Doug Malloy was what an acquaintance of mine called the “nom de kinque” of a wealthy Hollywood businessman named Richard Simonton. I was given to understand that Malloy was his mother’s maiden name. Being an Irish name, I can’t help thinking one of his forebears must have kissed the Blarney stone, for Doug had a remarkable flair for telling a story, and if it wasn’t exactly true, it didn’t particularly matter to him as long as the tale was a good one. Consequently I can’t guarantee the accuracy of everything that Doug told me about himself or about the history of piercing for that matter. But he told wonderful stories, and the fact that many of them persist despite a lack of any supporting evidence says much for his ability to capture our imaginations.
Doug in the Muzak offices in Hollywood.
I know little about his youth. From an early interview it appears he was born in Chicago and his family moved to the Seattle area when he was about three. By the time the Depression hit in 1929, he would have been in his early teens. I gathered the family wasn’t exactly affluent. Eventually he ended up in Southern California and his fortunes began to change. In the early 40s he struck a lucrative deal with Muzak, the ubiquitous background music company, which gave him control over the southwestern quarter of the country. It made him a very rich man.
Doug was quite interested in things metaphysical. He had been a personal friend of Ernest Holmes (1887–1960) author of The Science of Mind and the founder of the Religious Science movement. Thanks in no small part to Holmes’ influence, he was very much a believer in what became known as the “power of positive thinking.”
He also believed in reincarnation. According to Doug it explained not only things like prodigies, but also why some people became passionate about things like body piercing. This, he claimed, was his own case. He remembered a past life during which he had been a highly placed courtier in the entourage of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton.
Supposedly navel piercing was common amongst the aristocracy but forbidden to the lower classes. Doug claimed that the piercing could be seen in statuary, but try as I might I was unable to see it in the photos which he showed me. Within the last 50 years scientists have been able to construct an extremely clear and accurate picture of Egyptian life dating back several thousand years. To date I am unaware of any evidence having been discovered that would substantiate Doug’s claim.
Meanwhile back in ancient Egypt, Doug’s ancient self had a jealous rival at court who arranged to have him murdered. This left a karmic debt that the rival was attempting to repay in Doug’s present incarnation. From time to time the “Little Man” as he was called would appear and offer Doug advice and occasionally make predictions. I know of at least one that wasn’t accurate. Doug was told he’d live to the year 2000. Maybe by some antiquated calendar. At least by our calendar he was off by nearly 25 years.
Doug walking in his back yard at the edge of Toluca Lake.
Doug had an incredible home in the San Fernando Valley. Allegedly he had been told psychically to start construction on it even before he’d amassed the fortune necessary to complete it. It was in an area called Toluca Lake, named after the small body of water on the edge of which the house was being built. To the best of my knowledge there is no public access to the lake itself because it is completely surrounded by homes. Warner Brothers studio is a short distance to the East. Doug’s neighbors included Bob Hope, Olivia de Haviland, and Walt Disney’s brother Roy.
Left: Doug’s living room with its church-style organ,
Right: Doug, circa 1950, with a theater organ pipe in his hand.
From the street, the house itself was not particularly impressive. It appeared to be a modest, modern, one-level box. But inside it was a marvel. There was an atrium with a roof that could be retracted. The house had not one, but two pipe organs. One was a church-style organ in the living room. A narrow spiral staircase lead down to a small, 99-seat theater in which there was a fully restored Wurlitzer theater organ dating from the 1920’s. During the silent movie days it had graced a Paramount Studio sound stage. Doug’s interest in theater organs inspired him to found the American Theater Organ Society in 1955.
Doug in his theater projection booth.
The theater was equipped with state of the art projection and recording facilities. On several occasions a few other Tattoo & Piercing group members and I were invited to join some of Doug’s other friends for private showings in the theater.
Doug had been a very close friend of the comedy film star of silent movie fame, Harold Lloyd. When Harold died in 1971, Doug was the executor of his estate. This gave him access to all of Harold’s old films.
Another close friend was an old theater organist named Gaylord Carter. Quite naturally things came together for showings of several Harold Lloyd silent films accompanied live by Carter. These were truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I’ll never forget them.
Doug’s interests were many and varied. In addition to organs, he had a passion for steamboats. In 1957 he and his family took a trip on the Mississippi riverboat the Delta Queen. On learning that the company was about to go under and this was to be its final season, Doug purchased controlling interest in the company in 1958. With his entrepreneurial skills he quickly turned it into a highly profitable enterprise.
I was not fortunate enough to have met Doug at the height of his prowess. A few years previously he had sustained brain damage from an event which nearly killed him. This had effected his ability to express himself. He confided in me that he had once been “an eloquent speaker” and was actually planing to pursue a political career when it all came to an abrupt end. The experience also forced him to take things easier and freed him to indulge his other great passion, body piercing.
