In an upcoming interview from the Better Safe than Ari series, former piercer (and current tattoo artist) Ken Dean talks a little bit with Ari about the connection tattooers have with the history of their craft, and the seeming apathy that piercers have for theirs:
Ari- Tattooing is so big on history, such a prevalent part of the culture, even with shitty tattooers! It’s such an embrace your heritage type deal, but piercing is not. Most people don’t give a shit about any of it. Any idea why even the bottom tier of tattooers are all know your roots, but piercers tend to be so apathetic?
Ken – I don’t know. I mean shit, even at the tattoo museum I work at we have a huge picture of Fakir. The shops been there since 1941, like before Pearl Harbor! I don’t know why they don’t care. Could it be because the roots of piercing are in the gay S&M leather underground?
I certainly hope that’s not the case. The intersection of 1970s Leather Culture and the roots of the early Western body piercing industry are inexorably linked. While the makeup of the industry has changed radically since Jim Ward opened the Gauntlet forty years ago, with Leathermen with an interest in piercing being replaced by people interested in body piercing as it’s own subculture, it’s origins should still be celebrated.
When it comes to Leather culture, Drummer Magazine 1 was at the forefront of documenting (and help define archetypes for) the lifestyle. Those early issues were powerhouses of iconic content of interest to the body mod scene; erotic stories by Phil Andros (aka Phil Sparrow, aka Sam Steward) articles with Cliff Raven, illustrations by PFIQ cover artist (and Sacred Debris favorite) Bud Larsen- they’re a treasure trove of awesome. Continue reading →
Dome Karukoski’s TOM OF FINLAND is currently playing in limited release in theaters across the US, exposing the erotic artwork of Touko Laaksonen to a new generation of (hopefully) adoring fans. Over the last few decades there has been a growing appreciation for Tom’s iconic pencil drawings of hunky leather men, bikers and sailors with Finland recently releasing a series of postage stamps and online retailers selling a wide variety of Tom goods including shower curtains, bedding and a wide variety of branded clothing.
While it’s great to see Tom’s work receiving so much attention, it’s heartbreaking that the art of Bud Larsen hasn’t had the same luck. His work for early PFIQ (and Drummer magazine) issues was a mixture of bold, graceful line work and erotic subject matter that helped the magazine establish it’s aesthetic.
This illustration was for Drummer Magazine, 1970s. Bud’s work often included mythological, sci-fi and astrological elements.
On September 1st 2015 I recorded a free-form oral history with retired tattoo artist and T.R.A.S.H. editor JD. Recorded during lunch, JD and I shared a pizza and discussed the last days of Sailor Sid Diller, gay erotic artist REX (famous for his MINESHAFT logo design), TRASH magazine and the gentrification of NYC. He was a very charming gentleman, like myself a bit of a rascal and a wonderful connection to days gone by.
One of these days I’ll finish up the article I started on the Gay Leather roots of the modern body piercing community; like a lot of things I work on it’s a quarter finished, sitting in a notepad waiting for me dive back into it, but until then…
Every time I flip though old issues Drummer Magazine I come across so much amazing content. This ad from a 1975/6 issue reminds us that there has always been a market for people wanting blinged-out TIT STUDS.
I’m still working on transcribing the 2001 sit-down I did with PFIQ/Drummer Magazine artist Bud Larsen; I’ve mentioned before that it’s less of an interview and more a free form oral history and as such I’m not sure how much will be relevant to SD readers, but the same can’t be said for examples of his artwork, which is always impressive and of interest to folks interested in body modification history.
This ARIES illustration was used in Drummer Magazine 1 (ed note: cite issue number/date) and features the God of War himself, tattooed and collared and impeccably inked by Bud. I don’t know much about astrology, but it would seem that Tennessee Williams, Bill Shatner and “The Night Porter” actor Dirk Bogarde are all Aries- and according to the Internet that means that they’re:
Enterprising, Incisive, Spontaneous, Daring, Active, Courageous and Energetic, the Aries are the proverbial infants, guileless and optimistic to the fault. However, they also are impatient, impetuous, vain, proud and egoistic. (source: http://www.ganeshaspeaks.com/aries/aries-facts.action)
That seems fairly dead on for Shatner, so maybe there’s something to it?
