The end is nigh, and I am not talking about the inevitable disasters the “Super Moon” will rain down upon us! This is the second to last installment of the Cadaver Chronicles. If you need to catch up on the first four, please do so before jumping into this one:
For this weeks episode, keep on keeping on.
Top Ten Fears
“Can you put needles in someone without jewelry? You know, just for the thrill?” I almost hung up, but didn’t. I was bored, and perv calls didn’t come every day. Might be worth a larf. “No Sir, we don’t offer play piercing,” I told him. He didn’t even know the term. I could almost hear the whacka-whacka in the background, astro-glide and electric guitars riffs. ”Do you know anyone who does?” he asked. I suggested a dominatrix. “SM is what you’re after,” I said, “not piercing.” And then he got my attention. He said, “It’s for TV.”
I agreed to visit the Fear Factor studio the next day. I met Rich Brown, the producer, and the execs he answered to; they had me sign non-disclosure forms before our conference began. I joked with the guy who’d initially called me, the one who thinks up the stunts. Now there’s a sadist. He was a regular Joe though, asked for my autograph. I presented him with a professional eight-by-ten for his celebrity wall. Below my name it said, “Body Piercer, Monster God.” I signed it: “Fear Factor, your lunch menu sucks!” We laughed. They told me their concept. I auditioned for them right then and there, the old dog and pony show. I pin-cushioned one of their flunkies without a hitch. “Mr. Cadaver, you’re hired.”
They wanted me on the set at the ass-crack of dawn. I balked. We struck a deal when they raised their offer to a grand. The next morning I watched the sun rise over an ancient prison that had been abandoned for nearly half a century. It was foggy and misty, brooding horror movie weather. My favorite. The crumbling facility had clearly stood for punishment, nothing even hinted at rehabilitation. It was mostly unlit, pretty spooky. “Order anything you want from the roach coach,” they told me. “It’s gourmet,” they said, “It’s free.” Right and double-right. I was left alone. I ate light. At any moment I expected to hear “Action!” I explored the old prison, after all I’d never seen one from the inside. I lingered in cells; I haunted dark corridors for hours. And hours and hours and hours.
By late afternoon I’d about given up. I must have still been napping when the stimulants were handed out, because suddenly everyone was wired. Hurry! Staff were scrambling like ants, floodlights were repositioned, the set manager was clearly unhappy. I’d been there waiting patiently all day and now I was being rushed. I pulled it off but my hands shook. Ridiculous, crew riling the talent like that. This wouldn’t happen over at Disney.
Six contestants took turns in a big, fake electric chair. They were strapped in. I ran a series of cannulas down the outside of their biceps. Ten each. They ranged from twenty-three to sixteen gauge. Big deal. The women cried their eyes out. The director wanted it even scarier. “Don’t talk, Cliff. Do it mute,” he told me. That was a switch, withholding client comfort. All of the contestants faced Cliff Cadaver and their worst fears. Each of them lived to tell the tale.
The “Piercing” segment was the highest rated Fear Factor episode ever. It re-ran on their “Top 15″ show. A lot. I was phobia #1, with bobbing in cow’s blood coming a distant second. This blew me away. I hadn’t even been pleased with myself, my shaking. My right-hand man, Mike Tuinkhov had moved on to pursue other interests several years before. I wondered whether my flagging interest in piercing had caused me to lose my edge. The voice of reason was gone, my question went unanswered. I was still angry with the set manager who’d given me the bum rush. Wanted to wring the neck of whoever handed out that speed.
The Fear Factor producers wanted me back. I was ready this time. Another grand got me out of bed early with no complaints. They sent a car and chauffeur. *laughter* A girl that looked like she’d slept in her clothes knocked on my door. We drove to Hollywood in her dented pick-up. I wasn’t watching the sunrise alone this time, there were other acts. I sat on my Anvil travel case between an isolation booth filled with bees, and a pen of loud turkeys. The glamour behind-the-scenes you always hear about. I’d finally made the big time. LMAO.
