PORTLAND NEEDS WILLAMETTE WEEK.
NOW WILLAMETTE WEEK NEEDS YOU.

The need for strong, independent local journalism
is more urgent than ever. Please support the city we
love by joining Friends of Willamette Week.

Portland Is One of the Only Places Where Breast Cancer Patients Can Get Nipple Tattooing, Covered By Insurance

Mary Jane Haake is Portland's Best Nipple Tattooist.

You'll probably only get tattooed by Mary Jane Haake for one of three reasons: You're a die-hard tattoo fan who's heard about her work for years; you're a regular client, like the Portland SWAT team; or you're a medical patient.

Haake has been a staple of the Portland tattoo scene since the 1980s—she was featured in WW's 1986 Best of Portland issue for "Best Tattoo Parlour." But since then, Haake has become a pioneer in medical tattooing, as one of only two tattoo artists in the country credentialed by insurance companies to give reconstructive tattoos for mastectomy.

Haake tattoos more than 2,500 women each year, who come from all over the country for her to color-correct and tattoo nipples to post-surgical breasts that have lost theirs.

"This is a surgical site," she says pointing to a photo of a mangled, discolored breast crafted to look like a small mountain by a doctor. She then points to a photo of the same breasts, with perfectly-painted nipples; it looks 3-D: "And this is a set of boobs. It's just like oil painting."

Haake, who lives in a huge Pearl District apartment with floor-to-ceiling plants and—at least on our visit—America's "I Need You" blasting, first found tattooing in her late 20s. After moving to Portland in 1976 with her third ex-husband, she worked for a law office during the day and took painting and sculpture classes at night at Pacific Northwest College of Art. For one assignment, she was told to walk into any building and think about how what is in there could be art. So she wandered into a tattoo shop in 1970s Old Town.

"I'm Bert Grimm, and I've tattooed more people than anyone in the world," a 78-year-old man greeted her when she walked inside. He was eating a tuna fish sandwich and drinking a glass of whiskey. Grimm had tattooed the entire circus casts of Barnum & Bailey, along with Bonnie and Clyde.

Haake was mesmerized. She went back that night after work and got her very first tattoo, a cabbage flower on her upper thigh. She later became the first person in the U.S. to receive a college degree in tattooing.

During her apprenticeship with Grimm, she learned the art of medical tattooing by watching him tattoo World War I victims, camouflaging scars from gas wounds and burns. She went on to work in the burn unit at Emanuel Hospital, a major credential that led to her getting authorized to do work for insurance companies. But if patients don't have insurance, Haake barters. Many women will cook lasagna for her, cut her hair or give her manicures.

"It changes your life," she says of the work she does with medical patients. "Why would I do anything else?"

Best of Portland 2017

This Year, More Than Ever, It's Important to Stop and Take Note of Everything That Makes Portland What It Is

Here are the Winners of the Best of Portland Readers' Poll 2017

Here are the Things WW Declared "The Best" in the Last 12 Months

Inside Mall 205, You'll Find Oregon's Last Remaining Magic Shop

Portland's Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them

A Vancouver Man Bought Naked Falls Swimming Hole, So He Could Re-Open It to the Public

Rodney Scott Puts On Portland's Greatest Indie Firework Show

Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art

Two College Students Started An Organization to Provide Bras and Underwear to Homeless Women

Jim Hipsher Is Portland's Greatest Live Book of Poetry

These Two Women Make Showing Up for Jury Duty A Lot Less Terrible

On Northeast Broadway, You Can Learn Boxing From Two-Time World Champ Molly "Fearless" McConnell

Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course

Did You Know You Can Play a 9-Hole Portland-Themed Mini-Golf Course?

