“Alan Oversby, better known by his professional alias of Mr Sebastian (chosen, naturally, after the famously pierced Saint…) was born in Liverpool in 1933 and became enamoured with body piercing in the 1950s whilst working on a sugar plantation in British Guiana. He had seen nipple piercings on some field hands, and persuaded one of them, over a few glasses of rum, to pierce him. Returning to Britain, he trained as an art teacher in the Midlands, and became increasingly enamoured with modifying his own body, first by re-piercing his own nipples, then (imitating an illustration of an African man he had seen in an anthropology book) inserting a ring into his foreskin. Eventually, he got tattooed. Indeed, he first shows up in the press in the mid-1970s, as a customer of long-standing London tattoo artist George Bone, cited precisely to demonstrate the practices middle class credentials. ‘He is a teacher’, the article tells us, ‘ and as such one of the professional minority who frequents tattoo shops:
‘I thought about it all very carefully before I began. If you don’t you end up looking a mess.’ Alan is tattooed solidly from the tops of his arms down the front of his body to his legs with the designs placed in such a way that he can wear a short-sleeved, open-necked shirt without any of them being visible. This is not to avoid incurring opposition in the school where he teaches, but ‘to make sure my mother doesn’t find out. She would be terribly upset if she knew about it’ Continue reading
Late 1970s- Jim Ward performs a vertical nipple piercing on Rochester’s Rufus Dreyer. Rufus appears occasionally in photos in my archives- his appearance distinct with a full body of dense tattooing, a grey Van Dyke beard and flipped up septum tusk- but I’ve not been able to find out anything about him other than his name.
Jim can be seen using a thimble to push assist in pushing the needle though the tissue; the needles available at the time weren’t as sharp as our modern options and every little bit helped.
(Thanks to Jim for helping me identify Rufus)
February 1st, 2016
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.” -America’s favorite Dirty Desert-Gypsy: Mr. Jesus Christ
The view from seat 12A on United flight 203 is an introspective one. “Who am I?”, “What have I accomplished?”, “ What is my identity?”. Ya know, the usual line of questioning you barrage yourself with at 5:30 in the morning, on 45 minutes of restless sleep, as you embark on a life changing 6 month long body piercing tour across America, ending with a move to another country to live with your incredible, Canadian wife. Ya know, the usual. And then I remembered something a dear friend of mine said to me: “Not everybody has the guts to do what they want.”.
It’s been interesting to see how the archetypes popular in the 1960s/1970s Gay Leather scene have been appropriated and assimilated into modern pop culture- from the in your face aesthetics of Oslo’s Turbonegro (“We aren’t really gay but we like that people might think we are. And if it helps some gay kid come out of the closet, then that’s cool. Or if it helps some guy that hates queer rethink his position, then that’s great too.” 1) to the tragically hip “flagging” hankies 2 in their back pockets and wearing leather armbands and a Muir cap, the classic look of a still present subculture has, like it or not, lost some of it’s cultural exclusivity.
Still, for my money, I like living in a world where we all borrow from each other.
This photo from Sailor Sid Diller’s 1978 trip to London features Sid (left) and Alan ‘Mr. Sebastian’ Oversby (right) looking very much the part of 1970s body piercers.
I’ve almost completed archiving the 1978 Sailor Sid London album; some of the highlights have been posted here on Sacred with others in queue for future updates- but this one caught my eye so I bumped it to the head of the line. Sid (left), unknown (middle) and Alan Oversby (right) standing under a sign reading ‘where the action is’ connected via nipple and genital piercings.
Take note of the pubic wing tattoos on Alan and client- In ancient Roman culture the fascinus (winged phallus) was an avatar of the divine penis. it was no wonder that the early T&P Community, which was primarily (but not exclusively) made up of gay males, adopted the symbol as a popular tattoo design. Visually it exoticized the pubic area, and when designed correctly made the wearers penis to appear longer. Typically it was brightly colored bird wings, but as the wings got more popular variations such as bat and dragon wings would occasionally show up. Alan was a driving force in the upswing in Fascinus tattoos.
Legendary photographer/anthropologist Charles Gatewood, under his FLASH VIDEO label, had a successful line of VHS documentaries called Erotic Tattooing & Body Piercing. It used to be taken for granted that people who were into heavy body piercing were more likely to be involved in alternative sexual lifestyles- the roots of the piercing scene were firmly embedded in the gay leather scene and was popular with straight/bi S/M players who used their bodies to display their kinks.
Since tattoos were usually kept hidden in the early years of the scene they provided an avenue to take that concept- using the body to display kinks- quite literally. If simply being tattooed could arouse an erotic response it would only make sense that sometimes the tattoos themselves would be erotic, like the mermen on piercer/tattooer Sailor Sid Diller’s legs.
This photo, scanned from a 3×5 print dated 1978, features Alan Oversby tattooing a Tom of Finland styled Leather Man on Sid’s leg. Sid’s legendary tattooed/pierced penis and scrotum are also on display.
Event: Scarwars 2.
Location: Los Angeles.
Year: February 2006.
Photographer: Rachel Larratt.
Subject: Dave Gillstrap.
My wife and I took a much needed week long roadtrip for Thanksgiving; Philadelphia to Asheville North Carolina, Asheville to Atlanta Georgia and back to Philly, checking out the sights, seeing family and just unwinding from all of our responsibilities. I had packed my laptop and had a few blog entries ready to go out, but you know how it goes with vacations…
I’ve been focusing a lot on the 1970s lately, so I figured a 2000s post may be a welcome change. This 2006 photo, by BME’s Rachel Larratt, features scarification artist Dave Gillstrap at the second Scarwars event in Los Angeles. For the event portraits I asked our photographers to go very simple, white backgrounds and neutral lighting to let the personality of the subject stand out.
“40 years ago today Gauntlet came into existence. It’s sometimes hard to believe all that has transpired in the world of body mod in that time.”- Jim Ward, 11.17.2015
Happy anniversary to Jim Ward and The Gauntlet!
“When I opened Gauntlet in 1975, virtually no one but hardcore fetishists and sadomasochism (S/M) enthusiasts were piercing themselves below the neck. People in the mundane world failed to realize that a little piece of metal strategically inserted in certain locations of the body can significantly amplify erotic sensations in those areas and make sex even more enjoyable. It seemed so clear to me that this was something that could benefit anyone. Why should piercing be limited to a select few? With that in mind, it became my mission to let the world at large in on this amazing secret and to let it know I had the ability to make it a reality.”
Jim has been an amazing resource for piercing fans for the last four decades; The Gauntlet, PFIQ, his APP classes- read the uncensored history of the roots of the modern body piercing revival in his memoir Running the Gauntlet available here: http://www.runningthegauntlet-book.com/
Piercer: Jack Yount.
Piercing: Prince Albert.
Original Source: Polaroid Positive print.
The doctor does house calls. When this photograph was taken there were only a few piercing shops in the world; for clients unable to visit a piercer it was often on the piercer to visit them. I have fond memories of Jack Yount putting on his reading glasses before a procedure; in this case a Prince Albert which Jack performed from the urethra out, and telling stories as he worked to take the client’s mind off of what was happening.
This photograph was taken before universal precautions were widely practices in the piercing community and is presented for documentation and should not be considered best practice.