Drummer Magazine was launched in 1975 by John H. Embry and Jeanne Barney, catering to gay men into the Leather subculture. It ran until April of 1999. Over it’s tenure it was considered highly influential in the gay/leather community. ↩
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.
My impression of Alan was of a rather private man who was a bit difficult to get to know. Not that he was particularly shy. He would casually disrobe and allow himself to be photographed, but there was always a reserved quality about his actions. He could converse with intelligence and ease, but to access the man behind the mask was a challenge. – Jim Ward, A visit to London.
Tattooist and body piercer Alan Oversby- better known in the modification world as Mr. Sebastian- photographing a client at his London studio. March 1978.
Scanned from a 3″x 5″ print originally from Sailor Sid Diller’s collection.
Alan is generally considered to be the godfather of the European body piercing revival, but he was also an accomplished and respected tattoo artist.
For more information about Sid, Alan and the roots of the western piercing scene, visit http://www.runningthegauntlet-book.com/ to pick up Jim Ward’s indispensable book Running the Gauntlet. It features the uncensored story of the piercing community and the creation of the piercing industry and is a must own.
This footage is a re-capture of previously imported video; shot in the 1970s on 8mm film and converted to VHS in the late 1980s it features Sailor Sid Diller and Ken Meyers tattooing at Ken’s Kissimmee, Florida studio. Since my original import for BME/News there have been major advancements in capture/compression technologies and while the VHS master was still viable (though rapidly degrading) I made a higher resolution scan.
This edit is the ‘safe for work’ version; the atmosphere at Ken’s studio during the filming was casual and very sex positive; most of the participants client and artist were fully naked during the tattooing sessions and the longer cut will reflect that.
In March of 2001 I visited erotic artist Bud Larsen in Phoenix Arizona to talk about his work with PFIQ and Drummer magazine; his art helped define the early aesthetic of both periodicals- crisp black lines like a pornographic Al Hirschfeld featuring ultra masculine pinups, dangerous femme fatals and mindbending scifi and fantasy creatures with exaggeratedly large genitals which were more often than not pierced or otherwise decorated.
The entire affair was a disaster of exposed film, lost video/audio tapes and only memories and a few signed PFIQs as a souvenir of the trip. For fourteen years I’ve thought the tapes lost. SD recently received funding to restore 8mm video cassettes and during the sorting/cataloguing I discovered that a video backup of the interview wasn’t lost, just misfiled. This backup was intended to be a safety-net in case something happened to the mini-cassette recorder that we used for the interview was lost, which prophetically did happen, and was never intended to be a “on camera” interview. The handycam was set up to catch the audio and is just haphazardly pointed at Bud and I, and without a lapel mic the audio at times is difficult to hear, but given how woefully under-documented Bud’s career is, it was an amazing find.
This short clip features Bud and I discussing his process for creating a drawing. The audio is muddy, and I still need to scan the PFIQ issue the images we’re discussing come from- there’s a lot more work to do on this tape (hopefully a transcript and better audio) but for now- enjoy a chat with Bud (and my epic bad haircut) and make sure to say thanks to the patrons who sponsored the import/archival of the 8mm collection of the SPC.
This was originally posted to the SD Tumblr blog on 9th September 2014. Raelyn was an inspiration to many, myself included, and her presence is greatly missed in the body modification community.
To my generation, the body artists and pioneers featured in RE/Search Publications iconic MODERN PRIMITIVES are our Major Arcana. In a time where information was hard to come by we read their interviews over and over and took them as the words of our elders, helping to illuminate the path we were on and most importantly to reaffirm to us that we weren’t alone.
Raelyn Gallina was the first artist I ever heard talking about scarification. Her influence as a body modification artist is often overlooked- regrettably overlooked- but you can bet she influenced the people who’ve inspired you.
In the twenty five years that have passed since it’s publication and to my initial introduction to Raelyn I only had the pleasure of meeting her once, but I found her to be a funny, warm and spirited woman who despite dealing with her own medical problems took the time to invite me into her hotel room, tell me some stories and raise a little hell.
Raelyn passed away this weekend. My condolences to her friends and loved ones.