Tag Archives: Jim Ward

Stick ’em with the Pointy End.

Stick ’em with the pointy end: A brief history of the piercing needle.

How is a piercing done? With a needle. It seems like a pretty easy, straight forward answer. But it hasn’t always been that way. While modern body piercing has access to some of the best, most well-crafted needles we could ask for, such wasn’t the case twenty or thirty years ago. In fact, just having access to needles was unheard of for a bit. The needle is one of the most important factors in a safe, correctly done body piercing. Without a good needle, the entire piercing experience can go sideways (or crooked). So, let’s delve into the history of the piercing needle, and how we got to the modern design we all use today.

In the ’60s and ’70s piercing was still very much underground. We were a few years away from the opening of the gauntlet in 1975 by Jim Ward. Piercing was primarily a fetish in the Leather/BDSM scene, practiced in the darkest corners of already forbidden back rooms and clubs. Since this was being practiced by people who wouldn’t dream of going out and trying to get supplies for their extracurricular activities, they made use of what they had. Sharpening wire, and using modified ice picks and nuts and bolts was common.

“There was nothing available at the time so it was crude. I’m not sure about the years, but in the ’60s and ’70s, that’s what they would use. The material was the same LVM surgical stainless steel but they would polish with diamond dust on a wheel to get rid of any porousness it had called orange peel. By the time they were done, it looked like a mirror! I can’t imagine the level of determination these people had. The ice pics were solid of course, and I never saw use of any of it. I came after that, but I imagine it was horrible.” –Ken Dean, Silver Anchor.

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BSTA: Vaughn

Since it’s 1989 release, RE/Search Publications’ seminal issue #12 – Modern Primitives – has become one of, if not the most, nodally significant cultural studies of western body modification ever printed. The pantheon of influential body art figures interviewed includes Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, Ed Hardy, Raelyn Gallina, Lyle Tuttle, Hanky Panky, Leo Zulueta – you could easily get lost following the ripples of influence from any one of them. But Modern Primitives also featured some younger personalities just getting their start in the world of body art; mostly notably Greg Kulz (a pioneer of black graphic industrial tattooing) and Bay Area piercer/tattooist Vaughn, who at the time of publication was trying to make a name in the industry. Thirty years later, and Vaughn’s legacy – the opening of Body Manipulations and the shift to a more diverse clientele – is easily worthy of inclusion with the best of the industry.

In honor of his birthday, BSTA’s Ari Pimsler interviewed Vaughn, along with friends, former employees, and clients for the new issue of our print project NODAL POINTS. The supporting interviews – Melissa & Joey from Body Ms, Greg Kulz, Duncan Van Luyt, and Blake Perlingieri – are available exclusively in the zine, which can be ordered here:

https://www.blurb.com/b/9773006-volume-3-nodal-points

-SP

(special thanks to Bobby Neel Adams for the amazing outtake photos from his Modern Primitives shoot with Vaughn! http://bobbyneeladams.com)


 

Ari – For an introduction let’s start with where you started piercing, be it business or just experimentation

Vaughn – Probably about 1985. I moved to San Francisco in 1984. What I wanted to do was pierce my lip and I couldn’t find any outlet to do that. I had been pierced down in LA by Jim Ward at The Gauntlet originally because I was living down there. When I got up to San Francisco there was really no one there doing anything. I wanted to pierce my lip, couldn’t find anybody to do it, so eventually I did it myself. But as far as taking on clients I would say, 1986? I just printed up business cards that said, “Vaughn” and had my phone number on it. That was it. If I saw people who had their own piercings I’d approach them like, “hey I can do noses, I can do navels, I can do this kinda deal.” I would have people over to my apartment and pierce them there. I also would set up a little portable kit and go over to peoples houses pierce people in their homes or businesses or wherever. I did that for a couple of years. I can’t remember exactly when I met Esther but she was a big influence as far as pushing me to make it happen as a business. One of the driving forces behind that was we had heard a rumor that Gauntlet was going to try and open up in San Francisco and I wanted to break away from the stigma that Gauntlet had. That stigma was very much in the West Hollywood gay community. I wanted to see piercing move out more into the underground, like the punk scene and the music scenes. That was my main drive. Esther was kind of in the same mindset that drove me – she wasn’t really oriented on the sexual aspect of it but rather the aesthetic orientation. For about three or four years I just pierced privately and did in-home visits and portable visits. In 1989 I ended up getting a little bit of inheritance. I opened Body Manipulations with seven thousand dollars. Rent on the space was like $300 a month – it was super cheap. That all worked out because I knew the tattoo people who were in the space originally – Erno tattoo. They moved upstairs and then I rented from Erno because he still had a lease on the space for a short time. We just sublet it from Erno and turned it into a piercing studio.

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Annie Sprinkle’s HERSTORY of Body Piercing, May 2019

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.

Twenty-five years in a circle.

