An old friend reintroduces himself and dives into his closet.
Thirteen years ago, I wrote a memorial piece for my friend and mentor, Jack Yount — my first article for BME. It is with extreme humility that I confess, nearly a decade and a half later, my writing skills haven’t really improved. Sometimes I get distracted. Sometimes, if we can be honest with each other, it will take me months to follow up on articles branded “coming soon.”
That said, intermittent though they may be, I’m back on board writing my particular (peculiar?) brand of babble for the fine folk at BME. I’ve written several different “comeback” pieces, mostly self indulgent puff-pieces where I mention how amazing I am (those will come later) and why you should love me. But, after careful consideration, I’ve decided to reintroduce myself with this …
While cleaning the house one afternoon a couple weeks back, I found a few cardboard poster tubes in the back corner of the hallway closet. There was a small cluster of them — unlabeled, like most of the things I stash away — and a few with multiple posters tucked inside. Signed prints from Alex Gray and Pushead; some show posters and one sheets for forgotten horror films all hidden away with the best intentions; and one that, to be quite honest, I didn’t even know I owned.
The tube offered no clues as to how this treasure ended up in my hands — the return address was one I didn’t recognize, and there was no note inside. But, sure enough, as I unrolled the posted I saw Fakir Musafar, more than twenty years younger than when I finally met him face to face at the APP Conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, sitting comfortably in a Kavadi rig.
In my dainty, girly hands, I was holding a poster for the movie Dances Sacred and Profane, the classic documentary featuring Fakir Musafar and Jim Ward, two friends who shared an amazing experience together; Charles Gatewood, the photographer whose iconic images from that weekend were featured in Modern Primitives, the book that launched 1,000 tribals; and was directed by brothers Dan and Mark Jury.
And right there, clear as day: “Best Wishes, Fakir Musafar,” scribbled in silver ink across the front. A signed copy of the poster for such an amazing film, lost in the back of my closet — another treasured relic from our community just waiting to be rediscovered.
As I carefully rolled the poster up and slid it back into its tube (until I could get it framed), I remembered E-mails back and forth between Dan Jury and I a few years back. I then remembered getting that tube in the mail with a T-shirt rolled up inside and a note from Dan wishing me well.
I went right down to my entertainment room, popped in Dances and sat back to watch it for the hundredth time — this time not on Gorgon Video’s crackly VHS (which I do own), but the DVD that Dan sent, stretched across a 42-inch HD screen.
I watched the film with fresh eyes. It was difficult to see the love and trust that Jim and Fakir had for each other knowing how their friendship was to end up.
But that film … caught in time and forever young, two friends put absolute faith in each other, and lost themselves in capital-R Ritual. No suspensions at nightclubs for drunken townies or “look at me” freak shows. Just two men in the desert, relying on each other and the elements to find something deep within themselves that we’ve lost.
In recent years, Fakir and Jim have “mended the fence,” at least publicly, appearing together at the annual APP conference. While they’re likely never to be the best of friends, it’s a testament to how fragile we are — our bodies and our relationships — and a reminder to cherish each moment, each friend, each ritual like it could be your last.
“There is a risk that you might die. We’re going to be 70 miles from the nearest civilization so if anything goes wrong we’re in a bad way.”- Fakir Musafar.
As I sat down to write this article, I had to move a bag of Keith Alexander’s hair that I’ve set aside to make a mourning bracelet with. Sitting next to it was a photo album I dug up that documents the removal process of a specimen I have in my toy cabinet (more on this in another column). Beside me sit a dozen videotapes from 1978-1985 featuring body modification pioneers Sailor Sid Diller, Cliff Raven, Jack Yount, Til of Cardiff and a host of others — these little treasures, each with their own history, all waiting to be shared with people who still care about where we came from.
We place so much emphasis on the future of body modification that we risk forgetting our roots. It may be strange to think of a time when one-inch nostrils weren’t common, or when a pierced ear on a man signaled something to his peers and which side it was on did matter.
While I can’t promise any consistency, I can promise that as we move forward with my articles, I’ll do my best to help keep the flame alive.
bringing you articles like this one.