I was going to save this post for the actual 20th anniversary of Erik’s tongue splitting, but seeing as how today is his birthday…
I had imagined, fantasized, and dreamed about split tongues since childhood. I would often sketch faces or characters with forked tongues. I was drawn to idea both aesthetically and for the potential sensual aspects it implied. However, I thought it to be simply an idle fantasy and not something that would eventually be so easily achievable. By rumor and second references I began to hear about people splitting their tongues through methods like cutting between multiple piercings and similar efforts but I could find no hard evidence or first hand accounts. I discovered BME in late 1996 and saw similar information and reports to the ones I had already encountered. But then there was an update in BME Extreme that included notes from an Italian gentleman who was splitting his tongue via cutting and cauterization. There were no pictures at first but this was a great motivator. I began to consider how I would split my tongue and beyond simply researching anatomy I realized that consulting an oral surgeon would probably be the best route – if I could find one that would talk to me about such an esoteric topic. I was in luck, I first began by searching for oral surgeon that performed voluntary adult frenectomies (sometimes call tongue lengthening) and figured that I would first discuss getting this procedure and then bridge into the subject of tongue splitting. The first place I called was the office of Dr. Busino and after a positive conversation with the office secretary I broached the subject of doing something ‘more unusual’ and was soon talking with the doctor himself. Dr. Busino was very open-minded and interested in my ideas and so I set up an appointment to consult with him at his offices. 1
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague’s tongue splitting. While his wasn’t the first documented forked tongue, Erik’s surgical bifurcation, performed by a Maxillofacial surgeon, is certainly one of the most significant nodal points in the popularization of the procedure.
Spring cleaning at my house always turns up treasures that have been sitting around uncategorized for far too long. Today’s finds included the DVD-R full of photos from the 2009 Dallas Suscon hosted by Allen Falkner. It was one of my first times using a long since stolen Leica D-lux 3 camera, with this photo of Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague being my favorite shot of the bunch.
The first time I met Dennis Avner- Stalking Cat- in person was at Pierson International Airport in Toronto the night before ModCon3. We picked him up in the huge passenger van that was rented for the weekend, offered him dinner which he politely refused and brought him to his hotel, which caused quite a stir with the reception staff who’d never seen a human tiger before.
He proved to be quite a character. In the years that I knew him I never saw his back and chest tattoos in person, so these photos were quite a find. Facial tattoos by Larry Hanks, 1985.
This photo was originally submitted to my spcOnline site in 1998 and features BME’s Shannon Larratt and Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) showing off their split tongues. In 1998 tongue had yet to achieve the popularity it’s currently enjoying:
At the first Modcon in 1999 my split tongue was a novelty and, as I recall, the only one present other than Shannon’s. Between hosting many of the splits at my house and Shannon’s network of people and practitioners via BME we could say that at that time we probably knew personally or could at least name most of the split tongues in the world. This would soon change.- Erik Sprague 1
By the last ModCon event, tongue splitting had reached a level where it was no longer on the qualifications list for entry.
Because body modification and ritual are not only powerful tools for self discovery and definition but also stand as strong and potentially influential statements to others thereof, they represent a significant threat to those who reject their uniqueness and the systems and processes that rely upon viewing people as members of a category or their designated job title.- Erik Sprague1
Later on this year (I want to say September or October) will mark the 20th anniversary of the the launch of the spcOnline site, which originated a lot of the content I post here on Sacred Debris. Twenty years and so many people have come and gone from my life- true eccentrics who live up to the promise that body modification shouldn’t be the most interesting thing about you regardless of how interesting your body modifications are.
One of the longest friendships I’ve maintained has been with a former PhD student turned sideshow performer named Erik Sprague. Despite SPC being primarily history oriented I occasionally ran new content, including the lip and tongue tattoos of a not quite Lizard. A few decades later I’m running the photo as history, so I suppose time has caught up with us both.
I always found Erik’s thoughts on body modification culture (and culture in general) to be worth listening to, so if you haven’t checked out his book “Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass” you should absolutely put it on your reading list: http://www.thelizardman.com/book.html
Before the first ModCon book, which covered the first and second events, there was a limited run ModCon 1999 Event CD available on CD-Rom. It was basic HTML formatted with three size gallery options for the photographs that included printable resolution images of Toronto’s Philip Barbosa amazing black and white portraits.
Other ModCon media includes two books, a vcd and a dvd of procedural footage.
The early days of the western body modification movement were documented by pioneers like Fakir Musafar (who taught himself photography and darkroom technique) and Charles Gatewood; decades later their iconic 35mm images remain bold clear snapshots of our community’s history.
Things got choppy in the 1990s when digital cameras started taking over, with low dpi images replacing the clarity of their SLR analog counterparts. A lot of the images that were submitted to the spcOnline site from 1995-2000 are grainy low resolution .jpg images that do a decent job of documenting the modification but won’t stand the test of time like the old hardcopy photographs.
Like this one, featuring a young Sideshow performer doing the human blockhead circa 1997. First person who correctly identifies him (with bonus points going to anyone who can name his stage name at the time) will receive a goodie from the SD/SPCO archives.
“Hey, Rube!” is a slang phrase most commonly used in the United States by circus and traveling carnival workers (“carnies”), with origins in the middle 19th century. It is a rallying call, or a cry for help, used by carnies in a fight with outsiders. It is also sometimes used to refer to such a fight: “The clown got a black eye in a Hey, Rube.” -Wikipedia
My social networking streams are all polluted by discussion of the latest episode of Ink Master; instead of rotting my brain with “the worst thing to happen to tattooing since Hepatitis C” I’ve queued up this fun little short film starring Canada’s sweethearts Burnaby Q. Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek- the Monsters of Schlock.
The day they filmed my segment I was nursing a 103* fever, so I don’t remember a lot of it. I was also 70lbs heavier than I am these days so seeing chubby, medicated me ramble on is kind of weird, but ultimately better than Ink Master.