Tag Archives: Shawn Porter

Forty One

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 “Memory is what we are. Your very soul and your very reason to be alive are tied up in memory.”- Nick Cave

In the nearly 20 years that I knew Shannon Larratt we found ourselves in plenty of situations that became fodder for epic stories; drunken nights doing vinegar shots and stumbling to Pizza Pizza to sober us up, planning out the marketing on ModCock sex toys and even arguing the ethics of starting an event for cannibalism fetishists that was something straight out of Gaiman’s the Doll’s House storyline….

Very few of my best memories of him have anything to do with what brought us together in the first place; as our friendship went on we talked less and less about body modification and more about the dorky pursuits and hobbies that occupied our time.

When this photo was taken in early 1998 in Detroit Michigan- and apologies for using the original 1998 72dpi scan- we were eating candy, planning the first ModCon and arguing whether mutual masturbation before a hockey game was necessary for a win. When my copy of the second Modcon book arrived in the mail the inscription read “Shawn- my next book is about hockey- on so many levels.” I’m still not sure what he meant by that, but I’m sure we would have won the game.

Today would have been Shannon’s 41st birthday; he’s very dearly missed.

 

Hey Rube!

“Hey, Rube!” is a slang phrase most commonly used in the United States by circus and traveling carnival workers (“carnies”), with origins in the middle 19th century. It is a rallying call, or a cry for help, used by carnies in a fight with outsiders. It is also sometimes used to refer to such a fight: “The clown got a black eye in a Hey, Rube.” -Wikipedia

My social networking streams are all polluted by discussion of the latest episode of Ink Master; instead of rotting my brain with “the worst thing to happen to tattooing since Hepatitis C” I’ve queued up this fun little short film starring Canada’s sweethearts Burnaby Q. Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek- the Monsters of Schlock.

The day they filmed my segment I was nursing a 103* fever, so I don’t remember a lot of it. I was also 70lbs heavier than I am these days so seeing chubby, medicated me ramble on is kind of weird, but ultimately better than Ink Master.

 

 

Sol Lucet Omnibus

 

The first time I watched my friend Neeko suspend it was out by a campfire in the woods of Vermont. The fire only provided so much light, so we parked a Jeep up the hill and used it’s headlights to illuminate the area.

That was in August of 2003 in Burlington, VT.

In June of 2013, Neeko invited me to join him for another suspension; this time found us, along with Orb of Anchors Aweigh and Mike Coons of Hooked, driving into the Nevada desert in the wee hours of the morning, racing against time to get everything set up for the Morning Sun to rise along with Neeko who would also be branding himself with the Sun’s rays.

Neeko is one of the few people who could have convinced me, on no sleep, to head out into Bat Country at four in the morning with nothing but a pocket knife and the flashlight on my cellphone, but by the time I made a mad dash to the airport several hours later I was glad to have spent the morning with him, Orb, Mike and the rest of the crew.

Subincision Fun

JVHS

One of the fun things about updating the SD site (or our tumblr) is the chain effect; one photo leading me to think about something else and seeing where that takes me. The header photo for the ‘ModCocks‘ article, for example, featured plaster molds of my friend J’s subincision progress, which led me to see if I could find the first VHS tape he sent me somewhere between 1996-1998.

J and I met through the UNIQUE club and began corresponding through letters and eventually video tape exchanges. He was charming; a true Gent and adventurer who was in the process of subincising himself; and thankfully he was documenting his progress with photographs, video tapes and plaster molds.

I introduced him to Shannon Larratt, who featured him several times on BME 1 2 who invited him with my recommendation to speak at the inaugural ModCon event in 1999. (his speech was on tens units as pain management during genital modification. He infamously referred to penises as ‘doodlehangers’ to avoid offending our female guests)

I believe this tape was at one time available for purchase on the old BME/Video site. I look forward to seeing if my copy is salvageable.

