SPC: ModCon One (1999)

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How do you write an article about an event so private, so secretive, that it’s guests were made to sign nondisclosure agreements? Easy. Just be one of the ones who didn’t sign. Over the last fourteen years, the ModCon events have been shrouded in mystery. Fight Club jokes aplenty- the first rule of Modcon is that you don’t talk about ModCon and so on.

But today, we’re going to do just that. In a continuing series of articles on my life in the modern Body Modification community I’ve decided to shed a little light on ModCon; where the idea first came from, the 1998 event that never happened and more.

Obviously there will be a lot left out for the sake of discretion (as well as keeping some of the mystery) but if you’re a geek for this sort of thing…  read on. Continue reading

Lizard Skynard CD Release….today!

Ever since I first discovered The Lizardman, way back in my RAB days, I have kept up with his constant transformations, and new endeavors. Recently, he began a whole new chapter or his life. He has always been a performer, and for several years he was involved with music as the MC for the Jager Tour. Now he has taken the next obvious step, by fronting a band himself.

When I first heard about this, I expected it to be kind of a joke band…..a funny drunken joke band, but a joke band no less. But upon listening to it, it became obvious this is something the Lizardman was serious about. It’s not music for everybody,  but for people who enjoy Henry Rollins or Jim Carroll type spoken word, or who are die-hard Lizardman fans this is definitely an album to pick up. Then there is the live show, which like any Lizardman performance it will be well one not to miss. There will be the drunken sideshow antics we have all come to love combined with the musical onslaught served up by his band and him, I assure you it will be one show worth catching.

Here’s the official Bio from the bands website:

Lizard Skynard is an exciting new band fronted by the famous Lizardman and Mossy Vaughn from the band The Heavils (metalblade.com)…Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague is an accomplished sideshow entertainer, world traveler, stand up comedian and professional FREAK.The band also features drummer Johnny baker from the grind band Waco Jesus and on bass Russell Gillespie (Mothertrucker,KeyChainToker) and Eric Vaughn on keyboards. The New album was recorded at Electrical Audio studios with Greg Norman and mastered at Chicago Mastering with Jason Ward…

Lizard Skynard members

This all started because Mossy wanted to play music again and saw Erik ‘The Lizardman’ Sprague as his meal-ticket. The Heavils were not playing and who better to start a new project with but his green friend.

They talked about this band for about two years over many Jagermeister shots and while indulging in chemical inspiration they found the perfect name: Lizard Skynard. It was a lot cooler than Lizzard of Oz or REO MeatLizard and it got the right mix of awe and amusement from all who heard it. Mossy brought his cousin Johnny Baker (from the band Waco Jesus) to play drums and did some demos.They then recruited former Mothertrucker bassist Russell Gillespie and former Iron Sausage keyboardist Eric Vaughn to make the band even stronger.

If you want to check it out for yourself,  you can stream it ,or order the cd from lizardskynardband.com or if you prefer the mp3 download it is available now on itunes.

Happy Birthday to the one and only,Penguin Boy!

My Buddy, Jason Brott aka Penguin Boy is celebrating his birthday today.  In case you are new here, I featured his first suspension on modblog and shortly thereafter that green dude from Lizard Skynard interviewed him here.

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There are so few “born freaks” in modern sideshow, we should remember to show  much respect to those who take what other’s would consider a disability and turn it into performance. So be sure and wish ‘ol Jason a happy birthday!

Watch out Lizardman, here comes Snake Woman!

I guess our buddy The Lizardman does’t need to feel threatened, because obviously her “transformation” is less permanent than his, but it makes for a cool photo none the less.

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When she is not made up as Snake Woman, she goes by Rachie Tartz. The tongue split was done by Howie and the photo was taken by Glen Tuttle.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Penguin Boy

Editor’s Note: Once again it’s been way too long since we’ve heard from The Lizardman himself.
Let’s give Erik a big hearty modblog “Welcome Back”!
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Time moves fast on the internet. It has only been a little over a week since the images of Penguin Boy’s first suspension hit modblog and created a stir but that entry is already more than a couple pages back from the main page. I have been living and working Penguin Boy as part of the Hellzapoppin Sideshow and managed to pin him down for a few questions and photos. Click through to read and see more of Penguin Boy.

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New Article Posted! (Lizardman Interview)


Good morning, ModBlog! What better way to start off your week than by drinking a tall glass of the nectar that comes freshly squeezed from The Lizardman‘s mind-grapes?

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from him here on BME, and really, it’s been too long. The world is a much different place now (well, marginally different, at least), and it’s always reassuring to have him around as a bright green guide through the chaos that surrounds us. He and I recently exchanged e-mails over a couple of days, talking about the new American president, the rigors of life on the road and the difficulties of making the transition from sideshow to stand-up.

To read The State of The Lizardman Address, click here.

[Ed. note: Comments on this post have been disabled. Hoot and holler in the forum attached to the article. Thanks.]

The State of The Lizardman Address


It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from our friend Erik Sprague, The Lizardman, here on BME — and really, it’s been too long. The world is a much different place now (well, marginally different, at least), and it’s always reassuring to have him around as a bright green guide through the chaos that surrounds us. He and I recently exchanged e-mails over a couple of days, talking about the new American president, the rigors of life on the road and the difficulties of making the transition from sideshow to stand-up.

BME: The last time you wrote for BME, you were asked who would win in a fight between Christopher Hitchens and Jerry Falwell (you chose Hitchens). Who doesn’t love a hypothetical death-match? Let’s kick things off the same way: Who would win in a good old-fashioned Chicago-style brawl between Rahm Emanuel and Rod Blagojevich?

The Lizardman: I see Rahm taking this one — he is clearly cunning and a survivor. Blagojevich embodies the characteristics of the unstoppable undead and a turd that won’t flush, but lacks offense. It would be a long fight with many seeming victories by Emanuel, only to have Rod rise again before a final defeat.

BME: Blagojevich as zombie-poop? I think you just wrote several South Park episodes, my friend. Now, you were on tour throughout January, correct? For what were you out on the road? Were you able to take a moment to solemnly pour out a 40 for your boy George Bush?

