailor Cher remembers saying.

Ms. Deborah gave Sailor Cher her very first tattoo 15 years ago and they became good friends. Finally, Sailor Cher gave in and decided to give piercing a try. “From the instant—the instant I started my apprenticeship, it was like second nature to me.”

From the art of body modification to her gift of being able to put people at ease, Sailor Cher loves everything about her job. She tells stories of women who spontaneously come into her shop straight from the courthouse to get something pierced that their ex-husbands wouldn’t have allowed before.

Sailor Cher loves being the small support that gets someone through the day.

Others, she said, have been waiting for the day they turn 18. “They pay me in nickels and dimes and quarters and dollar bills because they’ve saved their money. And for them to come to me to facilitate that is a privilege.”

Sailor Cher is now in an apprenticeship to become a tattoo artist, but piercing will always be her first love. Not only does she love her job because of the money she’s raking in, even in the recession, but also simply from the pure joy of being a part of her clients’ piercing experiences.

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