Piercer: Jim Ward. 1
Location: Southern California.
Year: Early 1980s.
Collection: Sid Diller
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.
As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.
Eight 1 years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.
When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.
When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
It’s such a rare thing in the Body Modification world to be able to legitimately claim to have been the inventor of anything; we take for granted that some things have no definable origins and that if someone says they were the first at anything, there is probably someone somewhere who did it years before them.
Except for Jim Ward.
While Jim didn’t invent body piercing, it’s impossible not to think of him as the architect of body piercing as an industry. Before Jim and his Gauntlet there was no such thing as Professional Body Piercing. It was an underground thing with some practitioners knowing more than others, working discretely out of people’s houses, T&P parties, hotel rooms and the back rooms of Leather shops.
Jim changed everything when he opened the Gauntlet’s first retail location in West Hollywood in November of 1978. He invented the concept of the Body Piercer as a profession. Through trial and error he and his staff which would go on to include such luminaries as Elayne Angel, Paul King, Keith Alexander (Gauntlet NYC) and Jon Cobb (Gauntlet NYC) contributed techniques and standards that would revolutionize the culture of body piercing. His PFIQ would be the blueprint for those of us who document our community (my use of Who’s Who is a direct homage to my favorite section in PFI) and his book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET has become an indispensable tome for people interested in the roots of our culture.
Jim is also a damn nice guy who is very kind and patient to the scores of people who’s influenced, always taking the time to help out when he can by answering our many questions and offering presentations at the APP conference in Las Vegas.
So happy birthday Jim, and thank you for all you’ve done for us.
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the first PA piercing performed by piercing pioneer Jim Ward. While getting everything together for an expanded version of the purple hanky article I came across this photo…
In the spirit of ‘do you remember your first one’…
This is Fernando. He was the infamous Leatherman who’s pierced nipples were the first that Jim saw in person. According to Jim’s invaluable book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET:
“At this point in my life I had never seen or heard of anyone with pierced nipples even in the pages of National Geographic. That was soon to change. One weekend night I went to the Village to hang out at the NYMBC. Standing shirtless by the bar was a hunk of a man. Even in the subdued light there was no missing the glint of gold on his muscular chest. His nipples were pierced. I learned that his name was Fernando and that he was something of a local legend. Though I was never fortunate enough to enjoy the intimate pleasure of his company, he at least let me know that once again I was not alone.”
That feeling- of not being alone- was very powerful in the early days of Body Modification, before finding others ‘like us’ was a mouse click away.
Do you remember the first time you saw someone who was pierced/tattooed/modified it it made you feel connected to something bigger? Share the story!
Sometimes when I’m trying to be clever, I use California Roll as a descriptor when I’m identifying something as the safe, starter choice for trying something new. Chicken Curry is the California Roll of Indian food; the 5k is the California Roll of running, and the Prince Albert is…
You get the picture. It’s the intro piercing most men get when they begin to explore the idea of genital piercing. Frenum, Dydoes, Apadravya and the oft-dreaded/oft-treasured Ampallang may follow, but for the majority of men finding themselves in the stirrups for the first time, the PA- which is quick and painless for the most part, easy to heal and easier to stretch is a great way to start.
Most piercers have long since lost count of how many Prince Alberts they’ve performed in their career- a blur of receiving tubes and miles upon miles of ready to be pierced penis- but almost everyone remembers their first. When they have to fight not appear more nervous than the client and make sure that it all goes smoothly you can be sure that it leaves an indelible impression.
One of my favorite WHO’S WHO features in PFIQ Magazine was on a piercing/tattoo enthusiast and Gauntlet regular named Jim A. 1 who had the distinction of being Jim Ward’s first Prince Albert piercing. In his indispensable memoir ‘Running the Gauntlet’ Jim says:
At that time, I had not yet invented the piercing needle and was using large veterinary hypodermic needles. Trying to follow the beveled point of the needle with the jewelry was virtually impossible. The other challenge was the technique Doug used of piercing into the tip of a cotton swab. By some miracle I managed to do the piercing, but the procedure was extremely bloody. Despite everything, Jim was a good sport, and over the years became a regular customer as well as a close friend.
I remember reading the interview with Jim A. in one of the early issues of PFI and falling in love with his genital tattoos by tattoo legend Cliff Raven- this photo, originally published on SPCOnline in 1998, features his hardware, including the original PA Piercing by Jim Ward. Other than being a friend/client of the Gauntlet, Anderson assisted in creating the PFIQ Crosswords that ran from issue #36 (1991) through #42 (1993).
If you’d like to share the story of your first Prince Albert (getting or giving) please use the comments forum below!