From his BME Interview:

J: I’d say that just because some people who cut themselves are seriously emotionally disturbed does not mean that everyone who appreciates the artistry or eroticism of genital mods is crazy. Our society is heavily oriented towards machines, and machines work great when they deal with a uniform, predictable product, including us . . . to quote a bright young Harvard graduate (whom I shall identify in just a moment),

" . . . our society tends to regard as a 'sickness' any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn't fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a 'cure' for a 'sickness' and therefore as good."

In a world that seems bent on packing us all into conformist crypts because a nonconformist is a thorn in the side of educators, consumerist capitalism, and the not-really-two-party political system, a strong natural drive for individuality must find an outlet or risk madness. I believe body art provides one such outlet. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great American philosopher born nearly 200 years ago, said, “The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” Too much of a good thing. Body art is nonconformist and it gives people a relatively safe way of acting out. The Harvard grad, by the way, was Ted Kaczynski.

ModCocks

modcocks

This post originally ran as a diary entry on my personal blog on 03.28.2013 and has been slightly edited for content.

ModCocks.
This is a true story. I haven’t thought about it in years, but a conversation earlier with my friend Christy brought it back, and I figured since I’m still in a ‘those were the days!’ kind of mood I’d get this one down for posterity even though it’s a quickie.

For me, Body Modification has always had a root in sexuality. I don’t really talk about sexuality that much here on SD, which is odd given how important it is to my life. I think that there’s still that feeling that I have to limit or censure what I say here because it’s so ‘public’ but for today we’ll just pretend that we’re all adults and that a dirty anecdote is perfectly acceptable.

It was either at ModCon2 or ModCon3 in Toronto Ontario (which would have been 2000 or 2002) when Shannon an I first started joking about the idea of ModCocks. The plan was to get a handful of DIY penis molding kits, send them out to our practitioner friends and have them send the molds back for us to go into production on dildos based on our penises. Subincised dildos, dildos with implants- very niche items for the modification community.

In the middle of trying to orchestrate a full scale underground surgical modification event, we found ourselves laughing hysterically on the phone to friends who couldn’t make it up for the convention, asking if they’d consent to being turned into a sex object. You’d be surprised at how many people readily agreed to do it; then again, probably not.

Like a lot of our hairbrained schemes, we had a full marketing plan laid out- which included sending a few samples to more active contributors of BME/HARD for field testing and documentation- but sadly it never went anywhere.

Remembering Keith Alexander

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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.
Continue reading

Notes:

  1. July 11th 2014 marks nine years since Keith’s passing.

Silver Anchor Video: Big Ed Fenster

Before piercing was an industry or even a community it was a scene. With ties to leather, BD/SM, swinging and kink it’s practitioners were often hobbyists-fetishists who were as likely to be getting pierced as they were to be doing it. Get togethers like Doug Malloy’s T&P parties as well as innumerable get togethers in hotels, play spaces and backrooms found piercing devotees having fun regardless of what side of the needle they were on.

Jim Ward’s GAUNTLET would change the concept of a piercer from a fetish player to a specialized career; showing someone a few tricks became an apprenticeships between mentors and students. Then came classes and intensives, seminars and instructional videos and even a yearly conference where the best and brightest in the Industry gather to share what they know to other piercers hoping to further hone their techniques.

While I think progress is always a good thing, I miss the scene days; the sexually adventurous meeting up to have a little fun, pierce each other and make videos to share with those not lucky enough to live close to other piercing and modification devotees. Sailor Sid Diller’s shop in Fort Lauderdale was a beacon to men interested in body piercing, and Sid himself was a tireless documentarian. This clip features some amateur piercing at Sid’s with Big Ed Fenster of Silver Anchor Body Jewelry.

As with most of the history videos presented here on Sacred Debris- this should not be considered a how-to, nor should the lax standards of sterility and cross contamination be encouraged.

Big Ed Fenster and the Silver Anchor

Emile Gundelach, Big Ed Fenster and Merv Chapman (seated)

Emile Gundelach, Big Ed Fenster and Merv Chapman (seated)

Zephyrhills Florida was first incorporated as a city in 1914. According to the 2000 Census it was home to 10,833 residents, many of whom were over 65 and retired. It’s close to Tampa and to my home town of Plant City, and can boast to being the birthplace of several famous NASCAR drivers, an American Idol finalist and notorious Ghoul Carl Tanzier.

