Tag Archives: Paul King

BSTA: Mic Rawls

Mic Rawls is like a portal into one of the greatest times in history. Coming in through with extraordinary beginnings, he’s a shining example that you can enjoy a hearty tenure in piercing while still radiating positivity. Mic took time away from holding down the fort at one of the best shops in the country to talk about his time with Jon Cobb, what it takes to keep your love of piercing strong, and to reminisce on the early stages of the APP conference.

Ari – I always have everyone do the introduction, give us your name and how long you’ve been working in the industry for and where you’re currently at.

Mic – My name is Mic Rawls, I am currently at Cold Steel America in San Francisco, I’ve happily been here as manager for the last ten and senior piercer for the last 18 years at this shop.  I’ve been piercing 23 years this last month, which is rad, still loving it (most days of it!). Continue reading

BSTA: Paul King

Paul 1995 photo by Christine Kessler.

Masterpierce Theatre: Paul King

Paul King is so handsome it takes a continued effort not to rip the skin off my own face.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s be frank; Paul is a motherfucking national treasure. I honestly don’t know if I can write a proper introduction without it slipping into something so masturbatory that becomes unreadable, so I’ll just say that he is one of the most revered and respected people in this industry, and deserving of every bit of that. We spoke about Paul’s introduction to body piercing, some of the Master Piercers, cultural appropriation, and the Body Piercing Archives. Don’t forget after all of this to reach out and thank Paul for being who he is, saying what he says, and doing what he does. Also, while you’re at it, thank him for being really, really hot.

Ari- I always have everyone do the standard introductions, so tell us your name and how long you’ve been piercing and where you’re currently at.

Paul- My name is Paul King and I’ve been a professional body piercer since 1991. I was inspired and trained at a company called the Gauntlet; it was the first piercing shop in the Western world. I served a one-and-a-half-year apprenticeship under Elayne Angel. I then went on to manage Gauntlet Los Angeles, worked in the San Francisco store, and also managed Gauntlet New York. Gauntlet closed in 1998. In 1999, Grant Dempsey and I (Dempsey of Cold Steel International in London), opened up two tattooing and piercing shops in San Francisco called Cold Steel America (www.coldsteelpiercing.com). One was in the old San Francisco Gauntlet location, the other was in the upper Haight. We briefly attempted to do wholesale and decided to open in 2001. You can imagine how well that went. Wholesale didn’t last so long. So after that we parted ways in 2008. He was moving to Australia with his family and I was heading back to school. We let go of the Market street location, and I now have one shop on Haight street in the old Haight-Ashbury district. Continue reading

APP 2017: XXX History of Piercing

My social media streams have started to fill up with status updates and scores of photos from friends attending the 2017 APP Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the majority of activities won’t kick off until Monday, June 12th it seems like a lot of folks headed to Vegas early with over 1000 registered guests slated for this year’s event, which I’m told may be a record. I had planned on sitting out again this year, but the prospect of piercer/anthropologist Paul King’s 2017 offering encouraged me to book a trip out west for what promises to be a class that was made specifically with me in mind.

If you’re attending the Conference this year make sure to stop me and say hello!

The Middle School Era: Udo & Paul 1993


©Greg Gorman. Courtesy of Paul King

We’ve gotten a lot of great responses to the year end/new year reader survey; I appreciate everyone who’s taken the time to fill it out (though I selfishly wish I would have made more of the questions mandatory- dang skippers) and share their thoughts about the past, present and future direction of the project.

The data is still coming in but looking at what’s currently available it seems that folks want to see the middle school era of modern body modification given a little more attention; the early-mid 1990s were a time of incredible growth and progress for the piercing and modification community and the artists that make up that phase- which I would argue was irrevocably changed in 1995- were a fascinating and influential group who have done as much to shape the future of the body piercing industry as the pioneers that came before them. We’re going to be selectively highlighting piercers who made an impact during the 1990s, as time, materials and resources permit, so let me know (via the survey, link above, or email [email protected]) who you may be interested in seeing featured on the blog.

We’ll start with Paul King.

Piercing since 1991, trained by Elayne Angel and a veteran of three Gauntlet locations before opening his own Piercing and Tattoo Studio 1  Paul was described as a ‘piercing nerd’ by BME’s Shannon Larratt in 2003 2 and has become a ‘can’t miss’ presenter at the annual APP Conference and Exposition, focusing on historic and contemporary body modification from an academic and community point of view.


©1993 Greg Gorman

The photograph above, featuring cult actor Udo Kier and Paul, dates back to 1993 and was taken by noted celebrity photographer Greg Gorman 3 who contacted the L.A. Gauntlet looking for play piercing services for the photoshoot with Udo.

As Paul tells it, Greg thought that play piercing meant fake piercing, unaware that in the piercing community it meant temporary piercing with (usually) smaller gauge needles. Paul told told them “how embarrassing that would be…for street cred we should do real play piercing…bad ass Udo went for it! cheeks, eyebrows, the works!” and proceeded to actually pierce Udo for the photoshoot.

Again, thanks to everyone who’s shared their thoughts on the direction Sacred is going to take in the coming year, and if you haven’t completed the survey- Sacred Debris Content Survey 2015/2016.


  1. Cold Steel San Francisco
  2. “definitely a guy who I’d call a “piercing nerd” — someone who can go on and on about it and is interested in every little silly piece of trivia on the subject. Given that’s how I’d also describe myself, and given that it’s so hard for any one person to get a real picture of this community (so much of it is still oral history), it was wonderful to be able to assimilate his stories…” Source: BME Encyclopedia Paul King Entry.
  3. Greg Gorman (b. 1949, Kansas City, Missouri) is a renowned portrait photographer, who has shot Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Michael Jackson and many others in his signature black-and-white. “For me a photograph is most successful when it doesn’t answer all the questions,” says Gorman, “but leaves something to the imagination”. Source: Sleek-art.net.