TL: I was on tour for the last 10-11 days of January, and for the first 20 I was home after getting back from the fall Jagermeister Music Tour on December 23, 2008.  I was running around the far-too-cold northern areas of the U.S., beginning with my now 10-years-running gig performing at the Am-Jam tattoo expo (subject of one of my old BME columns some time ago) in Syracuse, New York.  From there, I had club gigs in Rockford, Illinois, at Kryptonite, and Washington, D.C., at The Palace of Wonders.  Fellow Austin stand-up comic Joel Keith was along for the ride, opening up the shows. 

I did not pour out anything for Bush, but considered doing so for Texas in somber worry for his return to the state. Even as a Texas convert (I moved to Austin eight years ago), I can spot his fake wannabe-Texan B.S. from miles away.  It still stands as one of his greatest deceptions that he convinced so many that he was Texan. You can make a case for WMDs, but not for that …

BME: From a make-believe cowboy to a “half-breed Muslin” — what a country. Really though, what did you think of Obama’s inauguration and the phenomenon that was his campaign in general? How healthy a dose of skepticism is necessary in order to not expect the world over the next four years?

TL: I think we need a massive dose of skepticism for not just the next four years but for the rest of our lives. As great a scapegoat as Bush makes, the truth is that everyone dropped the ball and he and his crew only got away with it by not being challenged enough. The solution is not, and never will be, blind obedience, even if it is to a message of hope. I’d like to see Obama succeed, but nobody gets a blank check.  For all of his soaring rhetoric and good intentions, Obama is still a politician and now president of the US — a beneficent dictator is still a dictator.  For someone like myself with a number of so-called radical views which are always in the extreme minority, I am forever wary of the majority’s designated player since his job is, in part, to further their goals — often over my rights. Putting the right people in charge is only the beginning and it does not absolve the rest of us from our roles. We have to help him get things done and get them done in the right way.

BME: Do you actually have faith in the American populace to hold up its end of the deal?

TL: That may be the last bit of idealism I have left in me. I feel with the system we have that even when the populace fails, a few good people in the right spots can save things. Look at an issue like black civil rights or women’s rights and you see cases where the populace overall dropped the ball horribly, but those who were right were able to use the system to kick the rest in the ass and fix things. Of course, the system fails as well at times, and then it is up to the populace to pull things together. I think that the American people, along with the Constitutional system we have, represent a good shot at making it and that we are still, overall, on an upswing — things are getting better. The last eight years only seem incredibly horrible because we lived through them, but from a historical perspective of what the U.S. has faced from within and without, it was barely a pebble in the road. History won’t vindicate Bush, but it will tell the rest of us to put our bitching in perspective. 

Random aside from these political musings: How great and how perfectly American will it be when we see the first gay shotgun wedding?

BME: I can’t wait. “Ain’t no lesbian daughter of mine gonna get turkey-basted outside of God’s good grace!” And then it’ll be filmed and played on PBS’s celebrity gossip show. This has been quite the decade. What’s your favorite cultural train-wreck of the modern era?

TL: I try to avoid getting into that whole train-wreck-watching scene; it can be mesmerizing and is generally used as a distraction from things of real importance.  However, schadenfreude is just so damn tasty, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, but I do take momentary joy every time I see some douchebag who railed against gay rights get outed as a self-hating closet-case, or when an anti-drug bible thumper shows up at rehab.

BME: Let’s get back to talking about touring: You’ve been going out on the Jagermeister tour and other such things for, what, 50 years now? What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about touring?

TL: It certainly does seem like it has been that long sometimes. I have hosted the Jagermeister Music Tour since 2003 and it has been some of my more high-profile work.  I love touring. It is the perfect fit for me, I was made to live and work on the road … which is why for the last decade I have spent over 200 days a year on the road.  The best parts would probably be the travel and performing for new and different people around the world. If there really is a complaint to be made, it is like the lack of appreciation for the job. Many people seem to think it is just one big party, and while it is a job I love, there is still a lot of real work involved.

BME: So what’s a typical day/week/[appropriate sample size] on the road like? Also, do you have to bring your own cocaine, or do the venues typically provide that?

TL: The joy and the challenge of life on the road is that there is no typical day. Every city and venue provides a new different experience. For tours like the Jagermeister Music Tour, the cycle was often something like:
 
5-7 a.m.: Possible media slot, usually a morning radio show.
11 a.m.: Load-in to venue.
12 p.m.: Daily drop of production materials.
12 p.m. till finished: Production setup — poster hanging, VIP section setup, anything else that needs doing.
3-5 p.m.: Possible media slot.
6 p.m.: Doors.
7-11 p.m.: Show.
11 p.m.-1 a.m.: Load-out to truck.
2 a.m.: Buses roll to next city.
 
Rinse and repeat — rinse being optional since showers are a luxury you grab when/if you can.
 
When not out with Jager or a similar national traveling production, I tend to tour on my own from one gig to the next.  These can be tattoo conventions, comedy clubs, private events, TV shoots, etc., and they are all different.  My days then tend to be media promotions, performances, and travel — all-day flights and/or marathon drives across the country. 

Cocaine, and other drugs, are pretty easily available across the board but who pays depends on the gig and your level of celebrity.  The quality varies and it almost all comes with the hitch of having to hang out with the provider more than you would like.

BME: Right. So when Metallica wants a bottle of pure Velociraptor semen, they can probably just request it in the tour rider, no questions asked. Hey, do you have a tour rider? If so, what’s in it? Have any of the bands with whom you’ve toured over the years asked for anything particularly strange?

TL: I have had a rider in the past and sometimes still do, but it is usually strictly for things I need for the show but won’t have the time or opportunity to get and/or traveling with would be difficult or impossible.  A few examples being fuel for fire acts, concrete blocks, empty beer keg, various ingredients for stomach pumping, live insects for myself or a snake to eat. The thing about riders that most people don’t realize is that you do pay for that stuff; during settlement, the cost of things on the rider will be taken out as expenses before you get paid. A rider is a convenience, since you don’t have the time to run out and buy new socks or get snacks for the bus, and often you pay a premium for them since many venues will gouge on the price. I have seen people try and charge $6 for a single diet coke or $30 for a case of water. 

