The Modern History of Tongue Splitting [The Lizardman]

The Lizardman’s split tongue, in 1997 and in 2004.

The Modern History of Tongue Splitting

“Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character had abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and courage which it contained.”

– John Stuart Mill

Eight years ago, in July 1997 (on the 18th to be exact), I walked into the office of Dr. Lawrence Busino with one tongue and emerged under an hour later with two. There was no media coverage and apart from a couple emails and a posting on rec.arts.bodyart not many people even knew this was happening. Of course, this would all change and an amazing and unforeseeable chain of events would be set into motion.

I was not the first person to have my tongue split, anyone who has paid attention to my comments about it will have noticed that I refer to myself as ‘one of the first’. My best guess is that I was probably the third bifurcation but the first to be done surgically using a biopsy laser. In fact, the first actual split tongue that I knew of was on BME just prior to my own procedure in 1997. An Italian man sent in notes and then pictures of his split created by cutting and silver nitrate cauterization. The notes can be found here, there are also six images early in the gallery with a June 1997 date stamp (for time received and posted, not taken).

The first known pictures of a modern tongue splitting (Italy, 1996/7)

When I first approached Dr. Busino I brought along printouts of those translated notes, by the time the pictures were online I had already scheduled my appointment for surgery. It was not until after my own procedure that I eventually found out about Dustin (covered in Body Play #16, I think) who had used a tie off method to split her tongue earlier. It seems that 1997 was the year for tongue splitting to happen. Within a very short span of time three people, unconnected and nearly unknown to one another, all split their tongues using three different methods.

Up until this time, modern tongue splitting was all but a myth. There were theories and vague references but no one could provide any documentation — it was always a friend of friend saw this guy/girl, etc. BME included a theoretical method reference for stretching multiple center tongue piercings and then cutting between them but this was just speculative. Some people made historical references but again the documentation was questionable. Even some of the more reliable sources citing a cutting the tongue in half do not specify a bifurcation and strong arguments could be made that they are talking about an amputation cutting in half as punishment or torture from side to side rather than from the tip back. The BME Tongue Splitting FAQ contains references to some of these historical practices. Personally, I find these less than compelling but I do not entirely dismiss the possibility since it only seems even more unlikely that someone had not tried it before. What can be said with good authority is that the idea and image of the split tongue is a powerful one that has played a major role across cultures and around the world. With the advent of modern tongue splitting, it was poised to do so again.

Dustin’s self-split tongue

Over the next two years tongue splitting would grow slowly but steadily. As word of my surgery and Dustin’s successful split began to spread (I have never heard anything further on the Italian), more and more people became interested or realized their own fantasies could now come true. I introduced a number of people to Dr. Busino as well as hosting many of them at my apartment in Albany (including our own Shannon Larratt who detailed his experience here) so they could come to town and get the surgery done by one of the only willing and experienced doctors in the country. Dr. Busino was very accepting, if not enthusiastic, about body modification and loved discussing various modifications and possible procedures. With each patient he continued to refine the procedure, especially the suturing which helped to prevent re-growth and provided a more natural rounded look to the interior of the split. At one point he even commented on how the laser machinery could be transported fairly easily to conventions or meetings where he would be able to potentially do many bifurcations were the demand to continue. Meanwhile other individuals and practitioners worked with the tie off method and experimented with scalpeling.

Early tongue splits on Shannon Larratt (left, center),
and Essie (right, one of the many people hosted by the Lizardman and introduced to Dr. Busino).

At the first Modcon in 1999 my split tongue was a novelty and, as I recall, the only one present other than Shannon’s. Between hosting many of the splits at my house and Shannon’s network of people and practitioners via BME we could say that at that time we probably knew personally or could at least name most of the split tongues in the world. This would soon change.

At the 2000 Modcon a number of split tongues were present. Online, BME was seeing a significant increase in photos and experiences. Due to my unabashed media whoring, my own tongues had appeared in Time magazine, on several television shows (such as Ripley’s), and even on a billboard in NYC. Split tongues were suddenly very visible. An increasing number of practitioners were offering the procedure and it became much easier for people to find someone near them to do it. Also, a number of people performed the procedure themselves. However, there would be a cost for this visibility.

Early tongue splitting on Tim Cridland (The Torture King), Allen Falkner, and by Patrick Bartholomew.

Almost certainly due to the increased exposure and references to him in stories about tongue splitting, Dr. Busino found himself under unwanted scrutiny. As a result, of what I and others suspect was pressure brought on him by colleagues who found tongue splitting to be distasteful, Busino was soon refusing to do the procedure and even going so far as to deny having ever performed it. I last spoke with him 2000 before these problems arose. He was the model of an open minded professional when I knew him and it is a shame that the prejudices of others came to so bear on him. And, as bad as this was, the potential more even worse loomed ahead in the form of government legislation.

By 2001 split tongues were common as surgical modifications go, being one of, if not the, most popular ‘heavy’ modification. Keep in mind that’s not really common at all in terms of the world population or even just the US. In fact more people in the US get their ears pierced each day by underpaid, under trained employees in unhygienic mall stores often improperly using equipment and jewelry that even when used properly is at best barely adequate for the job than the entire collected world population of split tongues. Or to put it another way, if you had a dollar for every split tongue in the world you would not have enough money to buy a decent used car or pay the yearly rent on slum apartment in most cities for a year. Even though it sometimes seems like they are common within our modified community, they are still rare in the world.

More recently done tongue splittings.

Despite so many other prominent problems and looming dangers in the world, in 2003, some state legislators began to think that the tongue splitting “trend” required new laws. As a result, a number of laws have been passed which have limited the context in which the procedure may be performed. Most of these are redundant to existing laws and serve no real purpose beyond soothing the prejudiced positions of those who introduce the bills but they are preferable to the total bans they often start out as. This senseless waste of government time, effort, and money was the subject of my first official column for BME and can be found here. I continue to write and debate lawmakers across the country as they follow suit.

Due largely to these laws and the unwillingness of most doctors to perform the procedure a significant number of split tongues are now self done. The method of choice for them and the limited number of practitioners offering the procedure is scalpeling. Scalpeling the tongue is quite bloody, as many of the photos on BME will attest. However, it is at once the simplest and probably best method available. In my observations and from talking to subjects, it appears that scalpeling is on par with laser surgery for speed, if not faster, and results in far less swelling due to the lack of cauterization. When combined with proper suturing it results in some of the best looking, fastest healing splits with the least amount of re-growth between the forks. The only significant problem being that people doing it themselves or even having it done by most practitioners do not have the benefits at hand in case of problems or emergency that would be available in a professional surgical setting.

To date, the modern history of tongue splitting is an overall positive one. We have come to discover that it is not only possible but than many of the anticipated dangers or consequences such as difficulty speaking or eating are complete myths. Contrary to expectations the real problem seems to lay with reversing the procedure. This has happened once, to my knowledge, and was not voluntary or the result of any complication or dissatisfaction. No, the story of the only reversal is far darker and can be found on BME here. In fact, I do not, nor has anyone else I have spoken with know of anyone voluntarily reversing their split. It is this case that I think now points to the direction for the future.

