Freddy Negrete on Addiction Unlimited Podcast

Freddy Negrete Bio

Legendary tattoo artist Freddy Negrete is best known for his pioneering black-and-gray tattoo style, honed while serving time in the California State Prison system during a youth mired in abuse, gang life, and drug addiction. His “prison-style” designs eventually found their way out onto the streets of East LA and, in 1980, he created a piece that earned him a Tattoo Artist of the Year award. Freddy has been featured in the History Channel’s Marked series, in the documentary Tattoo Nation, on Spike TV’s Inkmaster as a guest judge, and in numerous print and online media. He has worked as a technical consultant and tattoo artist on over 30 Hollywood films including BatmanBladeCon AirFalling Down and Austin Powers. He currently works at The Shamrock Social Club on the Sunset Strip with his son, Isaiah and has been a volunteer counselor at the Beit T’Shuvah residential treatment center for almost 10 years. His memoir, Smile Now, Cry Later, cowritten with Steve Jones, was released in 2016.

Freddy Negrete Wiki:


Instagram: freddy_negrete


Addiction Unlimited Podcast Full Transcript: 

Angela Pugh: 

Hey everybody, welcome to the Addiction Unlimited podcast. I’m your host, Angela Pugh, recording today from the beautiful Hollywood California and I want to say thank you to La Fuenta Hollywood Treatment Center for giving us a space to record. We appreciate that. You might hear some traffic noise in the background. We are in the heart of Hollywood so there’s nothing we can do about the traffic.

Angela Pugh:

Today’s guest, I’m so excited for you guys to hear a little bit of this story. It’s so good. Freddy Negrete is joining us. Freddy’s book is Smile Now, Cry Later: Guns, Gangs, and Tattoos-My Life in Black and Gray.

Angela Pugh:                   Freddy, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here with us.

Freddy Negrete:              Thank you for having me.

Angela Pugh:                   Absolutely. Tell us a little about you and what you do.

Freddy Negrete: 

You got that tattoo artist part right, but I’m actually best known for pioneering the style of tattoo called black and gray realism. It’s has it’s roots in Chicano, [Cholo 00:01:01], [Vario 00:01:01] scene of East LA in the 70s. That was my life. I was a Chicano gang member. We gave the world, khakis and pendletons and bandannas, graffiti and tattoos.

Angela Pugh:                   And tattoos, there you go.

Freddy Negrete:

I was born with art ability so … and as a young Chicano, we had certain images that were really important to us like the clown girl and the Charo girl with the sombrero and the gun belt. Aztec imagery, religious Catholic images, crosses, roses, Jesus, Mary, things like that. And writing. Because we were very big on who you were and where we were from. And then spending most of my life in institutions, I developed my own style of art and then in prison learned how to tattoo with the homie tattoo machine in there. And when I got out, I started tattooing out of my apartment, meanwhile a tattoo shop opened up in East LA and found that everybody wanted tattoos, but they wanted their tattoos to look like they were done in prison. They wanted the Chicano style.

Angela Pugh:                   Right. You actually learned to tattoo in prison?

Freddy Negrete:              Yes.

Angela Pugh:                   Okay. What is the … how do you tattoo? What is a tattoo gun like in prison?

Freddy Negrete: 

It’s funny because the machine that they use most today is a rotary machine and it’s based off of that prison design. Basically it’s a motor that you break out of a CD player or back then it was a cassette player. You use a toothbrush, a Bic pen, a sharpened guitar string, tape, and that motor, and a paperclip. That’s what you need to build a homemade tattoo machine. And it’s pretty efficient.

Angela Pugh:                   Is it much more painful?

Freddy Negrete:              Than the regular?

Angela Pugh:                   Than regular.

Freddy Negrete:              It all hurts.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              You’re poking the skin so it all kind of hurts.

Angela Pugh: 

I feel like when I got my tattoo, it was almost more annoying than painful. And I thought it was going to be really painful because it’s right on my spine between my shoulders and I thought being on the bone … I thought it was going to be really bad, but it wasn’t … it didn’t hurt that bad. But after a period of time, I was like, “Alright, can we get through this now?” It just started to be annoying.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. I mean tattoos aren’t that painful, because so many people wouldn’t get them if it was.

