After ending his tenure at the New York Gauntlet, Keith Alexander moved closer to home and opened Modern American Bodyarts in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. The studio was very much an extension of Keith’s personality.
He submitted these photos to the spcOnline site in the late 1990s.
Mark is one of those piercers who I’d heard about for so long, and had been so curious about, but information always seemed relatively scarce. His years at Gauntlet are some of the most interesting times in our history, and he sat at the helm of both San Fransisco and New York studios, helping train and work alongside some of the most notable piercers in history. One of only five people ever bestowed the title of Master Piercer, his passion and humility brought him to the top of the piercing world in the early and mid 90s. Mark is an incredible person with a rich history in our community, and even decades after he’s left he is someone we need to respect, to remember, and to admire. Reading about someone and talking to them is like night and day; talking with Mark was one of the most humbling experiences in my career. I am thrilled to be able to share this. Continue reading “BSTA: Mark Seitchik”→
Paul King is so handsome it takes a continued effort not to rip the skin off my own face.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be frank; Paul is a motherfucking national treasure. I honestly don’t know if I can write a proper introduction without it slipping into something so masturbatory that becomes unreadable, so I’ll just say that he is one of the most revered and respected people in this industry, and deserving of every bit of that. We spoke about Paul’s introduction to body piercing, some of the Master Piercers, cultural appropriation, and the Body Piercing Archives. Don’t forget after all of this to reach out and thank Paul for being who he is, saying what he says, and doing what he does. Also, while you’re at it, thank him for being really, really hot.
Ari- I always have everyone do the standard introductions, so tell us your name and how long you’ve been piercing and where you’re currently at.
Paul- My name is Paul King and I’ve been a professional body piercer since 1991. I was inspired and trained at a company called the Gauntlet; it was the first piercing shop in the Western world. I served a one-and-a-half-year apprenticeship under Elayne Angel. I then went on to manage Gauntlet Los Angeles, worked in the San Francisco store, and also managed Gauntlet New York. Gauntlet closed in 1998. In 1999, Grant Dempsey and I (Dempsey of Cold Steel International in London), opened up two tattooing and piercing shops in San Francisco called Cold Steel America (www.coldsteelpiercing.com). One was in the old San Francisco Gauntlet location, the other was in the upper Haight. We briefly attempted to do wholesale and decided to open in 2001. You can imagine how well that went. Wholesale didn’t last so long. So after that we parted ways in 2008. He was moving to Australia with his family and I was heading back to school. We let go of the Market street location, and I now have one shop on Haight street in the old Haight-Ashbury district. Continue reading “BSTA: Paul King”→
Sent to me sometime in the late 1990s for safe keeping, these photos feature scarification (cutting and possibly branding) from Keith Alexander. Keith was the only artist officially invited to the first ScarWars event in 2005 (the rest filled out a registration form that was open to all) to which he politely declined. I think that made me respect him even more.
If you enjoyed May’s branding performance, you won’t want to miss this one! In an encore presentation, Keith Alexander, on of NY’s premier piercing, cutting and branding enthusiasts returns to the Learning X-Change to present a lecture and live demonstration on one of today’s most popular forms of body art… Cutting/Scarification. In a riveting presentation, Keith discusses the art’s origins, rapid rise in popularity, social ramifications and present day applications, and demonstrates proper preparation and sterilization, tools of the trade, creating an applying the design, cutting techniques, aftercare, how to achieve optimum scarring special effects, etc.
If you’re a reader of Occult Vibrations you may have seen a recent update with a few early 1990s tattoo shop fliers with art by bio-mech legend Guy Aitchison; discovering them happy accidents since I was looking for a piece of correspondence for a future SD update and found a stack of unsorted mail that hasn’t been out of storage in at least a decade. I still haven’t found the piece of mail (a letter from Bud Viking Navaro to Jack Yount) that I was looking for, but this stack yielded the Aitchison fliers, a letter from “J” (from J: Story of a subincision) and a few from Keith Alexander.
I had forgotten about his Learning X-Change Scarification class; the flier included didn’t include full information (day and month, no year given) and the envelope’s postmark is unreadable so I can’t say for sure when this class- $10 per person to learn the basics of scarification- was offered. It was likely 1996 (judging from the MAPS Corporate Seal on the enclosed letterhead) or shortly after when scarification was just beginning to receive any outside of the community media attention.
It might shock modern audiences to see technique classes offered to the general public, especially at so low a price, but the crossover with cutting in a S/M context “democratized” the modification, with a large segment of the clients looking for scars and brands in the 1970s-1990s a part of the fetish lifestyle and the amount of professional scarification artists worldwide offering safe, sterile cutting a small minority.
Today wasn’t quite the horrific Snow Day that local meteorologists called for, but with 1/8″ of snow on the ground I used it as motivation to do a little cleaning around the house, starting with unsorted boxes in my closet. Years of correspondence were lost in one of my moves (from Florida to Philadelphia, I’d bet) but there are still a few boxes of mail that were saved from that fate so after a trip to Target to buy more Rubbermaid bins I took to the task of sorting twenty year old letters and hopefully making headway with the creating of a filing system.
Some of the highlights so far:
A letter from the editor of ‘Epidermal Intrusions’ which was intended to be to Modification what PFIQ was to Body Piercing. My name had been given to the editor (Rhalan) by Steve Haworth, who I wouldn’t meet in person for another year. We exchanged a few letters before the project eventually lost steam and was canceled before ever going to print.
Keith Alexander’s followup letter to the APP after sending in his membership application (circa 1995/6) with detailed counterpoints to issues raised by the fledgling organization with typical K.A. passive aggressive charm.
Open Letter to 1996 APP Conference (Orlando) attendees, possibly from Keith. It’s unsigned.
5″x7″ original print of Jack Yount from photographer Stefan Richter.
Postcard from Jack Yount from a vacation to Southern California.
Well- here I am trying to be discovered. All the do is undress me and then they faint. Such is fame. Went to the Gauntlet this A.M., Sorry but it didn’t do a lot for me. Poor rep by people I talked to in the shop. Was in Mexico, San Fran and now L.A. Will be back next week. Tell the family I said “High”. -Jack
Letters from ‘Toecutter’ written in his typical ‘stream of consciousness’ style.
UNIQUE contact list mailings.
Photos of Tom Brazda doing ‘lo-bretts’ on Shannon Larratt, mailed from Stainless Studios.
While it’s made me sad that I’ve lost so much correspondence over the years I was pleased by how much was still around; I’m going to start scanning the letters and postcards tomorrow so they’ll never be lost again.
I met this gentleman somewhere around 1996-7 at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Tattoo Convention in Portland, ME. I’m sure I have the notes somewhere to go along with this but if my memory serves he had been cut by Raelyn Gallina and Keith Alexander- though who did what is lost in time.
It wasn’t common to see scarification at conventions back then; even displayed piercings could cause furled eyebrows and not so quiet mutterings of disapproval from some of the older biker folks, so when I spotted him from across the room I quickly made my way over to chat with him and snap a few photos. Part of the charm of the smaller community back then was having instant mutual friends; conventions were like family reunions that gave you the opportunity to meet some truly genuine characters.
As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.
Eight 1 years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.
When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.