APP 2017: XXX History of Piercing

My social media streams have started to fill up with status updates and scores of photos from friends attending the 2017 APP Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the majority of activities won’t kick off until Monday, June 12th it seems like a lot of folks headed to Vegas early with over 1000 registered guests slated for this year’s event, which I’m told may be a record. I had planned on sitting out again this year, but the prospect of piercer/anthropologist Paul King’s 2017 offering encouraged me to book a trip out west for what promises to be a class that was made specifically with me in mind.

If you’re attending the Conference this year make sure to stop me and say hello!

NOMAD: Blake Perlingieri at the 2004 APP Conference

You don’t need 2″ ears and a full black bodysuit to do that. The origins of our art form is tribal so that really only need exist in your heart. And you have to honor the traditions of our collective human mythology by incorporating tribal consciousness as well as aesthetics into what we do. – Blake Perlingieri, 2004

bodyplay91When I first saw a photo of Blake Perlingieri in Fakir Musafar’s BODY PLAY in 1991 the majority of people I knew in the piercing scene were decades older than me. My piercing elders would gently caution me against stretching my earlobes (despite me having 1/2″ nipple piercings and a meatotomy) for fear of public exposure and most of the clients of Jack Yount I was introduced to assumed I was his grandson not his friend and mentee. Aside from my brother, Brian Skellie and a few others the idea of a young, heavily tattooed and pierced person was generally considered a novelty in my community. Blake was only a few years older than me. He had 2″ earlobes (at that point mine were probably a humble 1/2″ or so) and tattoos that weren’t off-the-wall flash jobs that were there to prove you could be tattooed while saying nothing about the person wearing them. His photos assured me that the cultural shift that Jack had been telling me about- the old guard making room for the new generation- was coming.

Continue reading “NOMAD: Blake Perlingieri at the 2004 APP Conference”



Thanks to body modification, I’ve met a fair number of extraordinary folks over the last few decades; people who’s friendship means much, much more to me than their modifications do. When I think about my friend Pineapple- who just recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his Shaman Modifications studio- I think of sitting at a super crowded San Diego ice cream parlor during the yearly chaos that is San Diego Comic Con, talking to he and his Mom and sharing stories over frozen treats. I think about kicking back in recliners at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, eating chocolate chip cookies and watching Halloween V… I’m not sure that we’ve talked about modification for longer than five or ten minutes in the decade or so we’ve known each other.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If your modifications are the most interesting thing about you- you’re doing it wrong. If you ever find yourself lucky enough to run into Pineapple- the tattoos, scars and piercings may be the first thing you notice, but if you take the time to really chat with him, you’ll find an absolute gem of a man who is much more than his mods.

This photograph was taken at the 2009 Association of Professional Piercers annual conference and exposition.

Pineapple can be found at: Shaman Modifications,

Well, that’s photography for you


I’ve been lucky in my life to have met a great number of people that I would consider to be a “big influence” on me; for the most part I’ve kept my cool when our paths finally crossed- after all they’re just regular folks despite their accomplishments and I try not to get too star struck or fanboy-y.

On May 5th 2009 I found myself pacing in the hallway at the Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas, for once honest to goodness nervous, about introducing myself to Charles Gatewood. More than ‘just’ a photographer, Gatewood has been a documentarian and anthropologist without rival for the last five decades, capturing emerging subcultures before anyone else even knows they exist. Bikers, Mardi Gras revelers, Nudists, Wall Street stooges, Leathermen, Rock’n’Rollers and Modern Primitives- his cameras were always there to capture a time and place that few others dared to go.

How could I not be nervous?

A few seconds after a mumbled “Mister Gatewood, do you have a minute?” greeting, I was put instantly at ease by his charm, kindness and humor. We chatted, nothing serious, and I finally girded up the stones to ask him- the man who did a book with Burroughs and introduced Fakir Musafar to the Re/Search folks- if I could ask to take his picture. He smiled and said “of course,”

I snapped the shot, we chatted a few more minutes and went our separate ways. The next day I told him that I blew the shot- poor lighting, slightly out of focus and he smiled- again that smile- and said “well, that’s photography for you!”

