Tag Archives: spconline

Evolution of a Subculture: spcOnline

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I really meant to write a long, wordy treatise on the legacy of the SPC website during what would have been it’s 20th anniversary; but as always I’m getting to it a little late. Time has erased when our original launch date was but if my admittedly flawed memory is correct I think it was somewhere in September of 1995 that I first started sharing my archives via the members.aol.com space that came free with my AOL account. The original photos that went online were aggregates from several sources; photos I had taken, photos I had inherited from my mentor Jack Yount and images I had traded with other members of the offline body modification community who didn’t have access to a scanner or outlet to post them so I put them under a blanket name to simplify things- from Shawn Porter’s Collection. It seemed the best way to tie everything up in the days before promotion and branding were necessary- in 1995 there was BME and tattoos.com so if you were looking for body modification content it was easy enough to find. Worried that it would seem too much like a monument to ego, I shortened it to SPC Online (which went through different iterations; spc, spcOnline, spcO) and kept the name until we finally went offline in 2005.

Despite the boundary pushing nature of our content, AOL never had a problem with what I published and I kept things on their server until a photo adult performer Nina Hartley and I on my person blog (we didn’t call them blogs then) got me shut down. 20 years later I still appreciate the irony that America Online had no problem with voluntary amputation but female toplessness was a no-go. When we went dark due to the  terms of service violation BME’s Shannon Larratt offered unlimited storage space and bandwidth with no content restrictions; the spcO remained on BME’s servers for the next ten years. Like Sacred Debris, our primary focus was history but we also branched out into more recent modification culture with convention coverage, chat rooms and personals and profiles of contemporary piercers and tattooists. Never the biggest (the BME juggernaut was impossible to compete with) we managed to stay true to the mission of documenting body modification culture from ritual, sexual, aesthetic and extreme with content that often wasn’t available elsewhere. Our archives were responsible for seeding the original incarnation of BME/Extreme, which opened the floodgates of what was then a very closed community of surgical body modification devotees. encouraging them to send in photos of their own modifications and ultimately influencing Shannon and I to create the ModCon events.

I am reminded of how very, very, VERY different my life (and by extension, BME, and by extension of that, a lot of other people’s lives as well) would be if I hadn’t met Shawn at exactly the right moment … If I’d met him earlier or later it wouldn’t have been even remotely the same — it had to be that moment for all the pieces to fit. I am proud to have been a catalyst for change and growth in a lot of people’s lives, but in this case, it was Shawn that was the catalyst in my life. On one hand it’s amazing how life-changing sequences birth from chance and coincidence, and on the other hand, duh, what else would genesis be? ~ Shannon Larratt September 1st 2012

 

In 2005, a decade after the initial launch of the site, BME’s server suffered a major crash and the majority of the spcO directory was lost; my backups were sloppy and incomplete and, partially motivated by the work I was putting into the SCARWARS events/blog I decided to not recover the site, ending it’s run with gratitude for everyone who had viewed the site and participated in it’s ten year tenure.

In late 2013 I discovered a cd-rom of old spcO images and began posting them on my personal facebook page. The flood of nostalgia encouraged me to reconnect with some old friends, rescan old images (spcO’s average image size was 640×40 at a 72dpi resolution) and start talking to trusted confidants about maybe resurrecting SPC as a blog. Ultimately I decided to go further back than spc, back to my old print/glue/staple body modification zine Sacred Debris, but without spc and it’s legacy I doubt any of this would have happened.

So happy 20th anniversary to the Shawn Porter Collection (online). It was a lot of fun and certainly helped shaped my 20s.

SPCxBME: Tongue Splitting

SPCxBMEV001
Original Source: 8mm Video Tape.
Conversion Source: 8mm Video Tape.
Year: 1998.
Location: Detroit, Michigan.
Subject: Shannon Larratt (bme)
Interviewer: Shawn Porter (spcOnline, Sacred Debris).

I’m not sure if I can give a good reason as to the real reasons behind why I wanted it done. The general concept had already been interesting to me, but whether it was something that I needed on some level is highly debatable… Back then I did a lot of experimenting with my body, so maybe it was as simple as curiosity..- Shannon Larratt 1

This video was shot in a Detroit, Michigan hotel room in 1998 and features BME founder Shannon Larratt and I discussing the process of having his tongue surgically split by Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. Lawrence Busino as well as a brief history of it’s contemporary origins. 2

This was the first time Shannon and I had met in person after years of online communication and comes from a larger conversation most of which isn’t body modification related.