Happy New Year from Sacred Debris; today marks our fifth anniversary and we are infinitely thankful for all of the support you folks have given us over the last half decade. It was a bumpy year for the blog; we’ve had some tech problems that I’m still trying to work through (if anyone is a WordPress savant, hit me up at sacreddebris@gmail.com) so thanks for sticking around and for all the kind words and support; Ari and I have some fun video and print projects lined up this year so we’re hoping that it’s our best yet.

(Photo: Jim Ward and Fakir Musafar, APP Conference 2001. Photo courtesy of Sean Christian/SPCO)

APP Conference 2018 Highlight: In the beginning there was Gauntlet

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:

https://www.cvent.com/events/association-of-professional-piercers-23rd-annual-conference-and-exposition/registration-4e23c3b113ef482c9f136e5bf4850686.aspx?fqp=true

Uncovered: In the Flesh V1

Before the 1989 release of RE/Search Publications’ seminal book Modern Primitives, body piercing/modification documentation fell on the shoulders of a very small group of people. PFIQ,  Piercing World, BODY ART– by Jim Ward/Gauntlet, Pauline Clarke/PAUK and Henry Ferguson and Lynn Proctor, respectively- were niche periodicals for a niche subculture that had incredibly limited distribution. For better or for worse, you had to know you wanted it to find it.

The tattoo magazines that ruled the mass market newsstand shelves may have occasionally featured photos of pierced tattoo collectors and artists, but they generally didn’t talk about the piercings themselves. Modern Primitives represents a pretty significant nodal point for the cultural shift of mainstreaming body piercing, suspension and even surgical modification; photos of New Zealand resident Carl Carrol’s bisected penis being available to anyone who walked into a Barnes and Noble marks a pretty major shift from the procedure’s “fringe within a fringe” past.

Inspired by the success of Modern Primitives, and no doubt an attempt to get ahead of the zeitgeist, OB Enterprises (the publishers of Outlaw Biker and Outlaw Biker Tattoo Revue 1) released the premiere issue of In the Flesh magazine in 1992. From the introduction:

A few years back Re/Search Publications printed a wonderful book entitled “Modern Primitives“. This magazine, In the Flesh, is meant to continue on where they left off. Each issue (provided you buy enough of this first issue to make it worth our while to do it all again) will explore ancient and modern body/mind modifications. Future issues will include articles on ritual and magic, Neo-Paganism, body building, strange food, cross dressing, gender bending, tattooing, scarification, virtual reality, subliminal learning, smart drugs and yes, more piercing info. Feel free to jump on in and send us your suggestions about other topics we should cover.

With gender bending, scarification, and a woman of color on the cover, the premiere issue of In the Flesh stood out among the other biker oriented tattoo magazines, no doubt as a result of editor Michelle Delio’s guidance.

The first issue featured midwest piercers (Mad)Jack and Anna Kaplan, Barbara Pierce and branding by Florice and an iconic interview with Cliff Cadaver. Further tying it to Modern Primitives, it also features an interview with, and content from, Jim Ward.

While Modern Primitives crossed over into pop culture/academic/kink territory (with a book being more highbrow, even for the lowbrow) In the Flesh had newsstand distribution and a much lower price point at $4.95 a copy, which no doubt had a democratizing affect. Ease of purchase, low cost- younger piercing fans had much quicker access to the material and among the middle school era of piercers is often mentioned as a direct influence.

Copies of In the Flesh occasionally show up on eBay close to their original cover price.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Though strangely, the premiere issue of In the Flesh had it presented by OB Enterprise’s Tattoos By Women.

BSTA: David Vidra


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

London 1978

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.

Uncovered: PFIQ Issue 4

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.

 

BSTA: Scott Shatsky


Scott Shatsky may not be the most recognizable names in piercing, but his roots run deep – from being a young man hanging around the original Gauntlet, to apprenticing under Jim Ward and being part of the original Gauntlet San Fransisco crew, Scott offers some wonderful insight into that early pivotal time. Scott remains part of that quiet faction who was more enamored with piercing as an intimate movement, and gives us some new perspective on those Gauntlet years as a client, manager, and Master Piercer.


Ari – Where does piercing start for you, Scott?

Scott – I grew up in Los Angeles, and I always had a fascination with anything other than just being white, so tattoos and piercings fell into that. I was just always very interested, so in high school and even before I was a punk rock kid I was always sticking needles in me for piercings. I don’t even remember how I found Gauntlet, but it was in West Hollywood. I walked in and I became friends with Jim (Ward) and became pretty good friends with Cross, who I share a birthday with. I was a young kid. I wasn’t even in a place where I could get pierced there, age-wise. Cross was only a couple of years older than I was at the time. I have this picture of me sitting there with Jim and his beautiful silver and purple peacock wallpaper in the piercing studio when he was piercing my cartilage. So my identity in that world started years before I was piercing. Continue reading