Forced tongue split reversal

The first tongue splittings were done for personal reasons of satisfaction and fulfillment. As a result others were able to do the same, likely for similar personal motivations. Now, as split tongues have become visible to the world it becomes time to establish their place within it. That is the work to be done. To cultivate the view and understanding that a split tongue is simply another way in which a person can — and should not be restricted from doing — shape their own image.

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 © 2005 LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published July 26th, 2005 by LLC in La Paz, BCS, Mexico..

Lizardman Q&A #9 [The Lizardman]

Lizardman Q&A #9

Number nine… number nine… number nine… number nine… number nine

It never ends.

Since it was a Shannon inspired question that made me do it this month, let’s start with him.

If you were called on to do a USO show in Iraq, would you go, and since I assume you would), what kind of show would you like to do?

If the USO wanted a show from me, I would do it in a heartbeat. I think something like that is a great opportunity and I would simply do my regular show. The reason being, that regardless of anything ideological or political that I may feel about this particular conflict or war in general, the USO stage is not the time or place for it. My only interest would be to give as much entertainment as possible to people who are in danger for their lives. Preaching at people who are actively being shot at is misdirected effort and by the same token I would not go for cheap ‘pops’ by saluting everyone and making propaganda style jokes about the other side. I would simply do my show and hope that I could be good enough to make someone in such a horrific situation laugh or smile for a moment.

How do you deal with overly aggressive fans that start to border on stalkers, or try to put emotional demands on you?

Fortunately, I haven’t had too much of this thus far but when it does happen it can really shake you up. What I mostly get are people who seem to mistake general politeness and kindness on my part as an establishment of a deep friendship that somehow obligates me to them. Sadly, this seems to arise out of many people just not being used to having someone show any interest or simple decency towards them. I do my best to try and explain that just because I will listen and make some simple effort to help you (like providing information) that doesn’t make us best friends, I do the same for most everyone. I really am a misanthrope but I am optimistic enough that I try and golden rule my way through most situations in hopes of reciprocity.

And to get it out of the way since someone always asks:
“What are the spiritual elements of your modifications”

Repetition is one of the cornerstones of marketing and education (think about that), so it can’t hurt to say it again:

The Lizardman is an atheist who firmly believes that any and all spirituality is a mental construct at best and ultimately a crutch which must be discarded as false and limiting!!!!!

There is nothing spiritual about me or my modifications nor can there be.

As a person who makes their living based in part on the mystique and fantasy of their persona, do you ever worry that being “too real” or “too accessible” could negatively affect your career? Do you ever feel that maybe you should “act more like a celebrity”?

Oh to act more like a “celebrity” — and get away with it. Isn’t that the dream? If being “real” or “accessible” is what puts someone off, then is losing them really much of a loss? I do try to act like some celebrities, but I am selective about it. I look at people like Kerry King and some of the others I have worked with and see them as good models for handling people with respect and openness regardless of any celebrity status.

Is your wife going to be a Lizard Woman? Cuz that would rock.

My wife (IAM:Meghan) is not going to be Lizard Woman. She does have her own very interesting theme going though, all based around urban legends.

This may have been asked before but: Even though you started these modifications for yourself was there ever a point in time where you got such negative feedback that you questioned going any further with the transformation?

I had plenty of moments of doubt early on, which is why I took so long to get going with it but once I got started each piece made it more and more right. I have never gotten any feedback that made me question doing it; it was only ever a matter of getting past my own reservations. I am the only one that can make me worry or regret and in terms of my modifications I am past that. The wonderful thing about doing something for yourself is that while you can consider other people’s opinions, they are mostly irrelevant.

Did you ever receive a “special treatment” when crossing international borders (at airport controls etc). If so, were the security guards interested in getting to know you or did they perceive you as some kind of weirdo, that might be a security risk?

You seem to say it in a bad way but I do get special treatment now and then but almost always in a nice way. I am a very obvious non threat to most security personnel and as such I often pass by fairly easily. They are often curious though and will ask me lots of questions, even going so far as to take me out of lines and such to do so — but often this means I get expedited through the rest of the process, which is an advantage. Many security personnel remember me, especially at airports due to my frequent travel and I get greeted politely and treated better than average — which can often annoy the straight-laced businessman fumbling with his shoes while being patted down since I just stroll by.

How do you want your children educated?

Will they have body mods?

Are you scared of Israel because what they show on TV and do you think that one day you will come here?

I don’t want children, so I don’t want them educated. The children may be the future but today belongs to me!! (The Simpsons)… Since they will have no bodies, modification is non-applicable.

Israel doesn’t scare me in the least. I would gladly go there given the opportunity. Seeing some of the historical sites of the Middle East and walking on the great wall remain two of my very few unfulfilled travel ambitions.

I have the Treo 650. You have the 600.
How will you handle your wife eventually leaving you because I have the better phone?

PS: You was STILL the bomb on xfiles, yo!

My wife will actually mock you even more so than she does me. You having the 650 actually helps me divert attention from what she sees as my gadget fetish and overindulgence in technology. If there is one thing I can count on, it is Meghan not leaving me for anyone with a phone that isn’t some sleek tiny silver flip model that is only a phone, instead of the promethean gift which is TREO.

And yeah, I was damn good on X-files. Did you see how well I played the role of ThEnigma? Wardrobe did fantastic with the color change.

If you were getting your tongue split now, would you still go to Dr. Busino?
I’m sure that you get lots of messages asking about where one can go for a tongue splitting. Do you suggest doctors, or people in the community?

Historical revision questions are hard because lots of the option now only exist because of what was made known to be possible as a result of Busino and others. If I was just a person now looking to get my tongue split I would likely still go to a doctor but if I was me with the people I know I might opt for a cutter due to personal trust and knowledge of their work. I always recommend doctors first because they are better trained and equipped for emergencies (at least any doctor I would trust) and it helps avoid legal issues and potential community fallout in the event of problems.

If you could start over with another transformation theme, even if it involved mods that currently don’t exist or are unsafe but potentially possible, what would you choose and what would it involve?

The only other theme that has really stayed with me as something that would have been great to do is the full body maze tattoo, but really I don’t have any interest in a different theme just improving on this design as I can.

Are there any hobbies that you’d like to do but can’t or that you do but not to the level that you’d like to because you simply don’t have enough time to dedicate to them?

Plenty, although most are probably due more to laziness than true lack of time. It’s almost always lack of effort rather than time. I would really like to be better at computer programming. My juggling could use plenty of advancing beyond the simple three object patterns I can do now. I’d like to be a better unicyclist. And there is always the dream of professional pc gaming, but my skills are not on that level – yet.

I am sure people have or have tried to touch you without asking permission but has anyone ever caught you in the wrong mood and things got ugly.

The worst I can think of is me shouting at someone in a mall. Things rarely get any uglier than me getting loud as most people will back down at the sight of an angry Lizardman. If I recall right, someone grabbed at my arm while I was eating and I responded with something along the lines of a very loud, “Do not fucking touch me.”

Do you really think you can beat me in a freak off?

I mean seriously, I’d freak you under the table.


Are you still here? Seriously.

I hear you do good work under tables though…

Orbax is Canadian for wet/dry vac.


Why do you still use AOL? I’m not too into computers, but even I know AOL sucks… Why do you continue to stick with it? FREAK THE WORLD!!

