It’s that time of the week again. The time when all the good little piercing geeks get online and read the latest installment of the Cadaver Chronicles, written by Cliff Cadaver himself and brought to you by yours truly, BMEzine.com and the letter C.
If you happened to miss the either of the earlier installments, please do yourself a favor and read those first then come back here to continue with the tale. To go on to Episode 3, just keep on keeping on.
The Second Annual Ink-Slinger’s Ball
There was no body piercing at the first Ink Slinger’s Ball. I was there, so was Jill Jordan and every other hipster in town. I hung with Guy at his Guilty & Innocent booth. LA’s long overdue very first tattoo convention was held at the Palladium, a tradition that would continue throughout the ensuing years. Downstairs, the auditorium was a sea of artists and their strolling canvases. The only thing upstairs in the huge venue was dirty chandeliers and clouds of smoke. Milling sickle gangs. Next year would be different.
There were four body piercers at the second annual Ink-Slinger’s Ball. I was one of them. Mike Hare was there from the Exotic Body in Sacramento. So was Wild Bill from Jersey’s Pleasurable Piercings. I met Steve Haworth from Arizona’s HTC. We were all upstairs. It was in the interim between Red Devil’s demise and the opening of my new shop in Studio City. It was the first time I’d work a convention. I’d work three more.
I didn’t know the code-of-the-west when it came to convention etiquette. I asked my new neighbors. They didn’t know either. I suggested we fix prices to make things fair. They agreed. Good luck trying that today. I had all the piercings listed on a sheet along with prices for labor and minimum jewelry. Prices went up from there if you wanted to go with gold or extravagance. Someone offered to make a Kinko’s run for copies. These were prices I used in my daily work, not a convention special or anything. Steve Haworth asked me what the Love Beads were at the bottom of the page, why they cost a hundred bucks each. I told him about my concept, mentioned it wasn’t quite perfected. “But I have done a few,” I said. Slip of the tongue number two. He went straight home and started cutting.
Love Beads and Lesser Advancements
Early in my career, jewelry insertion was an aspect of the trade I found difficult to master. Common practice at the time was to not really touch the person, merely butt the jewelry up to the back of the needle and then follow it through the fresh piercing. I mimicked every nuance of the photos I studied in PFIQ’s “Pierce with a Pro.” Cross assured me I was doing it right. Connecting wires helped, provided you were using internally threaded jewelry. This resulted in a push-pull affair with the unsupported tissue doing its best to avoid cooperating. Flesh reacts to trauma immediately, it swells unpredictably, adheres to the needle. A freshly pierced nipple may tag along for several inches, hardly enjoying the ride, until it relents and the assembly slips through. Lose the connection and there’s a good chance you lose the piercing, your reputation, your pay. A flubbed insertion could sometimes be saved with a taper, sometimes not. People get pissed when they’re hurt for nothing. I’d lose sleep, something had to change.
I have no documentation to prove the date I began “propping tissue,” only a point in my apprenticeship when things suddenly got easier. This was the first successful technique I developed entirely alone. Out of need. I found that I could almost let go of the needle during jewelry insertions, opting to brace the tissue instead. I kept minimal back-pressure on the needle and used a firmer, more deliberate stroke. Now I was pushing tissue with my left hand as much as forcing jewelry with my right. It totally worked. I taught Cross, she thanked me. About six months later, this technique was introduced within an issue of PFIQ. My name wasn’t mentioned. Hustler magazine wouldn’t make that oversight with my next invention, neither would Body Art.
Japanese felons, so the story goes, have a pearl inserted in their penis for every year of incarceration. I couldn’t say exactly where I read this, or if it’s even true. I’ve never been to Japan, or jail. But I can tell you that I got a hell of a lot of jail mail after Hustler gave Love Beads top billing. “How many can I get at once? Do they stay put? Where should I locate them for maximum studliness?” I’d get a new letter from prison every other day. I answered them all, even if they were written in crayon. I answered their questions, I signed them “Be good, get free.” Many were eventually released from prison and actually made appointments. They told me I was famous, a jailhouse celebrity. Some serious street-cred for a guy who’s never been arrested.
I didn’t cut, stitch, or inject. I didn’t want to blur any lines, no plastic surgeon quackery. I wasn’t a doctor, wasn’t anxious to get sued. I used advanced piercing methods instead of scalpels. I had special instruments custom made. My Love Bead Inserter fit perfectly into the end of a ten gauge cannula and stretched a fresh piercing right up to the size of a stainless bead. No injectable anesthetics, instruments were lubricated with Lidocaine ointment. Clients didn’t feel much more than the initial ten gauge piercing, think frenum. Wounds were closed with steri-strips in lieu of stitches. I offered 3/16″, 1/4″, and 5/16″. Everyone went for the largest, and still wanted larger. Crazy kids. Anything bigger tended to rip the tender tissue of the penis shaft. Didn’t matter, what they lacked in size could be made up for in quantity, and sensation. One guy had something like twenty-three installed, and they went in and out of prison as frequently as he did.