It was also, for a few years at least, the Body Modification capital of the world.

Far from the cultural meccas of the West Coast, Zephryhills was where advanced body modification pioneer Mr. Jay (Jack Yount) settled after his wife passed away and he retired from American Standard Plumbing, where his only full apprentice Mike Natali lived and where famed ‘Modification Doctor’ Ronald Brown made frequent visits for underground surgery. It  was also the home base of Big Ed Fenster and the Silver Anchor Body Jewelry Company. 1

Big Ed Fenster

Big Ed Fenster

At the time finding body piercing jewelry was no easy task. In the 1980s and early 1990s the companies manufacturing it were few and far between- not only was it not available at every mall or website, but even most tattoo shops didn’t have piercers to buy it from/install it for you. The Gauntlet. Spain’s Customs. Pleasurable Piercing. The Good Art Company, Toucan for gold, Wildcat in the UK and Fenster’s Silver Anchor were the big names at the time. Pre-internet. Some had catalogs while others had stapled and xeroxed price sheets, included with your order.  The business- owned by Big Ed Fenster who was a nudist, swinger and friend of both Jack and Sailor Sid Diller shared a name with Sid’s Ft. Lauderdale tattoo studio and was located in a small house that served as the offices/Ed’s living quarters and a few satellite trailers where the jewelry was manufactured.

Twenty something years later I still contend that Silver Anchor produced the finest quality body jewelry of all of the companies that were around back then. Open to interpretation I know, but during their “good years” with Mike Natali as GM and his partner Chuck as shop manager they put out top notch large gauge jewelry that had a mirror finish that I’ve never seen rivaled. Chuck was one of the few jewelers who, by hand, could produce a ring for a P.A. in 1/2” stock with an inner diameter of 1/2” with a threaded 5/8” ball that fit perfectly. Sure, some of their output would make a devoted APP acolyte cringe- the 00g externally threaded barbells I had made as a present to myself on my 17th birthday would likely cause a panic, but the threads were buffed for easy insertion and years later when I finally gifted them to a friend they had retained a perfect finish.

In my time visiting the shop- with Jack at first and then later to spend time with Mike and Chuck- it was always an adventure. My brother and I would meet up with Brian Skellie, Kevin Covella and Rob Moore,  and be in awe that we finally found people who ‘got’ it. Sometimes we’d continue on to Jack’s house and document a modification procedure, meet some of his out of town friends or just sit in the pool or hot tub and enjoy the company. The shift was taking place quickly from an older gay demographic to younger people who were taking on modification as a culture and not a kink and Jack was grooming us to help bridge the gap. Visits to Silver Anchor had them asking us questions about making ‘earlets’ since more people were stretching their lobes and despite having made custom 1/2 question mark shaped nipple jewelry they had never seen a stretched earlobe before mine.

Big Ed's genital jewelry.

Big Ed’s genital jewelry.

You have to appreciate dealing with Ed- who’s entire history was with piercing as a sexual thing being able to make some of the most complicated “u-tubes” imaginable but being completely vexed by the mechanics of a plug for stretched ear lobes. U-tubes were urethra tubes, which later went on to be universally referred to as ‘Princes Wands’ and Ed specialized in them. I remember sitting at his desk and seeing this MONSTER of a tube in his inbox (back when the inbox was actually a box and not an email account) that he had made for himself. At the thickest it was a full 5/8″ with 1″ balls and 4g posts for his apadravya. I remember thinking that it looked more like a billy club than a dick accessory. Ed looked at me sheepishly and said “my girlfriend likes me to wear this when I fuck her”.

My teen years were a little strange.

Ultimately, under Mike’s direction Silver Anchor became a powerhouse of a company. At the time it was a sellers market, and with body jewelry being as rare is at was it wasn’t uncommon to pay over $20, wholesale, for a 12g ring. When things get too big the stresses start to appear and eventually Mike and his partner moved on to start Bravo! Body Jewelry. Several of the jewelers Ed had hired did the same, and before long over saturation of a niche product flooded a small area. Tattoo shops started selling body jewelry. Tampa, Zephryhills nearest major city, saw a piercing only shop open under the name of Leather Tiger (that’s a story in and of itself- with a ‘head piercer’ who had to have PFIQ’s Pierce with a Pro open when he’d do a piercing) and once Jack Yount passed away things mostly fell apart.