In the mid to late 90’s AOL was the game in town — especially for people who traveled and wanted to be able to dial up from anywhere. Having established addresses there years ago, it is still used by many traveling performers and corollary professionals (tour managers, etc). AOL sucks and as a user I know it sucks much more than most. But all I use it for is mail and since they have recently opened up their servers so I can use other programs to access it, I hardly ever run their software. That said, I am currently looking at other options and will likely make a gradual transition to a new address over the course of this year. This is not something I or anyone else who lots of business takes lightly since I still remember how many missed and delayed messages happened when I last switched addresses.

warum warum ist die banane krumm?

Um… yeah. Perhaps I should have babelfished this one..

If you chose not to be `The Lizardman` what would you of been…was there an alternate species that was viable..or would of been something like Mr. Sprague, attorney at law?

Most likely possibilities would have been educator, something I did do. Or a more traditional media artist.

When you die, what do you want done with your body : burial, cremation, embalming, mummification?

Burial or other rites are done for the living not the dead. I don’t much care but I will try and leave funds so as not to burden loved ones with expenses. Might be nice to die knowing that my ashes or remains baked into a cream pie would be thrown into the face of someone appropriate though.

The Lizardman goes to Am-Jam [The Lizardman]

The Lizardman
goes to Am-Jam


"I am having so much fun performing, I feel almost guilty. I think, my God, I hope no one comes and busts me for this."

– David Crosby


When I moved to Texas in late 2001, one of the fringe benefits I was greatly looking forward to was no longer having to shovel snow or de-ice my car. Why is it then that every January when NY is doing its best imitation of an icebox have I since traveled up north, back into the snow and cold?

To be part of the Am-Jam Tattoo Expo.


My connection with Am-Jam goes back six years now. It began in 1998 when an announcement for the upcoming 1999 edition of event was posted online in rec.arts.bodyart. At the time I was a regular reader and contributor to r.a.b. and having recently decided to get back into performance as a full time venture I contacted the poster – none other than then VP and now head poobah Jeannie aka “Mom”. Being so close to the actual date, things were pretty well locked down in terms of entertainment and budget but being that is was only a few miles from my apartment in Albany to the armory in Schenectady where the event was being held we struck a deal that I would come out and do a few things during the breaks in onstage activity and she would give myself and a friend or two passes into the show and some drinks. It wouldn’t be the first or last time I worked for free beer and good time.

I was accompanied out to the show by Scott, who has since gone on to become The Amazing Dr. Grift and an indispensable part of my show and business. Within moments of arriving we made fast friends with everyone there and Jeannie was soon calling us her “sons”. Throughout the day I would get onstage and do an act or two – a bed of nails, sew buttons to my arms, lift things with piercings, the blockhead, etc. It went incredibly well and the crowd loved it. This was also the source of one of my favorite all time crowd comments: “Man, that is fucked up!” The comment isn’t particularly notable in and of itself and I hear it a lot but when I heard it that day from a Hell’s Angel it meant a lot more. I was reaching people with a generally higher than average tolerance for the weird and unusual. We returned each day and did a little something every time – including a stint as the walkway for the leather fashion show with each model stepping on me on the bed of nails as they took the stage. In those three days we made lifelong friends and probably got overpaid in terms our drinking. Throughout the year we would do the same at other Am-Jam events. BME still contains galleries of some of the pictures I took, which also show a pre-implants and facial tattooing version of me:

Am-Jam would be a regular part of my schedule and integral part of the development of my show for the future.

Things continued on in much the same way for 2000, 2001, and 2002. These were years of great growth for myself and my show and every time we returned to Am-Jam it was like a homecoming and we did just a bit more. Am-Jam became the event where I brought media coverage to see me in action. Over the years I have been filmed and photographed there for numerous print publications including many industry magazines as well as German TV and print, National Geographic, and more. This year was no exception as I was joined and covered by a Hong Kong based magazine.

In 2003, I took on a new role – albeit briefly – as co-MC for the expo. This was also the year I met Spider Webb who was exhibiting a number of paintings and other pieces at the event. The meeting was fortuitous and resulted in not only a new friend but also a new tattoo as I became part of his “X” work by receiving an “x” tattoo under my eye. The experience I wrote for BME about the tattoo can be found here. That was the first and last year I would MC at the event and also the last year it would be held in Schenectady.

Liverpool, NY became the new home of the Am-Jam tattoo expo in 2004. And then, as before and as I am sure I will again I got in my car and drove from the warmth of Texas into the blizzards of western NY. The change of venue meant some very positive new things for the event. It was now partnered with a strong local radio station (105 The Dog) and there was a new hotel with much more space – and a full stage for competitions and performances. This was also the year that I would get my lips tattooed while there, by Miss Vicke. You can read about that here.

And that brings us to this year’s event.

The 2005 Am-Jam would be the first event in a two week run on the road for me and the show. I had hoped that we were well prepared for the trip north by our first gig of the year in Anchorage, Alaska a week prior but it was to no avail. New York proved to be colder than Alaska – by several degrees – during the time we were in each state respectively. Nonetheless, we made it through – mostly by staying indoors. We arrived on the Thursday evening prior to the event and said hello to all the family before getting some much needed rest after 30 in a rental car. Technically, it was split between two rental cars because around Cleveland our first car got a flat tire due a random chunk of metal in the road. As the show must go on, so must the car. We exchanged cars at the Cleveland airport and were back on our way.

A brief nap would be all we got before awaking to visit Scorch on the morning radio promo for the event. Before leaving for the radio station there was some local news to shoot for as well. I did an excellent job of disturbing the reporter and apparently the studio editor as my antics were mostly cut from the piece that ended up running throughout the day – still it did the job. We got back a bit before noon and had another nap before setting up the booth and opening up with the event at 6 PM on Friday night.

As might be expected for our sixth year, we had tons of familiar faces stop by and visit our booth. The snow held off for Friday but on Saturday we were effectively snowed in. It always snows during Am-Jam, but this just means you know where the party is and it’s not going to go anywhere. Saturday was also our performance day and we had a great time with equal response as always.

Sunday we made the decision to stay in the hotel through Monday which relieved of our usual need to pack up and rush goodbyes before getting on the road. We took things leisurely and enjoyed a successful show and weekend of business at the booth. That night, after shutting down it was a trip to the hot tub and strategizing for the upcoming bar show in Albany, NY and then another convention in Ohio.

There are always variables in life, especially that of a traveling performer, and sometimes the start of a new year can seem daunting but I feel assured that I can count on being at a lot more Am-Jams and every one sending me off better than the last into the rest of the year. My sincere thanks to the Am-Jam family and all friends old and new from the event that have helped make my show what it is.

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 © 2005 LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published January 13th, 2005 by LLC in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.




Can I touch you? [The Lizardman]

Can I touch you?

"The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment." />

– Warren Bennis

When I last took suggestions and then polled IAM members as to what annoying oft repeated question I should next address in a column I was more than a little surprised at the response:

Can I touch you?

My surprise was accompanied by a somewhat vexing block in terms of writing the column. This was exacerbated by a national tour and other concerns, but I did not simply walk away from the challenge. In fact, I regularly polled myself and some others as to the nature of this particular quandary.