In terms of weird rider things, I know of a band that specified no mixed color candies (like Skittles) because their OCD drummer, no joke, would sort them compulsively; he also had to have all the wingnuts on his drums lined up or he couldn’t play without stopping to fix them.  Another band had a lead singer who required a massage at a specific time before the show started or they got the option of canceling the show.  Weirdness on riders is usually there to make sure people are reading everything they should and paying attention to detail, or it is something that makes sense if you know all the details.


“It’s not that I can’t read,” says The Lizardman, “it’s just that I don’t follow instructions well sometimes.”

BME: Let’s talk about your act itself. Does it vary depending on the audience/sort of show? How has the act evolved over the years?

TL: I see myself as providing an experience for my audiences and making them active participants in that process. As a result, the show will necessarily vary, but there is still a certain form that it generally follows. In the past, I have tailored shows to any situation that I could manage to get myself booked into, but now I often try to use the show to manipulate the situation. I’m not sure how much sense that makes as stated, but it works in practice. 

My show has evolved and gone through many permutations through the years. It might seem subtle to some observers, but to me, not surprisingly, it seems like night and day.  Probably the biggest shift has been my move towards stand-up comedy and spoken word and finding a home in those genres. Back when I first started, I said that I would always do stunts, even if it was just in my living room, because no one would come and see, but now I find myself doing more and more of my stunts and rituals strictly for myself in private or semi-private situations because my work as a performer has taken me to a place where I am more a comedian/commentator. The audience is still there for the stunts (and I do still include some of my favorites), but as a performer I have moved away from doing them onstage — at least as the main draw.   

BME: That’s interesting. Do you feel like you’ve always been funny enough to do stand-up and just made a decision to not include it so much in the earlier days, or is that something you had to teach yourself along the way as well?

TL: With the exception of very rare cases, “funny” or “not funny” is not a natural inescapable state for people; it turns out that “funny” is interesting and insightful presentation. Think about one of the staples of humor (one which I personally try to scrupulously avoid): the differences between men and women.  Someone can say something that is beyond obvious to everyone, but make them laugh by presenting it with a personal insight and in a manner which engages the audience in a way they weren’t used to or expecting. Everyone has to teach themselves and/or learn to be funny — this is often called “finding your voice,” and it is the process of figuring out how to present your anecdotes and observations in a manner which people will not only accept but also crave. I have always had, and almost everyone does, the premises which are the seeds of “funny,” but it takes time to develop and refine them. 

In a way, the sideshow acts were a crutch — a way to draw and hold people through the developmental process of refining the comedy. I avoided some of the pain many stand-ups have to face through the early days by having an additional element that supported my work on the comedy/commentary and kept me in decent gigs. Now, I have well refined stunt acts and comedy that stands on its own without the stunts so, it is the best of both worlds.

BME: In the past, you’ve mentioned some inspirational sideshow/etc. figures. Who are some of your comedic inspirations?

TL: I think I have been influenced more in terms of philosophy than style when it comes to comedy. Some of the names that leap to mind for me are Rodney Dangerfield, Steve Martin, Mitch Hedberg, and Don Rickles. Martin’s book, Born Standing Up, had a real influence on how I approached some things and look at performing. It hit me at just the right time when I was working through some things and really had me thinking about what I wanted to accomplish with each show.

BME: A recent review of your show stated that you were “offensive to many of the crowd, insulting Asians, women, overweight people, among others.” As a Jew, I’m rather offended that we didn’t make the list. To what sorts of things was the reviewer referring? And be as candid as you like, I can guarantee that nobody will have read this far into the interview.

TL: I love that review. In fact, I have been quoting it as part of a bit in my show since I first found it online. My best guess is that the reviewer was referring to a joke where I talk about chasing Japanese people pretending to be Godzilla, which is really a joke about me being delusional and/or under the influence.  As for the women and overweight people, he must be referring to a bit where I mention that fat chicks give the best blow jobs, which I think is a compliment — not to mention an empirical fact according to the evidence most men have collected. 

I apologize for not having offended Jews that night, but I had to cut a lot of material for time. That guy posted that review almost a month after the actual show and wrote almost entirely about me, even though I was a grand total of maybe 15 minutes out of a four-hour show that night. But he only wrote one line that wasn’t about me — I call that reaching someone. The rest of the crowd laughed and cheered but he waited a month to act indignant on a website.

BME: Now that you’re moving more into stand-up and storytelling rather than stunts, is it challenging to get audiences to take you seriously, what with you being “The Lizardman” and them potentially expecting a bunch of gross-outs or what have you rather than cerebral/topical humor? Do you think your appearance/”novelty” status could be a hindrance in this respect, or has it not been an issue?

TL: The great thing about club-level and alternative comedy venues is that the crowds are very accepting of anything, so long as it is good.  If you show up with good stuff, they get past anything else quickly. I think that being The Lizardman is an advantage so long as I use it properly.  My modifications make me memorable and provide me with an instant conversation starter. At this point, my biggest challenge may not lie with winning over new people but rather hanging on to those who were more into the stunts, but that has gone well thus far.  For instance, a couple years ago the lawyers for the Jagermeister tour decided the stunts presented too much liability, so I had to go to a purely stand-up hosting routine — which is probably one of the most difficult and hostile ways to do stand-up. But it ended up working out and giving me a great deal of confidence. After shows, though, people would come up and ask why I didn’t do any stunts, and after I explained they would generally say that it sucked that I couldn’t do them but they really enjoyed the show and laughed their asses off. On my own though, as I said, I do include some stunts — my favorites and the fan favorites.
 
So, thus far, I would say it has mostly been a non-issue, but I could see it becoming one if I continue to succeed because it makes for a harder sell. Breaking some molds is OK, but people are protective of others. When TV first latched onto me as the weird guy with an education, it was a sort of feel-good story challenging the preconceived notion of modified people as uneducated. Convincing agents and the like to give me a shot at being funny goes against their expectations in a way they don’t like to risk; they don’t have faith in people to get past the initial shock of my appearance. It also doesn’t help that much of my material is not TV friendly — I often hear, “We loved the show but we can’t air that sort of stuff.” But that is very much the story of my career, gaining little by little and winning over those I can get to take the chance.

Visit The Lizardman online at TheLizardman.com for tour dates, speaking engagements and various ephemera.