During one of our many conversations Doug confided in me that had he been born at a later time he would probably have been gay. But he was born at a time when such a lifestyle could easily make anyone an outcast. He had ambitions, and he also believed that he and the members of his family had been together in a past incarnation. It was important that he provide the means for all of them to incarnate together once again.
Although not common today, Doug preferred to wear a large ring in his frenum piercing, sized to encircle his penis. He claimed that some men liked to sleep with their finger through the ring. Notice his Hafada.
Right: Doug’s Guiche.
Shortly before we met, Doug had written a short autobiography of his piercing exploits entitled The Adventures of a Piercing Freak (click the link to read it). He had subsequently sold the article to a publisher of fetish magazines who issued it in soft cover under the title The Art of Pierced Penises and Decorative Tattoos. Since body piercing was virtually unknown at the time, the publisher was hard pressed to find suitable images to accompany the text. Consequently the photographs used had nothing to do with the story.
Piercing Freak could hardly be described as great literature. It is told in a bold style with a certain hyper-masculine bravado. Although I think it largely failed, it was clearly intended as “one-handed reading” for a primarily gay fetish market. Fantastic as parts of it are, Doug insisted the story was true. It’s difficult to believe it was commonplace for divers to use Prince Albert rings to attach an external catheter or that there was actually a college organization of Jewish men advocating Dydoe piercings to restore sensation for circumcised males.
Doug did author, to some extent, promotional material for Gauntlet and articles for Gauntlet’s magazine Piercing Fans International Quarterly. The truth is I was the ghostwriter for these working from notes that he provided. One of the first promotional pieces we did was a flyer entitled “Body & Genital Piercing in Brief” (click the link to read it). It contained short histories and descriptions of a dozen piercings Doug considered “traditional.” I drew the illustrations to accompany them. The piercings included were:
Of particular interest is the fact that, with the exception of the navel, all of these piercings have a largely sexual purpose. This reflects Doug’s primary interest in body piercing as a means of enhancing erotic sensation.
The impact the “Piercing Brief” has had is phenomenal. It was widely distributed and reprinted and contained many of the colorful myths that persist and, to some extent have been widely accepted as fact. There has never been any proof to substantiate, among other things that:
The evidence on which Doug based his Roman Centurians claim was a Baroque statue he’d seen in Versailles. He showed me a photograph. I pointed out to him that Roman military men frequently wore metal breastplates sometimes sculpted to resemble a muscular male chest. The rings with cape attached were in the breastplate, not the man. Doug paused for a moment to ponder my observation, then replied, “Well, it makes a good story anyway.”
There are actually very few body piercings which have a documented history. The most extensively written about is the Ampallang, which at one time was fairly common in the areas surrounding the Indian Ocean. There is one sole reference to the Apadravya that I am aware of and it is in the Kama Sutra. Doug maintained that the Ampallang was horizontal through the head of the penis and the Apadravya vertical. Piercer and researcher Paul King of Cold Steel in San Francisco maintains that the piercings are in fact one and the same and that either one could be oriented in either direction. Whatever the facts, most piercing enthusiasts have accepted Doug’s designation.
Less extensively documented are foreskin piercings. We do know that they were performed as part of a procedure called infibulation. Usually it was done to male slaves as a means of enforcing chastity. Women with pierced labia can also be infibulated though the documentation of the procedure is scarce.
I sometimes wonder if people into piercing today have any deep appreciation of the tremendous impact Doug Malloy has had on their lives. Certainly he had predecessors and contemporaries equally as passionate about piercing as he, but what was it that made him the center from which the whole modern piercing movement sprang?
I think there are several reasons. For one, no one before him had ever presented such a broad palette of piercing possibilities complete with history and lore. It didn’t matter that he probably made up a lot of it, if not the piercings themselves. He’d at least done enough experimentation on himself to have some sense of their feasibility. This made it possible for him to speak with a confidence that leant great credibility to what he said. It didn’t hurt that it was a message a lot of people were waiting to hear whether they realized it or not.
It was also fortunate that Doug didn’t pursue his passion completely in private. Although he was extremely secretive about it, particularly with his family and non-kinky friends, he nonetheless reached out to other piercing enthusiasts who would go on to spread his message.
Finally, regardless of how primitive they might have been, Doug had formulated some basic but usable piercing techniques that, for the most part, could be applied by anyone.
If you combine all these elements with his good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, you can begin to see the seed that would grow into the modern piercing movement and appreciate how Doug vastly enriched your life.
Next: Gauntlet’s Jewelry Design Legacy