Angela Pugh:               Right. Right. But people do say different areas are more painful than other areas, I’m sure.

Freddy Negrete:          Right. And I think … was that your first tattoo?

Angela Pugh:                Yes.

Freddy Negrete:           So your first tattoo is the least painful because everybody likes to scare you and tell you how painful it is.

Angela Pugh:                   You’re so prepared.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, yeah.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And you’re expecting the worst and then you realize it’s not that bad. But it never gets easier after that.

Angela Pugh:                   Right, right.

Freddy Negrete:              Each tattoo after that hurts more and more and more.

Angela Pugh:                   I stopped at one, so …

Freddy Negrete:              Maybe you’re not an addict.

Angela Pugh: 

Maybe. Maybe that’s … maybe tattoos are the only other addiction I can’t get to stick. I can’t get exercise to stick either, that’s the other one I don’t have. In your journey, what was … at what point did you realize that you had a problem with drugs and alcohol?

Freddy Negrete:  

I guess I kind of always knew. As a youngster in the hood and all that, we were all down on heroine and hard drugs like that because the older homeboys would do it and it would seem to take them out of the loop. All of a sudden they were in the cut and just sneaky and just concerned about their dope habit, whereas we were involved in this gang war.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, sure.

Freddy Negrete:              And they would go so far as to even fraternize with the enemy …

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:  

… over drug deals and stuff like that. We were mostly … we drank and there were barbiturates around, we smoked weed. I never really felt like I had a drug problem, until I became one of those older guys and started using heroine. I was about 22 when I started, so I was a late bloomer on that. And every time I would get addicted because I had this process that I’d go through. I knew it was a problem and when it was taking control of my life, what we would do is go to the methadone clinic and get on methadone. I would usually stay a year. I think the longest, maybe two years doing the methadone maintenance program. And then I’d detox and then I would chip … for a long time, I thought that I could just get high at picnics and weddings and stuff like that.

Angela Pugh:                   Right. Using drugs socially.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And I don’t know why I’d be at the picnic just nodding out.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              What happened? Did I miss it?

Angela Pugh:                   Amazing how that works. Is it over?

Freddy Negrete:  

Eventually then I would do it every weekend and then once during the week and before you know it, I’d be strung out again. I was always aware that it was a problem and it was causing serious problems in my life. Back then, I don’t remember there ever being a treatment center or a rehab.

Angela Pugh:                   Oh, right. Yeah, I was going to ask you if you went to treatment.

Freddy Negrete:

Yeah, I didn’t even know about it. And I … even when rehabs did become a thing, I was always, “I would never do that”.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete: 

I would never turn myself in somewhere because I was a jailbird, I was always locked up. I would never just willfully go.

Angela Pugh:  

Yeah, right. Right. It’s funny to me how many people think, too … a lot of people have that view of treatment like it’s a locked down facility, you really can’t leave. And when I do interventions, that’s always one of the things I say, “Listen remember, this is not lock down. You’re an adult, you can leave if you want you.”

Freddy Negrete:              Right.

Angela Pugh:

Because people do have that sense of being imprisoned when they go to treatment. I didn’t go to treatment, but for me it was because I thought … I thought treatment was what the celebrities did. I didn’t think that regular people went to treatment.

Freddy Negrete:

Yeah, that’s true also. My first experience with a treatment center … when I got out of prison around 2005. I was on parole and then I gave two dirty tests. And my parole officer, that’s it. And he put me in his car and he took me to this place in the inner city and it was really just inner city jail. It was barbed wire fence around it. We had to stay locked up in our rooms. It was a grueling experience. I ended up just running away from there, but I had to break out.

Angela Pugh:                   Wow. How long were you there?

Freddy Negrete:              Not too long, just a few weeks.

Angela Pugh:                   But it was actually treatment? Or it was supposed to be?