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The Lizardman Q&A Part 11 [The Lizardman]


TLM Q&A 11

It certainly has been some time since the last Lizardman Q & A column or any Lizardman column for that matter. The hiatus was not planned but sometimes things just get away from you — basically, shit happens. The good news, and I hope you agree that its good news, is that I am looking to get back on a regular schedule of writing for BME. In order to work out some of the unavoidable ‘rust’ and get some momentum going I asked for submissions for a new Q & A. As always, IAM members provided me with a wealth of amusing and insightful questions…

This one seems particularly a propos to start us off:

Do you ever get tired of answering questions?

It all depends on the question and the context. There is a sense in which I was I was tired of every question before it was ever even asked but, thankfully, it is often a genuinely fun and interesting experience to field questions. I wouldn’t have started this Q & A thing if I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to do it. If I do get tired of it, I will simply stop answering.

 

If you had to let Orbax fuck you in the ass, in order to “steal” part of his act, would you? And if so, which part would you “steal”?

This is one of those questions I tired of before it was ever asked but since I can spin this into a cheap plug for my upcoming Canadian Tour with Orbax (Sept 11-28), I guess I will dignify it with a response. Orbax doesn’t have anything going that I would need to “steal” and even if he did I doubt it would be worth getting fucked in the ass — at least for me, since I’m not into getting fucked in the ass. I do enjoy using the phrase “fucked in the ass” though and so I am thinking of ways to extend this response making further gratuitous use of it… FUCKED IN THE ASS!!!

Toilet Paper: Over the top or around the back?

Excellent question! An inquiry that strikes at the very core of one’s being. However, my toilet paper dispenser at home holds the roll in a vertical fashion thus avoiding the dilemma altogether. I don’t want to seem to be dodging the question though, so let me just say that in a perfect world those who prefer around the back would be wiped from the face of the earth as is deserving of such a scourge upon decent people.

Where did I leave my keys? haha, just kidding. What is the best positive reaction you’ve had from someone regarding your appearance?

Kid all you want, I’m answering — your keys are in the last place you left them. Ha.

I think the best reactions are the very simple ones. I love it when someone is stopped by what they see and can only manage a ‘wow’ or ‘oh my god’ and obviously mean it appreciatively. I see this as praise on very basic and instinctual level. Often they will end up talking to me more afterward and articulate a number of positive things but it is that initial honest hit that really speaks to me.

What’s you favorite thing to bite?

I’ve never given it much thought. I have bitten quite a few things including a number of people. As much fun as living things can be to bite, if I have to pick a favorite, I know this is boring (but tasty) — pizza.

 

 

How can you make this article about me?

Hmmm… I guess I could try by answering Miss Spook’s question.

 

 

 

Do you think my babies would be cute if I made them with Shawn Porter? Why or why not?

I would think that your babies would not be cute but making them with Shawn is irrelevant because I don’t find babies to be cute. Certainly I could rate them on a relative scale as more or less cute than another given baby but objectively I don’t use cute to describe babies. To me babies are odd and often interesting looking little creatures but I would only ever call them cute as contrived social gesture.

What do you think of “serious” theatre?

I have a great deal of respect for serious or traditional theatre and it is only through my experience with and study of it that I have been able to be as successful as I have been. It is some of social culture and institution that has developed around the theatre, much like with the world of fine art, that I have come to abhor and often reject. As the saying goes, you have to know the rules to know how to break them. One of the biggest problems, in my opinion, with a lot of performers in genres like sideshow and suspension performances is that they make basic mistakes that an intro / survey course or just a little personal research in theatre would prevent.

Who do you think would win in a fist fight between Jerry Falwell (if he was still alive) and Christopher Hitchens?

I would certainly have more points of agreement with Hitchens than with Falwell — despite being on the opposite side of the fence from him on more than a couple issues. So that may bias me in his favor but I think the real reason to pick him in this fight would be his drinking. A man with the sort of drinking experience he has professed would likely have some good bar fighting experience, so I am giving him the edge. Besides, I find people who bluster in Falwell’s fashion tend to be cowards if challenged physically. For all his fire and brimstone hate speeches against homosexuals I think Falwell would have offered to suck a dick to avoid a beating and maybe even been thankful for the excuse to do it.

Is the size of earth relative to the size of Reverend Phelps ego?

I assume you mean this asshat since I am not aware another Reverend Phelps. No, the size of the Earth is not relative to the size of his ego, the size of the earth is a relative constant of small stature in the universe whereas his ego would seem to be a never ending, constantly expanding miasma dwarfing not only my own ego but also providing us with perhaps an even better practical example of infinity than the reaches of space.

Why don’t people get addicted to nicotine from passive smoking?

I have no idea and my brief ‘googling’ of the subject wasn’t much help either. Maybe it is a dosage level issue? On a somewhat related note: I don’t smoke and smoking bans are rapidly making it so I don’t have to worry much about dealing with other people’s smoke anymore. Smokers who complain about the bans amuse me because if someone came into a restaurant and sat at the table next to them stinking of shit, they would complain rather than defend that person’s right to stink — just as non-smokers complained about smokers. Health issues aside, smoking is often an offensive invasion of other people’s personal space and the case can be made for limiting it under the law for that alone — as we do with noise, for instance.

How do you feel about the way you look now, in comparison to the way you felt ten years ago?

I feel about the same. I am happy with how I look but I also have plans for how I will look in time from now. Of course, much of the work I had planned ten years ago has come to be now and I quite glad for that. In this particular respect though, I think happy is happy. I wasn’t unhappy ten years ago I simply had unrealized ambitions.

What is your grand plan in life, as far as retirement and taking care of yourself during those years?

I’ve never really had a grand plan for life other than just trying to enjoy living it. As for retirement, it isn’t something I think about a lot but I have made what I hope are some reasonably intelligent financial moves to assure that I can survive comfortably in the event that I experience a severe reduction in the amount of work I get or even have to stop completely. One of the many benefits of being an entertainer is that there is effectively no age limit to my career. I know of at least one sword-swallower who worked into his eighties. The whole trick, as it were, is not to kill yourself and then you can just keep on doing it.

What are your favorite books and films on freaks?

To be fair, I will leave my own as yet unpublished works out of the running. But thanks for reminding me about my horrid procrastination and delays. Really, you’re a good friend.