BMExSPC007: Knuckle Piercing

BMExSPC009BMExSPC008

BMExSPC007BMExSPC007-009.
Piercer: Tom Brazda.
Studio: Stainless Studios, Toronto (since closed)
Client: Shannon Larratt.
Source: Hard copy photo submission to spcOnline.
Date: 1996/1997 (exact date unsure)

I had a Tumblr message asking for more posts from piercing’s “middle school” era, so I dug out one of the 1990s albums and found these shots, submitted to the spcO site back in the late 1990s by Shannon Larratt of BMEZINE.COM. I’m not sure I ever actually added them to the site back then.

During the mid/late 1990s piercers challenged the ‘if it protrudes, pierce it” ethic of the previous generation, trying out new piercings, new techniques, new jewelry and aftercare. Sometimes things worked out, sometimes they didn’t, but the experimentation was integral to the evolution of the modern piercing community.

 

Self Amputee Tracings: JJ97

hand amputee tracingI received this tracing along with a direct photocopy of JJ’s hands in September of 1997 after striking up a friendship with him through the UNIQUE mailing list. I had started collecting hand tracings a few years previous to our correspondence and when I asked him for tracings of his hand he happily obliged, adding the drawings of his reshaped bone structure on several of them. All of his amputations were self done.

Mail Call

10346362_10205313162736072_1248252913514474697_nToday wasn’t quite the horrific Snow Day that local meteorologists called for, but with 1/8″ of snow on the ground I used it as motivation to do a little cleaning around the house, starting with unsorted boxes in my closet. Years of correspondence were lost in one of my moves (from Florida to Philadelphia, I’d bet) but there are still a few boxes of mail that were saved from that fate so after a trip to Target to buy more Rubbermaid bins I took to the task of sorting twenty year old letters and hopefully making headway with the creating of a filing system.

Some of the highlights so far:

A letter from the editor of ‘Epidermal Intrusions’ which was intended to be to Modification what PFIQ was to Body Piercing. My name had been given to the editor (Rhalan) by Steve Haworth, who I wouldn’t meet in person for another year. We exchanged a few letters before the project eventually lost steam and was canceled before ever going to print.

Keith Alexander’s followup letter to the APP after sending in his membership application (circa 1995/6) with detailed counterpoints to issues raised by the fledgling organization with typical K.A. passive aggressive charm.

Open Letter to 1996 APP Conference (Orlando) attendees, possibly from Keith. It’s unsigned.

5″x7″ original print of Jack Yount from  photographer Stefan Richter.

Postcard from Jack Yount from a vacation to Southern California.

Well- here I am trying to be discovered. All the do is undress me and then they faint. Such is fame. Went to the Gauntlet this A.M., Sorry but it didn’t do a lot for me. Poor rep by people I talked to in the shop. Was in Mexico, San Fran and now L.A. Will be back next week. Tell the family I said “High”. -Jack

 

Letters from ‘Toecutter’ written in his typical ‘stream of consciousness’ style.

UNIQUE contact list mailings.

Photos of Tom Brazda doing ‘lo-bretts’ on Shannon Larratt, mailed from Stainless Studios.

While it’s made me sad that I’ve lost so much correspondence over the years I was pleased by how much was still around; I’m going to start scanning the letters and postcards tomorrow so they’ll never be lost again.

 

El Hombre Lagarto

96ESBecause body modification and ritual are not only powerful tools for self discovery and definition but also stand as strong and potentially influential statements to others thereof, they represent a significant threat to those who reject their uniqueness and the systems and processes that rely upon viewing people as members of a category or their designated job title.- Erik Sprague 1

Later on this year (I want to say September or October) will mark the 20th anniversary of the the launch of the spcOnline site, which originated a lot of the content I post here on Sacred Debris. Twenty years and so many people have come and gone from my life- true eccentrics who live up to the promise that body modification shouldn’t be the most interesting thing about you regardless of how interesting your body modifications are.

One of the longest friendships I’ve maintained has been with a former PhD student turned sideshow performer named Erik Sprague. Despite SPC being primarily history oriented I occasionally ran new content, including the lip and tongue tattoos of a not quite Lizard. A few decades later I’m running the photo as history, so I suppose time has caught up with us both.

I always found Erik’s thoughts on body modification culture (and culture in general) to be worth listening to, so if you haven’t checked out his book “Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass” you should absolutely put it on your reading list: http://www.thelizardman.com/book.html

 

From Stonehenge to Subtracting

stonehendgeNo doubt influenced by the popularity of RE/Search Publications classic Modern Primitives, the publishing group responsible for the Outlaw Biker family of magazines released IN THE FLESH in the early 1990s, covering body modifications that fell outside of the spectrum of ‘just tattoos and piercings’. Unable to show the kind of explicit content allowable in independent publishing, In the Flesh was at best PG-13 rated so when they first exposed the world to ‘Stonehenge’- they relied on tracings and text to share the story of one of the most interesting characters I’ve met in my years in the Body Modification Community.

