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:
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.
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.
This time around with the Q & A, I tried asking for question sets instead of just random one-offs. Some people got into it, others didn’t. I wouldn’t call it a failed experiment, but there is that ever present room for improvement. Thanks to everyone who contributed questions and tune in again next month when I try again.
The first time I encountered Bill O’Reilly’s irrational views on body modification was some time ago when he appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly. I was flipping channels and came across the show, and having only heard a little about Bill at the time I decided to stop and get some firsthand experience of him. The thing that has stayed with me from that interview was Bill’s reaction to seeing Carson’s forearm tattoo. With no more provocation than the sight of the tattoo, O’Reilly began to voice his extreme disapproval, tinged with sorrow, over people — particularly young people like Carson — getting tattoos. I do not have a transcript but the phrase ‘hate to see young people ruining themselves’ sticks in my head. While those may not have been his exact words at that time, they are certainly in line with the position he continues to espouse today, often without any prodding.
Besides revealing his prejudice a propos of nothing, the other thing that makes this notable for me is the context. Here is a man (O’Reilly) who as the guest on the show is lamenting how someone younger than he is, with (at the time) two very strong television shows has ruined himself and his future by getting a tattoo. I really think that Bill would do better concerning himself with his own career than that of Carson who could likely rest comfortably on his laurels for the rest of his life already and shows few signs of slowing down. Also, as Carson was quick to point out, this particular tattoo is a tribute to his father. O’Reilly was hardly fazed at this, though it was enough for him to shift off from discussing Carson’s tattoo to tattoos in general and then letting the subject go for the moment. So, when faced with fact that he had ignorantly spouted off about a tattoo that by anyone’s standards would be a beautiful and solemn gesture he did not apologize or reconsider but simply went on pontificating, conveniently overlooking his misstep and the glaring exception to his argument sitting next to him.
Since this incident I have had the chance to hear O’Reilly denigrate tattoos and piercings regularly — most often in his radio broadcasts. When I am on the road I tend to search for talk radio and encounter him on the airwaves frequently. He often lumps being tattooed or pierced in with violent or antisocial behaviors, illiteracy, misogyny, and other undesirable qualities or activities. Sometimes he goes so far as to say that a visible tattoo or piercing is an indication that the wearer is a social degenerate. Frequently, he points to how people with visible tattoos or piercings will not be able to get jobs and thus make any contribution to society. Consider the following quotes:
My first question to Bill would be, where has this prejudice come from? It seems a bit too overdone, even for a pundit (the job description of which could easily read ‘making gross and unjustified generalizations’), to be simply a symptom of the residual Western puritanical stigma attached to most forms of body modification. Perhaps every pierced and tattooed person that Bill has ever encountered or heard of was an ignorant, violent, leech on society with no redeemable human values. Maybe he somehow managed to overlook all of the good people who are pierced and tattooed — the policemen, firemen, doctors, scientists, and just plain good folks (including ones with neck and hand tattoos that work for IBM — I know of a few) . I won’t deny that there are some truly repugnant people in the world and I will freely admit that some of those people are pierced and tattooed but there is something very important that Bill O’Reilly seems determined not to see:
Heroes have tattoos too.
In fact, if I were to over-generalize my experience in a similar manner I would be saying similar things about people without visible tattoos or piercings. Nearly every person who has ever accosted me for money or that I have observed or experienced acting poorly in public was not notably modified. Conversely, the nicest and most successful people I know are very publicly modified.
And this is why Bill O’Reilly fears me — and probably you too. We rip the carpet out from under his proverbial feet. As much as he would love to paint us all as exceptions that prove the rule, there are just too many of us spread across too many fields and endeavors. And here is a note to Bill and anyone else who wants to tread that path: In real logic, the exception never proves the rule. Furthermore, many tattooed people are not employees because they are employers!
