Shannon Larratt 1973-2013


I have started and stopped this update several times because I honestly don’t know what to say and nothing I could say would be adequate.  It is with sadness and regret that I have to announce that Shannon has passed away.  We will post something more at a later date but right now we are all still reeling and grieving.  We ask that you please respect Rachel and her daughter’s privacy at this time as well as the rest of Shannon’s family and friends.  Thank you for understanding and being such a wonderful and supportive community.

You can visit Shannon’s personal blog here.


Erl Van Aken, RIP (1939 – Jan 17, 2013)

I’m sorry for waiting longer than I should have to write this; after the recent deaths of other body modification figures like ManWoman and Stalking Cat it’s difficult to have to follow those up with the loss of another significant body modification pioneer. Unfortunately I must write that Erl Douglas Van Aken II (see Erl on the BME wiki and his web page) passed away at his home after a richer life than anyone could ask for.

Erl was born in Brewer, Maine, and then moved to California at age four where he grew up in Orange County, a region he characterized as having “a very narrow band of perception, and being a person of ‘different’ thinking, not subject to peer pressure, I was not well… tolerated.” Always forward thinking, in the early sixties he worked in the space program at NASA, Bell Labs, JPL, and similar institutions where he worked on some of the first satellite programs, as well as Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo program where he contributed significantly to the rover (moon buggy) — “in that sense I’m on the moon,” he said.

Wanting to explore a wider range of expression and not really fitting in to an increasingly “professional” environment, Erl left to become a multi-media artist, working in nearly every medium — as well as doing a lot of “motorcycle riding and hell raising during this period as well — you know, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”, a dangerous lifestyle that would nearly cost him his life “on more than one occasion”. In the mid-90s (by which point he was a well-established body modification icon already) he began modelling for fine art, which lead to him joining the Screen Actors Guild (usually credited as Erl Van Douglas, although many of his non-speaking roles are uncredited, such as his 1996 appearance in The Cable Guy, the first movie I remember seeing him in — and my favorite thing about that movie). Lance Richlin, an artist who recently painted a series of portraits of Erl wrote me saying,

“Erl was no ordinary man. He was a Mystic. He had deep insight. The body modification was literally only the surface of the man. I didn’t even notice it after the first few encounters. When he was younger, he was a dangerous fellow. But he became a very gentle and compassionate man in old age.”

Although body modification was only a small part of a much more complex personality, Erl’s role in the world of body modification was significant. While the name has fallen out of fashion in favor of the anatomical moniker “bridge piercing”, for a long time “Erl” was what the piercing was called (as in “I’d like to get an Erl piercing”), as Erl was the first person known to wear it (done for him by The Gauntlet). Erl wasn’t only an early piercing and tattoo fan and innovator — he was also one of the first heavy body modification enthusiasts whose focus was significantly aesthetic. There have always been heavy mod practitioners, but the vast majority until the mid-nineties were doing it in private, almost exclusively in a sexual realm. Erl on the other hand was not only one of the first people in the West to explore surgical body mods on an artistic level, but also to do it “out”, sharing his love for it with those around him — for example, his radical and way, way, ahead of its time bipedical flap procedure was documented in Body Art magazine. Thereby he influenced many of the early body modification artists, as well as inspiring other serious enthusiasts, and changed culture more than he probably realized.

On the left, a recent painting of Erl by artist Lance Richlin (visit him at, and on the right, a pre-firing sculpture of Erl by Nicholas Mestanas (visit him on Facebook) — note that the piece includes Erl’s chest implants and bipedical flap (the artist was planning on adding the piercings post-firing).

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Finally a few photoshoot images from Erl’s webpage — visit to explore more.

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Whether the name “Erl piercing” returns or falls out of our language, Erl’s pioneering exploration of body modification and the impact it had on popular culture lives on in hundreds of thousands of people’s lives — to say nothing of the myriad of other positive ways he touched those around him.

RIP ManWoman

This morning at 4:38AM, the beautiful artist and [best] friend of the swastika ManWoman passed away peacefully after a battle with cancer. He lived a passionate and revolutionary life, and his impact on this community continues to grow. Thankfully after seeing his life’s work vindicated and bringing joy and open eyes to more than he ever could have imagined when it first began, he found himself in the terrible position of having a painful and debilitating disease with no cure, and he made the decision to stop treatment knowing it would mean the end of his suffering within days. If you see a swastika, that symbol of light and love, tattooed on someone, you can thank Manny. All of the spiritual and geometric tattooing that is exploding today owes his efforts a great deal of credit and thanks. Although he was often unknown by those he helped transform both physically and spiritually, like some benevolent and hopeful puppetmaster bard, he touched almost all of us in one way or another, and was one of the most influential guides in this community.

Manny was one of the few universally respected wisemen of this community, and his passing will hit a lot of people very hard and he will be deeply missed.

“I like to think that God is dreaming and we are the dream. I wake up in the morning and I say, gee, that was an interesting dream, but you know what? I’m gonna wake up from this life when I die and go, boy, that was an interesting dream! And I’ve had a really interesting life.”

But even though Manny has passed, he lives forever in not just his art and the retelling of his own story by others, but he lives forever in the millions of tattoos that carry his message and a small part of his soul. Manny cannot die, because his passion and his ability to inspire others to make the light he rediscovered a part of their lives as well gave him immortality.

