OBMF: Remembering Josh Burdette

obmf1

“i had a dream a while back. in it, i met myself. the me that i met greeted the dream me in a way that i often greet people, with hands raised together as if in prayer, a sign of coming in peace. in this dream, the other me had scars shaped like arrows on the heels of his hands. one pointing up, one pointing down. i woke from the dream with this image burned into my mind. over time, the symbolism became clear to me…

as above, so below. the sacred and the profane. heaven and earth. good and evil. black and white. brain and body. what goes up, must come down. there are a million examples and ways to describe the idea, but it all comes back to balance. none of these things would exist without the other. they may occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, but they are inextricably linked to each other. my goal is to maintain that balance in my life. to have one foot in each world. these scars will remind me of that.” – Josh Burdette, Scarwars.net

(I wrote this before noticing that my old friend Sean Philips also wrote a memorial for Josh; forgive us for double posting, but Josh is worth reading both)

The first thing most people thought when they met Josh Burdette was usually “that’s one big mother fucker.” OBMF. That’s how I first got to known Josh, back in the glory days of the late 1990s Body Modification scene of rec. arts.bodyart and the IAM.BME community site. Josh was a larger than life presence all around- a fixture in the D.C. Music scene as the Manager and head of security of the 9:30 Club since 1997, he stood as the WALL OF BEARD at countless shows. An imposing figure, Josh could have relied on his size to intimidate people, instead, in 2006 he had this to say about ‘bouncing’ to the Washington Post:

“A bouncer is looking to bounce people. It’s a reactive way of doing things. We’re the face of the club, and we have to do our best to be as friendly, polite and accessible as we can. Some of us look big and scary, but we’re just people, too. We’re just working our jobs.”

I saw him, not too long ago, at the Stay Calm memorial we held here in Philadelphia for Shannon Larratt; we hugged like we always do, gave some colorful commentary on the state of the world and the Body Modification community, and finally getting to the point of why we had all come together that day as a community- remembering our friend- he laughingly told me that we were going to have a moratorium on any of our friends dying till at least 2015, to spread the word to the people we love that they’re to stick around for a while.

I wish Josh would have been able to keep up the pact.

Josh Burdette passed away in Washington DC on Sunday September 1st. He was 36 years old. I’ll miss running into him backstage at LUCERO shows, chatting about our lives instead of watching the opening acts. I’ll miss bitching about ‘these kids today’ with him, reading his latest ‘Wall of Beard’ comic strip adventure and getting one of his epic bear hugs. I’ll miss Josh.

Continue reading

SPC: Rest in Peace, Bud Larsen

vrvwai35

I wish that this story had a happy ending, and I apologize that the majority of my Modblog articles turn out to be memorials, but as a community archivist it’s part of the job.

I had just turned sixteen when I lied about my age and ordered every issue of PFIQ that Gauntlet had in stock. I had seen images from them in the seminal RE/Search Publication MODERN PRIMITIVES, but getting them all was a piercing nerd’s dream.

The first fourteen issues featured stunning illustrated covers by gay erotic artist BUD. They were iconic; primarily line art featuring subject matter ranging from pierced Leather Daddies (Bud also worked with DRUMMER magazine) and femme fatals, fantasy creature/human hybrids and more. Bud’s art was integral to the brand identity of those first  dozen plus issues and even after Jim switched to photo covers Bud still occasionally lent his skills to provide spot illustrations.

Image9

Bud Viking Navarro’s backpiece by Cliff Raven, drawn by Bud Larsen

I spent years trying to track him down with no success; he had lost touch with the piercing world (his only real connection being the PFIQ covers) and was seemingly unfindable. I had stopped searching when I happened upon an envelope featuring his artwork, thumbtacked to a cork board in a cubicle in my office.

I risked writing him an introduction letter, asking if he’d be willing to talk to me about the ‘old days’. Not only did he consent, but I was shocked to find that his next door neighbor was a good friend of mine!  We corresponded back and forth for a while, discussing him doing a t-shirt design for SPCOnline and the possibility of meeting in person.

Shannon of BME noticed the story on my IAM page and asked me if I’d like to fly out to Arizona to interview Bud for BME and a few days later I was on a plane to meet him. We chatted for a little over an hour, with me recording the interview and snapping pictures of Bud and his artwork, having him sign a few PFIQs I brought with me and listening to stories about the old days; doing art for PFIQ, Drummer and other erotic magazines.

ue213h7w

6byd7ik5I wish I could share that with you folks, but in an epic comedy of errors my film (this was pre digital camera) was exposed and ruined by airport security and I lost the cassette with the interview somewhere in Arizona. I always planned to go back out there and re-interview him, but these things slip away and before you know it, it’s too late.

I was contacted this morning by my friend Jennifer (Bud’s neighbor) with the news that he had passed away. He leaves behind a legacy of art that captured the imaginations of the subcultures he worked in.

Rest in peace, Bud.

You can check out some of Bud’s erotic illustrations here.
Continue reading

SPC: Maybe you’ll call me a fool… remembering Keith Alexander

distance1

As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.

Eight years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.

When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.

When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
Continue reading