If there is a silver lining to the success that allows O’Reilly spew his ignorant prejudice to such a large media audience it is that it means he will almost certainly never return to his former career as an educator. Yes, as he himself is often quick to point out, O’Reilly is a former teacher. Coming from a family of teachers and having teaching experience myself (ranging from elementary to college level); I shudder to imagine Bill O’Reilly entrusted with care of developing minds. Per his prejudice against body modification and despite claiming to hold personal freedom in high regard he advocates draconian methods in response to students who he describes as disrupting classrooms through body modification and or dress. I can only hope that his replacement was more enlightened and realized that instead of removing someone from the system until they comply by force, that issues of difference, including dress and body choices should be addressed for the benefit of all in the class. On that topic I would suggest Bill (and others) make a careful read of the columns by BME’s own Shannon Larratt on the subject:
As a final note, I will mention that I was contacted to appear as a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show over a year ago when tongue splitting legislation stories were hot and I was getting the chance to debate some of the legislators, often pointing out their complete lack of any facts on the subject. Bill and his producers seemed interested in the story because they agreed with my take on it being an issue of freedom and pointless legislation of prejudice (The [Modified] Body Politic). I also suspect that the writers of the bill’s political affiliations may have played a role. However, the appearance and story was canceled. I cannot say for sure as to why — I was told that they decided to cut it in order to give more time to another story. Here is an alternate theory: Having contacted me and done some basic research on me based on information I directed them to on my website and BME, the producers and Bill realized that I would not be attacking the tongue splitting legislation but also look to press him on his stance on body modification. Could it be that Bill O’Reilly didn’t want to have to defend himself and give airtime to an educated well prepared opponent with a tattooed face?
Read on and find out.
Read on and find out.
sinceresoul: How long did your facial and head tattoos take, and how many sittings did you go through?
ttowla: When you do television shows and interviews they focus on your “freak” side and your sideshow act, but do you ever want to show that you do “normal” things as well? (Like eat steak, or do your own laundry, and that you don’t consume bugs at all meals etc.)
perk900: I have a very important question? Bacon: How do you like it? Crispy, chewy, or burnt to a fucking crisp?
Reverence: Which do you prefer, performing on the east or west coast and why? Or do you have no preference?
Herra Kuolema: I heard you can juggle. What props do you use? Balls, clubs, rings, diabolos, devilsticks or what? And how many? Thanks for this piece of information.
Badine: It seems that you meet all different kinds of unique people on IAM. Not to mention that a lot of people (including me) admire you for your intelligence, your awesome sense of humor and your cool ass mods! What do you think of the fact that tons of people want to hang out with you and talk to you? Do you enjoy meeting and making friends with IAMers? And I bet you get flooded with IMs too! Thanks in advance for answering my question.
Sicklove: Of all the cities in the world you have been to, besides your wife, was there another reason besides love that decided your move to Texas in concrete?
Mars: Assuming you could find a qualified artist, and you believed there were no safety concerns, would you get your eyes tattooed, and if you did, what would the tattoo look like (ideally)?
matt gone: I am seamlessly tattooed between my legs, meaning it is tattooed solid everywhere. Even places that normally do not accept tattoo ink. Will you go this far even though it may be one of the most painful and difficult ordeals you will ever go through? Tattooing the genitals is one thing, behind them is quite another. You have to spend days in bed not moving like a surgical procedure and have multiple sessions. It is the worst. Will you go that far?
big lobed freak: Do you have any plans to stretch your ears larger? If so do you have a goal in mind?
schizonoid: What kind of negative reactions do you get to your mods, other than people staring, pointing and talking amongst themselves? What’s the worst reaction you’ve gotten? Have you ever felt bad after having gotten a bad reaction from a child for example? Come to think of it, I’m guessing their mothers are more prone to bad reactions than the kids themselves.
Goat: Was college worth it?
I know you’re into computer gaming, but what’re some other games you like to play (board, card, etc)?
Will this really be the last Q and A?
Misticals: Do you ever plan on having children? If so are you going to raise your child the cookie-cutter traditional way (or as close to possible) or your own special way?
grammaton_cleric: I have always wondered how you made the decision to undergo a full body transformation and also why you picked the lizard to transform into.
LoveIsUnity: I have a question I have been wanting to ask for a while but it seems all the previous Q and A’s have slipped by me. Which philosopher has beliefs and ideas most similar to your own?
Badine: Do you plan to get anything else pierced?
glider: How do you feel about people getting tattoos of your logo or your likeness on themselves?