In the video above are some of Manny’s final thoughts, recorded at the start of November, and below is a picture of my family with Manny’s family, taken in 2004. In the picture are Manny and his daughter Serena, myself, Rachel, and our daughter as well. He was just a wonderful, wonderful person. This post feels shamefully sparse, but in some ways I don’t even need to say a thing, because I don’t know anyone who met ManWoman that wasn’t completely captured by his warmth and charm.

RIP Stalking Cat

This morning’s post comes with heavy news, and I’m in the terrible position of reporting the death of body modification icon Dennis Avner, often better known as Stalking Cat or just Tiger. A US Navy vet more recently working as a programmer and technician, Dennis identified strongly with his feline totem animals and in what he told me was a Huron traditional of actually adopting the physical form of ones totem, he transformed himself not just into a tiger, but a female tiger at that, blurring and exploring the gender line as much as the species line. Much of his work had been done by body modification pioneer Steve Haworth, who rebuilt Dennis’s ears, lip, nose, and face to resemble a tiger, including a multitude of transdermals that held artificial whiskers. In addition to being almost completely covered in tattoos, he’d also sculpted his face and body with extensive silicone work, had custom teeth built to emulate his inner nature, and regularly wore contact lenses and an artificial robotic tail.

Dennis’s boundary-breaking life was never an easy one, and as he was fond of saying, he “found fame, but never fortune”. A wonderful and complex person, he was at times as troubled as he was remarkable, and he recently took his own life at the age of 54 (August 27, 1958 – November 5, 2012). You can download an interview that Dennis and I did for BMEradio about ten years ago at this link: BMEradio/Cat.mp3. The photos below were taken at ModCon III by Philip Barbosa when Cat visited us here in Toronto. In the bottom photo he appears with fellow concept transformation artist, Erik “The Lizardman” Sprague.

SSL Certification Announcement

As some of you may have noticed, the SSL certification was down over the weekend.  We had some problems with the renewal taking longer than expected, but it should be back up by tomorrow at the latest.  There was no hacking, nor was any of your information compromised, it was simply an administrative setback.  For those that don’t know, SSL certification is done by a third party to ensure that the security systems in place are up to standards.  No changes were made to the security system, however certification lasts for a specific amount of time before it needs to be renewed.  If you have any questions about this, please contact [email protected].

Server Outage Alert

Hey folks, as you’ve no doubt noticed, the main site has been down since last night.  It turns out we had an outage sometime in the middle of the night and we’re currently working to get it back online as soon as possible.  The team has been at it non-stop since 8am this morning, and the ETA right now is a couple more hours simply due to the sheer volume of data.

We apologize for the down time, and we hope to have it back up ASAP.

Casting Call – Toronto Area

Listen up Toronto area ModBlog readers.  As you may have heard, Sony Pictures is currently filming Total Recall around the city and they’re looking for some modified people to be in the film.  So if you live in or around Toronto, check out the listing below.

Total Recall, a Sony Pictures Film starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biehl, and Kate Beckinsale, is shooting here in Toronto and requires background performers who have elaborate tattoos (preferably facial and head, neck and arms), multiple visible piercings, and/or any sub/transdermal implants or other body modifications. The filming will take place in mid-August, with details coming closer to the shoot date. Anyone interested should email a photo (highlighting tattoos and any modifications) as well as contact information to David Seymour at [email protected]. Any other questions regarding the film will be fielded upon receipt.

If you are interested, make sure to mention that you found out about this through BME.  Who knows, we may be seeing more of these in the future.

Remembering Keith Alexander

It’s been 6 years now since Keith Alexander was taken from us too early.  Keith was a huge presence in both the online modified community, as well as the world at large.  As a student of Jim Ward’s, Keith opened up Modern American Bodyarts in NYC, a studio which defied the traditional “head em up, move em out, get their money” type of shops that were popular at the time.  He hosted many memorable events including the infamous “Night of 1000 scars”.  In addition to his modification work, he was also a rock star and had a successful career in marketing, where he was able to show the corporate world that just because someone is heavily modified, doesn’t mean they can’t do their job well.

If you have time today, take a moment and read through the following articles, written by friends of Keith in the years following his passing.

RTFM: Keith Alexander – An interview with Keith taken a few months before his passing.

The Things That Carry Us – A collection of rememberances of Keith by those who knew him well.

Employers Should Probably Start Making Peace With Tattoos – A short interview with Keith regarding tattoos in the workplace

RIP Keith Alexander – (November 23, 1963 – July 11, 2005)

It’s a girl!

For those that don’t remember, Arwen “Spliff” Rosa, Jill, and two other members of the community were injured in a car accident last July.

When we last checked in with Arwen and Jill, the family, with the help of ModBlog readers everywhere was able to get Arwen moved from the hospital in Texas, to a treatment facility in NYC.

During this whole ordeal, Jill was pregnant and as you’ve probably already guessed by now, she had the baby yesterday.  So without further ado, I’m happy to introduce to you the newest member of the community, Odessa Marie Rosa (5lb 6oz).

I didn’t get an update on Spliff’s condition, but from what I understand mom and baby are doing just fine.

Crisis in Australia

For those who haven’t seen the news today, Australia has been hit by another natural disaster in the form of Cyclone Yasi.  Early reports had the storm tracking as a class 5, but it has now been downgraded to a “very destructive” class 3.  For comparison, this storm is larger and more powerful than Hurricane Katrina.

There are a number of members of our community living in the affected areas and we’re all worried about them.  If you’re one of the affected, please let us know you’re ok.  For those not affected directly, the Australian Red Cross is working to provide assistance to the communities, as well as providing the National Registration and Inquiry System, which allows people who have gotten to safety to check in and let others know they’re safe.