I have touched upon the issue of touching before, notably in my column on confronting rudeness. However, that was primarily the case of unwanted contact and in particular, unexpected, unwanted contact. As we all probably know from experience, and perhaps are even guilty of ourselves, human beings are very tactile by nature. Touching may well be an instinctual response. We often find ourselves admonishing children to look with their eyes and not their hands but more than a few adults could use a refresher course on this subject. The sight of interesting and unusual modifications can often turn otherwise reasonable polite adults into children. A simple “can I look at your tattoos or piercings?” may be quickly followed by their grubby hands pawing away at you.

But what if they do ask (and wait for a response) to touch your tattoo, piercing, implant, or whatever? Now, it may be my paranoia acting up again but I think there is something potentially insidious at play here. Asking first is the polite thing to do but when refused it sets them up to play the victim and cast the modified person badly. How could you, the modified person, refuse such a polite request?

Actually, it’s quite simple. You don’t want to be touched. Touching someone is only rarely really appropriate behavior. Asking politely to do something inappropriate does not make it acceptable.

You might turn it around and ask them if you could touch them back, but this hardly amounts to anything unless every single modified person they ever meet does the same – even to the point of initiating the request. They will not know what it means to have strange people regularly trying to grab at them, and thus they will not appreciate the situation. They will go on thinking that it’s somehow different when there is body modification involved. The implication becomes one similar to the accusation of attention seeking. That people who modify their bodies are asking to be asked to be touched.

While not as desperately serious as saying a woman in a skimpy outfit wanted “it” after a rape, this is basically the same argument and it is as rampant as it is offensive and logically bankrupt. I only bring up such an abhorrent example as rape in hopes that it might be enough to wake some people up. Touching someone’s tattoo without consent is an assault; the constant requests to touch are harassment.

But of course, this is a foggy minefield to walk through since everyone has their own comfort level for physical contact and requests. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I often let people touch my tattoos, implants, and piercings. However, I reserve the right to refuse anyone at anytime regardless of past acceptance on my part.

The fact that enough people suggested and voted on this to make it the overwhelming choice for a column tells me that many people are not having trouble. My initial reaction was along the lines of, “well, at least they are asking instead of just grabbing,” but I see now that misses something.

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 © 2005 LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published January 13th, 2005 by LLC in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

The Lizardman’s 2004 Year in Review [The Lizardman]

The Lizardman’s

2004 Year in Review

Let the egoism continue! Once again, here is a review of the past year from the perspective of The Lizardman. Now, I’m not trying to apologize for my shameless self-involvement but this time around I have tried to include some more general references of note as well. Enjoy the linkfest.

* * *

Some things never seem to change (substantially). When I was writing the 2003 version of this column a year ago I had a small stack of books and pc games I was working through surrounding me.

As I sit here doing this one, I have a similar Christmas booty in front of me. January 2004 saw me off to a good start on the year. Shannon was kind enough to make my IAM page more open to the general public. I began a series of sideshow personality interviews beginning with my good friend The Amazing Blazing Tyler Fyre. I was filmed by MTV and National Geographic. I got one of now favorite and most beloved gadgets – the Treo 600. And perhaps most notably from a performance body modification perspective I once again worked at the AMJAM Tattoo Expo during which I had my lips tattooed.

This was the month of the nipple piercing – thank you Miss Jackson! When I get to nipple on broadcast TV and a pierced nipple at that, I simply cannot contain myself. My feelings became expressed in a BME column, of course, and not surprisingly were far more enthusiastic than those of the popular press. February also saw this story on magnetic implants, a good month for modification. For my own mods I experimented with Kaos’s new silicone eyelets to stretch my septum. The results were positive except that after stretching with their eyelets I got my septum to a size where the only jewelry I could wear were the eyelets since non-squish-able jewelry over half an inch won’t fit up my nostril to be inserted into the piercing. Ultimately, I went back to a half inch for the jewelry options. Show wise, I made an appearance at Godsmack’s Grammy Party in LA, did a three day run in El Paso and Las Cruces (selling out and setting an attendance record for one of the rooms), and confirmed our spot on the Spring Jager Tour with Slipknot.

I moved to Texas but I didn’t escape the cold. March saw me drawn back up north for a small show at the bar in Albany where I used to work (now under new management and ownership) and a trip to Stratton, VT for the US Snowboard Open as an award presenter for Sobe. I also made a trip out to San Francisco to appear on Unscrewed. Back home in Austin, my wife became one of the new Satan’s Cheerleaders.

At the end of the month I left for the Spring Jagermeister Music Tour but not before getting
my fingertips tattooed.


All of this month and half of May were spent on the road as the host of the Jagermeister Music Tour. This was one of the best tours I have ever had the honor of being part of and stands out as one of the great experiences of my life.

After returning from tour I took easy for a couple weeks before heading up to Detroit for the Inkslinger’s Convention. More noteworthy for the month were the ocular modifications appearing on BME like the stories on eyelid piercing and eye implants.

Ronald Reagan died this month; my feelings about him are pretty well summed up in the Ramones’ song: Bonzo goes to Bitburg. It was good month for promotion. A number of TV shows I shot for were aired and I received the first shipment of Jagermeister sponsored gear: shot glasses & lighters. This was also the month that I celebrated my 32nd birthday and got my ears tattooed.

Start of a month with BMEfest and its pretty much all downhill from there. That is, unless you are buying a house. This was the month that Meghan and I found and put in our offer on what would become our home.

Things got busy fast in August. Meghan and I closed on our new house, which meant moving. All the while I was spending 4 days or more a week in Dallas as a guest performer with the Brothers Grim Sideshow. I also went out to the Navajo Nation and performed at Window Rock fest. I believe I may have set a record this month, as well, when I pulled my car with my stretched earlobes for an audition tape – I didn’t get the part though, for being too extreme.

I continued to split my time for the first half of the month between Dallas at the sideshow and home in Austin. While home there was moving, unpacking, and renovations to be done. In Dallas we not only performed but also filmed with Discovery – a series of vignettes for a number of programs that should air in 2005. I also got a little tattoo work done. A short trip north was made for the Boston Tattoo Convention during which MTV finally decided to air our wedding (without letting us know).

The month for me began with a new round of debating and interviewing over tongue splitting legislation. This time it was in New York. It behooves us all to stay abreast of what is being done legislatively – even in states other than our own. I got a little more green fill done this month but the mod I remember most, if you want to call it that, was a serious ear cleaning. I had a sudden wax buildup that nearly deafened me and needed to be removed by a doctor. With the Fall Jagermeister Tour not starting till the end of the month I only had one show to do (Theo’s in Corpus Christi) and passed the rest of the time mostly relaxing at home and learning to program

Another national tour! We hit the road with Jagermeister once again. While on tour Meghan and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary.

I didn’t get back from the jager tour with Slayer till over half way through the month and then it was all holidays. While not much happened modification-wise for me personally, there was this story on BME about pierced eyeglasses and, of course, the ten year mark for BME.

* * *

There you have it. I promise some more substantive columns soon but for those looking for more year end nostalgia why not try here.

