1973/2013

shannon2It’s very easy to objectify someone who’s contributions to the world were as immeasurable as those of my friend Shannon Larratt’s. To forgive his flaws or to focus to heavily on them would do him a great disservice. I sit here on what would be his 40th birthday, staring at pictures of him taken throughout the tenure of our nearly two decade friendship and find myself missing him for the strangest reasons; remembering the silly times over serious body modification, the arguments where we’d not talk to each other for weeks as well as the times when we’d talk all day about some obscure film we had just watched or who we thought would be the first Body Mod practitioner to kill a client. (the bet is still on….)

I visited Toronto a few weeks ago to catch a movie at the TIFF (coincidentally featuring  a director that both Shannon and I were huge fans of) and I found myself almost unconsciously wandering up Bathurst street to walk by his old house; memories flooding back to me of parties in the snow, my first suspension, bme event planning sessions and late night vinegar drinking marathons. Thinking back to some of the best years of my life and the role that Shannon played in them. Thinking back to some of the worst years of my life, and the role that Shannon played in them. It was a nice way to finally say goodbye; the STAY CALM event was an amazing family celebration of his life; a way for us as a community to say our respects. But  standing in front of a place filled with so many personal memories of just he and I was the closure I needed.

My friendship with him wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t perfect and neither was I. But the path that we walked together, while occasionally diverging from each other and in time meeting back up, will always have a place in my heart. Good and bad so will he.

I really wish that I were saying happy birthday to him instead of writing about him on a blog that he started. I wish we could argue tomorrow about something silly and go months not speaking because that would mean that the eventual email would come from one of us that made us forget why we were mad in the first place. I wish you folks who never got the chance to meet him knew the Shannon I knew and not his ‘persona’.

Most of all, I wish that I could give Ari and Rachel a hug right now and say something more profound than “I’m so sorry for your loss”.

So today, tell someone who’s made a difference in your life ‘Thank you’.
While saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to Shannon is a nice gesture, make sure someone out there knows that the good things they’ve done for you mattered and in turn, try to be there for someone else. I think that’s a fitting tribute to the spirit of the BME Community and the man who started it, don’t you?

 

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OBMF: Remembering Josh Burdette

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“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.

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Happy Birthday, Fakir!

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In 1989 San Francisco publishers Vale and Juno released a book who’s impact on our subculture is still tangible 24 years later, shining a spotlight on a scene that up until then was mostly underground. Modern Primitives.

It’s interviews are incredible and varied with highlights including Don Ed Hardy, Manwoman, Anton LaVey, Raelyn Gallina and of course- Fakir Musafar.

Fakir was an early pioneer of ritual body modification who’s contributions go far beyond the limitations of the human body- his desire to document his experiments and share them with like minded people at a time where exposure could have cost him greatly produced some of the most iconic images the body modification scene has ever seen.

Today is his birthday and we here at Modblog would like to extend our good wishes for many more birthdays for Fakir as well as our thanks.

Happy birthday!

Photo C. Fakir Musafar

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Swing.

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One of the most rewarding things about being part of a community like BME/IAM is making long term connections with people from all over the world. Having them be part of your life, watching them evolve and learn and grow…having them there to pick you up when you fall.

The people in this photo, for example. Håvve, Headmaster of Pain Solution… eight years ago last month he celebrated his birthday at our guesthouse in Mexico during BMEfest La Paz… five days ago he celebrated my birthday with us here in Philadelphia.

The little guy taking pictures? That’s the owner of Scylla Body Jewelry in Chicago, Micah.. a gentleman I’ve had more than a few adventures with.

And the young lady suspending. Shannon. I’ve known her for half a decade and have watched her grow into an amazing, confident woman who continues to surprise and impress me. Last weekend (Aug 2-4) she made the trip to ROP Campout in Massachusetts where she did a resurrection and suicide suspension.

