“Speaking of nodal points in history, of some emerging pattern in the texture of things. Of everything changing.”- William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, piercer Blake Perlingieri was instrumental in the shift from the prevailing aesthetic of body piercing (leather and levis) back to it’s primal roots; an evangelist who’s message was organic, freehand and raw. The logical heir to the Modern Primitive movement started by Fakir Musafar, Blake opened NOMAD twenty-four years ago and has been one of the industry’s true mavericks ever since.
This video features Blake performing large gauge conch piercings- part of what became known as the ‘Nomad look’- circa 1990s. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that without his influence, ear lobe stretching (and everything that came after) wouldn’t have taken hold so quickly in the piercing community. About the needles used: “Ranfac Corp made it. Single bevel. I think it was 5 or 6″ long and they were 72.00 each!!!”
“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)
“Friend John says that it was in 1976 that I went to a private showing of the movie TATTOO. There I met Doug Malloy and John with his magnificent squid tattoo. And there were pictures shown of tattoos and some piercings. I can’t say that the latter took hold, but my interest in tattoos was reinforced.” Louis ‘Indy’ Rove 1
I got a text message the other day from a friend asking if I knew anything about a piercer working in their home town; was he any good, could I recommend him, any horror stories or caveats – most of us who’ve been around the industry for a year or three are probably pretty used to getting that message and over the years I’ve been able to help steer folks into some good shops to be worked on by some good people. But, increasingly, I’m in the position where there are (exponentially) more piercers out there that I don’t know than those that I do. That doesn’t speak to their skill level or their commitment to safe piercing, good tattooing or ethical body modifications- just that the community that turned into an industry is now bigger than our ability to keep up with it.
it wasn’t always that way, though, and as I dig deeper into my archives I’m seeing faces and names that are cross-referenced over the decades and miles connecting the pioneers of the ‘T&P’ community, revealing a tight knit group who were connected by very few degrees. Over the last few days I’ve scanned photos at random, spanning different years, original owners and disciplines (primarily tattooing and body piercing) but when I move to the research phase almost every one of these pioneers either knew each other or were separated by one or two mutual friends.
The photos I uploaded of Dr. John Lemes, for example- John was there when T&P Party member Indy Rove met Doug Malloy; introducing him to the Southern California scene and Jim Ward (who would go on to put several dozen piercings into his penis) and Fakir Musafar (who photographed him for PFIQ #17).
This photo- FH-21A22- was taken in Louis Rove’s (misspelled on the photograph as Louis Rave) Los Angeles home on 29th January 1982 and features my favorite early bodymod pioneer Bud ‘Viking Navaro’ H in all of his tusk’d glory.
We’ve reached a point in our community/industry’s timeline where there are so many options to get a safe modification performed, but there sure was something special about a smaller more intimate scene.
- PFIQ #17, Who’s Who: Meet Indy, Gauntlet Enterprises 1983, editor Jim Ward/Photographer Fakir Musafar. ↩
I’ve been talking a lot lately with friends about how to make Sacred Debris appeal to a broader audience. As a non-profit enterprise that finds clickbait abhorrent, we stand nothing to gain from new viewers aside from the satisfaction of uniting a bunch of nerdy piercing, tattooing and body modification fans with access to things that most folks wouldn’t really care about.
We would probably get more viewer engagement if I posted fancy septum clickers every few hours instead of 40 year old mailing labels, but… tell me.. how COOL is this?
Peeled from a letter from Mr. Sebastian (Alan Oversby) to Sailor Sid Diller it’s history in your hands!
Living up to my promise to always post septum tusk photos when I come across them-
This photograph features Sailor Sid Diller (right) and friend from one of Sid’s UK visits. It was taken at Alan “Mr. Sebastian” Oversby’s apartment. There was no code on the back of the print, so this could have come from Sid’s late 1970s visit or a later trip.
Let’s bring back septum tusks!
Original Source: 35mm 3×5 print.
Jack Yount is mostly remembered for his extreme modifications; silicone and surgeries helped reshape him physically and it’s very easy to forget that before his collaborations with Dr. Ronald Brown, Jack was a piercing and tattoo devotee. This photograph dates back to the late 1980s and finds Jack putting a few pens into his stretched nipple piercings.
In 1995, my spcOnline was a fledgling body modification site hosted on America Online. AOL. As an ISP, they seemingly had no problem with the body modification content I was posting but I was TOS’d and my site removed over a topless photo of adult film star Nina Hartley that was part of an article I had written on my personal diary page.
Shannon Larratt graciously offered unlimited server space on the BME servers, with no prohibition on content, where my site remained for a decade before I finally retired it in 2005. My time with BME, Shannon and his wife Rachel helped spawn BME/Extreme, ModCon, and Scarwars and directly influenced Occult Vibrations and Sacred Debris.
Fifteen years after first meeting her, I still rely on Rachel for an ear to bend when I’ve got a new idea for a project or just a funny, snarky story to tell at three in the morning. She’s been through a lot over the last few years and she still does her best to keep things going. Recently her home and the majority of her belongings were damaged in a natural disaster in South Carolina.
The fine folks @ Metadope have put out two rad BME patches with funds going to help Rachel and Ari.
Grab some patches, support 20 years of Body Modification documentation and have a happy Halloween!
In the 1980s, the concept of a professional body piercer was a bit of a rarity. The Gauntlet had introduced the idea in the late 70s, but outside of a very small handful of lucky folks who had worked for Jim Ward, making a living solely on piercing/body jewelry was a true rarity.
When Jack Yount made the decision to start piercing more formally- as a resident at D.C. Leather shops as opposed to at T&P parties on the east coast- he was still working as an executive at a major plumbing supply company and protecting his identity was a concern. Taking his initials- J.A.Y. he christened himself “Mr. Jay” (sometimes shortened to Mr. J) and was able to live discretely in both worlds until his retirement from corporate life.
This photograph- which is uncredited- was taken in the early 1990s and features Jack’s signature septum tusk (two piece threaded) from Ed Fenster’s Silver Anchor Body Jewelry.