Freddy Negrete:  

It was supposed to be, but it was supported by the parole office and the State of California. And to me, it just seemed like they set up this inner city jail.

Angela Pugh:                   Right, right.

Freddy Negrete:

To where … instead of processing them into jail and violating them, we’re just going to dump them off here.

Angela Pugh:                   Put them over there, yeah.

Freddy Negrete: 

And say, “Okay, you got to stay in there for five months”. And there was no way I was going to stay in there for five months.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              But if you leave, then you get a warrant and …

Angela Pugh:                   It’s a violation.

Freddy Negrete:              … it’s a violation.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete: 

Yeah. So, luckily for me, I found a reason to run away and then I used it on my parole officer. And then I’d tattoo all these Sheriffs and they called my parole officer and told him, “Give him another chance” and stuff. So he did. By that time, I figured out how to use a whizzinator.

Angela Pugh: 

Oh my gosh. The bane of my existence as an owner of sober living. I always have to be aware of the whizzinator.

Freddy Negrete: 

Yeah. And my parole officer was female, so it was really easy. She wasn’t going to watch me go.

Angela Pugh: 

Yeah. I’m the same way. My sober living … I have men’s houses and obviously I can’t do our UAs and our policy is very very strict that someone stands there. So yeah, obviously I can’t do it. But I have to go through the whole thing, no baggy clothing, no hoodies or sweatshirts, there can’t be any way to hide anything.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. One time … this thing was like … it would be this thing is strapped around your waist and there was this pouch and I had to fake pee in there. And you bring out a little tube and you unclip it and fill the bottle. One time I didn’t clip it back right and I was wearing faded Levis and my pants were all wet. And there’s parole officers everywhere and I was like, “I got to get out of here”, you know.

Angela Pugh:                   Oh my gosh. I guess I should probably explain too for listeners that don’t know. The Whizzinator is an apparatus where you keep fake urine in there and like Freddy said, it wraps around your waist, it has a little tube. So when you go in to do a UA, you use the little tube with the fake urine so that you have a negative urine test instead of a positive urine test.

Freddy Negrete:              We’re not trying to put anybody up on game here.

Angela Pugh:                   Right. We don’t want to give anybody the ideas. I’m just saying that’s what it is.

Freddy Negrete:              Don’t do it.

Angela Pugh:                   Don’t do it. It’s ridiculous. For you, what was the hardest thing about getting sober and staying sober?

Freddy Negrete:              Again, I never ever really thought about stopping completely. Later on in life, I found out about speed and so I would mix heroine and speed together. But I would always stop and on and on and off. What really brought me down was in 2004, my son … my youngest son passed away. He was murdered in a gang incident. He was kind of following my footsteps, so I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for that. Not only that, I had a custody battle with his mother and he was living with her in Grover Beach, the Central Coast, beautiful area. And I brought him here to Los Angeles to live with me because I won the custody battle. And he ended up getting murdered. To tell the truth, I wasn’t that great of a father when I brought him here. I let him do his own thing and there was just a tremendous amount of guilt and I just plunged into the worst drug addiction that I had ever been in. I just needed to be loaded at every minute because if not, I’d wake up in the morning thinking about my son and I would just be crying. I just couldn’t take it. But as soon as I did that shot, I didn’t care anymore.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              And so I had to stay like that. And I didn’t want anybody to mention his name. I didn’t want to see a picture of him. I didn’t want to be reminded in any way, I just wanted to stay high. But also, at that same time, my years of drug addiction was taking its toll on my health and so I was also diagnosed with drug induced congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure is usually something that a real big person would get or associated with diabetes.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              So mine was drug induced. At that time, my health was getting really bad. I wasn’t taking any kind of medication that I was supposed to be taking. I was just using heroine and speed. And then eventually I got arrested for possession and I went to prison. Luckily when I went to prison, of course they started giving me the medication for my heart and everything. But when I got out, I went right back to using, right away.

Angela Pugh:                   Right. When you … you mentioned that obviously with the death of your son, your addiction went to a new level, right?

