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