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 →
On September 1st 2015 I recorded a free-form oral history with retired tattoo artist and T.R.A.S.H. editor JD. Recorded during lunch, JD and I shared a pizza and discussed the last days of Sailor Sid Diller, gay erotic artist REX (famous for his MINESHAFT logo design), TRASH magazine and the gentrification of NYC. He was a very charming gentleman, like myself a bit of a rascal and a wonderful connection to days gone by.
I keep meaning to write a more in-depth article on the relationship between the 1960s/70s Gay Leather culture and the roots of the Western Body Piercing revival; the two worlds often overlapped and it’s fair to say that without leather culture the piercing scene would have evolved much, much differently. You’d think that it would come naturally for me to write about- I’ve been going to leather bars since I was a teenager. I work at a leather bar. There are tons of resources out there for me to dig through, people to interview…
Instead I’ll be lazy- for now- and just add this photo of Sailor Sid Diller geared up. It’s been sitting in my queue for about two months waiting for me to get the lead out and get to researching the leather article… Sid deserves better than that.
A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the first PA piercing performed by piercing pioneer Jim Ward. While getting everything together for an expanded version of the purple hanky article I came across this photo…
In the spirit of ‘do you remember your first one’…
This is Fernando. He was the infamous Leatherman who’s pierced nipples were the first that Jim saw in person. According to Jim’s invaluable book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET:
“At this point in my life I had never seen or heard of anyone with pierced nipples even in the pages of National Geographic. That was soon to change. One weekend night I went to the Village to hang out at the NYMBC. Standing shirtless by the bar was a hunk of a man. Even in the subdued light there was no missing the glint of gold on his muscular chest. His nipples were pierced. I learned that his name was Fernando and that he was something of a local legend. Though I was never fortunate enough to enjoy the intimate pleasure of his company, he at least let me know that once again I was not alone.”
That feeling- of not being alone- was very powerful in the early days of Body Modification, before finding others ‘like us’ was a mouse click away.
Do you remember the first time you saw someone who was pierced/tattooed/modified it it made you feel connected to something bigger? Share the story!