The modifications we undergo are important, but they’re nothing without the people who make them special. Get active; go to events, meet and get to know people… you’ll end up leaving with a lot more than you expected!

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SPC: Rest in Peace, Bud Larsen

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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.

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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.

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

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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.
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Happy Birthday Jim Ward!

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It’s impossible to think of the world of body piercing without thinking of Jim Ward. His contributions to our community are legendary; opening the first retail body piercing shop (Gauntlet) in the 1970s, editing and publishing the first piercing only magazine (PFIQ) and helping to form the APP, Ward has been one of the biggest driving forces in the popularization of piercing as more than just a sexual curiosity.

Today is Jim’s birthday. I was lucky enough to have been at the APP Conference Banquent a few years back to celebrate his birthday which is where the photo above originates. Ever the pioneer, Jim took the traditional birthday spanking and made it something much more…

Well.

Special.

Happy birthday Jim; you’re an inspiration to us all!
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SPC: What’s in your back pocket?

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Psst. Would you folks like to have a lil peek into the history of modern body piercing?

Are you familiar with the Hanky Code?

According to Wikipedia, the Hanky code is:

“… a color-coded system, employed usually among the gay male casual-sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in the leather subculture in the United States, Canada, and Europe, to indicate preferred sexual fetishes, what kind of sex they are seeking, and whether they are a top/dominant or bottom/submissive. The hanky code was widely used in the 1970s by gay and bisexual men, and grew from there to include all genders and orientations.”
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SPC: APP2013 and the Best of Intentions

You know what they say about the road to hell.
I had planned to ‘cover’ APP for you folks who couldn’t attend. Photos, video interviews and live updates from the Conference and Expo floor. Then I got to Vegas, found my luggage literally saturated with water (SWA Baggage Handler left it out in a rainstorm) and got to the hotel already feeling a summer cold taking hold of me…

My APP experience this year was NOT ideal, Modblog Readers.
That said- it was one of the best Conferences I’ve attended. For some, it’s a yearly Bacchanal; a chance to leave the studio and real life behind for a week, stay up till dawn drinking (and then some) and debauching and oh yeah, maybe buy some jewelry and take a few of the classes we paid for. But this year saw a large upswing in first time attendees, with classes packed with people who saved all year to attend and to improve their craft. The vibe, if you will, was much different than I expected.
matteapp001 copyThis year I found myself getting up at 6:45am (which was roughly when I used to ‘call it a night’ in previous years) to join the rest of the early risers who agreed to join my running group, taking a two mile jog down the Las Vegas strip instead of seeing how much we could drink and still maintain the appearance of sobriety. Instead of heading out to the shooting range I found myself in Paul King’s class “The Grieving Body- Does Body Modification Injure or Heal the Psyche” which for my money was his best to date, taking notes and being humbled by Paul and Kendra’s research and commitment to our community.
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The Locust

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The body modification world (and IAM Community) lost one of it’s most memorable characters on 22nd March 2011 when Adam Aries- better known as Zidney Fiendish, passed away at the age of 29. His death caused a crushing blow to the people who’s lives he touched; as a piercer at Pino Bro’s tattooing, an integral member of the RITES OF PASSAGE suspension group, security at the Middle East club and freelance DJ/VJ, Adam had a tangible presence in multiple communities and subcultures, and we all felt a communal sense that a truly bright light had left us.

Atom Moore- a talented photographer (who documented two Scarwars events among other much more ambitious projects) and close friend of Zid’s spent the better part of a decade documenting their friendship; Atom found a muse in Zid who always provided more than expected when a camera was around.

The best images from their friendship and collaborations will be featured in a solo show starting July 7th  at NYC’s Sacred Gallery from 8-11pm. The gallery is located at 424 Broadway on the second floor, just up from Canal Street.

Even if you never had the pleasure of meeting Zid (and the stories I could tell you…) this solo show from Moore promises to be an emotional and highly stylized documentation of friends that became family through blood, sweat and tears.