The role that the GLBT community played in the evolution of modern body piercing is fairly well known, but the same can’t be said for tattoo culture. Some of the most respected names in tattoo history- Phil Sparrow, Cliff Raven, Robert Benedetti and countless others- were homosexual.
I’m sure somewhere there’s been an academic paper written on their contributions (I’ve handled research requests for several) out there somewhere on the web, but it’s always fun to see video of the golden olden days.
I captured this footage in 2008 for BME/News. It came from a silent 8mm film master that was transferred to VHS in the early 1980s. Life expectancy for magnetic VHS tape is around 12 years; this cassette is easily 30 years old which has compromised the picture quality, but it’s still a great peek into the “T&P Parties” frequented by gay men interested in body art in the 1970s.
Some of this footage was filmed at Ken Meyer’s shop in Kissimmee, Florida. I don’t have much information on Ken other than that he occasionally had Sid Diller guesting at his shop.
The community was much smaller then and the T&P parties allowed for a much more liberal, much more sexualized atmosphere. Artist and client alike were usually naked and the design choices were often erotic.
On an objective level a lot of the work coming from this subcommunity wasn’t spectacular; Raven and Benedetti were exceptions to that, but BEING tattooed was an important part of the cultural aesthetic. A masculine man covered in tattoos fit a certain archetype favored at the time.
And needless to say- sterility and cross contamination awareness was still year away, so with that caveat in mind be aware that modern protocols were wildly absent.
The video is in .flv format; if your browser has issues with that I’ll try to tidy it up when I get back from my honeymoon. This may be the last video on SD for a while, so let me know what you think.