In comparison to many performers/celebrities, you are very approachable and “real” to your fans, and to some extent there appears to be a blurring of the line between “friend” and “fan”. How does people perceiving you as a real or “down to earth” person affect the public freak persona that you need for the career aspect of your life?
How and why the modified should go on the offensive
The fight against rudeness is very serious. It is the fight for your well being and the well being of others. To be treated rudely is to be denigrated, and when done regularly it can destroy people. Being constantly put down and mistreated can have tremendous psychological effects. This is only exacerbated by having everyone else around you reinforcing the idea that you deserve the mistreatment by letting it pass as acceptable behavior. In time, the mistreated may even come to believe that they are worthless or deserving of abuse. Suicides are not the result of bolstered self-confidence and being treated with respect!
When I first thought of doing a column on rudeness, my motivation was to approach the subject from the point of view of the modified individual confronted with rude actions and reactions on the part of the individual. In the past I have attempted to address the general public on issues of how to politely approach and discuss things with those whose modifications catch their attention. But clearly, the audience I have the best chance of reaching is the modified.
I am not going to use this as a forum to list or vent about the barrage of endlessly stupid questions or unconscionable actions that society overlooks when they are perpetrated against someone with visible modifications. You can get a quick idea of the sort of actions and comments, and the venom they inspire, by looking through many of the editorial experience submissions here on BME. Rather I want to discuss how and why the modified should respond with the goal of possibly enacting some positive changes.
First, it is important to accurately identify rude behavior. Rudeness is a very subjective thing. Whether or not something is rude from the point of the individual doing it is almost entirely dependent upon context and personal sensitivity. Sure, there are pretty clear cases – such as, perhaps the most egregious, unwanted physical contact: strangers grabbing or rubbing tattooed arms and the like without asking. Even though most cases might be pretty easily identified and accepted as rude, there are more subtle and perhaps even more dangerous forms. More dangerous because the less obvious it is, the more likely it will be overlooked and allowed to continue. I think that a good ‘rule of thumb’ is that if you feel mistreated, then you should take some action. If you think you might be too “thin-skinned” you might discuss it first with others, but you should not simply accept any mistreatment.
In identifying rudeness, especially in the case of modification, it is important to try and gauge the rude person’s motivations. Sudden exclamations may not be motivated by malice or prejudice but rather the shock and amazement of seeing something incredible and probably incredibly foreign to that person. They may very well actually be excited and find what they are seeing to be positive. When in doubt, you may wish to first discern the motivations behind the words or actions through observation or conversation to determine if it was a rudely motivated gesture or simply a misunderstanding before escalating to confrontation. In all but the most serious and obvious cases it is a good idea to give the benefit of the doubt. Think of how you would react in a similar situation – if something you were unfamiliar with suddenly walked past you, might you not forget yourself for a moment and exclaim out loud? As a person with a tattooed face I know that I still stare at other tattooed faces when I see them. To me staring is the natural reaction to something interesting. It is like a compliment – an unspoken way of saying, “Wow! Look at that – it’s cool!”
If you do feel someone has been rude to you then respond. But gauge your response appropriately. If you are suddenly grabbed by someone, that is assault and reacting physically or involving the authorities is perfectly reasonable. However, if a twenty year old man grabs you at a party and you punch him, the results will be far different than if an eighty year old woman grabs you in line at the grocery store and you punch her. By the letter of the law both cases should be treated the same but that is not how society works and we need to be aware of this.
Battling rudeness is, to my mind, a campaign for the hearts and minds (both of others and our own). I fully understand the feeling and motivation to make some bastard pay, but life is a lot like sports in that it’s often the second infraction that gets penalized. When you punch the jerk who grabs your arm you will probably get nailed for aggravated assault – whereas if you point out the rude behavior to the world you can shame and make an example of them. Shame is one of the best weapons we have against rudeness. People are social creatures and they tend to try really hard not to look bad in front of others. Pointing out rude behavior, especially when it happens in a public place can be very effective. Also, in terms of promoting the case of the modified it shows we don’t stand for such infractions. Shaming is also far less risky than physical action. In many situations physical action would simply be foolhardy. As important as it is to stand up for yourself, it is also important to keep yourself safe.
