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.
I’ve been sitting on this post for weeks; every now and then I’d go into my drafts queue and tinker with it a little bit here and there, adding new photos or blurbs from suspension practitioners that were influenced by the film but never quite finished it up. Earlier this morning, iconic photographer, anthropologist and counterculture icon Charles Gatewood- the subject of the film- passed away. Dances has taken on a life of it’s own in the suspension community but ultimately is a documentary on Gatewood’s photography and is a great snapshot of one of the most important photoanthopologists of our time. We’ve screened it several times at the Overground Cinema in Philadelphia, with each screening converting a new fan. Rest in Peace, Charles- and thank you.
Charles Gatewood, November 8th 1942-April 28th 2016.
Canadian speculative science fiction author William Gibson first introduced me to the term ‘Nodal Points’ in his 1996 novel IDORU; the book’s protagonist Colin Laney sifts through vast amounts of data looking for points of particular relevance 1 and since I’ve always wanted to be a protagonist in a cyberpunk novel I tend to use the term quite often here on SD when talking about particularly influential moments in body modification history.
For the hook suspension community, the 1985 release of Dan and Mark Jury’s Dances Sacred and Profane was one such point. A documentary on photoanthropologist Charles Gatewood, who’s Forbidden Photographs would go on to help define the Modern Primitives era of the late 1980s/early 1990s body modification scene, DS&P has gained a cult following thanks to it’s admittedly brief footage of Fakir Musafar and Jim Ward performing their interpretation of a Sun Dance ritual and Fakir’s chest suspension from a cottonwood tree.
Thirty years after it’s initial release, Dances, which was retitled Bizarre Rituals by Gorgon Video 2 in 1985 when it was release on home video, has become a classic, influencing the pioneers of the modern hook suspension revival.
I saw Dances Sacred and Profane for the first time after I had already been into suspension for some years; somebody shared a link to it online, after the second Dallas SusCon I attended in 2010. After watching it I gained a different perspective, and appreciation for not just the history of modification, but also body suspension as ritual. I suddenly felt a certain reverence for suspension, and wanted to revisit its history with this new point of view. I have always been drawn more to the artistic and technical aspects of the form, and am heavily driven by the urban roots by which I was introduced to it. With Gatewood’s coverage of all the intersecting scenes, and the climactic, crazy, deep tissue chest suspension at the end, I had the realization that ritual and art were co-dependent, and that understanding suspension’s place in other environments would be the only logical way to make progress towards something unique with this medium. I guess nobody had ever explained suspension to me in that context before. It was either science and art, as with Stelarc’s body of work; ritualistic, as with Fakir’s approach; or purely recreational, which defines the majority of the modern state of body suspension. After DSP, the consideration was there that all of these things were somewhat co-dependent, and make for a more wholesome experience. In short, DSP was the trigger for my fascination with just how far we can go with our minds and bodies, with suspension as the carrier. It made me approach suspension with more reverence, respect, and patience. I would not want to insult those that came before us. – Orb Ism, Anchors Aweigh
I started my piercing apprenticeship in the spring of 1994 and soon after read Modern Primitives, which led me to Dances Sacred and Profane. To put it lightly, I was overwhelmingly intrigued. But being from a smaller city in the midwest, where simply having a few facial piercings was enough to get you publicly ridiculed, I remember thinking that would probably be something I only ever got to read about. But the imagery and the ritual and the way the flesh looked being stretched and used to lift the human body were things that stayed with me. Fast forward to 2004 and I finally got my chance to swing from hooks. There was no ritual, no tree, no epic scenery, just me and some friends and some hooks. It was at that point that intrigue turned into a drving passion, to not only do it again, but to share it with others. In 2014 this all culminated with me getting to work with Fakir at a performance during Dallas SusCon 2014. Suspension has been nothing short of life-changing for me. Being a part of the suspension community has made me the man I am today. And I owe it all to seeing this amazing film- Mike Coons, HOOKED
In 2004 the film was released on DVD by the Jury Brothers under the title Dances, Sacred and Profane Redux. This new digital version included footage of Fakir and Mark Jury reconnecting ten years after the completion of the film.
