“Speaking of nodal points in history, of some emerging pattern in the texture of things. Of everything changing.”- William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, piercer Blake Perlingieri was instrumental in the shift from the prevailing aesthetic of body piercing (leather and levis) back to it’s primal roots; an evangelist who’s message was organic, freehand and raw. The logical heir to the Modern Primitive movement started by Fakir Musafar, Blake opened NOMAD twenty-four years ago and has been one of the industry’s true mavericks ever since.
This video features Blake performing large gauge conch piercings- part of what became known as the ‘Nomad look’- circa 1990s. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that without his influence, ear lobe stretching (and everything that came after) wouldn’t have taken hold so quickly in the piercing community. About the needles used: “Ranfac Corp made it. Single bevel. I think it was 5 or 6″ long and they were 72.00 each!!!”
According to my end of year (2015) poll, the majority of Sacred Debris readers work in some capacity at piercing or tattoo shops. So I’m not sure that a NOT SAFE FOR WORK tag is entirely necessary (if you work at a piercing shop that has issues with you looking at photos of Jack and Sid, you should probably find a new job) but tellingly enough when I use it I get greater reach on the post. Continue reading →
Video erotic4504.flv is no longer compatible with streaming and needs to be converted.
“Alan Oversby, better known by his professional alias of Mr Sebastian (chosen, naturally, after the famously pierced Saint…) was born in Liverpool in 1933 and became enamoured with body piercing in the 1950s whilst working on a sugar plantation in British Guiana. He had seen nipple piercings on some field hands, and persuaded one of them, over a few glasses of rum, to pierce him. Returning to Britain, he trained as an art teacher in the Midlands, and became increasingly enamoured with modifying his own body, first by re-piercing his own nipples, then (imitating an illustration of an African man he had seen in an anthropology book) inserting a ring into his foreskin. Eventually, he got tattooed. Indeed, he first shows up in the press in the mid-1970s, as a customer of long-standing London tattoo artist George Bone, cited precisely to demonstrate the practices middle class credentials. ‘He is a teacher’, the article tells us, ‘ and as such one of the professional minority who frequents tattoo shops:
‘I thought about it all very carefully before I began. If you don’t you end up looking a mess.’ Alan is tattooed solidly from the tops of his arms down the front of his body to his legs with the designs placed in such a way that he can wear a short-sleeved, open-necked shirt without any of them being visible. This is not to avoid incurring opposition in the school where he teaches, but ‘to make sure my mother doesn’t find out. She would be terribly upset if she knew about it’ Continue reading →
Excerpt from Painless Steel featuring Mr. Sebastian (Alan Oversby) performing an Ampallang piercing on Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle/TOPY/Psychic TV.
Last year I wrote an article for a magazine called Best Intentions that, among other things, discussed the ephemeral nature of magnetic video tape; it’s limitations and my constant surprise when a VHS cassette that’s been stored in a rubbermaid bin for a few decades still has a little bit of life left in it.
Charles Gatewood’s FLASH VIDEOS never made it into the digital age and during the last conversation we had, Charles told me that some of the volumes in the Flash collection had production runs as low as 50 units. It’s incredibly humbling when you realize the impact his documentaries had on the Body Modification community despite the relative difficulty of getting those tapes out in the days before uploads and shares and likes.
My Flash collection is far from complete and some of the tapes have, regrettably, become unwatchable, but I’m making progress converting and archiving as much footage as possible. This clip, while short, features influential UK body piercer/tattooist Alan Oversby (Mr. Sebastian) performing an ampallang piercing on cultural engineer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Alan’s voice appeared on the song Message from the Temple on the 1982 Psychic TV album Force the Hand of Chance.
Late 1970s- Jim Ward performs a vertical nipple piercing on Rochester’s Rufus Dreyer. Rufus appears occasionally in photos in my archives- his appearance distinct with a full body of dense tattooing, a grey Van Dyke beard and flipped up septum tusk- but I’ve not been able to find out anything about him other than his name.
Jim can be seen using a thimble to push assist in pushing the needle though the tissue; the needles available at the time weren’t as sharp as our modern options and every little bit helped.
Filmed in 1968 by noted photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s friend and neighbor Sandy Daley and featuring an original score by his (by then former) girlfriend Patti Smith, Robert Having His Nipple Pierced was an experimental short film that finds Mapplethorpe- tripping on acid- having his nipple pierced by the Chelsea Hotel’s house physician Herb Krohn.