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 © 2005 LLC and Erik Sprague / The Lizardman. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published January 13th, 2005 by LLC in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

Dealing with the Media [The Lizardman]

Dealing with the Media

“The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled and rearranged and evaluated differently.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The media loves modified people. As a rule, we are visually interesting, provocative, and often present a curiosity to their consumers that has been proven to draw ratings. Shannon recently presented a request for guests he received from the Maury Show on his page and as a result of my comments to him about it he suggested I write a column on dealing with the media. The following is a great deal of personal experience over the last decade combined with the usual dose of my opinions. I am sure there are others here on BME that can greatly add to this and I hope they will via the forums. It is important that as a community we take advantage of the media as the positive tool it can be rather than being taken advantage of by the media.

First, and most importantly, whether you are going to involve yourself with the media as a participant or just a consumer everyone should learn to look past the false glamour associated with media coverage. Appearing on TV, being interviewed on the radio, or whatever it may be is essentially meaningless. Take a look at your local paper and evening news and you will quickly see that a great deal of it is filler and that almost anyone and anything can end up there. Getting covered should not be seen as an end or achievement in itself. If you fall for this you play directly into the hands of those within the media who wish to exploit you and you very likely damage any cause you might have. Media coverage is a tool you can use but it is also a force that can easily use you.

Always remember that the media has an agenda and a plan to achieve it. This is not to say that all media outlets and people are working on nefarious schemes but rather they quite simply do have something they are out to achieve and they will do so at your expense if necessary. Interviewing you or having you on as a guest is simply a method for them to achieve their goal. If you are going to deal with the media then you must also have an agenda and a plan. If you go in unprepared then it is most likely that you will get used and end up looking dumb, or in the best-case scenario you somehow get lucky and escape with your dignity intact but nothing or little gained. At a bare minimum, because it is a business, they will attempt to do as little as possible in terms of compensating you for your contributions.

Never underestimate your importance to the media. As a guest or subject you represent the raw materials of their enterprise. Media is business. No one there is working for free and neither should you. Often, getting compensated for your time and work (and it is work) is as simple as asking. Most worthwhile productions realize that they need to pay and will do so when asked, but rarely offer up front and then lowball. The exception to this being many news programs, which don’t pay on the principle that it would impinge on their integrity. Personally, I don’t see a lot of merit in this claim for most stories but the value of advancing your agenda and getting your message out can be valuable enough to offset not getting paid. Of course, this assumes you have evaluated your ideas and goals and formulated a way to achieve them that uses the media coverage you can get.

If you are going to deal with the media you have to do your research and plan your statements before you are recorded. Even very intelligent people often end up looking silly when hit up for ‘man on the street’ comments because they are not prepared for them. You should not only refresh your knowledge of your topic and ideas but also research the particular show or outlet you will be dealing with. Try to figure out their agenda and how you can either counter it or make it work for you.

At the Don Francisco show, Miami 2002.

Below I have broken down some practical tips and information about various forms of media. I strongly encourage anyone who is thinking about any involvement to consult with professionals whenever possible and if you are going to be doing it with any regularity a manager or lawyer are nearly a must because there is a lot to keep track of and having people who know the business help you is invaluable.

(newspapers, magazines, books and the like)

Print media almost never pays and is mainly suitable for advancing information or advertising yourself or your business. The exception is for photos — read releases carefully and make sure that they only allow for use in connection with the relevant story or entry and that it is only for one story or edition. This insures that any use is legitimate in terms of what you expect and that future use will result in further compensation. In terms of content I prefer to do the interviews by email so that I have a written record of what I said in an unedited form. If the interview is recorded for transcription I request a copy of the recording. Most people will supply complimentary copies of the finished product but are often lazy or forgetful about doing it.


Much like print, radio is almost always an unpaid gig. It is best suited for information and advertising. Most radio is live, which means you have to be on your toes and well prepared. Shows may be taped and edited for later rebroadcast, which means you should take care to not present them with anything they could easily manipulate if you think they may be hostile in any way. Very rarely will there be any contracts or releases involved unless they are also recording images for a website or something similar.


News: As I mentioned above, news shows rarely offer pay but they can useful in that news coverage often increases the perceived legitimacy of your statements. I won’t go into the difference between public perception and truth here, but it is worth noting that if you say something on the news it will likely go further than something spouted off on a talk show and reaches a different audience. News appearances often come with short notice and because the particular show has a story they want to run. It is very important to discern the motivation and goal of the story and to be extremely well prepared. The news rarely uses releases.

Talk Shows: Talk shows are probably the biggest offenders when it comes to claiming poverty and not paying guests. Many will try to draw people in with the promise of a free trip (hotel and airfare). This isn’t a horrible thing but the fact is that they do have a budget for guests and should at the very least be offering money for food as well. Initially, I generally tell them I want to paid AFTRA scale for the appearance. AFTRA is the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors and is similar to SAG (the Screen Actors Guild). They set minimum pay and rates for their members; this is what scale is — a minimum amount for a day’s work. You should also ask for residuals from future airings. This basically means that they agree to pay you a percentage of the original amount each time they air the episode again after the first time — with shows like Maury or Ricki Lake this can add up quickly. If they continue to balk about payment you can also suggest they pay you the day rate you would receive at your regular job since it is likely you will be missing some work to travel and appear. Sometimes they will take to this better and even news programs will sometimes go for this. In the end, don’t be afraid to stonewall — losing the appearance is not the end of the world. Check releases carefully and get help reading them through if necessary.

Domestic Cable (HBO original programs, Discovery, National Geographic, and so on): These programs have widely varying budgets but there is always money there for you — it is just a matter of how much. These shows pay to fly crews and equipment around the world, and there is no reason for you to put in the work (and these are usually the most work and disruptive to your usual life) without being compensated. This is where having an agent or manager really helps. Yes, they take a percentage but they often get you more than you would have on your own which makes up for their cut. It is very hard to get residuals from cable networks though, but worth trying — don’t let it be a deal breaker in their case.

International TV: For Americans, foreign television provides some of the most lucrative opportunities. Residuals are almost never there but the up front money is often much better. Again, an agent is very helpful. Many of these outlets pay people to find and shoot the stories and they let them keep the money in the budget that they don’t pay you. A good agent will know the current budget levels for these organizations and get you all you can.

I haven’t mentioned things like variety shows for performers or acting appearances because if you are going to do this then you really should be working with a professional to handle things. Hopefully this helps someone and don’t be afraid to ask me or anyone questions.

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 © 2004 LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published November 27th, 2004 by LLC in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

You just want attention, and You’re just trying to be different [The Lizardman]

You just want attention, and
You’re just trying to be different

“I am convinced the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.”

– The Scarecrow (L. Frank Baum)


Starting October 29th, The Lizardman will be touring with Slayer on the Jägermeister Musictour. Click here for tour dates, tickets, and more information.

In some recent columns I have addressed common questions that modified people often face from the general public. Along the same lines I thought it would be interesting to tackle potential responses to some of the more commonly made statements and assertions made to or about modified people. To get things started, here are two that I commonly hear and see, especially in online forum discussions, about myself and other visibly modified people.

“You just want attention.”

When I hear this the first thing that comes to mind is, “Yeah, so what?

Everybody wants attention; nobody likes to be completely ignored. It is the type and source of attention desired that varies from person to person. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention. The real offense, in my mind, would be to be undeserving of attention i.e. wasting the time of people who are nice enough to give attention. Through body modification you are at least increasing the odds of there being something interesting enough about you to warrant the attention.

