Anthony Alan Oversby, called Alan or Mr. Sebastian, was tattoo artist and body piercer and was a key nodal figure in the popularization of body piercing in the UK. Seeing pierced nipples on fieldhands 1 ignited his interest in body piercing, In 1976, Alan left his position as an art teacher, and traveled across the US, working with Sailor Sid Diller and others to further educate himself as a tattoo artist. Continue reading →
“Fascinated by the gold rings that glittered in the nipples of field hands, he made persistent enquiries which were eventually rewarded with an exciting midnight visit to the local piercer.” – Obiturary, Independent. ↩
I hope everyone is staying as safe as possible with the worldwide covid19 outbreak; I know a lot of us are currently waiting it out and social distancing in the safety of our own homes, but to the folks on the front lines – medical personnel, first responders, food service, grocers, and online retailers – you have our most sincere gratitude.
I’ve been trying to be productive during the SI phase of the pandemic, working on articles for the upcoming Nodal Points IV, working on a presentation that may be released online called THE DOCUMENTED BODY- Documenting piercing documentation, and trying to maintain balance when everything’s topsy turvy, so I’ll try to update Sacred a little more frequently during the next few weeks.
This photo brings us back to a happier time, late 1970s, in the London, England shop of Alan ‘Mr. Sebastian’ Oversby, and features Sailor Sid Diller and Banana.
In the late 1950’s-early 1960s, Alan Oversby, known in the tattoo and piercing community as Mister Sebastian, got tattooed by George Burchette with what he believed was the first set of pubic wings. He came up with the idea by sketching shapes that fit nicely into the triangular shapes he was drawing and found that wings were not only aesthetically pleasing but that they also visually elongated the penis.
This photo, taken in the late 1970s, features a client with tattoos and piercings – paired pubic and reverse Prince Albert- by Sebastian.
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.
Tattoo by Alan Oversby; 1970s. Scanned from the original print.
A few weeks ago I was tagged by multiple friends in a Facebook post from a tattooer who’s been doing male pin-ups; archetypal poses gender swapped with big bearded beefcake. The comments ranged from amused to aggrieved with almost everyone agreeing that it was ‘about time’ that someone was doing them.
Of course, there’s really nothing new under the sun. Male pin-ups, particularly homoerotic ones, have been around for a lot longer than social media. Cliff Raven, Sailor Sid, Phil Sparrow, Alan Oversby… anyone who was tattooing a clientele that appreciated the sexuality of tattoo culture was likely to have done one.
Though they weren’t always as explicit as this amazing piece by Sebastian. It dates back to the late 70s and still packs a punch.
Sacred Debris Sandbox members should check out the FB group for a much raunchier part of the design!
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.
If I had a dollar donated for every view that the ‘Incredible Til’ video has received since I uploaded it shortly after Sacred Debris launched in 2014, I’d have enough money to buy well over 300,000 dollar items at the local five and dime. That’s not necessarily a reminder that you should throw some love into the tip bucket if you like the content- much of it literally one of a kind- that we post here at SD… but it’s also not NOT one.
With that out of the way….
“The Incredible” Til of Cardiff made his debut in the pages of Piercing Fans International Quarterly thirty-five years ago and has remained one of the most searched-for names in our “how did you find us” queue. While I suspect that most people are searching for pictures of what made him so incredible- an invertible sub and super incised penis that could be turned “inside out”- today’s update is a rare glimpse at the man behind the member.
Interestingly enough every photo of Til in the SD archives finds him with his eyes closed.
This photo dates back to the late 1980s and features tattooing by Alan ‘Mr. Sebastian’ Oversby.