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.
Red(head) in Tooth and Claw A night shmoozing with the sweetest hooker in the biz.
Dana and I actually talked about how nice Dana is. Renowned not just for his piercing and suspension work, but for being all around such a fucking nice guy. From his early come-ups in California to veering off into being one of the most notable suspension practitioners, taking his skills all over the world at suscons, Dana is truly one of those old heads that’s seen some dynamic shifts the industry has taken and rolled with the punches. We sat down to talk about his introduction to suspension, the ebb of ritual, and why age helps lock down the sweet spot of professionalism in the piercing room.
Ari – Let’s do the really generic usual intro, except I want you to do it for both piercing and suspension.
Dana – The beginning of my piercing career was pretty straightforward, I was able to start an apprenticeship and attend the Gauntlet beginning training seminars the second year I believe they were offered, 1993. I don’t remember if it was the second year or not. I took the Gauntlet seminars at 17. Sharrin was running the seminar, Sharrin from the NY Gauntlet, she was a real awesome old school Psychic TV head. I “never really finished my apprenticeship” according to Jerry Metzler (Shiva) but as far as all purposes were concerned I was piercing full time by myself, with Julian Ganesha in and out of the shop because he had another full time job to pay his bills. This was in Fresno at a shop called Spear of Shiva. In 1999 I made the move to San Diego to work at Superfly, and then got an offer to move up to Portland and I was there for a few years. My introduction to suspension started a little bit more in 1999/2000, when I got involved with the San Diego crew, and once I got to Portland it was really heavy, I moved to Portland, walked into doing performances once a month at Fetish Night for five or six years straight. Continue reading →
My search for a video of a rare dolphin piercing from BRAVO’s Mike Natali has been unsuccessful, but I’ve been finding lots of great video shot at his Brandon Florida shop in the mid/late 1990s so it’s been a fair tradeoff.
This apadravya was performed on a friend after an intense SM session where the client’s friends comforted and reassured him during the piercing; not standard piercing practice in 2017 but at the time it wasn’t that unusual for ‘enhancing’ piercings to be performed in a ritualized sexual context.
This video is presented for archival purposes only and should not be considered a how-to.
I imported almost 100gb of raw 8mm (cassette) video yesterday; I’m still sorting and storing everything but the content will hopefully rolling out here on SD over the next few weeks. One of the more surprising clips I rediscovered was of BRAVO! owner/piercer Mike Natali performing a glans superincision (which would, I suppose, still be considered a meatotomy) at his Brandon, Florida shop probably sometime in 1996-7.
I apparently filmed it but I have zero recollection of it. Memory is a funny thing.
From our friends at Wikipedia:
“Bebe the Circus Queen (Beatrice Aschard) would perform a variety of stunts such as having a watermelon placed on her back and split with a sword, lying on a bed of nails while weights were placed on her chest… or the “Plastic Bag Of Death”, where she gets into a large plastic bag and one of the other performers sucks all of the air out with a vacuum cleaner. She would also employ an electric grinder in her act (for example, she would create a shower of sparks from a metal chastity belt covering her groin area).”
Taking classic acts from sideshow and vaudeville and translating them for modern audiences, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow found themselves with ‘falling ovations’ daily, as people in the crowd would faint (no doubt aided by standing in the sun for hours, binge drinking and enjoyment of recreational party favors) as The Amazing Mr. Lifto performed his take on Rasmus Neilsen’s ‘pierced weight lifting’, upping the ante by including swinging heavy objects from his pierced penis. They’d cover their eyes as The Torture King skewered his cheeks and torso like B. A. Bryant had done decades before while touring with Barnum himself and laugh with relief when ThEnigma, tattooed from head to toe like a jigsaw puzzle did a tattooed clown act- that is until he started geeking live insects.
This was still when piercing culture trended older- 40s, 50s- and youth culture was just starting to discover expressing themselves with tattoos, body piercings, scarification and other avenues of modifying their bodies. Seeing stretched piercings swinging weights live on stage, with Eddie Vedder (or insert rockstar here) joining the cast to oooh and awww had a profound effect.
But the one member of the original troupe that didn’t get much attention was Rose’s partner, Bebe the Circus Queen. She didn’t have the dynamic motormouth of Jim, the pain proof skin of Tim “Torture King” Cridland, the stretched piercings of Joe Lifto… so she often got overlooked when it came to media write-ups of the show.
This may be an odd photo for a body modification history/culture blog in so much as it features no body modification, but without the Jim Rose show’s promotion of piercing/tattoo/modification culture during the transitional years of the early 1990s, things may have played out differently, and without Bebe, the Circus wouldn’t have been what it was.
My earliest piercing experiences with Jack Yount taught me that he came from the bigger-is-better school; at a time when some piercers were starting with initial 14g jewelry, Jack was more prone to starting at 8g. Blake and Kristian at NOMAD SF certainly understood the appeal of large gauge piercings and jewelry, so when Jack visited their shop in 1994 he instantly warmed up to them both. This photo features Kristian and Jack- if you’d like to read up on an often overlooked face from the early 1990s piercing scene, check out this BME interview conducted by Shannon Larratt: https://news.bme.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/pubring/people/A10101/krist.html
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.