But why Respond To Rudeness? Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it. Why not just let it go?
It may seem that the reason to confront someone who is rude to you is as simple as the personal affront to you, the righteous indignation that they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. And while I would agree that this is a large part of it, it goes deeper than that. Rude behavior, like all behavior, is habitual and an expression of that person’s thoughts and opinions and mediated by what they believe is appropriate or what they can get away with. And while the shock of seeing an incredible or foreign (to them) modification may distort the boundaries for them, they are not going to act horribly inconsistent with their usual behavior.
Rude people act rude because they think it is ok or that they can get away with it, and they will continue to do so until something makes them think otherwise. Every time you have the opportunity to confront rudeness you have a chance to help reform that person’s behavior. In all likelihood, it will take many confrontations to break the habit of rudeness. And, as we all are all probably familiar, it is much easier for an established habit be reinforced than broken. When you do not confront rudeness, not only do you forgo a chance at helping stop it – you actually encourage it by giving that person the positive reinforcement of getting away with it.
Fighting against rudeness is fighting for survival. We cannot live and let live. That creed only works as a two way street – if you try and live and let live with someone who wants you gone, you will be crushed. Those who try to promote such a path are often just trying to set the other side up for a cataclysmic defeat. If you bury your head in the sand, someone will come along very quickly to bury the rest of you.
A little less than two years ago was the first time I ever heard of Nippulini — via online references and then his postings in an online sideshow discussion group. Since then I have gotten to meet and even share a stage with him at the 2ND annual Sideshow Gathering. He has made a serious dedication of himself to body modification and taken it to the stage with a rare passion. Now, in his own words; The Great Nippulini!
A little less than two years ago was the first time I ever heard of Nippulini — via online references and then his postings in an online sideshow discussion group. Since then I have gotten to meet and even share a stage with him at the 2ND annual Sideshow Gathering. He has made a serious dedication of himself to body modification and taken it to the stage with a rare passion.
Now, in his own words; The Great Nippulini!
NOTE: If you’re reading this on Wednesday, March 17th, then you can
Dick Zigun is the man. No, not that man, not the one that’s been holding you down all these years. He’s the good kind. Dick is the driving, some might say whip-cracking, force that helps keeps sideshow alive at Coney Island. He is an ever present icon at Sideshows by the Seashore overseeing daily operations and even taking part in the cast when needed as a talker. If you’ve caught any of the many sideshow documentaries and programs that have often graced basic cable networks such as Discovery and TLC in the last half dozen years then you have likely seen Dick acting as spokesman for Coney Island — and he is eminently qualified to do so.
I first met Dick Zigun when I did a guest appearance at Coney Island in 2002. And, at the risk of tarnishing his otherwise gruff reputation, I have to say that what impressed me most was how incredibly welcome he made me feel. Talking with Dick and working with his cast, I had never before felt so good and reassured about myself and the path I had chosen.
But, I don’t want to risk ruining his reputation any further, so let’s meet Dick Zigun!
From Exhibitions to Entertainers.
The modern Western perception of tattooing has been indelibly marked by its cultural association with the sideshow and its historical predecessor the traveling exhibit. Tattooing as an art form cut its teeth and developed in the West in great part due to the desire for and profit to be had by exhibiting tattooed people. At many circuses and carnivals one could not only see a tattooed marvel but also receive a permanent souvenir from the traveling tattoo artist on the lot. For years, tattoo artists commonly spent most of their time on the road with such shows, possibly also serving as its banner painter, and then wintering at a street shop location. A great example of such an artist, and an inspirational tale in its own right, is Stoney St. Clair whose life and work was documented in what is often considered a seminal work in the history of tattooing: Stoney Knows How (BOOK, VHS).
In this column (and part II) I am going to attempt to cover centuries of tattooed exhibits and performers. Chronicling how we have come from natives brought back from expeditions to their native land to our current age where performers such as myself, ThEnigma and Katzen, Lucky Rich, and many more have chosen to tattoo their bodies and exhibit them as part live shows.