This was the pilot episode for a new game show. A crappy one. It was called “Take the Dare!” They’d snag a potential contestant right out of daily life, give them the choice to do something shameful for cash. If they did, they got on the show. One guy melted his wedding ring in a skillet with a blowtorch. Afro-girl wouldn’t shave her head, the audience and I watched her refusal on a drive-in movie screen. Audience? Just like “Let’s Make a Deal!” or Jerry Springer. Three big bleachers worth of staring humans. Entranced cattle. There was a professional audience rouser. A cheer guy who’s only job, and I shit you not, was to jump around like an idiot (off camera) and tell people when and how they should respond. Fire ‘em up. More of that special magic.
They secured four of these poor fools to a windmill contraption nearly three stories tall. Yep, they spun ‘em. Fast. No one quit. One girl ate a heapin’ helpin’ of ABC food, already been chewed. So gross I couldn’t watch. I pierced a guy’s nipple. Could you imagine not being into piercing and then having it sprung on you like that? “Oh, yeah. Hey Cliff, could you bring out Charlie’s new ring to replace the one he melted? It goes in your nipple.” Yikes! We both did well. Neither of us shook. Even when the audience howled and ooh’ed, recoiling on cue. I was prepared this time, knew what to expect. I’d eaten more food. Chased my lunch with half a valium. No problem.
It never aired.
I did my share of television over the course of my career, mostly for foreign audiences. Mexico, England, the Netherlands. One of my friends was a pro-skater. I pierced his tongue for an Amsterdam special on extreme sports. Two great tastes that taste great together. A Dutch kid came through town a little while later. He told me every skateboarder back home knew my name. Said the TV special had run at prime-time throughout Europe and was still being shown. He said I was famous. I bought him lunch. We walked to a vegetarian restaurant because I had no car. Yeah, famous.
A night at the Roxbury. Not the movie. This was a piercing gig I worked every Wednesday night for the whole summer of ’92. The Sunset strip location had been famous since the late ‘seventies when the “Chinese” punk club happened there. I frequented it in the late ‘eighties when it was glammed out as “Plastic Passion.” Now I was piercing topless women in the foyer at the top of the stairs. The first thing you’d see when you came in. Pauly Shore was speechless. He shook my hand and never said a word. His bulging eyes were straight out of a Keane painting. Studio City Tattoo artist, Tiger Stripe, inked patrons atop a cocktail table in the kiosk next to me. Combat style. Free drinks and good times.
I doubt Hustler magazine was responsible for my next referral. Someone had tipped off Playboy that Cliff Cadaver was pierced and heavily tattooed, rough-trade for rent. A ham. An Australian television starlet had seen me, wanted me for a photo shoot. She was recognized as the blond hottie in their Heineken commercials. A singer for a popular rock band. She was so famous down-under that even the aborigines knew her name. And I can’t remember it, or her band. *a free hardcover piercing book to whoever finds out* I remember we worked with Arny Freytag, the photographer holding the record for the most Playboy magazine covers. 69, at that time. I’d play her “boyfriend” on the next record jacket. Oh, hell yeah. We shot it at Death Valley. I only ate fruit, wanted to be svelte for the paparazzi. It was a long, hot day at a phony motel. They took pictures of us by a grimy pool. I snapped through 3-D reels of Tommorland on a red Viewmaster. Matterhorn, kerchunk. Mission to Mars, kerchunk. Submarine Voyage, kerchunk. Head rush.
I never made it big enough to have my own action-figure. But I do have my own temporary tattoos, a whole sheet of them. Fitting, all things considered. I was contacted by Philip and Christian Whitehead, video game mavericks and twin brothers. I spent an evening at their Malibu “Dream Designers” compound that included a mansion, bungalows, production buildings, and incidentally, covered the entire top of a mountain. Cha-ching. I did some acting for a game they were creating, “Skin: The Virtual Tattoo.” It was fun. One brother said, “I see him going all monstrous… but in a sundress!” I slipped it on. Who am I to argue with artistic vision? His identical counterpart objected. “It hides most of the tattoos!” he said. Off comes the dress. They slapped some Jekyll and Hyde nails on me and the cameras rolled. “Gyrate, snarl,” they commanded, “quiver.” I gyrated, snarled, and quivered. They sent me a VHS tape of a trailer for the game. I was impressed. If it still exists, watch it. It rules. They included a few sheets of temporary tattoos, odd characters from the game. On the sheet, Cliff Cadaver beckoned, in all his lick-on tattoo glory.