Stonehenge (who’s photos would make their debut on my spcOnline site under the name ToeCutter, and later Subtracting) used amputation as eccentric body sculpting; cutting his fingers and toes off at alternating joints to reshape his hands/feet as well as self tooth removal to make his smile ‘look like a jack o’ lantern’.

Most of these procedures were done without the aid of anesthetic; in the documentary with him shot/edited by Shannon Larratt of BME he walks the viewer through his technique which includes a tourniquet, ice water soaks,  a chisel and eating liberal amounts of yogurt before the procedure. He didn’t use suturing after a ‘subtraction’ instead favoring using prescription pill bottles to protect the wounds.

In this photograph, taken in the early 2000s at the NYC Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom, Stonehenge/Toecutter/Subtracting was showing me the small piece of bone sticking out of the end of his most recent amputation, which he planned to remove with ‘dental tools’ he purchased at a flea market.

In the Flesh magazine went through two different launches but never had the longevity of it’s (significantly inferior) main competition Tattoo Savage 1 My copies are missing.

I’ve been unable to reach Toe for several years and all attempts to locate him have been unsuccessful.

 

Notes:

  1. Published under the Easy Riders imprint through Paisano Publications; still in print.

The artist as client

CUTThere’s something about watching a tongue splitting procedure that always gets me. The squinty eyes, the drool, the client’s eventual “mo, I’m thine. It dothent thurt ath bad ath i sthought” when the practitioner is finally done and everything is rinsed out.

This procedure, on scarification luminary Ron Garza, dates back to the mid/late 1990s and originally ran on the spcOnline site.

It’s been a fun 2014 for Sacred Debris. I’m in the process of writing the “What happens next” 2015 post and while I don’t know which direction I’m taking the blog (options include offline, infrequently updated or required tips for videos) I want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to comment, email questions, reblog our articles and dropped a few dolllars in the donation box. You folks made me keep updating for the silent majority and I truly appreciate your passion for the project.

SP

 

 

Homoerotic Tattooing with Sailor Sid Diller

The role that the GLBT community played in the evolution of modern body piercing is fairly well known, but the same can’t be said for tattoo culture. Some of the most respected names in tattoo history- Phil Sparrow, Cliff Raven, Robert Benedetti and countless others- were homosexual.

I’m sure somewhere there’s been an academic paper written on their contributions (I’ve handled research requests for several) out there somewhere on the web, but it’s always fun to see video of the golden olden days.

I captured this footage in 2008 for BME/News. It came from a silent 8mm film master that was transferred to VHS in the early 1980s. Life expectancy for magnetic VHS tape is around 12 years; this cassette is easily 30 years old which has compromised the picture quality, but it’s still a great peek into the “T&P Parties” frequented by gay men interested in body art in the 1970s.

Some of this footage was filmed at Ken Meyer’s shop in Kissimmee, Florida. I don’t have much information on Ken other than that he occasionally had Sid Diller guesting at his shop.

The community was much smaller then and the T&P parties allowed for a much more liberal, much more sexualized atmosphere. Artist and client alike were usually naked and the design choices were often erotic.

On an objective level a lot of the work coming from this subcommunity wasn’t spectacular; Raven and Benedetti were exceptions to that, but BEING tattooed was an important part of the cultural aesthetic. A masculine man covered in tattoos fit a certain archetype favored at the time.

And needless to say- sterility and cross contamination awareness was still year away, so with that caveat in mind be aware that modern protocols were wildly absent.

The video is in .flv format; if your browser has issues with that I’ll try to tidy it up when I get back from my honeymoon. This may be the last video on SD for a while, so let me know what you think.

Blurry Blockhead

spidergod

Human Blockhead

The early days of the western body modification movement were documented by pioneers like Fakir Musafar (who taught himself photography and darkroom technique) and Charles Gatewood; decades later their iconic 35mm images remain bold clear snapshots of our community’s history.

Things got choppy in the 1990s when digital cameras started taking over, with low dpi images replacing the clarity of their SLR analog counterparts. A lot of the images that were submitted to the spcOnline site from 1995-2000 are grainy low resolution .jpg images that do a decent job of documenting the modification but won’t stand the test of time like the old hardcopy photographs.

Like this one, featuring a young Sideshow performer doing the human blockhead circa 1997. First person who correctly identifies him (with bonus points going to anyone who can name his stage name at the time) will receive a goodie from the SD/SPCO archives.