In AD 325 Constantine, whose name would later be used by a tattooed attraction in a sort of poetic justice, banned tattooing in the Roman Empire. In AD 787 Pope Hadrian I issued a papal edict against tattooing. Of course, this did not stop the crusaders sent by later popes to wage war for the holy land from getting tattooed while there. However, for the most part these and other similar laws issued forth reflected a general Western prejudice that had developed in the culture against tattooing. Many alleged “experts” considered tattooing to be a sure sign of people being uncivilized and particularly savage. And it was with just such “savage” peoples that exhibitions of tattooing began to gain prominence.
In 1691, Giolo (or Prince Giolo) was taken by William Dampier in settlement of a debt. Dampier fixed upon the idea of exhibiting the tattooed Prince. The marketing for Giolo created a sensation in England, but the exhibition was ultimately doomed as Giolo came down with small pox and died shortly after arriving from the Philippines. Despite the exhibition not meeting expectations, the successful marketing drew attention and many people realized the potential profit in exhibiting native peoples and particularly those with tattoos.
In 1774 a South Seas islander from Tahiti named Omai returned to London aboard a ship from one of Captain Cook’s expeditions. Omai had only minor tattooing, mainly on his hands, but the fact that he was tattooed was a major part of his marketing and often exaggerated. Playing the role of the ‘noble savage’ Omai was incredibly well received and successfully toured most of England, including a royal audience. In 1776 he returned home.
With the success of these exhibits it was only a matter of time before Westerners themselves would hit upon becoming the attractions. Many sailors made efforts to exhibit their ‘souvenir’ tattoos but the standard for non-native exhibits would be set by a man named Jean Baptiste Cabri.
Cabri was discovered in 1804 living among the natives in the Marquesan Islands by George Langsdorff. Cabri, a French deserter, had ‘gone native’ and been extensively tattooed while living on the islands. Returning to Russia with Langsdorff, Cabri not only exhibited his tattooing but also told exaggerated tales of his life among the natives, effectively moving into performance and creating the archetype that would be followed by tattooed people for centuries to come. With good initial success he was able to successfully tour Russia and much of Europe. However, by 1818 his notoriety had declined and he had died in his native France.
After Cabri came Rutherford in 1828. John Rutherford, the first extensively tattooed English exhibit, returned to Bristol after having left for New Zealand in 1816. Rutherford was heavily covered in Maori tattoos and spun fanciful tales of shipwreck, abduction, and living with the natives. Rutherford was able to better capture the imaginations of his audiences than Cabri and further developed the basic elements and progression of the tales that would be mimicked by other tattooed people for more than a hundred years.
L-R: Giolo, Omai, Cabri, and Rutherford.
As it was in Europe, so it went in the U.S. The first tattooed person believed to have been exhibited in the states is generally held to have been James F. O’Connel. O’connel appeared at Barnum’s American Museum in 1842 telling tales similar to those of Cabri and Rutherford. He published and sold copies of his adventures under the title ‘The Life and Adventures of James F. O’Connel, the Tattooed Man, During a Residence of Eleven Years in New Holland and Caroline Islands’ (1846). While many attribute his appearance at Barnum’s Museum to mean that Barnum was the first to have a tattooed exhibit, there is evidence to suggest that he was already in residence before Barnum took over the museum and several exhibits from Dan Rice.
In 1873, O’Connel was succeeded by Prince Constantine (like the pope) in Barnum’s show. Constantine was a Greek man also known as Alexandrinos Constentenus aka Djordgi Konstantinus aka George Constantine and Captain Constentenus. He was very likely the most successful exhibit to date and for some time, commanded a salary of $1000 a week while also making good sales on his own book of adventures. This success was most likely due not only to his talent for spinning yarns but even more so for the quality and extensive nature of his tattooing. Constantine was covered with finely detailed Burmese style tattoo work. He is also notable for probably being the first person to completely tattoo their body with the specific goal of becoming an exhibition in mind. In the years to come many would follow his model. And, future exhibits were not the only ones he would inspire – it is said that the legendary tattoo artist Charlie Wagner was so struck upon seeing Constantine that he set out to learn to tattoo. This resulted in his finding an apprenticeship with James O’Reilly, who patented the first electric tattoo machine.
