Divinity – I met Ron at Cuffs – it was the premier leather spot, a dark little place but not very big.It was very macho and leather, and I was drawn to that masculinity. I was just hanging out and Terry, my drag mother, it’s where he went out, so one night I went with him, and then after a while I went on my own. One night Ron came in and we met each other and started talking. We were both reading Dennis Cooper at the time.
Ari – Can you tell us about Dennis Cooper?
Divinity – Dennis Cooper was a gay writer- he did a lot of writing about being gay and how to maneuver in society and being true to yourself. He did a lot of really cool exposé on gay life. He was from California and that was interesting to me because for some strange reason I’d always found the idea of going to California really attractive. Something was always telling me to go there but I didn’t know what it was. Once I got there I realized what it was; it was a place I needed to be. All the places I’d been before like New Orleans and Michigan were conservative and moving out to California was really freeing for me. It was like, “oh, possibilities are endless out here!” It was a lot of good reading for me. I read a lot of Brion Gysin as well. A lot of people were like, “you’re black, why are you reading that?” I was like “I don’t know!” It was just really interesting to me. Continue reading →
“Raven” was in San Francisco for a brief time on 9th street. I got there when he opened and decided to get the “wind god” tat. He said I was lucky because it was early and he was still fresh and awake after breakfast and not worn out by some of the difficult people that he had come in and bust his chops.
He also gave me a choice of by the hour or a given price. I took the given price and he said it was a bargain because he was fresh and full of energy, as you can see he was, and his work has stay bright after all these years. I believe it was 1982-3. -JD
The first story JD told me, as I was setting up our interview at an Ybor City Pizza shop, was about the time he found himself making an ad hoc tattoo studio out of his van, having discovered a bar full of carnies in Tampa who wanted tattooed. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he described the good natured degenerates, tough guys and hucksters who joined him in the back of the van, getting skulls and names and roses added to their arms and chests. Continue reading →
Ari: I always like to kick these off with an introduction, so tell us a little about you, Mama.
Vidra: My introduction to the industry was 1978. I met a gentleman by the name of Linus Herrell and he owned a store in Cleveland called Body Language and that store, how do you explain it? It’s like one of the first alternative bookstores. We didn’t sell any porn, nothing like that, but it had a rubber room and a leather room, where there were all different types of books and little novelties and stuff like that. Also, he had a piercing room. He had magazines like PFIQ, the whole nine yards and I was like, “OK, this is fascinating.” I met him when he was a bartender at one of the little leather bars in Cleveland, in fact the oldest one in Ohio. He had a huge bull’s tether in his septum, and I was just staring at him, because number one it was very attractive and number two I was like, “hmm, how did you do that? How did he get something that thick into his septum?” I asked him a couple of questions. He explained it to me, explained the process of stretching and piercing. When I asked him where do you get something like that done he said he’d gotten work done at the Gauntlet in L.A. by a gentlemen called Jim Ward. That was my first introduction to Gauntlet, and even that was through Linus. He told me about PFIQ and the new shop he’d be opening, etc etc, and then in his psychotic manner he said, “So what are you doing tonight? I get off in two hours.” I said, “eh, probably just going home” and he said, “Well let’s go home and fuck”, and I’m like, “okay.” Now realize back then I was working for a Catholic Church. I was the rectory cook, as well as directing theatre for the deaf and blind and just about any other handicap you can imagine and normal people all on the same stage. It was a lot of work, it was a lot of fun, and I loved doing it. That’s what I did for a living back then. Cooking for a church rectory for the priests and the nuns who ran the Hunger Center in a pretty impoverished area of Cleveland, but it was also the deaf and the blind center for the Diocese of Cleveland. I had worked with almost all types of disabilities really from the time I was 13. Continue reading →
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.