On April 8th 2016 Charles suffered a fall from a third floor balcony. He’s been placed in palliative care and is in the care of an amazing Hospital team as well as his friends and family. His longtime friend Annie Sprinkle had this to say:

He’s in the best ICU in California, his nurses, doctors, and the palliative care team is excellent. Charles even has some nurses who know him personally. We were all sad, but also relieved he was on his way to freedom from suffering. So now is the time to send him lots of LOVE and support, pray if you pray, dance if you dance, or do whatever it is you do, and let him know energetically that you care. I personally believe he will feel it. It just might help. The medical team can’t predict how long Charles will be in this world; perhaps hours, perhaps days, weeks.. no one knows…It’s strange to tell you this on FB. But a consensus of a few of Charles’ friends agreed that the energetic support is more important than being super private right now. Also taking into consideration how Charles publicly shared intimate details of his personal life through his art. Plus we felt that his many friends and colleagues around the world might want to know to be part of this next chapter and this process.

At 12:30am on April 28th, 2016 Charles Gatewood passed away. He was 73 years old. His partner Eva was holding his hand as he passed. Rest in Peace, Charles, and thank you.

The Piercing Archive

Geneva, 1996. Photo © Barry Blanchard.

The mission of the recently formed PIERCING ARCHIVE is near and dear to my heart; the belief that ephemera relating to the history of our community needs to be preserved, archived and made freely available to all who have an interest in it is at the core of what we’re doing here at Sacred Debris. Historical preservation is one of the few fields where we welcome ‘competition’- every time they’re able to share a new image or video from days-gone-by you find yourself so geeked that what may be a decades old photograph of a piercing pioneer has found it’s way across the decades and miles to your laptop or iphone where you can save it and share it till your heart is content, assuring that what’s come before you will live on after you take your own step into history.
They will be be collating all of their finds and saves at the Piercing Archive website, but while they’re getting all of that set up you can find them on their Facebook and Youtoube pages (links below)

I asked Matte from the Piercing Archive to send over an introduction/mission statement. Check out the links and remember that you’re part of our community’s history, too- if you have stories, photographs and videos to share, get in touch (with SD or the BPA- as long as it gets saved we all win) and make sure that we leave a map for future generations to follow.

The mission of Body Piercing Archive is to select, collect, document, preserve, exhibit, & interpret the personal, social, and material evolving histories.
The Body Piercing Archive was started in 2014 by the Association of Professional Piercers, a non profit organization who’s focus is the dissemination of information regarding body piercing. The archive was a natural progression in that dissemination. So much of our history is being lost as time goes by. Items are getting tossed away or destroyed by entropy or, worse yet, negligence.

Now is the time to pull together. We need to preserve fragile items, digitize photographs and video, and write down the stories so that the future generations of piercers can learn about where all this originated. Our history must not be lost!
The 2015 Association of Professional Piercers conference marked our first exhibit for the archive. This was the first of many to come. The 2016 conference will showcase an exhibit of Sailor Sid Diller. This will be a co-presented exhibit from the Leather Archive and the Body Piercing Archive. Ideas are already being presented for the following years as well. Throughout the coming years, we hope to bring lots of interesting items, articles, photographs and videos to you. Some may make you laugh, some may make you cry but, at the end of the day, we hope you learn something about our collective past. Most of this, for now, will be posted on our Facebook page ( and our Youtube channel (body piercing archive). Eventually, content will be moved over to our permanent website ( Questions and comments are always welcome as well. You can message us on Facebook but, the best (most efficient way) is through email ([email protected]).

We would like to thank Shawn Porter for his support and allowing us a platform to spread the word on his blog. We would also like to thank all the past, present and future supporters who have helped share the knowledge. Please continue to read, share, like and comment.

