I don’t have much information on this image other than that it was sourced from a newly acquired Kodachrome slide that dates back to the late 1970s and features Sailor Sid Diller at an unnamed San Francisco tattoo show. Photographer, event organizer, (convention? show? his name tag turns to a blur when the image is enlarged) and all other relevant data may be lost to the ages, but at least the image, some forty plus years old now, survives.
Early tattoo conventions were an integral part of the tattoo community developing and expanding before the rise and eventual decline of the tattoo magazine and the ubiquity of the internet, but they often ostracized attendees who were also in the emerging body piercing scene. Still, they provided a space where devotees could meet at local (often gay leather) bars near the convention or in hotel suites to share their passions, and slowly but surely the two subcultures merged and became part of a bigger community.
Annie Sprinkle’s photo documentation of communities that weren’t paid attention to by the mainstream media – most notably the 42nd Street scene of the 1970s, the world of adult cinema, and the early western body piercing revival – falls very much in line with my view that subcultures should be documented internally; that participants are best suited to chronicle their own movements w/o the academic gaze.
At the 2019 Association of Professional Piercers Conference and Expo, Annie, joined by her long time friend and collaborator Veronica Vera, presented a class on her Herstory of Body Piercing and it’s intersection with early luminaries Fakir Musafar, Charles Gatewood, and Spider Webb.Annie and Veronica were as charming as could be despite the blissfully raw content they were presenting; in a class given by Jim Ward earlier that day it was pointed out that the piercing world has evolved into something that Jim (piercing as a sexual exploration) and Fakir (piercing as a spiritual conduit) could have never imagined, so Annie’s Herstory and it’s sex positive bent was a welcome return to the roots of piercing to the longer tenured piercers in attendance.Unfortunately I was only able to film for a few minutes, but I hope it’s enough to give you folks an insight into when piercing was a much different (and I’m biased in saying so) and more fun pursuit of fringe players.
The good folks over at Yellow Beak Press (who put out some of the best tattoo history books on the market) sent SD a Kodachrome slide from the collection of photographer Bob Hanson last year; taken in the 1970s or early 1980s it features Fakir Musafar performing a then rare navel piercing.
Bob’s photos of the tattoo scene of the 70s/80s are highlighted in YBP’s Lost Love 2.
On Tuesday July 17th body piercing pioneer Jim Ward will be presenting his IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS GAUNTLET class to attendees of the annual APP Conference and Expo at the Bally’s hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jim’s classes are living, breathing history and are a guaranteed good time. If you’re going to be attending this year’s Conference you can sign up for it here:
“Raven” was in San Francisco for a brief time on 9th street. I got there when he opened and decided to get the “wind god” tat. He said I was lucky because it was early and he was still fresh and awake after breakfast and not worn out by some of the difficult people that he had come in and bust his chops.
He also gave me a choice of by the hour or a given price. I took the given price and he said it was a bargain because he was fresh and full of energy, as you can see he was, and his work has stay bright after all these years. I believe it was 1982-3. -JD
The first story JD told me, as I was setting up our interview at an Ybor City Pizza shop, was about the time he found himself making an ad hoc tattoo studio out of his van, having discovered a bar full of carnies in Tampa who wanted tattooed. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he described the good natured degenerates, tough guys and hucksters who joined him in the back of the van, getting skulls and names and roses added to their arms and chests. Continue reading →
Ari: I always like to kick these off with an introduction, so tell us a little about you, Mama.
Vidra: My introduction to the industry was 1978. I met a gentleman by the name of Linus Herrell and he owned a store in Cleveland called Body Language and that store, how do you explain it? It’s like one of the first alternative bookstores. We didn’t sell any porn, nothing like that, but it had a rubber room and a leather room, where there were all different types of books and little novelties and stuff like that. Also, he had a piercing room. He had magazines like PFIQ, the whole nine yards and I was like, “OK, this is fascinating.” I met him when he was a bartender at one of the little leather bars in Cleveland, in fact the oldest one in Ohio. He had a huge bull’s tether in his septum, and I was just staring at him, because number one it was very attractive and number two I was like, “hmm, how did you do that? How did he get something that thick into his septum?” I asked him a couple of questions. He explained it to me, explained the process of stretching and piercing. When I asked him where do you get something like that done he said he’d gotten work done at the Gauntlet in L.A. by a gentlemen called Jim Ward. That was my first introduction to Gauntlet, and even that was through Linus. He told me about PFIQ and the new shop he’d be opening, etc etc, and then in his psychotic manner he said, “So what are you doing tonight? I get off in two hours.” I said, “eh, probably just going home” and he said, “Well let’s go home and fuck”, and I’m like, “okay.” Now realize back then I was working for a Catholic Church. I was the rectory cook, as well as directing theatre for the deaf and blind and just about any other handicap you can imagine and normal people all on the same stage. It was a lot of work, it was a lot of fun, and I loved doing it. That’s what I did for a living back then. Cooking for a church rectory for the priests and the nuns who ran the Hunger Center in a pretty impoverished area of Cleveland, but it was also the deaf and the blind center for the Diocese of Cleveland. I had worked with almost all types of disabilities really from the time I was 13. Continue reading →
We arrived at Heathrow on Tuesday, March 7th for a week in London prior to moving on to the Continent. Our main reason for this lengthy stay was in order to spend some quality time with Alan Oversby, better know in piercing and tattoo circles as Mr. Sebastian. We also wanted to meet as many other British piercing enthusiasts as possible. -Jim Ward. 1
Among the piercing enthusiasts present during Jim Ward, Sailor Sid and Elizabeth Weinzirl’s 1978 visit to London, England was this gentleman. His septum was pierced but wasn’t stretched; this bone was a gaff. You can read more about Jim’s trip to London in Running the Gauntlet, available here.
The early issues of any print publication go a long way towards defining their overall visual identity; what makes it “it” is honed by the editor’s choice in orchestrating the entire finished product which includes deciding on what you could consider is the most important aspect- the design of the front cover.
Early PFIQ issues, edited by Jim Ward, favored illustrated covers with art primarily provided by Bud Larsen, but with issue four the duties were handled by an illustrator named, simply, Ronin. I did a little digging and couldn’t really find out anything about him, but you have to appreciate Jim’s decision to feature an all female trio of cover “models” in a time where the body piercing demographic heavily skewed towards gay males. While the documentation of the early days of the western piercing scene is, by availability, often very one sided, Jim always featured as diverse a lineup as contributions would allow in PFIQ.
Issue #4 featured a “Who’s Who” article on Alan Oversby, AKA Mister Sebastian.
I’ve spent the last few days reorganizing my archival storage; prints, polaroids, VHS tapes, 8mm tapes, DVC tapes, assorted ephemera and while it’s no means more efficient a filing system it’s at least more consolidated.
That doesn’t really mean much to anyone who doesn’t live with me, but my wife will be pretty happy to have more closet space, much of which has been taken up the tenure of our marriage by Rubbermaid bins full of pictures of naked people.
One of my favorite of said has always been Bud ‘Viking’ Navaro. Ever since seeing him in PFIQ I’ve been fascinated with him, so while I was sorting things I tried to set aside my favorite prints and polaroids of Bud for a project I’m hoping will be done by 2018’s APP Conference in Vegas. Fingers crossed.
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 →