More than once, people have found their way to hence by putting “how did Skin Kadash get his nickname?” into a search engine. It’s something I’ve explained in the books, but for those who are coming to Skin afresh, I thought I would provide an answer here.
First things first: it’s not because he had a prior career in adult movies. No, it’s more prosaic than that. In answer, I thought I would let the text itself do the talking.
First, from Lost Dog, Skin’s first appearance:
He was a short, potato-shaped man, thin grey hair on top, rumpled brown suit underneath. A red patch of skin flaked at his neck and quivered when he tipped his head back to drink.
Later in the story, the protagonist, Peter, gets a detailed explanation from an old friend of Skin’s:
“You know why they call him Skin, don’t you?”
“I can guess.”
“Yeah. My nephew started all that. Hell, them boys can’t have been more than seven or eight years old. Skin lived up on Siskiyou. I’d seen him around, but there was lots of kids around, and I wasn’t so interested in kids in those days. Probably too busy thinking about women.” Andy grinned. The kettle started ticking as it heated. “My sister came to visit for a few days from Seattle with her boy. She was planning to move back down here—her husband had died recently and she was feeling, well—lost. My nephew, Tommy, was as irascible and foul-tempered as a goat. Hurt, really—missed his dad. When he saw Skin, he started giving him hell. Calling him Berry Patch and Chicken Skin. These days that’d be nothing, but in 1960, they was fighting words.”
“So what happened?”
“Skin told him, ‘My name is Tommy, not Chicken Skin.’ And Tommy, my Tommy, said, ‘My name’s Tommy, so you can’t be Tommy, Chicken Skin!’ Well, it wasn’t too long before Skin up and beat the hell out of Tommy. Bloodied his nose, purpled both eyes. Good fight, really. I watched the whole thing from my front porch. My sister was pretty mad at me for letting it happen, but I told her it wasn’t Skin’s fault he had that thing on his neck. If Tommy was going to make fun of people, he needed to learn to take his lumps.”
There’s more. At various points in the books and stories Skin addresses his birthmark. But this is the essence, a childhood nickname from a time when fighting words were pretty mild.