A nodal point is also a photographic term: noun, Optics. 1. either of two points on the axis of a lens or other optical system, determined by extending an incident oblique ray and the corresponding refracted ray to the axis for the pair of rays that are parallel outside the optical system. Also called node.- Source Dictionary.com↩
Gorgon Video is a film production and distribution company focusing on the subgenre of extreme horror and “dark documentaries” based in the United States and Spain. The company is best known for the film Devil Doll (1964) and the Faces of Death series.- Source: Wikipedia. ↩
I’m not sure if I ever posted the backside of the ‘manage a trois of horns’ photo that I turned into 2015’s Sacred Debris/APP post card- I need to get better about keeping track of uploads (or hire a personal assistant to keep track for me) so assuming that I haven’t-
Backside of image FH36A- Sailor Sid Diller, Jim Ward and Bud ‘Viking’ Navaro, February 1982 from the collection of Sailor Sid Diller/Jack Yount. Regular readers know that I never pass up a chance to post septum tusk photos, so I’m including the front side as well. Also, I like that shag carpeting.
The postcards were given away at APP2015 for first year attendees.
“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.
“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/
Model: Jim A.
Piercer: Jim Ward.
Piercing: Guiche, Scrotum.
Year: February 1979.
A few weeks ago I went off on a (good natured) rant about the recent trend in the piercing community to have custom gold threaded jewelry made, often at considerable expense, in designs as varied as slices of pizza, Harry Potter iconography and Jersey shore tattoo classics like infinity symbols, feathers and Playboy bunnies.
Since there’s really nothing new under the sun, I instantly thought of early piercing personality Jim A. (who’s been featured on SD several times) and his amazing guiche weight that was made to resemble Gauntlet’s iconic logo. In the early days of western piercing the guiche weight was a fairly popular item, but as far as originality and style goes- no one really beat Jim.
Edit: Jim Ward shared this: “Thank you for the kind words. Jim Anderson was a great guy who died too early probably from AIDS. I personally sculpted that fist weight. It was cast in silver, not gold.”
Jim may be inclined to recast these weights if there’s an interest- and there should be!
This February 1982 photograph comes from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection and features Sid showing off his new stomach tattoo (possibly by Cliff Raven) on the Los Angeles, California front porch of Gauntlet/PFIQ founder Jim Ward.
Typed label and Sid’s handwritten filing code for duplicates.
As I mentioned in a previous post (see recommended posts below) it was fairly common in the early days of Western piercing culture to for piercees to wear a frenum loop in their frenum piercing; a ring measured to be flipped up over the coronal ridge of the glans of the penis which upon erection acts as an ad hoc cock ring.
Some men went fancy, adding beads and texture to their loop. From Jim Ward 1
One of my more colorful clients was a Hungarian doctor who showed up on my doorstep one day. I was still working out of the house at the time, and he’d been referred to me by the Pleasure Chest, a sex shop that had recently opened in West Hollywood.
Dr. C was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie and had the bearing of a European gentleman. He explained that he wanted a frenum piercing. This was accomplished without a great deal of fuss.
I must confess I was a bit more nervous that usual. Although clean, the house and furniture were shabby. He was, after all, a doctor, and I was concerned that he would be uncomfortable being pierced in such an environment. Still, I brought out a clean bath towel and spread it on the couch for him to lie on. I laid out the bagged and sterilized equipment on a stainless tray. When I was finished he complemented me my technique as well as the cleanliness that I observed. It was a particular validation coming from him.
With casual European sophistication the good doctor told me that he and his wife were no longer sexually active. He had a young girlfriend who he particularly wanted to keep satisfied. To that end he commissioned me to make a cast gold frenum ring that would incorporate two penises and a ball on top that would stimulate her clitoris during intercourse. He quipped that he wanted to penetrate her with three penises.
Dr. C was quite happy with the finished piece of jewelry. Unfortunately he didn’t feel comfortable wearing it all the time, especially at the health club. Consequently he took it on and off frequently. Eventually the post would break off, and he would bring it to me for repair. The last time this happened he brought it in and chatted amiably about what a wonderful device it was. I told him how long it would take for the repair, and everything seemed satisfactory. I never saw him again. Whatever happened to him I never found out. After holding onto the piece of jewelry for several years, I eventually sold it.
This photo was dated April 1978 and originally ran on the spcOnline site in 1995.