The roots of freehand piercing

Another APP Conference and Expo has come and gone; after a long week in Vegas my Wife and I are finally home and trying to collect our thoughts about all of the good, the bad and the ugly that is the APP experience.

This being the 20th Anniversary of the APP there was an amazing focus on history this year with Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, Blake Perlingieri and Paul King offering comprehensive presentations on the history of the western body piercing movement and guest docents offering interactive walkthroughs of the APP 20th Anniversary timeline exhibit.

I volunteered in the Mentor program, helping acclimate a group of first year attendees to the chaos of Conference and was able to introduce my Wife to some of my oldest friends. A few snags and slags aside, we had a great time.

One of the highlights for me was the ELDERLORE class hosted by Blake Perlingieri- It was absolutely not what I was expecting with Blake going with a stream of consciousness presentation filled with saltiness and some great old school bitching.

I recorded a short excerpt of Blake discussing the roots of freehand piercing technique. It was shot on a cellphone, so the quality is so-so, but it gives you a hint of the zingers Blake was unleashing. As someone who does their best to provide literally one of a kind content to SD readers without much feedback I could absolutely relate to Blake’s frustration that his youtube video of he and Fakir doing a walkthrough of the Nomad (Jewelry) Collection at the Portland Art Museum had only been viewed (as of this writing) 335 times in four years versus the 20k+ views on videos of hack piercers doing hack work on uneducated piercing clients.

I think I’m taking a few years off from Conference, so this was the perfect year to close that book for a while. New friends were made, old friends were hugged and stories were told. Can’t do much better than that!

If you would like to know more about the Association of Professional Piercers, visit

APP2015: Mentor Program

10404328_982315425113049_3068570488186453223_nThe 2015 Association of Professional Piercers Conference and Exposition is coming up quickly and while it can be a lot of fun it’s also an overwhelming experience for people who are attending for the first time. The Mentor Program is available for first and second year attendees to aid in making their Conference experience go smoothly. Need help selecting your classes? Need someone to talk to when things get overwhelming? The APP Mentors are here to help.

For information on being paired with a mentor contact [email protected].





APP2015: ELDERLORE w/ Blake Perlingieri

Kristian White, Jack Yount and Blake Perlingieri at Nomad Body Piercing, early 1990s.

We’re only a few months away from the 2015 APP Conference and Exposition.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first APP expo and they’re going to be offering some amazing history/anthro classes that we’ll be highlighting on SD over the next few weeks. First up is a class that only has 80 spots still available as of today- so if you’re interested in attending make sure you get in before it’s sold out.

For more information about registering for this year’s APP Conference, visit‘s registration portal.

Concepts and Trends in the Early Industry Days by Blake Perlingieri

Blake will discuss EARLY revolutionary piercing procedures and techniques including “large gauge” and “freehand” and narrate their pre-Nomad origins, as well their incorporation into the early industry. Also discussed will be the development of the “NOMAD tribal aesthetic”, which raised the bar for what piercers could do with their own bodies as well as clients. Detailed and narration/power point will include archival, never before seen photos dating back 25 years

Blake began his professional career in San Francisco in 1990 at Body Manipulations. In 1993, Blake and his former partner, Kristian founded Nomad, the first tribal studio in the industry. In 1994 Nomad, Gauntlet, Body M and a few others formed the APP. In 2004, Blake presented the APP keynote/anthropology lecture, and simultaneously released his book “A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment” with Fakir and his book, “Spirit and Flesh.” In 2005 Blake released his double DVD of freehand technique and genital procedures which was a BME bestseller. In 2006 Blake presented the “anthropology lecture” to the FIRST Mexico/APP. In 2010, Blake was the assistant curator at the Portland Art Museum for a major exhibit of Pre-Colombian and antique jewelry, and donated much of his collection to the museum and presented a series of lectures there. Blake has three children of his own and continues to preach the “tribal gospel” at Nomad. Nomad is the oldest continuously owner operated piercing studio in the industry at 22 years.