In an upcoming interview from the Better Safe than Ari series, former piercer (and current tattoo artist) Ken Dean talks a little bit with Ari about the connection tattooers have with the history of their craft, and the seeming apathy that piercers have for theirs:
Ari- Tattooing is so big on history, such a prevalent part of the culture, even with shitty tattooers! It’s such an embrace your heritage type deal, but piercing is not. Most people don’t give a shit about any of it. Any idea why even the bottom tier of tattooers are all know your roots, but piercers tend to be so apathetic?
Ken – I don’t know. I mean shit, even at the tattoo museum I work at we have a huge picture of Fakir. The shops been there since 1941, like before Pearl Harbor! I don’t know why they don’t care. Could it be because the roots of piercing are in the gay S&M leather underground?
I certainly hope that’s not the case. The intersection of 1970s Leather Culture and the roots of the early Western body piercing industry are inexorably linked. While the makeup of the industry has changed radically since Jim Ward opened the Gauntlet forty years ago, with Leathermen with an interest in piercing being replaced by people interested in body piercing as it’s own subculture, it’s origins should still be celebrated.
When it comes to Leather culture, Drummer Magazine 1 was at the forefront of documenting (and help define archetypes for) the lifestyle. Those early issues were powerhouses of iconic content of interest to the body mod scene; erotic stories by Phil Andros (aka Phil Sparrow, aka Sam Steward) articles with Cliff Raven, illustrations by PFIQ cover artist (and Sacred Debris favorite) Bud Larsen- they’re a treasure trove of awesome. Continue reading →
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!
On September 1st 2015 I recorded a free-form oral history with retired tattoo artist and T.R.A.S.H. editor JD. Recorded during lunch, JD and I shared a pizza and discussed the last days of Sailor Sid Diller, gay erotic artist REX (famous for his MINESHAFT logo design), TRASH magazine and the gentrification of NYC. He was a very charming gentleman, like myself a bit of a rascal and a wonderful connection to days gone by.
I’m still working on transcribing the 2001 sit-down I did with PFIQ/Drummer Magazine artist Bud Larsen; I’ve mentioned before that it’s less of an interview and more a free form oral history and as such I’m not sure how much will be relevant to SD readers, but the same can’t be said for examples of his artwork, which is always impressive and of interest to folks interested in body modification history.
This ARIES illustration was used in Drummer Magazine 1 (ed note: cite issue number/date) and features the God of War himself, tattooed and collared and impeccably inked by Bud. I don’t know much about astrology, but it would seem that Tennessee Williams, Bill Shatner and “The Night Porter” actor Dirk Bogarde are all Aries- and according to the Internet that means that they’re:
Enterprising, Incisive, Spontaneous, Daring, Active, Courageous and Energetic, the Aries are the proverbial infants, guileless and optimistic to the fault. However, they also are impatient, impetuous, vain, proud and egoistic. (source: http://www.ganeshaspeaks.com/aries/aries-facts.action)
That seems fairly dead on for Shatner, so maybe there’s something to it?
Drummer Magazine was launched in 1975 by John H. Embry and Jeanne Barney, catering to gay men into the Leather subculture. It ran until April of 1999. Over it’s tenure it was considered highly influential in the gay/leather community. ↩
In March of 2001 I visited erotic artist Bud Larsen in Phoenix Arizona to talk about his work with PFIQ and Drummer magazine; his art helped define the early aesthetic of both periodicals- crisp black lines like a pornographic Al Hirschfeld featuring ultra masculine pinups, dangerous femme fatals and mindbending scifi and fantasy creatures with exaggeratedly large genitals which were more often than not pierced or otherwise decorated.
The entire affair was a disaster of exposed film, lost video/audio tapes and only memories and a few signed PFIQs as a souvenir of the trip. For fourteen years I’ve thought the tapes lost. SD recently received funding to restore 8mm video cassettes and during the sorting/cataloguing I discovered that a video backup of the interview wasn’t lost, just misfiled. This backup was intended to be a safety-net in case something happened to the mini-cassette recorder that we used for the interview was lost, which prophetically did happen, and was never intended to be a “on camera” interview. The handycam was set up to catch the audio and is just haphazardly pointed at Bud and I, and without a lapel mic the audio at times is difficult to hear, but given how woefully under-documented Bud’s career is, it was an amazing find.
This short clip features Bud and I discussing his process for creating a drawing. The audio is muddy, and I still need to scan the PFIQ issue the images we’re discussing come from- there’s a lot more work to do on this tape (hopefully a transcript and better audio) but for now- enjoy a chat with Bud (and my epic bad haircut) and make sure to say thanks to the patrons who sponsored the import/archival of the 8mm collection of the SPC.
In 2001 I traveled to Phoenix, Az to meet and record an oral history with PFIQ/Drummer artist Bud Larsen. The experience was doomed to failure and for the last 14 years I’ve considered the tape containing the history to be lost.
Late last week, while sorting and organizing tapes from that period I discovered that it wasn’t lost, just misfiled. The tape represents a very rare conversation with Bud and has been put to the head of the queue for archival and preservation. It was shot as a backup so the camera is not set up ‘interview’ style, but the content will hopefully make up for the lack of video when it’s finally ready.
I keep meaning to write a more in-depth article on the relationship between the 1960s/70s Gay Leather culture and the roots of the Western Body Piercing revival; the two worlds often overlapped and it’s fair to say that without leather culture the piercing scene would have evolved much, much differently. You’d think that it would come naturally for me to write about- I’ve been going to leather bars since I was a teenager. I work at a leather bar. There are tons of resources out there for me to dig through, people to interview…
Instead I’ll be lazy- for now- and just add this photo of Sailor Sid Diller geared up. It’s been sitting in my queue for about two months waiting for me to get the lead out and get to researching the leather article… Sid deserves better than that.