In time Silver Anchor closed it’s doors. I’m not sure what happened to it’s backstock or employees. I’m not even sure what happened to Ed Fenster. But I still have a handful of my Silver Anchor jewelry still in their original bags that I keep for old times sakes.


Notes:

  1. The Silver Anchor was located in Crystal Springs, Florida, which was a suburb of Zephyrhills

Evolution of a Subculture: Scarwars1 2005

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Ryan Oullette and Jesse V working on a difficult client.

I recently shared the story of how the ModCon events came to be with the promise to chronicle the other events in time. That’s still on my to-do list, but today we’re going to talk a little about the ScarWars events; how they started and their connection to ModCon.

ScarWars One happened in May of 2005 in Philadelphia, PA with seven of the world’s leading scarification artists working and attending, but it’s roots go back to 2004 at the ModCon4 event in Toronto, Ontario where a guest named Chris and his then wife Danielle asked about doing a collaborative cutting/branding piece with all of the attending artists using different techniques to make a wholly unique scar. Brands, cutting and flesh removal all on the same client. At the time it was unheard of, and as I watched Blair, Ryan, Danielle and I believe Brian work on it, I realized that we had reached uncharted territory.

Trade secrets. When you looked at other body art disciplines- tattooing, body piercing, suspension… at the time there wasn’t a lot of sharing going on. Every new person who knew how to do what you do was one more person who could compete against you. Tattooing and Body Piercing weren’t a community- they were an industry. Tattoo supplies had yet to be an eBay/Amazon accessible purchase and body piercing supplies weren’t available in the mall. As niche as piercing was (and by 2005 it had sort of already reached it’s fever pitch apex) scarification was still it’s distant cousin- never quite gaining that popularity that other forms of modification were enjoying.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatching multiple artists work on the same client- asking each other questions (“is that how you do flesh removal? I use hemostats”) and sharing tips and tricks… I realized that the culture of scarification was still untainted by commercialization and that if we acted now there was a possibility of getting the top artists together without ego or competition and to see where we could go with it.

Scarification/Branding had always been about simplification- bold geometric designs cut or branded by the legendary Keith Alexander, Raelyn Gallina, Fakir Musafar and a handful of others were the standard. Tribal shapes, runes, sigils. But times had changed thanks to the electrocautery work of Steve Haworth, the tattoo flash inspired cuttings of Ron Garza and the flesh removals from Toro; new possibilities were emerging and the younger generation of scarification artists had a whole new aesthetic and were already seeing where they could take it.

trooperAfter ModCon, with Shannon Larratt’s encouragement, I took over IAM/BME’s scarification forum and we started talking about collaborations of style, technique and artists envolved and several weeks later the idea of an event was on everyone’s mind. Having already co-created ModCon with Shannon and hosted a score of IAM related events, I volunteered to take the reigns and with the help of my sister in law Carmela, we began working on what would become the world’s first Scarification ‘convention’.

We knew off the bat that it would be a niche event; the scarification community was small and opening it to the public would be a bad idea so we decided to go underground. Rent a private studio space. Only invite people we knew or that were able to be vouched for. Organize a staff. Arrange hotels. My sister in law Carmela  worked overtime getting all of the practical stuff planned out while I concentrated on artists, supplies, artwork, shirts etc. We knew that we had to name the event and inspired by the weekend it was planned to happen (which saw the opening of StarWars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith) we decided to go with SCARWars. It was a little tongue in cheek and had great potential for marketing, so with no fear of George Lucas caring about us (much like he didn’t care for the prequels) we went ahead with it.