Freddy Negrete:              Right.

Angela Pugh:                   Can you look back over the course of your addiction and kind of see … I can look back from my very beginning now and I can see each point where I kicked it up a notch. You know what I mean? I can see each point … I can see the progression, I guess is what I’m saying where, in the beginning … I always say I was kind of a late bloomer, too. I didn’t drink until a little bit later. I was 20, 21 before I really started drinking. And I never did drugs, I’m just a good old fashioned drunk. But in the beginning, it’s like we would go out to do fun things. We would go to bars, we would go out dancing, whatever and we might have some drinks while we were doing it. And then there was another point, a little bit later where we were going out to drink. That was the point of going out.

Angela Pugh:                   Then there was another time a little bit later where I realized we didn’t do anything that didn’t revolve around drinking. I can just see each point of my progression where it kind of got worse. And then after that, after the place of we don’t do anything that doesn’t involve drinking, the next place was really plunging into the deep end, really drinking with a vengeance when it got really dark and sad and I only lasted there for about three and a half years and then I got sober. But when you look back on your journey, can you see those points in your addiction?

Freddy Negrete:              Yes, I can. Like I was saying where I would try to get high just on certain occasions and then it … I would do it more and more frequently until I was strung out. With that last run that I had, the day the incident happened … because I was just doing speed at the time. And I hadn’t done heroine in years. I did heroine the day of and just didn’t stop. And it really got bad … I had this friend from Seattle. He was a pretty wealthy guy, he owned a construction company and he built businesses and he sold them and stuff. He was going, “Dude, I’m going to come to LA and I’m going to help you build a business. I’m going to help you rebuild your life because of this” … he knew my son really well, we were friends for years. And, “I’m going to help you through this”. But really when he came down, he was having his own escape. He was trying to get away from his wife and his life in Seattle. So he came and rented an apartment where I lived and together him and I just became like these hopeless dope fiends.

Freddy Negrete:              I don’t know if you ever saw that movie with those two twin doctors? It’s a drug movie, but it’s these two doctors that one of them keeps using drugs and finally the other one succumbs. All day long, it’s three o’clock, time for this dose. And they were mixing all these drugs and everything. I kind of felt like that. We had everything, oxys, speed, eventually a lot of heroine. We weren’t broke, we had the money.

Freddy Negrete:              So anyways, I really felt it affecting my health.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              Actually, he went back to Seattle, that’s when I went to prison, when I got arrested. And then when I got out of prison, I started using again. That’s when my health got really bad because they were giving me the medication I needed for my heart.

Angela Pugh:                   Oh right, while you were in there, yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, while I was in there. But I had to be on those … that medication for the rest of my life.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              It was just the blockers and the high blood pressure, but my heart was really enlarged. And I had a lot of trouble getting oxygen.

Angela Pugh:                   So you could actually feel it physically when you stopped taking the medication, you would feel different?

Freddy Negrete:              Right.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, okay.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, because I couldn’t walk a half a block without gasping for air.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              And my heart would always just be racing because I was mixing speed and heroine together.

Angela Pugh:                   Your poor little heart was doing a lot of work.

Freddy Negrete:              Yes, I overworked the poor guy.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And the second time when I had that [inaudible 00:17:22], my health got really bad, I couldn’t take more than a few steps and I couldn’t take any deep breaths. My breaths were like …

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              That’s how I had to breathe in order to get enough oxygen to not pass out.

Angela Pugh:                   Wow.

Freddy Negrete:              And then when I went to the county jail … I got arrested again. Now I was on parole with another … a new beef and when I went to the county jail, the withdrawals and medical condition together just proved to be a near fatal experience for me.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, I bet. Miserable.

Freddy Negrete:              And I ended up having three heart attacks when I was in there. And I was certain that I was going to …

Angela Pugh:                   Close together?

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah.