“Your shop looks like it came out of a Hellraiser movie.” The guy was waiting for friends, making small talk. “Styled by Cenobites,” I told him, playing along. He looked at a big menu of piercings on the wall, let his gaze linger on a forchette. “Did you see part five?” he asked. I had. A haunted spacecraft, Pinhead and pals in zero-G. “Yeah,” I said. “It sucked.” Too late to take back. The guy’s face dropped. “I was the main actor.” Bummer. My skin’s too thin for such scathing reviews; acting wouldn’t be my first career choice. “Sorry, man.”
The director of the next Hellraiser sequel visited me. Part six. He thought my shop looked pretty Cenobite too, said it would be perfect for an upcoming scene, asked about rentals. A grand had been working pretty well lately. I threw the figure out there. He pulled out his filming schedule and a checkbook. “Who do I make it out to?” he asked.
They shot their scenes in one day and paid me three separate times. I flexed new muscles as an actor when the “detective” crossed Ventura Boulevard and entered my shop. A very alternative “client” sat in a metal chair waiting for service. I was polishing a display case, a real stretch of a performance. I said the guy he was looking for was “In back.” The depth, the drama. I’d spoken two words of dialogue and now qualified for a SAG card. I took the five bills instead of what was behind curtain number three. A sure thing. Rent “Inferno,” but don’t blink or you’ll miss me.
They threw a couple more huns at me when they faked a tongue piercing. If you look closely, you’ll see some large photographs by Justice Howard hanging in the room. There’s an amazing shot of a stiletto heel through my tongue. They’ve had a copy of it on permanent display in the New York Tattoo Museum for years. And it was years after the shot had been taken that a poor effort to copy it appeared on the cover of a PFIQ. Some things never change. The Ouija board photo has an adults-only, bonus image. Slipped some twisted male nudity right past those censors. I got your PG-13 dangling.
New Line Cinema rented our entire block to shoot ”Blast from the Past.” Executive chefs spoiled us with all the haute cuisine we could nosh for a whole week. Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone were nice, they enjoyed their chocolate-dipped strawberries right alongside everyone else. The crew put up a false billboard on the roof of our complex, it said, “Vaginal Laser Rejuvenation.” The empty storefront next door was fixed up to look like a porno store. Men in trench coats kept trying to go inside. It was fun while it lasted, but the day always must come when the circus leaves town. Inevitable. A locomotive was whistling in the distance. I’d been hearing it for years. It was getting louder and no one could hear it but me.
Brave New Implants
I finally stopped asking what’s next, stopped fantasizing. It only caused trouble. Self-enlarging nano-piercings were still a ways off, no harm letting that slip. No extraterrestrials on the six o’clock news to emulate. None of that mattered to John Girod, he had some ideas of his own and he wanted my help. Something new after all these years just walked through my front door. I’ll be damned.
His microchip transponder was the size of a grain of rice. I broke the seal on a ten gauge needle bag and started testing. It fit into the end of the cannula just like my Love Bead tool. I knew this would be even easier than the penile implants I was used to. No following a fresh piercing with an immediate enlargement from hell. John’s device was placed on the back of his hand. He was quite proud of it. He bought a scanner so he could prove he was “chipped.” He came back and had the other hand done for another TV show.
Guy Aitchison and I collaborated on a rather lengthy writing project just before I retired. Pure science fiction. It was titled, “Meet Me at Upgrade.” The first half was published in the premier issue of Tear magazine. The story revolved around the employees of a mod-parlor in the not-too-distant future. I let my imagination go off one more time. A last hurrah.
“Garth was tired of getting jumped. He saved up for a personal security system. They were pricey, but Devon Primms swore by them. He made an appointment at Upgrade for a full set of NUX.”
As usual, Guy and I went overboard on detailing our story. We found people to stand in for the characters we wrote about, we photographed them. Our anti-hero was so enamored of the project that he wanted his own NUX. Real ones. The Good Art Co. of Santa Monica was happy to help. They provided the custom rods I’d need for my last project ever. Permanent brass knuckles. Fourteen-gauge solid bar-stock, slightly curved with rounded ends. I inserted three behind each knuckle. Twelve in each hand. Two-dozen, stainless-steel, tooth-busting ridges. Bad ass.