In terms of books, the bar has been set, and set fairly high in my opinion, by Robert Bogdan’s work: Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. I also really enjoyed both Mannix’s Memoirs of a Sword Swallower and Howard Bone’s Side Show but the latter two should be viewed suspiciously in terms of the level of factual content. They are the sort of works that get people hurt when they treat them like textbooks.

I don’t really have a movie recommendation but Tod Browning’s Freaks is, of course, a cult classic and while not a personal favorite for me in terms of cinema it does feature a number of classic sideshow personalities.

What is the best part about living in Austin, TX?

I could compare it to other places I lived, in which case I would say the weather, cost of living, and local entertainment are far superior but I’m not sure any of those are the best thing. What really matters to me about where I live is that I feel comfortable when I get to be home and I really do feel comfortable in Austin. A city that prides itself on maintaining weirdness is good fit for me.

I know how it feels to come home from being on tour, but seeing as you have been doing it a lot longer than I did, do you still get that feeling? Or have you just adapted to your surroundings? And what’s the best thing to come home to, outside of your wife?

From my own experience and having gotten to work with people that effectively tour their entire lives I would say that you never adapt to the point of losing that feeling. Lots of people adapt to the point where they actually do better on the road but everyone still seems to have that home feeling and need to get at least a little bit of it now and then. I absolutely love and thrive being on the road but I also have a home life and just as I get itchy to travel again when I am home, I get itchy to be home sometimes on the road. The best thing about home beyond getting to see Meghan and the ferrets are the basics that most people take for granted but that you don’t have on a tour bus or when jumping from one city to another — full size beds and bathrooms, making your own meals in a real kitchen, stretching out on a couch and watching TV alone instead of jammed in a bus lounge with four other guys, having access to all your stuff and being to have it all out at once.

What type of reactions have you received from people of non-Western cultures (for example, when traveling or from recent immigrant communities, such as ethnic Hindus, Nigerian farmers, Buddhist monks, Chinese students, devout Islamic folks)? What type of perception do you think would most knock your socks off if you were able to read — or invade — their minds? For example, worship due to descent of ancient deity, alien invasion, instant fatwa of death to such an infidel, immediate sexualization, animation come to life due to bizarre drug flashback, Samadhi enlightenment state due to realization that everything is possible…

I haven’t really had enough contact with people that weren’t already ‘westernized’ to a fairly significant extent. In my travels it just seems more and more of the world I have gotten to see has at least had enough contact with western culture to have a frame of reference for me. One encounter that does stand out in my mind happened on a cruise ship elevator when I got on with a porter who seemed visibly disturbed by my appearance. I’m not sure where he was from but when one of my friends said “Pretty weird, huh” in a friendly manner his reply was “I’m afraid I dream of that tonight and I die.”

Of the reactions you listed worship makes me uncomfortable regardless of the motivation. I like to be appreciated and respected, even glorified to an extent but worship is something I just don’t abide. Alien invasion is one I have dealt with thank to the David Icke crowd and I find they are best to simply move along away from rapidly. I haven’t quite seen the level of fatwa and attack but I have been condemned by various flavors of religious zealots. Sexualization — many people do have mod fetishes and I get my share of propositions. Animation come to life would be a new take but causing people to suddenly recall something from a drug episode is not that uncommon. I have, intentionally and accidentally, toyed with people under the influence of various chemicals on several occasions. Enlightenment would be overstating the case but I one of the things I set out to do is to shake up people’s ideas and perhaps help break them out of their mental cycles. What would really knock my socks off, as you say, would be someone very simply accepting me right off without even being curious.





Erik Sprague

because the world NEEDS freaks…

Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?

Copyright © 2007 BMEzine.com LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published September 22nd, 2007 by BMEzine.com LLC in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Mike “Jazzdemon” Jones Interview [The Lizardman]



Mike “Jazzdemon” Jones
BY THE LIZARDMAN


The first time I got to see Penn & Teller live at the Rio in Las Vegas I was advised by my friend Todd Robbins, who had arranged the tickets for my wife and I, to arrive early because before the show they played live jazz and I ‘might just recognize the tall man playing bass’. I don’t think it will be spoiling anything for anyone to say that the tall man in question is Penn Jillette, who I immediately recognized. However, my eye was quickly drawn away from Penn and to the pianist he was playing with. I turned and whispered to Meghan, ‘I think the pianist has stretched lobes.’ with more than a little surprise.

The pianist, Mike Jones, did in fact have stretched lobes and a whole lot more as it turns out. It also turns out that Mike is not just any old jazz pianist. Now, when it comes to jazz I do not have a refined ear by any means but as the saying goes I may not know much but I know what I like. I greatly enjoyed the pre-show entertainment he and Penn provided (he also appears and plays during the show).

Later on, I googled Mr. Jones and discovered just how accomplished and respected he was in his field — visit www.jonesjazz.com for more on his music. After a recent return to once again see the show I noticed his tattoo work peeking out above his collar and below his sleeves and had the idea I should have gotten when I first met him: a BME interview. After finding a contact email on the P&T website I wrote and requested an interview, to which he graciously consented.



Penn and Teller's Jazz Pianist Mike Jones with The Lizardman


When did you first get interested in body modification and body art?

I first got interested in tattoos when I was a teenager. I would see someone on TV with tattoos and thought they were really beautiful. I talked about getting some in my twenties, but was worried about being able to work. I think I knew even then, that if I started, I wouldn’t want to stop!

In the mid nineties, I first started to see some stretched lobes, and facial piercing in New York, and I thought they were really cool. I started hanging around a tattoo and piercing studio in Salem NH — Masterpiece — and got to see some really amazing work up close, for the first time.

Could you describe your modifications (tattoos, piercings, and anything else) and who did them?

My first piercing was my left nipple, done at a place on 2nd Ave in NYC. I think my nose was next, and that, along with my tongue, ears, labret, PA, and nipples were all done by Rob Smith at Masterpiece in New Hampshire. I decided to move to Vegas in 1999 to work with a singer, and was given my first tattoo as a going away present by Dan Carroll, the owner of Masterpiece. It was a beautiful Celtic band around my left bicep, and I was hooked!