The next thing, and this should be apparent by the fact that someone is commenting at all, is that any effort for attention has obviously been successful. Therefore, by making this particular comment the speaker is simply congratulating the modified person on their achievement of a perceived goal. Perhaps a simple “thank you” is in order. Then again, probably not.

What really sets this comment out as an attempted insult is the qualifier ‘just’. The impolite jerk — I mean, the speaker — is trying to imply that the only reason one would modify their body is for attention. Even if this were the case, this is still a very weak and shallow attempt at an insult for the very reasons I mention above. The incredibly simple view that any behavior, especially one with as many possible cultural and personal significances as body modification, could be reduced to only one base motivation indicates immediately that you are not dealing with a member of the intellectual elite. Even trying to introduce a concept like quantum causality or merging influences would be futile unless it were an attempt to elicit the all encompassing “Huh?” so common to their ilk.

It is far better to utilize a response more suited to the audience in question. One avenue would be to point out to the person the salient points of how we all seek attention and that it is not a bad thing (unless you are terminally boring). Another, and in my experience, more fun route is to turn things around. I like to suggest that it is the impolite jerk, oops I mean speaker again, that is seeking attention and doing so very likely out of jealousy for the modified person’s ability to attract and command attention. They are only making the comment in order to draw attention to themselves in a way in which they think will win them favor for being astute or clever, something they are clearly not. Unfortunately though, they are probably preaching to an equally ignorant choir. But in the event you can’t educate them, you can at least amuse your self with their mental fumbling.

Never refuse a microphone.

“You’re just trying to be different.”

I have often commented on how trying to be different is redundant at best since by nature we are all unique individuals. However, that ‘big picture’ view notwithstanding there are many instances in which separating one’s self out can be beneficial if not essential. This is only exacerbated by the fact that not everyone recognizes or operates in light of this fact. An environment where there is a large degree of commonality of characteristics only makes it that much easier for a person within it to lose track of their inherent uniqueness.

By purposefully decreasing the level of shared characteristics a person can help themselves to remain focused on their individuality and to develop and cultivate it. Furthermore, that person makes it far less likely they get lost in the shuffle by becoming more noticeable, for both good and ill, to others. And even ignoring this, the question remains as to what it is that is so bad about trying to be different? If we are all different then when someone implies there is something wrong with being different they must necessarily imply that there is something wrong with them as well. Toss that out and watch the confusion set in.

In theory, free thinking and going your own way are often celebrated and allegedly encouraged. However, in practice, we often see any significant variation or failure to comply with “the norm” is promptly denigrated and crushed whereas minor contextually non-threatening variations will be glorified under the guise of those alleged celebrations and encouragements.

As with the previous statement we also see the ‘just’ qualifier in play here again. And much of what I noted for “you just want attention” can also be applied here. Additionally, it can be pointed out that there are any number of methods which could equally or even more successfully garner attention and/or separate one from the crowd such as mode of dress or any number of behaviors besides body modification. And many of these would have the additional potential benefit of being far less likely to attract negative results such as these and similar statements. So, one might make the case (and I think often successfully) that the real motivation being evidenced is that of trying to be one’s own self.

If someone wants to tell me that I am just trying to be different I believe that I can more accurately show that I was already different and through my modifications I am simply trying to be myself on my own terms. But of course, I’m not surprised when at the end of my discourse I am greeted with another “Huh?”

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 © 2004 LLC. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published October 23rd, 2004 by LLC in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

What does your mother think? [The Lizardman]

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."

Mark Twain

Earlier this month I took suggestions in a forum on my IAM page for frequently asked questions that people would like to see columns written about. I took the suggestions and listed them in a poll which was, in turn, voted upon by visitors to my page. As a result of that voting a topic question for this column was chosen by the members of the IAM community, or at least those who chose to stop by and vote:

What does your mother think?

This is a question that I, like most body modification enthusiasts, have heard many, many times. Of course, it is just one variation on the theme of family reaction. As much as I do love my mother (who offered in jest to write this column when she heard about the topic) I do not want to leave out my father (whom many people have thought would disapprove due to either his teaching or military careers) or even my younger sister. Thus I prefer to respond in more general terms to the question: What does your family think?

I have often commented upon how important my family is to me and that without their love and support I may not have had the strength or courage to do what I am doing today. It is obvious to anyone who gets to know me even a little bit that my family is very important to me and that I have a great relationship with them. Of course, many people expect just the opposite to be the case. Because of this and the fact that I am aware of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family, I make a concerted effort to point out my good fortune regularly.

But getting back to the question, I often wonder, at least for an instant before boasting about my family, why does the inquisitor want to know what my family thinks? I’m not talking about interviews; this is a question that many people face regularly for no other reason than that they have chosen to modify their bodies. As with many of the more commonly asked questions, I suspect a masked hostility. I suspect it even more when the tone is seemingly unkind. And sometimes they even make it obvious — instead of asking the question they make a statement like ‘Oh, your poor mother’ or sarcastically quip ‘I bet your father is real proud.’ When I choose to dignify this type of behavior with a response, and per my confronting rudeness column I do believe it should be responded to, it is generally to announce that my mother is doing quite well and that both she and my father are happy to have raised a child that grew up knowing how to conduct themselves properly and politely — obviously unlike some people’s parents.

So, just for fun now, let us consider why someone might ask what a person’s family thinks of their modifications. They might be legitimately curious but outside of people who are also modified, or considering it, and looking to find out about the situations of similar people to themselves I doubt this accounts for many questioners. Others might be looking to throw proverbial salt in what they suspect may be an open wound. I may be overly suspicious but I think this is the category into which the most will fall.

There is also the chance that the person has not actually made up their mind about you and your modifications. It is certainly not uncommon for a person encountering someone with very public or unusual modifications to be thrown off balance. I have, on a few occasions, had people be clearly unsure of what to think of me that were then rather calmed and pleasant after finding out that my relationship with my family was quite positive. Ostensibly, this would mean that being able to maintain a good family bond indicated a positive trait for them and enough so as to remove concern over the behavior of modification.

This leads me to the other question that sometimes leaps to my mind when people ask about family: ‘Why does it matter what my family thinks?

I am an individual. And, I endorse some rather extreme forms of individualism. To me it seems perfectly rational to say that it doesn’t matter what my family thinks and it is far better that I live for myself. Circumstances have granted with me a family that loves and accepts me, but if things had been different it would be better that I struggled through living the way I wanted rather than caving in to pressure from them. I can understand why many people, as a result of social conditioning, would be highly inclined to believe that maintaining a good family relationship is admirable but I do not accept that it should come at the cost of one’s own self. As good as my relationship with my family is, I would be lying if I said there were not bumps in the road and there were times that I had to say I was going to go ahead regardless of what they thought. Fortunately, I found out that my family is open-minded and intelligent enough to love and respect me even more for following my own way. If this had not been the case things would have undoubtedly been harder for me but it would still have been the right thing for me to do, in my opinion, to go on without their support.