Seven Years Ago, New Trail Blazer Caleb Swanigan Was 360 Pounds and Living in Homeless Shelters

Each Week, a Group Goes to Laurelhurst Park to Throw Axes Through the Air—And They're Really Good

Portland Now Has a Nonprofit That Gives Kids Access to Free Pinball

Marathon Taverna Hosts Portland's Best Late-Night Raffle, Giving Away T-Shirts and 100-Level Blazers Tickets

The City of Portland Made a Sign Reading "Heartbreak Dead Ahead"

There's a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore "Forest" on Division Street

You Can Get a Pre-Addressed Letter to Trump from Paymaster Lounge's Vending Machine

A Local Business Totally Trolled Willamette Week—And It Was Awesome

The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland's Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists

Division Street's Oregon Theater Is Portland's Greatest NSFW Twitter Account

There's a Library in Vancouver Full of Hundreds of Books That Have Never Been Published, And Never Will Be

Alberta Street's American Legion Post 134 Went Rogue—Inviting Homeless In and Hosting LGBTQ Nights

Beaverton's Spectra Gymnastics Provides Play Spaces for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

There's a Hidden, Underground Sculpture Inside the Standard Insurance Center in Downtown Portland

One of the Oldest Retail Businesses in the City is a 127-Year-Old Woman-Owned Costume Shop—Now, It's in Danger of Closing

In the Portland Area's Wealthiest Neighborhood Lies a Hidden, Public Scottish Garden As Large as the Japanese Garden

The Zymoglyphic Museum is a Self-Contained World of Rogue Taxidermy and Steampunk

Every Sunday, Portland Hosts a Real-Life "Fast and the Furious"

Portland's Best Daycaction is a Cheap Flight to Pendleton, Where the Cowboys Still Walk The Streets

Oregon City's Tim Kovar Is one of the Nation's Foremost Tree-Climbing Experts

Hero Punk Stole the Satyricon Sign and Sold it to VooDoo Doughnut Owner in Exchange for Lifetime Doughnuts

High School Junior Won a Major Science Competition in the World By Investigating Where Portland's Fish Went

Who Do You Call When Your Goat Is Throwing Up? Portland's Go-To Goat Doctor, Of Course

Meet the Portland Poodle Who Dresses Better Than You

Every Saturday, A Train Runs Through Oaks Bottom, Making Birdwatching Actually Fun

Right Now, Three Dogs Living at a Southeast Portland Dispensary Are High on CBD Dog Treats

Feeling Sad Lately? Snuggle Up to One of Portland's Therapy Bunnies

Pet Barn Will Watch Your Boa Constrictor While You're Out of Town, But Not Your Dog

In the '90s, Two Portland Teenagers Aired Old WWF Matches. Now, They Have a Treasure Trove of Wrestling Archives

Portland Science Rapper Coma Niddy Has the Best Rhymes About Black Holes You've Ever Heard

There is a Secret Willamette River Bridge Most Portlanders Have Forgotten Exists

Hero Portland Man Built an 8-Foot Tall Multnomah Falls Out of LEGOs

There's An Alley in North Portland Where Robots Will Call Out To You

Daddy Mojo's Has the Finest Gallery of Signed Celebrity Memorabilia of Any Bar in Portland

Portland's Black Book Guitars Owner Has Tracked Down Guitars from Elliot Smith and Kurt Cobain

Thank God for the Los Cactus Food Cart, Which, For 14 Years Has Fed Junkyard Customers for Cheap

Two Portlanders Created a Willy Wonka-Style Edible Forest Near Milwaukie

Portland's Best Bagelmaker Was Saved By Someone in Line at WinCo—Now, He's Repaying Strangers' Kindness

You and Your Friends Can Drink for Free for an Hour on Your Birthday at This Portland Bar

The Portland-Area Finally Has Hong Kong-Style Ice Cream Bubble Waffles

Yes, There Is a Place in Portland Where You Can Try Witches' Brews and Heal Yourself with a Fire Pit

Portland's Best Fritters Come From Donut Queen on 58th and East Burnside

When a Pro-Trump Rally Came to Portland, a Good Samaritan Helped Calm the Tension By Handing Out Free Weed

If You Haven't Noticed Yet, the Trail Blazers Twitter Account is on Fire

The New Market of Choice On Belmont Has The Very Best Grocery Store Beer Selections We've Ever Seen

Yes, There a Secret Underground Bowling Alley in the Center of Portland

When Portland Saw Snowstorms, the National Weather Service Twitter Became Our 24/7 Therapist