The tattoo community was a much different place back in the 1970s when this ad for Cliff Raven’s Sunset Strip Tattoo Studio ran in the pages of the venerable DRUMMER magazine; being an out, gay tattooer was a much bigger deal than it is in 2017. Despite a clear lack of diversity and a culture that was considerably less evolved than I like to think we are these days (though watching the news has me wondering) Cliff was able to maintain the respect of his peers through clean, solid, built to last tattooing. In the last few years I’ve been lucky to see a handful of 30-40 year old Cliff Raven tattoos that have stood the test of time. Attempts have been made to capitalize on his name- including a clothing line and branded wine- but to date, thankfully, nothing has materialized.
While he excelled in tattooing traditional Japanese subject matter, I’ll always have a soft spot for his muscle boys and homoerotic imagery.
Happy New Years from Sacred Debris!
Today marks the start of our 4th year as a blog. I hope that you folks enjoy what we’re doing here. The site is still in a state of semi-hiatus but I’ve got a few new posts in the works so check back (or better yet- subscribe!) soon. As always: likes, shares, comments and tips are appreciated.
This photo dates back to the late 1970s and features a very dashing tattooed/pierced gentleman. No artist/model credit was included with the 35mm print.
From the background it appears to have been taken in the mid-1970s at Cliff Raven’s studio in West Hollywood at or near the completion of my first tattoo. ~ Jim Ward
It’s always a treat when piercing and tattoo history intersect; here we have The Gauntlet/PFIQ’s Jim Ward with a freshly worked on tattoo by Cliff Raven. Inspired by Japanese tattoo designs, Raven’s work was bold, clean and made to last.
Tattoo by Alan Oversby; 1970s. Scanned from the original print.
A few weeks ago I was tagged by multiple friends in a Facebook post from a tattooer who’s been doing male pin-ups; archetypal poses gender swapped with big bearded beefcake. The comments ranged from amused to aggrieved with almost everyone agreeing that it was ‘about time’ that someone was doing them.
Of course, there’s really nothing new under the sun. Male pin-ups, particularly homoerotic ones, have been around for a lot longer than social media. Cliff Raven, Sailor Sid, Phil Sparrow, Alan Oversby… anyone who was tattooing a clientele that appreciated the sexuality of tattoo culture was likely to have done one.
Though they weren’t always as explicit as this amazing piece by Sebastian. It dates back to the late 70s and still packs a punch.
Sacred Debris Sandbox members should check out the FB group for a much raunchier part of the design!
I could be wrong, but I think that the heavily tattooed gentleman in this (amazingly candid and charming) photo is Rufus from Rochester who’s made a few appearances here on SD. It’s hard to tell. Either way, the black graphic back piece blast-over caught my attention and put the print on the fast track to the Sacred Debris update queue. Continue reading
I met Star as the tattooed lady at a San Mateo carnival 10-in-1 show back in 1975. She was also the magician’s girl in the sword box. We connected then and were friends for some 15 years afterward. We did a few shows together and also took pictures in my garage studio with my bed of nails. Stars was a “biker’s girl” and later moved to Florida. I pierced her genitals and she appears in early Gauntlet photo shoots. ~ Fakir Musafar
My buddy Scott recently discovered a few vintage photos of Fakir Musafar and his friend Star in the collection of Bob Hanson and was kind enough to send them over to Sacred Debris.
Star appeared on the cover of the inaugural color issue of PFIQ 1 photographed by Fakir.
Late 1970s- Jim Ward performs a vertical nipple piercing on Rochester’s Rufus Dreyer. Rufus appears occasionally in photos in my archives- his appearance distinct with a full body of dense tattooing, a grey Van Dyke beard and flipped up septum tusk- but I’ve not been able to find out anything about him other than his name.
Jim can be seen using a thimble to push assist in pushing the needle though the tissue; the needles available at the time weren’t as sharp as our modern options and every little bit helped.
(Thanks to Jim for helping me identify Rufus)
One of these days I’ll finish up the article I started on the Gay Leather roots of the modern body piercing community; like a lot of things I work on it’s a quarter finished, sitting in a notepad waiting for me dive back into it, but until then…
Every time I flip though old issues Drummer Magazine I come across so much amazing content. This ad from a 1975/6 issue reminds us that there has always been a market for people wanting blinged-out TIT STUDS.
It’s been interesting to see how the archetypes popular in the 1960s/1970s Gay Leather scene have been appropriated and assimilated into modern pop culture- from the in your face aesthetics of Oslo’s Turbonegro (“We aren’t really gay but we like that people might think we are. And if it helps some gay kid come out of the closet, then that’s cool. Or if it helps some guy that hates queer rethink his position, then that’s great too.” 1) to the tragically hip “flagging” hankies 2 in their back pockets and wearing leather armbands and a Muir cap, the classic look of a still present subculture has, like it or not, lost some of it’s cultural exclusivity.
Still, for my money, I like living in a world where we all borrow from each other.
This photo from Sailor Sid Diller’s 1978 trip to London features Sid (left) and Alan ‘Mr. Sebastian’ Oversby (right) looking very much the part of 1970s body piercers.