I know that a lot of readers do not have the luxury of a family like mine. So, to close this column I want to move away from the topic question a bit and talk about dealing with family. As I have said before, clichés are clichés for a reason — there is truth in them. You don’t get to choose your family and you cannot escape that they are your relatives. As such, there is a certain prudence in taking extra care when dealing with family. Remember that it is a two way street — what hurts you, hurts them and what hurts them, hurts you. Particularly in dealing with parents you should keep in mind that, even if misinformed and misguided, much of their behavior arises out of deep concern for the well being of their children. My optimistic side makes me want to believe that if they truly love you they will eventually come around to realize it is more important that they accept you for who you are. Now, the potential of that future moment is, I realize, little comfort when in throws of what are often highly emotional and irrational battles but it is important to keep it in mind to prevent going past a point of no return. Your family is very likely trying to reconcile all sorts of information on modification, much of it poorly represented or blatantly misrepresented by popular media, and doing so in light of someone they love and care about being involved with it.

Just as you should educate yourself about any modification you want to undertake, you should also, at least attempt to, educate your family and those who matter to you. Let them know, as best you can, about the history, method, and most importantly the personal significance. Do not ask them to somehow psychically divine your motives, especially when your actions may be very foreign to them. By involving and informing them you make it that much easier for them to be accepting even if they cannot fully understand.

Lizardman Q&A #8 [The Lizardman]


Hey Lizardman fans! Theo‘s in Corpus Christi, Texas (5815 Weber Road) is christening its new stage with a Lizardman and Live Music show
on October 16, 2004.

Lizardman Q&A #8

The brief respite from Q & A columns seems to have been a good thing as this time I got lots of fun questions. Hopefully you enjoy reading them with my responses as much I liked getting them.

swirly wanx sinatra


If you were to run for president what would your policies be?

My policies would be enough to make sure I never got elected, or at least ensure my assassination. Rather than address the myriad of issues a presidential candidate must formulate policy on, I will simply put forth one I think is most important to our future and also the one least likely to happen (which is unfortunate since I consider it absolutely necessary):

The abolishment of the legal status of corporations as individuals and/or entities in terms of liability or action. I would demand that all businesses ‘have face(s) put to them’ such that there was direct and obvious culpability for any and all operations.



What wouldn’t you do for a truckload of cash? Meaning, is there a moral you won’t break for any amount of money???

I once turned down over $10,000 to eat a football as part of the superbowl halftime show. This was the same one that featured the infamous Janet Jackson nipple. Since no one else did it either I guess they dropped the bit or just couldn’t find anyone — frankly the former seems much more likely. It wasn’t so much a moral decision as it just wasn’t my thing. I’m sure I could do it but I didn’t want to. I don’t have a lot of moral objections but I am very obstinate about only doing what I want or absolutely have to do.

Is there a trick in your act that you’re afraid to do sometimes?

Not on a regular basis but there are times when due to random circumstances I get a little nervous – not so much for my safety but more because I think it’s not going to go right and thus detract from the show. If I have any safety worries I just don’t do it – that’s why I am not in the morgue.

Do you believe the stranglehold corporations have on the youth of today will affect our future?

I don’t believe that corporations do have a stranglehold on the youth. I believe they have an undue amount of access to power and influence, but I also think that their position is fragile and that anyone ‘under their hold’ can break out or be broken out at any time. As for the future, I think we do have to be vigilante and that corporations will play a large role but if it is to be as dark as your question implies is up to us, not them.

If you found yourself with a large burst of cash in the million dollar range from a film or advertising contract, how would you spend it?

I have given this some thought – probably too much thought when weighed against the likelihood of it actually happening. But hope springs eternal, just like my get rich quick schemes…

  1. $250,000 – Pay off mortgage and remaining student loans, sell current home, purchase lot, and construct “dream home”. Dream home is more a matter of custom design than furnishing and this could all likely be done for much less – any excess would be channeled into #3.
  2. $500,000 – Create funds and investments for our future. Start up money for various business ventures. I would continue to work (at highly reduced rates) being far more selective about projects and donating much more time.
  3. $250,000 – Given away to family, friends, and as patronage to the arts and sciences.

What will you do if elements of your transformation backfire? That is, what if your brow implants start to erode the orbit or otherwise damage your face? What if your teeth decay and have to be extracted? It wouldn’t be the first time that modifications believed to be safe went bad.

I have given a lot of thought to this, especially when I started to see some of the first stories on complications with implants. They present the biggest potential worry to me but seem to be doing ok thus far – if they need to come out, they will and it will sadden me since I like them so much. If my teeth decay then I can always get the implants that were part of my original idea but I do prefer having my natural teeth.

I have often said that life is an odds game. I am playing and will continue to play the odds I am comfortable with. If things backfire there is really nothing to do but go on, hopefully a little bit wiser and able to let others know how to better their odds.

What is your backup plan? If the ability to work as a freak totally disappeared and America became highly conservative, what would you do?

The loss of a viable market for work as a freak is one thing. It would mean that I would have to either move or travel regularly to where such a market still existed – and I really think there will always be a market somewhere in the world for what I do. Obviously, I am more than willing to do the traveling and if absolutely necessary I would move.

The loss of the market for reasons of extreme cultural or social backlash represents something else entirely and implies not only a lack of work but also an openly hostile daily existence. In such a situation I am ready and willing to fight (take that as you will) so long as I see a possible victory – but I will not martyr myself or my happiness. If I believe the shit has hit the fan I will not hesitate to extricate myself through any and all means available or necessary.

Superstarlet AD  

Does performing ever feel like a chore? Do you have the same dread of going to work that most people have?

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had some days when I was tired or sore and just wasn’t as into it as usual. However, I know the ‘work dread’ from my previous more typical jobs and I have never felt like that about performing. In fact, it is usually thinking about how cool it is to get to perform for a living that gets me over being tired, sore, and cranky.

Where’s the best place you’ve performed (in terms of money, crowd reaction, or any other factor)?

Money: (tie) German & Japanese Television

Crowd Reaction: (tie) The 2nd Annual Sideshow Gathering / Jagermeister Music Tour

Personal Satisfaction: Coney Island

Would you ever give up your freak career for more financial security? If so, how much money would it take?

It would take the proverbial butt load and even then it would depend on the conditions. Do I have to work a new job? Am I somehow banned from performing? There are other jobs I could see doing, but not many, and if I was amply compensated I suppose I could go without publicly performing but I would still be doing the acts on my own in private – these activities are part of who I am.

Why haven’t I seen any Lizardman action figures in toy stores?

Ask the toy manufacturers. I want it to happen (and yes, I have tried and will continue to).

[Editor’s note: BME actually made Lizardman action figures, but we were never happy with the final product and did not release them publicly… but there are about 50 Lizardman action figures in existence!]

Do you ever hear audience members explaining the “tricks” behind your act to others in the audience, and does it bother you when people don’t believe that what you do is real?

Well, I don’t do tricks so there is very little if anything to explain – in fact, I often explain it as I do it. Explaining my acts would be a lot like explaining tightrope walking i.e. ‘He is just putting one foot in front of the other and not falling.’ Sure, I get the occasional wannabe expert who thinks he can explain the bed of nails or some other act via physics but the fact is that I push the physics (like using sixteen nails or less) to a point where most people can’t or won’t ever want to go. Knowing the science behind pole vaulting doesn’t mean you can go break the record and knowing the science behind fire eating doesn’t mean you will pull it off without getting horribly burned. Such people are basically sorrowful killjoys who don’t know how to enjoy a show — I pity them.