Angela Pugh:                   Wow.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah and not feeling much … much better. Each time I would go into cardiac arrest, they would take me to the hospital, to the jail hospital and they’d add more medication … I was taking like 13 different pills. And then they’d send me back to the jail in a wheelchair and luckily, like I said, I tattoo all these Sheriffs. They knew me, they would take me out of the hospital, put me in a special dorm, bring me food from the streets.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              They took good care of me. In fact, I remember some of them … after the whole ordeal and I was tattooing, they’re like, “We’re the ones the nurse Negrete back to health”. But I was certain that I was going to die in there.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And the jail doctors are just, “I don’t see how you can go on without a heart transplant”. Thanks, very encouraging words there, you know. I don’t think they’re going to give a heart transplant to a parolee who’s on his way back to prison. But anyways, I had some religious background and I remembered a story about a prophet that went to a king and told him, “Get your affairs in order, your time is up, you’re going to die”. And so that king went over the prophets head and went to God Himself and asked for more time and God gave him 15 more years.

Freddy Negrete:              I remember the thing about the story was he didn’t ask for any reason, he just asked for more time. We always pray when we’re down on our luck and different things, but this time I felt different, I was going to talk to God. In order to get to somewhere … the shower room where I could be alone, because I was in a dorm. I had to go with these two flights of stairs and …

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              I climbed up there and it took me about an hour because I couldn’t breathe. And then my condition, at that time, I couldn’t even lay down. I couldn’t lay back because I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t take more than a few steps, I had to be in that wheelchair. It was really bad. I was all skinny, discolored … but anyways, I asked God for more time. I said, “God, I’m not going to make any promises because every promise I ever made I broke, all I’m asking is for more time so that I can redeem myself and be an example to my son who’s still living”. At that moment, I felt that I was never going to use again in my life.

Angela Pugh:                   You did?

Freddy Negrete:              I did feel like that. And that’s kind of the only thing I felt. The next morning, I had a heart attack. They’re rushing me to the hospital. I should have been feeling like, “Well, my request was denied”.

Angela Pugh:                   Right, right.

Freddy Negrete:              But I didn’t. That whole time I was in there, I was certain I was going to die and now I was certain that I was going to live. I even told the ambulance driver, because that was the third time he took me to the hospital because the jail has their own drivers.

Angela Pugh:                   Right, right.

Freddy Negrete:              I was telling … he was going, “You have a legitimate reason”, because a lot of people fake injuries …

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, right.

Freddy Negrete:              … So they can go to the hospital and eat the food and lay in bed. But he’s telling me that I have a legitimate reason. And I was going, “Dude, you’ve always been cool with me” as he’s trying to IV me, trying to find a vein. I go, when I get out, “Go to Shamrock tattoo, I’m going to give you a free tattoo”.

Angela Pugh:                   Nice.

Freddy Negrete:              He goes, “I’ll be there, I’ll be there”. I just believed and I believed that at that moment, God gave me a gift of faith. They say it’s impossible to please God without faith, but it’s impossible, to me, to have to the faith that God would cure me. You know what I mean?

Angela Pugh:                   Right. Sure.

Freddy Negrete:              I feel like it came to me as a gift and I made a miraculous recovery. And then I didn’t have to go back to prison. Each day I felt better and better and better.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And they sent me back to the jail, all of a sudden I could lay down and sleep. I started painting murals … because I paint murals whenever I’m in the county jail, I paint murals for them. And the Captain wanted a certain mural painted, so I painted it for him. All the while, my health was getting better.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, you’re getting stronger.

Freddy Negrete:              Stronger and I was painting that mural. My lawyer was telling me, “Dude, you just have to take the two years because you were on parole. They caught you red handed. They have the right to search you. They search you, they found drugs in your pocket. Why are you trying to fight this?”