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Officially, no invites went out to artists. That caused a little bit of ruffled feathers long term, but at the time the event was a small thing and the artists who took part in the IAM.bmezine.com Scarification forum were the core group of people expected to work it. We were open to folks who, after seeing the website or the mentions on BME (most specifically Shannon’s GLIDER profile on IAM- mentions on which got us a lot of attention) contacted the group and asked about attending, but when it came to inviting folks to work- that never happened. Sadly, egos got bruised (One artist said that it was ‘totally American to make cutting about Wars” and somehow managed to equate him not being invited to the event with why September 11th happened) and there was a little bit of hurt feelings, but ultimately the event went off without a hitch.

Not exactly a stranger to having underground events I was able to creatively explain to other residents of the building we used for the inaugural event why they couldn’t peek into the studio we were using to see what was going on (“sorry. We’re shooting porn” tends to get people to leave you alone) despite the occasional scantily clad and sometimes bloody people we were parading in and out of the space.

DSC_2950-copy-2We had reached out to my old friend Philip Barbosa to document the event and along with cutting and branding stations we set up a small studio for Phil to take portraits of the clients who made the trip to Philadelphia to be cut or burned. In contrast to his start black and white work at the ModCon events I asked Phil to shoot in full color with a white background; to not focus necessarily on the cuttings themselves (that was handled by suspension pioneer and sometime photographer Allen Falkner) but on the clients themselves. Philip is one of those guys who never gets the credit he deserves; someone who was there with us on the front line hosting events and getting things done but unlike the rest of us had the talent and skill to make art while doing it. His images from the events- ModCon, Scarwars and the IWASCURED events document a collection of communities from the inside; one of us and not an outsider looking to shoot weirdos and freaks to impress his jaded friends. The images that he shot over the three days of Scarwars have joy, personality and a bunch of blood; can’t ask for much more than that.

Once the event got started we had a hell of a time. Artists included:
Brian Decker
Ron Garza
Dave Gillstrap
Monte
Ryan Oullette
Vampy
Jesse Villemaire
Vampy

Some artists only worked on a few pieces, others were booked all weekend. Pieces ranged from small brandings to an almost 11 hour full back cutting by Brian Decker (with assistance from Jesee towards the end) that become one of the most well known scarification pieces ever to grace internet memes. There was a casual fun vibe as folks met each other, got cut, went out on sidetrip adventures and enjoyed the company of people who understood them. Artists worked together on collaborative pieces, sometimes at the same time and pushed the limits of what had been done before us.

Dave Gilstrap at work

Dave Gillstrap at work

For me? It was difficult. I was going through a divorce and really wasn’t processing everything well. I was trying to keep everything afloat- my staff was amazing but I was still in that raw emotional state where chaos was a more frequent guest than calm. I decided to ask Brian Decker to cut my face. Not exactly a spur of the moment decision, but certainly one that meant a lot to me. Towards the end of the last night of the event we started planning things out; a cutting by my left eye that could look natural enough to have been an accident but clean enough to make you wonder. Cutting your face is intense; there’s no hiding it from the world and more importantly no hiding it from yourself.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 4.36.21 PMI needed the vulnerability; I needed the trust and the healing to help me get out of the funk I was in and with the lines drawn on my face, laid down and let Brian get to work. Everyone with a cutting has their own story.. for me it was this feeling of letting go. Of all of the negativity and fear and loneliness that that I had been going through. Trusting a friend to take a scalpel to my eye. I let go and as the blade started making it’s cuts felt a hand grab mine. And another. A hand on my leg and my shoulder. One on my head. My friends, the guests who decided to stay at Scarwars till the end, had wandered over to Brain’s station to support me. It was unspoken. One hand followed the other and soon I felt nothing but love. Right then and there Scarwars became something else for me. Not an ‘event’ I was hosting but a community. A place where people could change themselves- body and mind- and be surrounded by others who understood.

