Uncovered: Velvet Talks June 1982

The Golden Age of adult cinema 1 (and it’s siblings, adult magazines) was, despite it’s often lurid and prurient content, conservative. It traded in archetype- the perky blonde, the intense brunette, the fiery redhead-all American good looks and not much in the way of self-expression. When you did see a tattoo, it was small or discrete. Performers with large tattoos were anomalous, 2 with producers fearing that it would ruin the “girl next door” fantasy that their 8mm loops (the VHS tapes) promised.

Being tattooed or pierced was subversive in a subversive genre. Continue reading “Uncovered: Velvet Talks June 1982”

Notes:

  1. The Golden Age of Porn: 1969-1984. Wikipedia
  2. Stephanie Green, aka Viper.

Not so erotic tattooing and body piercing.

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.

Alan Oversby

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“Alan Oversby, better known by his professional alias of Mr Sebastian (chosen, naturally, after the famously pierced Saint…) was born in Liverpool in 1933 and became enamoured with body piercing in the 1950s whilst working on a sugar plantation in British Guiana. He had seen nipple piercings on some field hands, and persuaded one of them, over a few glasses of rum, to pierce him. Returning to Britain, he trained as an art teacher in the Midlands, and became increasingly enamoured with modifying his own body, first by re-piercing his own nipples, then (imitating an illustration of an African man  he had seen in an anthropology book) inserting a ring into his foreskin. Eventually, he got tattooed. Indeed, he first shows up in the press in the mid-1970s, as a customer of long-standing London tattoo artist George Bone, cited precisely to demonstrate the practices middle class credentials. ‘He is a teacher’, the article tells us, ‘ and as such one of the professional minority who frequents tattoo shops:

‘I thought about it all very carefully before I began. If you don’t you end up looking a mess.’ Alan is tattooed solidly from  the tops of his arms down the front of his body to his legs with the designs placed in such a way that he can wear a short-sleeved, open-necked shirt without any of them being visible. This is not to avoid incurring opposition in the school where he teaches, but ‘to make sure my mother doesn’t find out. She would be terribly upset if she knew about it’ Continue reading “Alan Oversby”

Throbbing Gristle

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Excerpt from Painless Steel featuring Mr. Sebastian (Alan Oversby) performing an Ampallang piercing on Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle/TOPY/Psychic TV.

Last year I wrote an article for a magazine called Best Intentions that, among other things, discussed the ephemeral nature of magnetic video tape; it’s limitations and my constant surprise when a VHS cassette that’s been stored in a rubbermaid bin for a few decades still has a little bit of life left in it.

12359976_10207516741944175_5416436787275285089_nCharles Gatewood’s FLASH VIDEOS never made it into the digital age and during the last conversation we had, Charles told me that some of the volumes in the Flash collection had production runs as low as 50 units. It’s incredibly humbling when you realize the impact his documentaries had on the Body Modification community despite the relative difficulty of getting those tapes out in the days before uploads and shares and likes.

My Flash collection is far from complete and some of the tapes have, regrettably, become unwatchable, but I’m making progress converting and archiving as much footage as possible. This clip, while short, features influential UK body piercer/tattooist Alan Oversby (Mr. Sebastian) performing an ampallang piercing on cultural engineer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Alan’s voice appeared on the song Message from the Temple on the 1982 Psychic TV album Force the Hand of Chance.

Flash Video Content © Charles Gatewood.

Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing IV: Cutting by Esther

While mostly known for his contributions to the world of photography, the late Charles Gatewood produced a series of films documenting the various subcultures he had become renowned for photographing. Under the FLASH VIDEO banner he released a library of incredibly rare films on VHS tape that included the Erotic Tattooing & Body Piercing series, the Painless Steel Series, the “Weird” series that included visits to San Francisco, New York and Thailand (his best seller) and an impressive assortment of fetish one-offs.
Continue reading “Erotic Tattooing and Body Piercing IV: Cutting by Esther”

Charles Gatewood Memorial Celebration

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Friends, family, loved ones and admirers of the legendary Charles Gatewood will be meeting on Sunday July 3rd 2016 at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, California to celebrate his life and legacy. The Facebook RSVP will be your main source of up to date information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1573260856305045 with general details to follow:

“San Francisco’s Family Fetish Photographer”, Anthropologist, Author, True Believer, Beloved Friend and Brother

WHEN: Sunday, July 3rd, 2016
Gather: 4:30 PM
Memorial: 5:30 – 7:30
Afrerglow: 7:30 – 10pm

WHO IS INVITED: Everyone who would like to attend and remember and/or pay tribute to Charles Gatewood; old and new friends, fans, colleagues, admirers, lovers, as well as anyone who has been inspired by Charles’ work…..YOU!

PLEASE BRING: Memories, stories, art, performances, show and tell items, photos, altar items…There will be some open mic time for those that want to say or present something short. Be creative!

WHERE: Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission Street (Between 9th and 10th streets), San Franciso, CA.

WHAT TO WEAR: Please come as you are or dress up if you like. Charles was an artist and loved toys, props, and accessories! Feel free to don your favorite fetish outfit or best costume.

CAMERAS: We will be documenting parts of the memorial for CSC and the Charles Gatewood archive. Those who choose not to be in any photos or videos will be honored.