Hustler Magazine did me up right in their October ’94 issue. They interviewed me and even phoned a few of my customers. They dedicated a full page to Cliff Cadaver’s Love Beads, complete with rave reviews, photos, and humor. And credit as the first modern-day piercer to do an implant. I always liked that Larry Flynt.
“Sex and Drugs and Love Beads” came out just before the Hustler article. A let down. I wrote it to introduce the world to Love Bead implants. It had nowhere near the impact on society as the article in the spank rag. Body Art didn’t compete with Hustler’s circulation, especially in the states. It probably put ideas in the heads of some piercers though. I don’t know. It was a pretty long article that I submitted to the overseas publisher. I was proud. They were suspicious. Wankers.
Our correspondences were faxed. It was still too early for computers. They said they would print the account of my latest work. Their replies were less than cordial. Part of the reason I rarely had an article fail to be published was because I went overboard on details. I fleshed them out with polished stories and intriguing photos. I included drawings from famous artists, mixed-media. Body Art wanted to know why I had hired Michael Golob. Why did I need the graphic designer of a Rob Zombie album to work on a photo? “It’s one image only, and it’s me,” I wrote. ”I’m standing in the jaws of a giant oyster. I’m dressed in silver patent leather and I’m holding out a mammoth pearl.” Like I was going to find a life-size prop instead of computer enhancing. “Hmmm,” they said. They mentioned a discrepancy within the first few lines of my prose. “How could pearls set off a metal detector? How could, blah, blah, blah?” I labeled the first three quotes: “Recipient #2 (Rockwood Ricc who actually had received natural pearls), Recipient #9, Recipient #23. These are quotes from three different clients, not me.” I faxed it back. Sheesh.
The Body Art article came out in micro-print. Squash a six-pager into three, who’ll notice? They did sacrifice a full-page for the color photo that had cost me three hundred clams. It was in black and white. I don’t think they liked me. I bought a subscription to Hustler.
How to Make a Monster
Outlaw Biker Tattoo Review #31 was reprinted three times before I stopped counting. This is the one that made me famous. I wrote the text, and although it begins in a present reality we can all recognize, it quickly moves into a visionary future. A first attempt at genre fiction before I even knew the term. Or was it speculative fiction? Guy Aitchison had no qualms with low-brow semantics, he loved his sci-fi.
Jill Jordan took my manuscript to Chicago. She and Guy illustrated it to their hearts’ content. They collaborated just as they had done on a previous set of tattoo flash. They lounged in front of a movie, they toked and drew. They’d trade artwork right in the middle of a pen stroke every now and then. They’d order pizza, toke and draw some more. Their art complimented my writing to perfection; they took my spiraling imagination and ran with it. Jill said the hardest part was keeping Guy on track. “He’s such a mad genius,” she said. “He keeps going off on these little side comments. I’d glance over at his drawing board and suddenly there’d be more text than artwork. It was a challenge.” Did I mention Guy loves science fiction?
It was Guy’s influence in part that had me thinking along such futuristic lines. It was impossible to be around him and not feel that your consciousness had somehow expanded. He and I traded ideas like he and Jill traded art. To this day he is still my favorite artist of all time, tattoo or otherwise. I like his work more than those amazing woodcuts in the world’s greatest classic fictions. He’s better than Salvador Dali. And that’s a bold statement to make, one that thrills me to no end, because it’s true. Buy his opus, “Organica,” if you don’t believe me. Buy it if you do. Hyperspacestudios.com. I left the lion’s share of those little elaborations he’d jotted right next to the images he drew. An honor.
I still hadn’t realized the power of my words, or ideas. I should have taken the hint when a friend quoted entire paragraphs I’d written in an earlier article (my very first, in Back Off magazine). Trippy. “How to Make a Monster” came out towards the end of ’93, a busy year for me. It came out after the third installment of Gil Monty’s Ink Slinger’s Ball. Which incidentally had twice the piercers as the year before. Steve Haworth told me all about the experiments he’d conducted in the year since we’d met. Experiments in implants that I had inspired. We still had a mutual respect for each other then, genuine camaraderie. He told me he’d been cutting. He’d slipped a medallion under the skin of a man’s hand. We were both excited. He asked me if I had any other ideas. I did. I knew for a fact we both dreaded doing septums, a piercing with the greatest rate of imperfection. I shared without reservations. “I need specialized forceps for septums,” I told him. “A clamp that lines up a receiving tube on each side, so the needle can’t deviate in its path.” I had just pierced his at the convention using old methods. Pierced a big name at a convention and it didn’t come out right. The shame. “Could you make me a clamp like that?” I asked Steve. “You’ll have one in a month,” he told me.
Steve came through for me that time. We’ll eventually get back to the septum clamp, unlike Mr. Haworth. Steve was still searching for ideas a month later when he read “How to Make a Monster.” I fantasized over the course of several pages on what modifications may be like in the future. Way in the future. Color-changing tattoos, hair grafting without limits, skull-taps with screw-on attachments (like stainless spikes). Not long after that Steve unveiled his masterpiece. Joe Aylward proudly showed off his interchangeable skull spikes.