With Constantine we enter into what might be called the golden age of the tattooed exhibits. A time when hundreds of people got tattooed and made their living as part of traveling shows and museums. Also, the time in which we see the tattooed women come to the stage and even eclipse the men. This era, the decline of the traveling shows, and the return of the tattooed exhibit as performer in the modern sideshow renaissance will form the second installment of this two part column.
Much of the original research and work for this column was also used for the BME Encyclopedia which contains a number of entries related to and expanding upon the information presented here.
Much of the original research and work for this column was also used for the BME Encyclopedia which contains a number of entries related to and expanding upon the information presented here.
The Great Fredini is a man of many hats — and I understand the rest of his wardrobe is pretty nice too. Onstage he is an MC, a talker, magician (the world’s worst, by his own description), a blockhead, a ventriloquist, and a sword swallower. Fredini also does the Coney Island website design (coneyisland.com) and works with Funny Garbage (funnygarbage.com). And while he no longer regularly performs as part of the Coney Island Sideshow cast, he hasn’t left the stage behind as he now hosts This or That (thisorthat.tv), the resident burlesque show.
It is the probably the most popular topic of conversation post-Super Bowl. Not the game, not even the ads, but rather; the nipple. And, since that nipple was not only pierced but even further adorned with a stylized nipple shield, then what better place to discuss it than here on BME?
For those of you who, like me, have little to no interest in football (I watch the halftime shows and channel flip to see the ads) or are smart enough to simply leave your TVs turned off; here’s what happened. At the finale of the halftime show performance by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, Justin tore off part of Janet’s costume, completely exposing her right breast and pierced nipple with a starburst shield.
Did she plan it? Did they plan it? Did anyone else know it was going to happen? Do exposed nipples, or more so pierced ones, represent a danger? Does it even matter?
Whether it was planned or not, who knew beforehand, and if breasts are more or less offensive than the ongoing war coverage is completely irrelevant to my thoughts on the matter. I simply want to thank Janet and Justin for what may have been an unwitting boon to piercing and many people in general. That brief live flash of a pierced nipple, which is now forever recorded, enlarged, and enhanced all over the web and on TiVo units across the world was very likely the first or at least a significant episode for many of the younger viewers in the audience. It also occurred in an obviously sexual context via the choreography and song lyrics. Given all this, it is not unlikely that a great many people have been given a positive erotic association with pierced nipples and nipple shields. If there is one thing we have found from studies of our collective psyches over the years it is that it takes very little prodding at the right moments of development to create deep fetishes and influence personal preferences. Something that is conspicuously absent in most discussions of the “incident” is how the breast and nipple have become eroticized in our culture by being restricted from view, whereas in other parts of the world a topless woman is not noteworthy in the least for the sheer fact that her nipples are visible.
I’d even like to think that Janet and Justin realized the potential implications of showing her pierced nipple. The action of reaching over and grabbing the costume almost had to be entirely planned and intentional. Janet knew when she went out to perform that there was nothing under that piece of the costume that would tear away. Most people, in my experience of pierced nipples, do not wear shields all the time or even casually but rather only with some intent. But then again, who is to say she didn’t have something intimate planned for after the show? I would like to think that Janet, with Justin as a willing participant, decided the time was right for the American viewing public to see what their counterparts around the world had been enjoying for years now on TV — nipples. I’d even like to think that she thought of the younger developing viewers and that they should learn to celebrate the nipple rather than shun it. That she could show them how she had celebrated her own nipples with piercing and jewelry and convey to them some of the joy of that intimacy by proudly displaying it. But that’s all just needless pontificating on my part. What matters is that the nipple came out in all its pierced glory and millions beheld it.
Even if it doesn’t create legions of people who salivate, or otherwise produce moisture at the thought of nipple shields, it certainly has brought piercing into the spotlight once again. Janet, despite her family’s problems and predilections, is a beautiful, intelligent, and talented woman — you could do a lot worse for an example of who gets their nipples pierced.
It remains to be seen if people start rushing in to get their nipples pierced as a result of Janet’s exposure, but I am very pleased that one of the first live US prime time nipples to be aired on network TV was pierced. And so, I proudly say: