I can’t remember what the first question I ever asked Jim Ward was; I’m sure it was three in the morning and I was going through a stack of photos and needed to identify the subject in a print and saw that Jim was active online so I shot a quick message out (or any number of other “Jim, do you have a second?” scenarios that have come up since then) without really appreciating how blessed and privileged I- and we as a piercing community- was to be able to have Jim around to help bring the early years of our communal history to life.
I’m certainly appreciative of it now though. Jim is infinitely patient and engaging with those of us who are passionate about modern body piercing and it’s history. For years I’ve been an evangelist for his book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET, (which you can pick up here) because it allows folks who were too young to experience Jim’s era of piercing a window in; piercers who weren’t born when Jim hung up his needles and retired from being a professional body piercer. But the crew at 23rd Street Body Piercing have upped the ante, inviting Jim Ward to spend a few days in November at their shop, offering one on one visits with one of the most important figures in the history of body piercing. What’s more- you can also get pierced by Jim during your visit! Piercings would have to be pre-approved by Jim, but let me tell you this is an amazing opportunity. From 23rd Street Body Piercing:
“We are super excited to announce that Jim Ward will be doing a guest spot here at 23rd Street Body piercing this November! There are only 20 spots available. If you want to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to have 1-on-1 time with Jim you’ll be required to place a $500 non-refundable deposit all of which will go to Jim. This industry would not be what it is today without him, please show your support.To book please click the link below. If you have any questions please email [email protected]*The hour with Jim may be spent in what ever way you may seem fit. Your hour can be a rare chance for a good visit, and could also include getting pierced. Piercings performed in that hour must be pre-approved by Jim at the time of booking and included in the appointment notes section of the booking.”
This is a rarer than rare chance to pick Jim’s brain, maybe leave with something shiny, and show your support to a true pioneer!
Masterpierce Theatre: Paul King
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
Silver Nitrate, applied via long wooden matchstick type applicators, was a popular choice for cautery by modification practitioners back in the 1980s/90s for less invasive procedures like meatotomy and clitoral hood splitting. While cutting lower down the shaft might require a more surgical approach, complete with sutures, opening the urethra (usually to a healed Prince Albert piercing hole that acted as an anchor) was an in-and-out procedure that could be done practically blood-free.
The nitrate was moistened with distilled water and rolled onto the edges of cut open tissue, causing a light chemical burn that helped to keep the tissue from reopening; as a side effect the patient was left with a blackish stain on the affected area that would usually only last for a week or so.
This photo from 1992 features a healing meatotomy with silver nitrate stains. Continue reading
Charles Gatewood, iconic photographer and counterculture anthropologist, released somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 documentary films through his boutique FLASH VIDEO label. Films that ranged from profound to prurient with titles like Fangs of Steel, Messy Girls and the Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing series, the Flash Videos were niche content at it’s most niche. When I spoke to Charles about production runs in 2015, he told me that the average title started with a run of 50 units, with more being duplicated if needed. Twenty five years later it’s no surprise that an entire generation of body artists and admirers have come up that have never seen the Gatewood films.
The good news is that the Body Piercing Archive- the archival wing of the Association of Professional Piercers- was gifted the rights to the archive and plans are in place to capture and preserve these lost treasures; something I’ve been doing as well with my personal copies.
For my money, the best of Flash was the fifth volume of the Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing series; released in 1992 or 93 and filmed at the Meadowlands Tattoo Convention, #5 features Jack Yount, Emil, Mr. X and a host of other luminaries. The photos taken of Jack that day are among my favorite images of him and he often spoke of being photographed by Charles. This brief clip, filmed the same day as his photoshoot in 1992, was shot on Jack’s 8mm camcorder, with a show and tell with a client of Fred Corbin’s. This is the first time this footage has been seen in 25 years.
King of the Hiller: A night reprocessing good memories with Warren Hiller.
Warren is undoubtedly one of the most positive people I’ve spoken with. His idealism is pretty refreshing in a field where most of us are grumpy as fuck. His insight into the community, not just in the early Toronto piercing scene but as well as the early information share boom occurring on BME, should sate any piercing geeks curiosity on the subjects. We spoke at length about what it was like to babysit 400+ piercers, the teachings of Tom Brazda, and why we all deserve our day in the sun. Continue reading