We wrapped it up shortly after  and went our separate ways. In time we had two more Scarwars events and were eventually invited to do another- in the open and not underground- as part of a tattoo convention. My old friend Ron Garza continued what we started recently with his own ScarCon in London. But for those who made the trip to a little studio space in Port Richmond back in 2005… you were part of something special and new and you’ll always have my thanks and my love.

http://www.scarwars.net


This article originally appeared on BME’s MODBlog on 06/05/2013, edited on 01/19/2014


Evolution of a Subculture: ModCon1 1999

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How do you write an article about an event so private, so secretive, that it’s guests were made to sign nondisclosure agreements? Easy. Just be one of the ones who didn’t sign. Over the last fifteen years, the ModCon events have been shrouded in mystery. Fight Club jokes aplenty- the first rule of Modcon is that you don’t talk about ModCon and so on.

But today, we’re going to do just that. In a continuing series of articles on my life in the modern Body Modification community I’ve decided to shed a little light on ModCon; where the idea first came from, the 1998 event that never happened and more.

Obviously there will be a lot left out for the sake of discretion (as well as keeping some of the mystery) but if you’re a geek for this sort of thing…  read on.

While it’s true that I first met Shannon Larratt in 1995 via Rec.Arts.Bodyart, I didn’t meet him in person until I picked him up at  Detroit Michigan GREYHOUND bus terminal in 1998.  We had planned to meet in Toronto but things didn’t work out. Thankfully fate was on our side, bringing Shannon to the states to purchase a kit car and to spend some time in a luxury hotel suite in Detroit talking about Body Modification all night.

Video from our first in person meeting can be found here: http://sacreddebris.com/spcxbmev001/

Eventually, given our meeting place, the conversation turned to ‘hotel parties’- something relatively common at the time where extreme modification practitioners and clients would meet up at tattoo conventions and do underground surgery in their hotel rooms. I had been to quite a few thanks to my friendship with Jack Yount, but Shannon was thinking that it was time for something with a little more polish.

“What do you think about a Modification convention?”

059He was sipping a Pepsi and eating Cadbury mini eggs when ModCon came into being. From there on out, we riffed. “What if” and “Wouldn’t it be cool”. I was to begin working on it as soon as I returned to Florida. Things moved pretty quickly after that. Shannon drew the now iconic ModCon logo. I arranged a VFW Hall (where underground S/M parties were often held) as our event location and a list of practitioners being created by Shannon and I.

That’s when we hit a snag. I’ve mentioned that Shannon and I often butted heads; ModCon98 was one of those times. While we wanted to create a safe space for people interested in heavy/advanced/extreme surgical procedures, Shannon and I had a difference of opinion on how heavy we were willing to go. He had talked to a few folks interested in getting or doing castrations, and I felt that for legal liability we shouldn’t go quite that far on site. We tried for compromise but eventually it was a stalemate with neither of us budging. The event was going to be funded by Shannon/BME, but it was going to be organized and facilitated by me/SPC. If anything were to happen to one of our guests the liability (not to mention moral responsibility) would fall on me, and since I didn’t know any of the clients/cutters personally I drew a line.

With that, ModCon98 was over before it started. Plans changed from Florida to Toronto, from 1998 to 1999 to accomodate for castrations- a procedure for the sake of 100% full disclosure never happened at any of the five events.

When the 1999 event happend, the Body Modification world was much different than it is now. The average age of attendees was probably mid 30s, with most trending older. Sexuality played a much bigger role in the lives of attendees than aesthetics, with some of the cutters (the term we gave our practitioners) being longterm players in both the gay and straight BDSM communities. While later events would get criticized by some guests as ‘implant factories’, the first one was more about sexual modification; saline infusions, urethral dilations, subincisions.

026-1The event was scheduled for one day, but by the end of the first evening with so many folks in town Shannon gave me the go-ahead to tell people that if they wanted to come back the next day… we’d be there. Shannon had lofty goals of contracting Joel-Peter Witkin to document the event for free (and donate the prints back to him… I’m not sure he realized how much an original Witkin print went for) but luckily went instead with a young Toronto based photographer (and BME member) named Philip Barbosa. Phil became an integral part of the ModCon (and BME. And Scarwars) family, documenting the largest assembled group of heavily modified people in history. The photos from the first three events that Phil took are as iconic as the works of Gatewood, who himself turned the world on to ‘Modern Primitives’ through his friendship with Fakir Musafar and Jim Ward. Phil’s work is often overlooked in the history of Body Modification- people think that the photos just magically appeared in the books or perhaps that Shannon took them…. but Phil was there, camera in hand as well as helping organize the events with Shannon and I for all five. Without him… ModCon as you know it wouldn’t have existed.