As for people thinking my acts aren’t real, I go through a lot in the show to prove the veracity of what I do. In the end though, if you don’t believe it then that’s your thing – try and enjoy the presentation at least. I have heard incredible theories as to how I do some of the acts because people won’t accept what they see… it amuses me that the simple obvious truth is not acceptable to them.

One guy claimed that the gavage wasn’t real because he claimed all the fluids stayed in the hose – he didn’t deny that it was in my stomach via my nose; instead he claimed that all the fluid in the pump (more than a quarter gallon) stayed in the tube when the handle was depressed and then was sucked back out of just the tubing when the handle was pulled and thus he claimed I wasn’t really pumping my stomach. How crazy is it to think I would stick a tube up my nose and down into my stomach for an illusion? It seems that it is just about as crazy as believing six feet of quarter inch diameter tubing can hold over a quart of liquid volume. Not to mention the extra stuff that comes up with it or when I make blue fluid from the pump mix with yellow fluid I drink and turn green when extracted. The gavage is one of the most obvious ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ acts but still people question it – I can’t let it keep me up at night.

Does it creep you out at all that someone has a tattoo of your face?

Not at all – I think it is incredibly cool. I just hope that down the road they still think it is as cool as I do.


What human quality do you admire the most?


What human quality annoys you the most?


Are there any foreign cultures that influence you?

I have been influenced by a lot of cultures. Outside of my own culture I believe I have drawn a lot from the Assyrians, Chinese, Japanese, Ancient Greeks, Ancient Egyptians, Native Americans, and Polynesians to name but a few. I make it a point to expose myself to as many different worldviews as possible and I have yet to find one that has not given me something positive to add to myself.

What body modification do you plan to get next?

The next actual modification will probably be a tattoo session. However, the next thing that I am considering outside of already ongoing processes would be a navel negation. I have been discussing this with plastic surgeons and it seems likely that I will soon have my navel effectively removed (i.e. smoothed over as if never there).

Is there any modification that you would like to get done but they don’t have the technology for it?

Alligator / crocodile tail graft.

Live For Pain  

In a society of today’s culture, how do you feel about the banning or prohibiting body modification? Such as tattoos, body piercing, or surgical modification?

Obviously, I would be opposed to it and I believe it would almost certainly fail and eventually come back to bite those behind it on the ass. Parts of my rights and responsibilities column address this further:

What About When You’re Eighty?

What About When You’re Eighty?

“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are cheese.”

Billie Burke

The Lizardman Q&A columns have been a lot of fun but also a little repetitious of late. So, I have been trying to think of things and ways to make them a bit more fun and new again. Quite frankly, I was at a loss and not sure I was going to do one at all this month. Fortunately, inspiration struck in the form of a comment in one of my journal entry forums by IAM:saram.

The entry (IAM members click here to read it) had been about doing things (body modification or not) on the basis of true personal individual motivation rather than as a result of wanting to fit in or not fit in as the case may be. Sara posted to the effect that she thought these arguments were silly, as I did, and then wrote:

I find other repetitive questions to be far more interesting, like, “How will you feel about [a mod] when you’re eighty?” It’s a silly question, but at least it’s more thought-provoking.

As a result, I then and there promised an article on that very question and realized something that would, at least to me, be a fun potential series of columns. As already stated, the following will be a discussion of that often related query, “what about when you are eighty?” In future months I will be posting other repetitive questions on my IAM page and letting people vote on the next one that I should address. And for fans of the old freestyle Q&A, I am sure it will make a return sometime soon as well.

So, what about when I am, or you are, or anyone else is eighty?

Will women still swoon over an aging Lizardman in 50 years?

I do get asked this question a lot. Most often the motivating factor behind it seems to be a concern or allegation that I have not really considered the consequences and rushed into things. Of course, this is very far from the truth. I spent nearly four years developing, designing, and considering what I was getting into before ever getting tattooed. Even once I had started I broke my overall project up into sections that would allow me reasonable ‘exit points’ if I changed my mind for some unforeseen reason. This means that I spent more time considering this than some people spend together before getting married or having kids. Ask yourself seriously if you think it is more foolhardy to publicly tattoo yourself or to bring a life into the world without forethought?

Explaining all of this and adding that last bit for perspective is often more than enough to satisfy the inquisitor, but if I look at it carefully it does not really answer the question asked — it simply dissolves it by addressing the concerns that motivated the question. Philosophically, being of a Wittgensteinian bent, I love this. But, let’s try actually answering the question itself.

When I am eighty, or however old I live to be since eighty is just an arbitrary age which most people would throw out as a point of getting reflective, being potentially on the way out (which is rather pessimistic since I fully plan on living well past a century), what will it be like to have been tattooed, pierced, and otherwise altered? Obviously, there will be some physical degeneration — that is part of aging despite the best efforts of technology, medicine, and lifestyle. I actually look forward to aging, to living through the process. My modifications may have some unforeseen implications but that’s half the fun (some wrinkling could potentially make scales look that much cooler) and not a deterrent unless they are seriously debilitating. In a somewhat analogous way, I would point to people getting their ears pierced and wearing the very common French hook style jewelry — would putting up pictures of old women’s ears who have been slowly ‘cheese cut’ over decades of wearing these earrings put an end to mall piercing stands? Hardly. The doctor who split my tongue mentioned doing a brisk business of re-working the ears of people who had worn so called ‘normal’ earrings throughout their lives — a nice thing to point out since many of the inquisitors have just such piercings.

The more I think about it, I just don’t believe that people asking the question are at all concerned with a direct answer such as the above. They are more thinking about what type of life you will be leading as you age and what you will be doing to support yourself or such when you reach that ripe age. Even more so, I am all but convinced that the vast majority of people who pose this question are simply looking to play out a superiority trip and accuse people with body modifications of throwing away their lives in some way — especially when it is asked with the implication of future regret.

So what about regrets and quality of life for the modified? Well, it seems like quality of life need not be a problem at all if people would simply be polite and open minded enough to accept that a modified appearance is not necessarily an indicator of much more than personal aesthetic preference. The problem is not my modifications, but your ignorance and prejudice. Given a moment of rational clarity I would hope most people would prefer the eradication of close minded ignorance (on all subjects) to that of something as potentially positive and affirming as body modification. Most regrets will likely fall from the same tree.

Now given that I am not entirely naïve to the world, despite my best efforts to be, and I hope you aren’t either I will discuss regret a bit more pragmatically — regardless of body modification. Wondering ‘what if’ seems to be a wholly natural and likely universal activity for people and is not the same as regret. Often when wondering ‘what if’ you may imagine a scenario much grander than your current reality but this should not necessarily lead to regret. I can honestly say that I have absolutely no regrets at this point in my life because even in those situations where I can ‘what if’ myself into much nicer scenarios for myself and others I still made the best decision I could given my knowledge and options at the time. Just because I look back now at what I know to be bad decisions, I do not regret them since being the exact same situation at that same time again I would do the same thing. Hindsight is 20/20 but unless you intentionally acted in a way you knew to be wrong I do not see cause for regret.

I cannot guarantee that you or I will be happy when we are older but if we act in the best manner we have known and available to us I have very high hopes.

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 © 2004 BMEZINE.COM. Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published August 26th, 2004 by BMEZINE.COM in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.