Jazz pianist Mike Jones' arm tattoos

I moved to Vegas and found Dante, the owner of Dante’s Studio Tattoo in Henderson, Nevada. She did my first big piece, a half sleeve on my right arm. Her daughter Angela then did a full sleeve on my left arm. Dante then laid out the rest of my right sleeve, and Angie is currently coloring it in. She also did some ram horns on my head, some stars on my neck, and we’re working on a big chest piece with sparrows. I also have some Doc Marten boots tattooed on my feet, and legs. It’s a long project and a lot of black!

My friend Tony Fitzpatrick, a famous and amazing artist whose work hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in NY, and other galleries around the world, is designing a jungle piece for my back.

I remember talk of a deal with Doc Marten based on your boots tattoo — where does that stand?

I took some time off from the boots, but I’ll be finishing them up over the next few months. It’s a lot of black, and my poor artist was going crazy. When they’re done, I’ll have our agent go to Doc Marten and see what they say. Of course, I didn’t do it for that reason, but it would be funny.


Mike Jones' Doc Marten tattoos

Is there a theme or overall concept to your work?

I really don’t have an overall theme, although I have the traditional Japanese on one sleeve, and really colorful tribal on the other. I like big pieces where you have to stand back to get the whole idea. I waited a long time to get my first tattoo — I was 37 — so I made sure I knew what I wanted in terms of each piece. I like bigger pieces, rather than a lot of little ones.

How does your family feel about your modifications?

My Dad is a WWII vet, and to him I think tattoos are something way outside of the mainstream. He’s been pretty ok about it, but I think he’d rather I didn’t have any! Shortly before my mom died, I told her I was thinking about getting a tattoo, and she said she thought they were cute, but not to tell my dad!

As a musician you work in a highly creative field and jazz is often esteemed as being a particularly creative form of music. Do you see your modifications as an extension or another form of that creativity? Are they related in any specific way to your work in music?

Here’s where I get a little shallow! I create music every night, and I’m one of the most fortunate people on the planet. I work with two dear friends, whom I respect and admire, and I get to do pretty much whatever I want. I can also look however I want, and they think it’s great. I don’t attach any real meaning to any tattoo, other than to think it looks cool.

I know some people get ink for very serious and personal reasons, and I respect and admire that. With me, I just like the way it looks.

The stereotypical connection most people make between tattoos and music are rock and metal bands. Are tattoos and piercings common in the jazz world? How do your professional peers react to your modifications?

I love that most people think I play metal, and I love the look on their face when the find out I play music that’s fifty years old. When I was at Berklee College of Music, I’d wear almost nothing but Zeppelin and AC/DC shirts, and get filthy looks from the hardcore jazz guys, who all dressed like they were Miles Davis in 1963. They shut up when I played, and that was the end of that.

It makes me very happy to mess with peoples perceptions, but I think piercing and tattoos are becoming more popular in jazz just because they’re more popular everywhere. It’s 2006, and it’s just not that big a deal anymore.

Since you have public modifications (stretched piercings, scalp tattoos, and hand and neck tattoos) do you find a difference in the reactions of fans from before and after having these done?

I haven’t had any negative reactions from any fan at all. The most common thing I hear after the show is “I love your tattoos”! It’s weird. My wife tells me that people are staring at me once in a while, but I’m oblivious. I never mind it when someone asks me questions about mods, because, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a walking billboard for the tattoo and piercing industry!


Mike Jones, the Jazzdemon, is a horny jazz pianist

You mentioned early concerns about possible work related issues if you got tattoos (a very real and rationale concern) and then later talked about getting dirty looks and comments for your choice of dress only to “shut them up” with your ability to play. It seems that many times a person who wishes to explore body modification must overachieve in order to be accepted and gain respect. In a perfect world judgments and criticisms would be based solely on merit but in reality people’s prejudices often slip in. To what, if any, extent do you think that your choices of dress, modification, etc have affected your career?

Well, with P&T, my career has never been better. I believe I wouldn’t be able to get a gig at the Ritz Carleton again, but I made a deliberate decision a few years ago to not do that kind of work. When I play at a jazz club, I never have a problem. I really think that people are just getting more comfortable with body mods in general. The days of going into a small “redneck” town where they don’t accept you because you look different are disappearing. The one or two times that I’ve been nervous, or uncomfortable, going into a small town diner, I’m usually greeted with the same kind of interest and curiosity that I get anywhere else. It always ends up with people saying how cool it looks!

I’ve stood out in front of the P&T theater singing autographs and greeting people for over four years. That’s over a million people that I’ve connected with, for at least a second or two. One time, one person, out of those million, an older man came up to me and said, “Love the music, hate the tattoos”. I smiled and said the exact same thing I would say to anyone else, “Thanks for coming, have a great night!” So if only one in a million people doesn’t like my ink, I’m doing fine!

I noticed that the photos on jonesjazz.com don’t really show any of your modifications, nor are they mentioned there — is this by design or just happenstance? Have your modifications ever really factored in to your marketing as a performer and/or with dealing with labels and the like?

The website was put together before I started any visible mods, and when my next CD comes out, they’ll be there! I’ve always thought that having me look as I do would be a killer idea for marketing. Zeke (from our show) calls me the “jazzdemon” and I would like to exploit that. I haven’t even gotten far enough with a big label to address the issue of my appearance, but Chiaroscuro has no problems with how I look. The fact that I’m a reasonably good musician seems to be all they care about.

Per William Burroughs, any ‘words of advice for young people’?

My words of advice for the youngsters are only to do what you love. Life is too short to fuck around. You only get one chance, so make it count. These all sound like clichés, but, it’s all true, and so important.





Erik Sprague

because the world NEEDS freaks…

Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?

Copyright © 2006 BMEzine.com LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published March 14th, 2006 by BMEzine.com LLC in Toronto, Canada.



The Lizardman vs. Jason “Cork” Sand [The Lizardman]



Jason Sand Interview
BY THE LIZARDMAN

I had the opportunity to meet Jason (IAM:Cork) in person in 2003 after first reading about him on BME. Since then the original interview with Jason was removed for various reasons but always with an eye towards replacing it with an updated account his amazing life and modifications. I was very happy when he approached me with the idea of doing the new interview and I hope I have done him justice by asking good questions — following are his responses.

LIZARDMAN:  Let’s start with the standard introduction: What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you call home?

JASON:  Jason Sand. 27 years old. Currently living in the D.C. Area (MD), next year Vermont.

LIZARDMAN:  How would you describe your motivations for your modifications?

