When I’m going through stacks of unsorted prints looking for potential updates for the SD blog it’s easy to gravitate towards photos featuring heavily modified personalities from our community’s past; Viking Navaro’s atavistic aesthetic, a fully naked and smiling Sailor Sid Diller or Jack Yount showing off his Disney tattoos and subincised penis- it’s the kind of thing that tends to get the most notice and reblogs, which expose more viewers to the site where they get suckered into reading blurbs about decade old t-shirts and my often espoused theory that pants don’t necessarily have a place in a piercing room.
But for most piercers and tattooers those heavily modified clients are the exception and not the rule. The majority are casually modified, a few tattoos or piercings because they like the way it looks or how it makes them feel. They’re the clients who keep the doors open between (oftentimes needlessly) complicated ‘projects’ and conceptual nonsense that exists for a Instagram post and not much else.
In an1996/7 interview with now retired piercer Jon Cobb he relates the story of a woman who chose a single piercing over the expectations of falling in line with the status quo, proving that it’s not what you have, it’s why you have it:
“Our rites of passage are getting drunk, going to college, getting laid… But this is a moment where you really do have to earn it. This is going to hurt.Why am I doing this? And I get to maybe help you see that you aren’t what you do, and maybe it is alright that you want something for yourself, and maybe it would be OK to tell work to stick it this time, and if it doesn’t work out I’ll find a job where I can be me. So many people are starting to touch on that because we’ve set our world up to fail and I’ve got a chance to let them know what else can be. I’ve had a woman trade in a $50,000 job over her labret. It was symbolic of the bigger picture — as soon as she did it, she cried, and realized that she only needed $50,000 a year because $40,000 of it was paying for her huge house and her Jaguar that all she did was look at and cruise around in… and now she may be walking down the beach and eating oranges that cost a couple bucks a day. You want to tell me who’s having the better time? She’s living as a human, as part of the Earth, and not as an alien on it.”
This piercing/photograph came from Sailor Sid Diller’s Silver Anchor Studio, exact year unknown. (possibly early 1980s)
It’s been a long day, Internet. I was going to hack out a big ol’ footnoted blurb to accompany this update (that features Sailor Sid Diller on the right with an as yet unknown friend on the left) about the history of chest eagles as a tattoo motif but instead I’ll just leave you with this:
Look at that belt buckle.
No year on this one, but given the absence of Sid’s black graphic abdomen tattoo (which was done in 1982) it’s likely late 1970s/early 1980s.
The gent on the left last appeared on SD in August of 2015 with a close-up; here he is in all/some of his glory.
I’m sure it’s just because of the ‘no nudity’ restrictions of Instagram/Facebook but it’s still a little strange to see hundreds of piercings a day on my social networking streams and have the great majority of them be above the neck. Now that I’m in my forties I’ve earned the right to constantly remind people that yes, back in my day we had to walk uphill, in the snow, with no shoes on to have our guiches pierced, with externally threaded jewelry and we liked it.
All of this curmudgeonly rambling is a reminder that genital piercings used to be a piercer’s bread & butter and the ‘king pin’ of male genital piercings was the ampallang. Once thought to be potentially fatal if performed incorrectly (the urban legend went that piercing into the corpus cavernosum would cause uncontrollable bleeding that could result in exsanguination) the ampallang is generally considered to be the heaviest male genital piercing as far as healing time and sensation.
Back in the 1970s when these photos were taken- featuring Sailor Sid Diller performing the ampallang- some piercers felt that the pain factor of certain piercings was ‘brutal’ or ‘barbaric’ and, already on the fringes of subculture, would use injectable anesthetics to make the process easier on their clients. We touched on this in April of 2014 with the editorial A lesser ritual with some comment section dialogue on the concept of “earning” a piercing in tow…
My opinions on the subject are fairly predictable; I’m for the client’s right to not experience the pain of a piercing as much as I’m for a piercers right to refuse to use legally or notsolegally obtained anesthetics. Once the ampallang is pierced there can still be a period (days, weeks) of pain, discomfort and bleeding so to anyone who keeps the piercing (my own was abandoned) has, in my book, earned it.
As always, I encourage you folks to share your thoughts in the comments section.
(this post was written and it’s photographs edited at Disney World)
Another example of solid black tattooing by tattoo legend Cliff Raven. Taken at his Hollywood studio in 1982 featuring a glimpse of Bob (last seen in Bob’s back) and Sid Diller’s fresh blackwork. While primarily known for his large scale Japanese influenced work, Raven was also an early adapter of solid black ‘pre-technological’ style tattooing.
Raven, born Cliff Ingram, won the Tattoo Artist of the Year award from the First Annual International Tattoo Convention in February 1976. 1
One morning, when I was still in my late teens, I woke up to the sound of my Mother talking to Jack Yount in our family’s kitchen. It wasn’t uncommon for Jack to come out and visit when he had out of town friends staying with him, and on that particular morning he had brought along his friend Bill who lived most of the year in Copenhagen, Denmark. By the time I got up and ready to join the conversation Bill and Jack had thoroughly charmed my Mother; Bill was smoking his trademark pipe and explaining his theory on the role ergot fungus played in the Salem Witch Trials 1 while my Mother fussed with coffee refills and making our unconventional guests comfortable.
My brother and I would go on to be borrowed by the pair for a ride in Jack’s restored Buick Riviera, taken back to his Zephyrhills home for an impromptu modification get-together. That would have been the first time I saw Bill’s only tattoo, performed in the early 1980s by their mutual friend Sid Diller.
Jack was visiting Bill in Copenhagen in 1995 when he came down with pneumonia. I lost touch with Bill after Jack’s passing.
Another scan from the 1986 Knoxville, TN tattoo convention, featuring Sailor Sid Diller (yellow shirt) and in the far left corner ironic tattoo artist Royboy Cooper. Scanned from a 3×5 print. It’s possible that Big Ed Fenster is the gent in the checkered shirt behind Sid, but it’s hard to tell without seeing his face.
I have a few pending updates, half written, that I need to finish up before the end of the year. January 1st 2016 will mark the start of the third year of the Sacred Debris blog; I’m at that yearly crossroad where I’m not sure what direction the next year is going to take, but for now…
One of Jack Yount’s more unique tattoos was done by his friend Sailor Sid Diller; a small flame on his perineum that would eventually be the site of Jack’s rerouted urethral opening. The tattoo was done mid to late 1980s in Sid’s South Florida Silver Anchor studio.
I’ve almost completed archiving the 1978 Sailor Sid London album; some of the highlights have been posted here on Sacred with others in queue for future updates- but this one caught my eye so I bumped it to the head of the line. Sid (left), unknown (middle) and Alan Oversby (right) standing under a sign reading ‘where the action is’ connected via nipple and genital piercings.
Take note of the pubic wing tattoos on Alan and client- In ancient Roman culture the fascinus (winged phallus) was an avatar of the divine penis. it was no wonder that the early T&P Community, which was primarily (but not exclusively) made up of gay males, adopted the symbol as a popular tattoo design. Visually it exoticized the pubic area, and when designed correctly made the wearers penis to appear longer. Typically it was brightly colored bird wings, but as the wings got more popular variations such as bat and dragon wings would occasionally show up. Alan was a driving force in the upswing in Fascinus tattoos.
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.