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And I was like, “I don’t want to go to prison, I want to go to a rehab. I think that would help me.” And I remember when I got the last extension. He goes, “Look, I’ll extend it for two more weeks, but you think about it. If you don’t take the two years that they’re offering, they’re going to give you four”. And I told him, “What if I have a letter from a Captain”. He goes, “They don’t do that. They refuse to write letters for inmates, it’s a conflict of interest”. So anyways, I told the Sergeant, “Do you think I could talk to the Captain?” And she tells me, “He got promoted to Commander of all the jails”. And I was like, “Oh”, she goes, “But his office is still here. What do you want to ask him? I’ll tell him”. I go, “I want to see if he’ll write a letter of recommendation, I don’t think going to prison is going to help me, but I think a recommendation letter would help me … for the Judge to decide for me to go to a rehab”. And she said, “He’s not going to do that, but I’ll tell him”.

Freddy Negrete:              When I went to court, my lawyer said, “Wow”. She goes, “I don’t know, the Judge went in that pile of files, pulled yours out and said, ‘This guy’s going to rehab’.” So and that was …

Angela Pugh:                   Wait, did you get the letter?

Freddy Negrete:              No letter.

Angela Pugh:                   No letter. And they still …

Freddy Negrete:              Must have been a phone call.

Angela Pugh:                   Must have been a something.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah. I’m sure it was a phone call or something because they don’t write letters.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              But he’s the Commander of all the jails, I’m sure he has a direct line to the Judge. But for the Judge to single my file out like that …

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              … when I was about to accept the two years.

Angela Pugh:                   It’s interesting though. I feel like addicted people, we have … we really do kind of have nine lives, you know. There’s so many of us when you hear our stories, so many of us had those experiences where we really should have …

Freddy Negrete:              Died.

Angela Pugh:                   … died. Yeah. And usually some of us have … on more than one occasion, we have those situations, but we do kind of have nine lives and we do … I don’t know. I feel like when things line up, they line up really right for us.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. Well, me, it just increased my faith. I’m certain that God healed my body and gave me more time.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              And it’s been 11 years now. I’m on my 11th year. And my health is pretty good. I still have high blood pressure and I take pills for that, but it’s just been a whole new experience for me. These last 10 years have been the best and the most meaningful 10 years of my whole life.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And I have accomplished a great many things. I help produce the movie Tattoo Nation, which has become the historical document for tattoo artists. I wrote my book, my coloring book just dropped, I have improved my work. I have a new focus on the work that I’m doing.

Angela Pugh:                   What made you decide to actually want to write a book? And then what gave you the motivation to do it?

Freddy Negrete:              You know, I had thought about it. I was thinking about it, but it was meeting my co-author, Steve Jones, who’s a playwright. He’s from England and he happened to be here working on a different project and he was working on this girls’ grandmother’s project. The girl … when the girl found out that he was in recovery also, she goes, “Oh, do you want to come and hear my friend speak tonight at CGA meeting”. So CGA is criminal and gangster’s anonymous.

Angela Pugh:                   Okay.

Freddy Negrete:              It’s pretty good. They’ve got a good thing going.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              Anyway, she brought him and he heard my story and then we all went for coffee after and when he told me he was a writer and the project he was working on, I was like, “I really want to write book. I just don’t know how to go about it.” He goes, “maybe I can help you with some insight on what you would need to do to go forward if you were going to do that”. And I told him, “I’m not much of a writer, I don’t think I would be capable of penning the book actually myself”. And he said, “He had never done anything like that, and he was just a playwright”, but he had to drive to San Francisco the next day and he says that on his way … his drive up, something just came upon him like a ton of bricks and he made the decision right there that he was going to help me write this book. And he called me the next day and said, “I’m going to help you write this” and so it was six years in the making and he’s … lives in Austria, but thanks to technology and Skype …

Angela Pugh:                   Sure.

Freddy Negrete:              For over two years, we just interviewed over Skype every night and he did all the research and how to go about writing a book, getting an agent, writing a proposal. It was a lot of work.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, absolutely.

Freddy Negrete:              It’s just … and we had to cross so many hurdles of … first we couldn’t find an agent that wanted to carry our thing and then when we did, we got CEO of an agency … like the top person.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And then we couldn’t find a publisher … a major publisher. It got to the point where were just going to publish it ourselves on a small scale and we did get an offer. I remember our agent was like, “I got you guys a great offer with Powerhouse Books”. They wanted to do this book, but they wanted it to be a big coffee table book with pictures of my work and just some text. I’m like, “No, I got” … we want to tell this story. Anyways, eventually …

Angela Pugh:                   You should do the coffee table book next.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, maybe I will.