“[Mapplethorpe]…enlisted the aid of Dr. Herb Krohn, the Chelsea’s resident physician, who, after warning him that he felt uncomfortable puncturing “cancer-prone” tissue, reluctantly agreed to perform the procedure. “It was an unusual request,” Krohn said, “but I’d lived at the Chelsea long enough so that nothing really surprised me.” Morrisroe, P.86 1
A feature length documentary on Mapplethorpe- “Look at the Pictures” is currently streaming on HBOGo.
“Mapplethorpe: A Biography” by Patricia Morrisroe . ↩
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)
I’ve been interested in body art for a long time. I now have a large subincision, head split halfway back, and three pairs of 8 gauge jewelry up both sides of the subincision. If I’m interested in impressing a partner, I put six captive bead rings in the holes, and they’re 3/4″ inside diameter and hard to ignore. If I’m going to the gym to work out I just put in six 8 ga. barbells so when I’m in the shower it isn’t as obvious that I’m carrying around a significant amount of metal. I’ve worked out regularly for the past few years, and nobody has ever commented on or questioned my genital piercings, though occasionally somebody will say something about my unusual tattoos – J. 1
There aren’t many subcultures where you can talk about a penis in terms of being famous or influential. Adult movies, certainly, have had their share of iconic appendages so much so that names of particularly endowed stars from the 1970s and 80s are still currency when talking about larger than average measurements. Our own body modification community, in it’s recent history, has also had it’s own rogues gallery of iconic altered penises like Carl Carrol who appeared originally in PFIQ #15 and GM who was known to BME readers as “J” who’s “story of a subincision” article and videos 2 are frequently cited by clients requesting the procedure as a major inspiration.
Other subincisions had appeared on BME and SPC before J, but his had a certain aesthetic appeal that became the archetype for a split penis. While doing his early self done modification work he was unaware of the larger community that shared his passions, keeping it a secret from all but his most intimate contacts. We met through the UNIQUE mailing list 3 and eventually met in person in 1999 at the first ModCon event in Toronto. When he discovered body piercing it was a novelty to him- I remember an excited letter where he marveled that “they can PIERCE that now??” in reference to a basic genital piercing. The dichotomy always struck me funny- that a man who had disunited his urethra to the scrotum and who used mercury filled balloons as sounding rods had no idea about the piercing scene that ran parallel to heavier modifications.
J travelled to Toronto to meet BME founder Shannon Larratt and stopped by Stainless Studios where he had Tom Brazda do a series of piercings on his split shaft and glans; we affectionately called his reverse Prince Albert a halfadravya because it was the 1990s and making up names for piercings was all the rage. It’s my sincere hope that it in no way influenced the dolphin kisses and panda bites of today.
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)
“Friend John says that it was in 1976 that I went to a private showing of the movie TATTOO. There I met Doug Malloy and John with his magnificent squid tattoo. And there were pictures shown of tattoos and some piercings. I can’t say that the latter took hold, but my interest in tattoos was reinforced.” Louis ‘Indy’ Rove 1
I got a text message the other day from a friend asking if I knew anything about a piercer working in their home town; was he any good, could I recommend him, any horror stories or caveats – most of us who’ve been around the industry for a year or three are probably pretty used to getting that message and over the years I’ve been able to help steer folks into some good shops to be worked on by some good people. But, increasingly, I’m in the position where there are (exponentially) more piercers out there that I don’t know than those that I do. That doesn’t speak to their skill level or their commitment to safe piercing, good tattooing or ethical body modifications- just that the community that turned into an industry is now bigger than our ability to keep up with it.
it wasn’t always that way, though, and as I dig deeper into my archives I’m seeing faces and names that are cross-referenced over the decades and miles connecting the pioneers of the ‘T&P’ community, revealing a tight knit group who were connected by very few degrees. Over the last few days I’ve scanned photos at random, spanning different years, original owners and disciplines (primarily tattooing and body piercing) but when I move to the research phase almost every one of these pioneers either knew each other or were separated by one or two mutual friends.
The photos I uploaded of Dr. John Lemes, for example- John was there when T&P Party member Indy Rove met Doug Malloy; introducing him to the Southern California scene and Jim Ward (who would go on to put several dozen piercings into his penis) and Fakir Musafar (who photographed him for PFIQ #17).
This photo- FH-21A22- was taken in Louis Rove’s (misspelled on the photograph as Louis Rave) Los Angeles home on 29th January 1982 and features my favorite early bodymod pioneer Bud ‘Viking Navaro’ H in all of his tusk’d glory.
We’ve reached a point in our community/industry’s timeline where there are so many options to get a safe modification performed, but there sure was something special about a smaller more intimate scene.