Prior to flying up, Shannon hadn’t told me much about the location that we were going to hold the event. Had the 1998 event happened we had a nice modern VFW Hall with all of the amenities we’d need… but for MC1, the space was sketchy to say the least; a building that was being refurbished and was unoccupied save for the exposed walls and drywall dust. One thing that’s been a constant (Scarwars 3 anyone? Suscon?) in underground bodymod events is a lack of a good space and this one… good lord. But we made do, making history with the world first organized gathering of Advanced Body Modification fans.

It was like coming home. Despite the years that’ve passed I still have incredibly vivid memories of that first event; the comfort I felt being surrounded by people who understood me. There was Buddy (amputee) and ToeCutter (amputee) talking about the joy of stump sex while Spidergod5 (later The Lizardman) sat a few feet away talking about tattoos. There was the sweet old methodist Minister who looked like someone’s Grandpa but who had castrated men in numbers cresting triple digits talking to the youngish girl with the bald head and thick glasses.

The getting to know you phase led into people going into the ‘procedure’ rooms where the surgery began. The majority of the modifications done at the first event were genital mods, which was the intended goal of the event. Minimum entry to get in was ‘a split something’ or extensive piercings. Over the course of the subsequent four events the criteria changed; again something I disagreed with. But for the first event we found ourselves documenting extreme circumcisions, subincisions and transscrotals.

Strangely though, the most memorable incident at MC1 was Britney Spears and the fire trucks.

The Lizardman, Toronto 1999.

The Lizardman, Toronto 1999.

Turns out that our event space was across the street from the hotel hosting Britney on her first big Canadian tour. As we walked down our quiet alley getting ready for day one of ModCon, we noticed a few dozen news van parked in the lot across from us. There was word of an angry photographer, shunned by Shannon, who promised to be cruising Toronto looking for us- our first thought when we saw the media was that he had spilled the beans and here were the reporters who would be documenting our arrest. Thankfully they were they for Brit and not us, and as long as we kept a low profile, we’d be fine.

So when someone suggested that Erik (Spidergod5/Amago/The Lizardman) do a FIRE PLAY DEMO indoors… I’m really not sure why Shannon and I didn’t say no. Even when the fire alarm was tripped we still didn’t think it was that terrible an idea.. that is until we realized that some of our practitioners were in the middle of surgery; that we had two people attached to saline bags on IV stands. That we couldn’t shut the alarm off and that at some point… the fire department would arrive, forcing a room full of people trying to stay off the radar (and some not fully clothed) into the streets… across the lot from the international media. Not ones to learn from our mistakes, we encouraged Erik to do more fireplay outside of the venue while we tried desperately to get the fire alarm to turn off!

These are the kinds of things that happened at the ModCon events. I know I’ve managed to write over 1500 words (and counting) about a Body Modification event and not really touch on many of the procedures, but ultimately once the modifications healed (or were abandoned) the sense of community remained. We finally came out of the closet. Instead of covert meetings in hotel rooms we were all gathered together as a family. Eunuchs and amputees, genital modifications and forked tongues…. we had a home. We had something that was exclusively ours; an event you couldn’t even buy your way into.

While all of the ModCon events were amazing in their own way, that first one will always hold a special place in my heart. Event rules and traditions started here; the ’round table’ where we went around the room introducing ourselves, talking about our modifications and where we came from, setting up portraits to document the people who wear these procedures… everything that we eventually took for granted started right there in that room.

In future articles I’ll talk more about the other four events if there’s an interest- maybe even talk to Phil and Monte and the other diehards who attended all five. While my interests these days run a lot less extreme I’ll still always be proud of the influence ModCon had on the attendees as well as the people who only knew about us from the books (which I was staunchly against.. but again.. another article!) or digital media.


This article was originally published on 05.17.2013 on BME’s MODBlog.