Angela Pugh:                   Because I get where they’re coming from, too. Your work is beautiful, people love that. That would be a beautiful coffee table book with all that imagery.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, I thought about that. And I probably will do that. And I’m collecting high def pictures of my work right now and … Seven Stories is our publisher. They asked me to do a coloring book … and adult coloring book.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, you said that. That sounds amazing.

Freddy Negrete:              That was good. And I’m putting material together to do a second book and I think I will do a coffee table book.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              It’s a humbling experience for me.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah. And I love that, too because it’s not an easy process. Certainly to stay engaged in it and continue to do it. Writing a book, it takes some time and I … just like you said, you had to overcome so many hurdles. And I feel like that’s the part that’s so discouraging for people and where people will stop or will give up. I think it’s on of the greatest accomplishments when people actually do it, finish it, get it published … because I know it has to be somewhat grueling, too.

Freddy Negrete:              It was. And like you said, it was a lot of work and a lot of heartache, but I always had faith and hope. I always believed that we could make it happen and I always had hope that it would happen.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah. And all the best things that we do in our lives, I think, are always the hardest work.

Freddy Negrete:              Right.

Angela Pugh:                   In a lot of ways, but I think too … if it’s easy, I won’t appreciate it as much.

Freddy Negrete:              Right.

Angela Pugh:                   It’s like when you really have to work hard and you have to stick to it and have that grit and that perseverance, that’s what makes the reward that much bigger.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. Just seeing the book when the first … because they give you 10 copies.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              But having it arrive in the mail …

Angela Pugh:                   Oh, what a great sense of accomplishment.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah. And seeing it in the bookstore, things like that.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah. That’s amazing. I’ve always said, I hope in my next life, I hope I can draw. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to be able to do. It’s such a beautiful thing and I’m an introvert so I always imagine that if I could draw, it’s all I would do. I would never leave my house, I would just draw non-stop.

Freddy Negrete:              Well, maybe you should. I mean …

Angela Pugh:                   Nobody wants that to happen, I promise you.

Freddy Negrete:              Well I mean, art is an expression. You know what I mean?

Angela Pugh:                   I might be able to put that together.

Freddy Negrete:              We’re looking at some modern art. I knew this artist, a very successful artist, his last name is Robertson. I was working at this silk screening place and … this is in Palm Springs. And he had a studio next to us and it was out in the desert, but he set up these giant canvases under a shaded canopy thing. And he’d throw paint on the canvas. I would go watch him. He was really cool. And he squirted it all over with a garden hose.

Angela Pugh:                   Oh, nice.

Freddy Negrete:              And made all these beautiful blends. It was amazing. And then he’d come in …

Angela Pugh:                   Now see, I could probably do that.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah and then he had these brushes in his … four brushes in each hand, different sizes, different colors and he would just splash and splatter and … you know what I mean? And he made the most amazing things, but I knew it was art because of his intensity and his passion while he did it.

Angela Pugh:                   Right, right.

Freddy Negrete:              It was almost like he’s doing this dance, shaking these brushes and hosing down the paint.

Angela Pugh:                   Like he had some intention in what he was doing.

Freddy Negrete:              Yes.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              And he could knock out a couple of those a day and he would get like 25 grand a painting.

Angela Pugh:                   Wow.

Freddy Negrete:              And sometimes more.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah, sure.

Freddy Negrete:              But they were actually beautiful. You never know. You want to do art …

Angela Pugh:                   I should just start. I should start trying.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah.

Angela Pugh:                   I always say I can’t get good at something if I don’t start.

Freddy Negrete:              Exactly.

Angela Pugh:                   Okay, final question. It’s my favorite question. What is your favorite thing about being a sober person?

Freddy Negrete:              I guess … that’s an easy question to answer. It’s reaching out to other people and helping them with their addiction.