JASON:  I would say many of my modifications are a blend of reclamation, spiritual, and aesthetic appeal. My theme as a whole is based on my personal and spiritual evolution. Amongst all of that I’ve accumulated a few mods that simply appeal to me artistically, or even sexually.

LIZARDMAN:  Describe your modifications and who did them:

JASON:  My facial and neck tattoos are by various artists including Shane Munce, Rosanna (No hope No fear in Amsterdam), Joe Marro, Preston Jarvis, Mike Derazmo, Chris Lee a.k.a. Batryder, JD (Psychotic INK), Jackie Brown, and Eric Stokes. My half sleeve by Bryan Harper. The back piece in progress is by Shane Munce and Chris Lee. I have an in-progress chest piece by Jon Clue and a crotch piece by Mike Fikes. The leg and foot work is from Shane Munce, Mike Derazmo, and Eric Stokes. And I also have some other work by various artists.

My piercings from top to bottom include two 2ga upper ears, a 00ga upper ear, a 4ga upper ear, a 1ga conch, a 1.25″ ears (split and reattached by Steve Haworth), a 13mm Septum piercing, a 27mm by 14mm labret, three guiches in 00ga, 1/2″, and 5/8″ guiche, and a 1″ upper scrotal piece done in transcrotal style (i.e. partially stitched closed during procedure.)

My carved silicone facial implants and eight large Teflon horns are by Steve Haworth with Jesse Jarrell having carved the facial ones.

My chin branding is by Steve Haworth and my shin branding is by Alva in Jacksonville. The chest cuttings are by Frances and the knee cuttings by Ron Garza.

I have a self-done partial subincision and a partial head splitting by Shane Munce. I have a self cut and reattached split tongue — I think that’s it.

LIZARDMAN:  Future modification plans?

JASON:  I’m thinking about possibly switching the Teflon in my chest out for silicone. And really that’s about it… I’m pretty complete with most of my projects aside from tattooing.

LIZARDMAN:  Did you have an overall plan or idea for your mods or was it a piecemeal or evolution process?

JASON:  Most of it was part of an overall plan, but like many things in life, some of it was spontaneous, and much of it evolved and changed naturally as I came up with better or different ideas. Even now that I’ve planned out the rest of my work, there is still loads of room for change and adaptation.

LIZARDMAN:  Can you expand on the theme? I think because its not an obvious visual one it may be harder for people to pick up on immediately.

JASON:  I am not sure I can get this across correctly, mainly due to not being done, but I’ll give it a go. I have a few different related themes. Starting at the face the blue dots are to honor the skies above, and the water below — a tribute to air and water. My face and neck is a representation of destruction and creation, the Big Bang with the symbol for “God” (as in a being, not the one in the bible) being in the center, and below on my throat, a goat with the same symbol of God, representing destruction. I’ve also incorporated plants and animals in between this to represent the here and now. On the sides of my head I have “Kill thine Idols” (as in don’t have idols before your perception of god or enlightenment). The other side states “life after death” in regards to passing from this life into another.

My front torso is a huge face in progression formed out of different forms of plants from a cellular level to a lichen growth. As this piece progresses it will have more plant textures incorporated. This represents the organic process of part of myself growing out of me, a kind of spiritual peek through my inner window, ever reaching outward.

My back section is a tribute to fertility (the “human” orchid — human vagina — as opposed to insect vagina emulation), represented with an orchid and various spiders. Once finished it will have incorporated a scene of various nebulas and birthing stars, all overlapped with webbing to represent how it’s all “tied together”. Growing off the orchid and encompassing my ass will be two large berries with fetuses growing inside them, fusing the concept of birth and growth with an organic plant-like fusion. I’ll leave it at that for the areas that are not currently done so as not to jinx it.

Finally, my feet are once again a representation of destruction — and growth within filth. Shane Munce and I are currently working on them with tattoos such as three dimensional realistic zits, the worm from poltergeist, and eventually bruising, bloating, frost bite, gangrene, and so on.

The rest of my body, arms, crotch, and so on carry a few token tattoos from friends — more representations, mostly abstract, of plants and animals. My knuckles read ‘Hard Love’, and my brother has the same tattoo. We got it to represent the way we were raised.

I’ve also used implants and subincision, and eventually tattoos to give my genitalia an abstract, hermaphroditic, plant like appearance.

LIZARDMAN:  Tell me about the lobe re-attachment?

JASON:  Well, as to the “why”, one ear I had overstretched early on and suffered a thin spot. Later down the road I had a similar problem with the other ear during a scalpeling session. They both harbored thin spots but were holding in fine enough until I got too drunk on a rollercoaster ride and had my plugs forcefully jerked out of my ears. That made the thin spots too thin for comfort.

About a half year down the road when I was getting my temple implants I asked Steve Haworth if he’d do my ears the next day. It went well, but one ear did not completely attach after healing, so six months down the road Shane Munce did a partial reattachment on it. I’d say the attachments were about 80% successful, and three years later I’m still happy with the results.

LIZARDMAN:  You cut and then later reversed your own tongue splitting?

JASON:  Yup, after the initial swelling went down, about two weeks to be safe, I realized it was grossly off center, I went back in and removed the scabby tissue from the center and bound it with a rubber band. In the first night the back reattached, and by the second day the front was fairly well attached. I have a small off center fork resulting from it and a crease that opens up a little bit. There is a hard piece of scar tissue in it to this day about five years later.

LIZARDMAN:  So your motivation was simply the off center cut, not that you no longer wanted a split?

JASON:  My motivation to reattach? Yes, it was literally like a quarter inch off center. That’s what I get for marking after the lidocaine.

I had plans to do it again. I was waiting for the lump of scar tissue buried in my tongue to soften and go away. And while it has gotten smaller, its not softer and I’ve just not gotten around to going through it again. I want to make sure its done right and I have been focusing on other areas since then. I’m sure I’ll get around to it later, but with the scar tissue and all, I have some worries that it might not be the best of ideas, and could impede mobility or something. Only time will tell.

LIZARDMAN:  So do you think you will go for a self cutting again when the time comes or is it something you now think would be better done by someone else for you?

JASON:  More than likely I’ll go to someone else due to there possibly needing to be a bit of sculpting, because of the existing scar tissue and fork.