Angela Pugh:                   Being of service.

Freddy Negrete:              Being of service, yes. And I have a lot of good opportunities, being a tattoo artist. When people get tattooed, it’s hard to talk and get tattooed, but you can listen.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              So I share a lot of stories and I also work at a couple of rehabs. I work at [BettyShuva 00:33:23]. I lead groups for young heroine addicts there. And then I do work at IOP ARC, Authentic Recovery Center, also leading groups on spirituality.

Angela Pugh:                   Oh, cool.

Freddy Negrete:              Because I do … there was a time in my life where I went to college and I was a religious studies. I have a religious background, but I really … being a part of the 12 step program and a non-biased spiritual approach has really put me in touch with my Higher Power and God.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              I mean, I did all that studying when I was in college and everything, but I can’t really say that it got me any closer or any of a better understanding …

Angela Pugh:                   Sure.

Freddy Negrete:              … of a real spiritual being that wants to help me and loves me.

Angela Pugh:                   I always say, in my life I feel like I am divinely guided at all times. And it is definitely not … I couldn’t put a name or a label on whatever my spiritual practice is. It really is very personal, but I do feel like as long as I am really in tune with myself and with what’s going on inside of me and around me and I spend that time meditating. For some it’s praying … whatever that practice is. But I feel like if I’m really in tune, then my path will always be presented to me. I always know what the next right thing to do is. And what feels right and what doesn’t feel right. And it just is … it’s so comforting to have that faith and not judging things like, is it good or bad or right or wrong? But if something doesn’t work out, that doesn’t make it bad, it just means that wasn’t the right thing, so I got to pivot and figure out what the right thing is. I just love having that kind of faith. I never had that before, certainly in my drinking life.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. I found that yeah, it’s not for me to judge what’s right and what’s wrong. What’s beautiful about America is we’re free. And so everyone makes their choices and when political issues divide people from “I’m a believer” and “I’m a non-believer” because of this political issue, it’s like just forget about all that. Forget about everything you know and come meet God on a personal level. On a spiritual plane, just you and God. God will come and deal with you. And then just decide what’s right for you.

Angela Pugh:                   Right.

Freddy Negrete:              There’s certain things that we know are wrong, like violence and stealing things … you know, things like that. But certain issues, like a person’s free choice, that’s what America’s about.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              It’s about freedom and I think that’s what God wants in all of us. He doesn’t want us to be forced to love Him and to seek Him and to serve Him …

Angela Pugh:                   Or to judge one another for having different beliefs.

Freddy Negrete:              Right. He just … He wants us to choose on our own free will and not because of what somebody else says or what somebody is saying, “This is wrong and you have to do it like this”.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              Forget about all that.

Angela Pugh:                   Yeah.

Freddy Negrete:              Just come … meet God on your own terms and its unbiased spirituality.

Angela Pugh:                   Yes, I love that. Well, thank you so much for doing this with me.

Freddy Negrete:              Yeah, thank you.

Angela Pugh:                   It’s such a pleasure meeting you and getting to spend this time with you. Again, let me tell you Freddy Negrete, his book is Smile Now, Cry Later: Guns, Gangs, and Tattoos-My Life in Black and Gray. It’s by Freddy Negrete and Steve Jones. Thank you again, Freddy.

Freddy Negrete:              And you can get it on Amazon.

Angela Pugh:                   Get it on Amazon.

Freddy Negrete:              My website …

Angela Pugh:                   Which is?

Freddy Negrete:              … is

Angela Pugh:                   Perfect.

Freddy Negrete:              And …

Angela Pugh:                   And it’s Negrete, N-E-G-R-E-T-E.

Freddy Negrete:              Yes.

Angela Pugh:                   There we go.

Freddy Negrete:              And my Instagram is Freddy_Negrete if you want to see the work I’m doing. And if you actually want to get tattooed, then just call Shamrock Social Club in West Hollywood and schedule an appointment with Freddy.

Angela Pugh:                   Perfect. Thanks again.

Freddy Negrete:              Thank you.