LIZARDMAN:  What are your views on D.I.Y. versus going to professional practitioners?

JASON:  If you want quality work with less risk and better chances of success, go to a professional. Many are even accommodating to “rituals” that people would like to have involved in their procedure. I personally don’t see much wrong with DIY if you’re aware of the potential risks, willing to live with a mistake if it happens, and so on. It is a wonderful experience to have that kind of responsibility in your own hands and bring it to fruition.

LIZARDMAN:  Did the bad tongue splitting affect your views concerning D.I.Y. procedures?

JASON:  Not in the least, I knew I was taking a chance, and lived with my mistakes. Success will only teach and show you so much. You have to make a few mistakes before you really start seeing the bigger picture.

LIZARDMAN:  Do you differentiate much between the process and the product in terms of your modifications?

JASON:  When it comes to my scars, it’s often in the “process” of healing that I find more fulfilling, whereas with everything else, it’s the end product and I don’t necessarily get much out of the process. I do find it emotionally relieving at times, but I this is more related to the idea that inflicted pain can help one displace personal stress along with the physical discomfort.

In terms of getting something for original motivations or not, I’d say that is debatable in the sense that I may get it for one reason, but it could turn into a hundred others by the time I finish it, or on the flip side, I could have a incorrect hundred ideas of what it means, but once finished, its purpose is obvious.

LIZARDMAN:  You keep a low profile outside of IAM and other online modification sites. Is this by design? And if so, why? Given the public nature of much of your work how hard is it for you to keep under the radar?

JASON:  I like to think it’s by design, but I also think luck and circumstance plays a part. During the times when I’ve wanted to be more “public” it generally hasn’t fit into my situation. I’ve done some small TV coverage, a commercial or two, and some events but not much. I’m also not one to pursue things of that nature that don’t just fall into my lap. It really isn’t that hard at all to go under the radar. I use to get approached for things a lot, but one day it just kind of went away and hasn’t come back. So whatever I’m doing, it’s working.

LIZARDMAN:  Others with mods as extensive as your own are likely to work in either the modification industry or as performers. Have you ever worked in either of those realms? Do you prefer working so-called ‘straight jobs’?

JASON:  I absolutely prefer. Though the money and fame of being a modified celebrity are attractive, it is simply not my calling. Straight jobs are great, though I wouldn’t mind something a bit more unusual and creative from time to time.

LIZARDMAN:  To what extent have your mods influenced your job selections and opportunities?

JASON:  I’m not out there trying to get a vast assortment of jobs. I generally have a good idea of what places will and won’t hire me and tend to stick with those. Believe it or not, my work history and word of mouth have pretty much helped bypass any problems with getting hired initially.

Public notice and fitting into dress codes are definitely limiting factors. Also certain employee environments may not be suitable. I tend to get along really well with college age employees, and am usually taken in fairly well. Granted, my eccentric personality and approachableness helps a lot in this area. Many skilled labor jobs tend to look past the work if you have the experience or capability to back it up.

LIZARDMAN:  Were any comments made regarding there being consequences or resistance to going further than what you had when you were hired?

JASON:  Actually, no, there hasn’t been. I’ve just done it and not asked for permission.

LIZARDMAN:  Do you mind listing the jobs you have had in the past and their reactions to your modifications?

JASON:  When I was just pierced and stretching I got a job as a Data Analyst. After being relocated to another office in Florida, I started tattooing my face. At first a few administrative employees (i.e. the important ones) were a little taken aback. But since I already had a reputation for being eccentric in appearance with my piercings and various hairstyles, it was pretty much looked over. I worked the graveyard shift and rarely had to deal with anyone face to face.

After five years of that I left the job to pursue other interests and ended up working for TLA Video in Philadelphia. They didn’t care at all how I looked, as I was mainly doing sales and customer service over the phone and internet.

When I moved to a smaller city in Vermont I had a bit difficulty finding work. I ended up working in custodial maintenance a few hours a day. After a good while with the company, and a few stints doing other oddball jobs like mortgage refinancing and working in a Thai Bistro, they hired me on full time working in the kitchen and bussing tables (or any other job they had, other than bartending and waiting tables). They didn’t mind if I was seen by customers, but they just hadn’t chanced me serving them.

Then, upon moving to Maryland, I was very lucky to have known the kitchen manager at a TGI Friday‘s in Greenbelt (the third busiest in the nation last year or some such), which is where I’m currently at. When I move back to VT, I’ll probably start back up at my old job and possibly try and see if I can get on at another Friday’s.

Most places just take me as I am. I’ve rarely had anyone complain or reject me. I do occasionally get the uncomfortable coworker but that works itself out over time. Right now I think my resumé and willingness to work in most environments keeps me an eligible candidate for employment.


Jason wearing theatrical makeup as an experiment in disguise.

LIZARDMAN:  Anything you would tell anyone else considering heavy or public mods that caught you off guard after you got started?

JASON:  Hmmm…. What caught me off guard the most was the overall positive reaction I’ve gotten. Many people like the art a lot even if it may seem a little bizarre, basic, and unplanned — I’m not the best artist, but yes, it was all planned!

I expected the negative comments; many of us with lesser mods know most of these. What I didn’t expect was people simply not noticing or at least not letting on to the fact. Online I’ve taken a lot more abuse than I generally get in person.

Some people get loud, obnoxious, and sometimes jump right out of their seats. Expect to be touched, poked, prodded, and sneered at. Expect drunken people to run up to you and say “dude, you totally rock, much respect” — and then figure out a way to respond to such a comment without coming across as an arrogant prick!

Oh, and no matter what your tattoos are, someone is going to ask if you’re the Lizardman they saw on TV.

But, eventually there comes a time when all that goes away for the most part, and you get to start living your life like everyone else. You may look different and be different, but it all comes to how you fit into the community around you. That isn’t affected by how you look, but instead by how you act. That to me is what is most important and will get you a lot further than you think, even with a tattooed face.





Erik Sprague

because the world NEEDS freaks…

Former doctoral candidate and philosophy degree holder Erik Sprague, the Lizardman (iam), is known around the world for his amazing transformation from man to lizard as well as his modern sideshow performance art. Need I say more?

Copyright © 2006 BMEzine.com LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published March 14th, 2006 by BMEzine.com LLC in Toronto, Canada.