Voices from the Past—part 3

Doug Malloy in Conversation with Tari Soummers

Mistress Antoinette with Doug Malloy at the Gauntlet studio grand opening in 1978

Mistress Antoinette with Doug Malloy at the Gauntlet studio grand opening in 1978

This audio tape dates from December of 1976. It’s an interesting conversation between Doug Malloy and a young man named Tari Soummers. You may be wondering why his name never surfaced before now. From listening to the tape, one might assume this was a treasure trove of body piercing lore. I personally found it impossible to take much of what he said seriously. To be frank, Tari was one of those people I took an instant dislike to and quickly sized up as a bullshitter. See what you think. No photo of him has surfaced in my archive. If there ever was one, it would have been amongst the photos Doug’s wife destroyed after his death. A Google search turned up nothing informative.

Did the ancient Egyptians pierce anything other than ears? I doubt it. Doug showed me photos of statuary in which he claimed navel piercings were obvious. They seemed to be visible only to him. The culture of ancient Egypt has been studied extensively, and to the best of my knowledge, no one has substantiated Doug’s claims.

As for the assertions made about Celtic piercing traditions, I remain skeptical.

On the bright side, here is another opportunity to hear Doug’s voice and an even bigger opportunity for scholars of piercing history to prove whether my impressions of Mr. Soummers were accurate.

As an aside, the Orange County BDSM couple Doug mentions on side two was Mistress Antoinette and her husband Master Zorro. She had a business in fetish clothing called Versatile Fashions. He was an M.D. who specialized in treating the overweight. The pair attended the Gauntlet studio grand opening in 1978. Here’s a brief bio you might find informative. I’ve wondered if Antoinette was dyslexic. That night she twice signed photos “Mistress Antionette.”

Side One Side Two

Voices from the Past—part 2

An Interview with Alan Oversby/Mr. Sebastian

Coffee with Alan

Left to right: Sailor Sid, Alan Oversby, Doug Malloy, Elizabeth Weinzirl, and me in Alan’s London apartment.

oversby2In March of 1978, Doug and I joined self-proclaimed “freaknut” Sailor Sid and grandmother of the tattoo community Elizabeth Weinzirl for a trip to the ITAA tattoo convention in Amsterdam. On the way we stopped for a week in London to meet the local T&P enthusiasts and in particular, to spend time getting to know Alan Oversby better known to his clients as Mr. Sebastian.

During our visit I recorded this interview with Alan which subsequently appeared in issue #4 of Piercing Fans International Quarterly. You can view a copy of that article here.

You can learn more about this European sojourn in chapter 8 of Running the Gauntlet.

Interview with Alan Oversby AKA Mr. Sebastian

Voices from the Past—Part 1

The Versatile & Sensual Prince Albert by Doug Malloy

dougandjim1

Doug Malloy was my friend and mentor and my inspiration for starting Gauntlet. The company was founded in 1975, and Doug passed away unexpectedly in 1979. Few members of the body piercing community alive today ever met him or heard him speak. At the time of his death, he left behind a handful of audio cassette tapes that have been in my possession for over 40 years. This small collection contains several interviews, articles for Piercing Fans International Quarterly magazine (PFIQ), and correspondence between Doug and fellow piercing enthusiasts. These were recently digitized by the Leather Archive & Museum in Chicago. In the coming weeks, I will be posting these audio files for your enjoyment.

Doug most likely dictated this first tape sometime in 1979. It appeared in Piercing Fans International Quarterly, issue #6. By the time the article made it into print. it had undergone extensive editing, so it differs significantly from the audio file. You may view a copy of the published article here and compare it with the spoken word.

Readers need to be aware that this article—and many of the other assertions that Doug made—were in all likelihood fabrications that have given rise to a great deal of misinformation which unfortunately persists to this day. Paul King and other scholars of piercing history have found no evidence to substantiate Doug’s claims. Regardless, the tales are colorful and still worthy of enjoyment.

The Prince Albert Article as dictated by Doug Malloy c. 1979

Ring in the New Year!

I was thumbing through back issues of Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ) this week and came across this old Gauntlet ad from 1978 in issue number 5. It seems appropriate to share this time of year.

Gauntlet Ad

Color Me Purple

In the Christian tradition, today is Good Friday. I thought it would be appropriate to post this brief excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
 
“By 1978 I had made up my mind that purple was to be the color for body piercing. This had sprung directly from another of those products of gay creativity, the bandana or hanky code.
 
“Evidently, the hanky code dates back to Gold Rush days, when dancers in all-male mining town saloons would divvy up into “fellers” and “gals,” those taking the women’s parts wearing identifying kerchiefs tied around their arms. But in the hands of a few resourceful gay men, it manifested into a unique cultural phenomenon that is still with us today.
 
“According to the Chicago Leather Club, “The hanky color code originated in the early 1970s primarily to distinguish specific sexual interests when the original S/M (or at least D/S)-orientated leather scene was enlarging—and clothing alone didn’t reveal esoteric sexual interests. The first published hanky code was done by Ron Ernst who drew one up in collaboration with Alan Selby (the original Mr. S) for their San Francisco store Leather N Things; this code was published in the Bay Area Reporter in 1972.”
 
“The color of the bandana and the pocket in which it was worn signaled one’s particular sexual interest. Worn in the left back pocket, it meant you were a top or active participant; on the right, a bottom or passive partner. Over the years the list of color codes became quite long. Some have quipped that a color chart is needed to decode all the subtle differences of hue and shade. In the early days, the list was fairly short. Dark blue indicated an interest in fucking, light blue a taste for cock-sucking. Red meant you were into fist-fucking, a sport that had begun gaining popularity in the mid 70s. Black meant S/M; gray, bondage. Yellow and brown need no explanation.
 
Drummer, a magazine for gay men into S/M that had begun about the same time as Gauntlet, had published an article listing the common hanky code colors. I reasoned that piercing fans ought to have a color of their own. But what color? I didn’t have to look too far for inspiration—purple, the color associated with Jupiter, the planet associated in astrology with prosperity and good fortune; purple, the color draping Catholic and Anglican churches during Holy Week when they commemorate the day their deity got pierced. It seemed ideal to me, and so I fired off a letter to the editor of Drummer decreeing purple as the official color for people into piercing. My letter was published, and in time, by continually reinforcing the message, it stuck.”
 

The PFIQ Crossword Puzzles

The PFIQ crossword puzzles were a short-lived feature that ran in seven issues, #36 (1991) through #42 (1993). Their creation was the result of several factors coming together.

I’ve had some interest in crosswords for many years but had never been particularly passionate about them in large part because it was rare to find ones that were hard enough
to be challenging but not so difficult as to be nearly impossible to solve. That changed in the mid 1980s when the Los Angeles Times began running weekly puzzles by Merl Reagle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merl_Reagle). Not only
were they just the right level of difficulty, but they invariably
contained witty challenges and delightfully atrocious
puns. I looked forward to every Sunday paper just for the
puzzle.

The real incentive for creating them for PFIQ was my dear
friend Jim Anderson, a longtime Gauntlet customer, who
appeared many times in the magazine simply as Jim A. I
met him in Hollywood when I first started piercing. He was
visiting from New York and had contacted my mentor Doug
Malloy about getting pierced while he was in town. He was
my first Prince Albert piercing.

At that time, I had not yet invented the piercing needle
and was using large veterinary hypodermic needles. Trying
to follow the beveled point of the needle with the jewelry
was virtually impossible. The other challenge was the technique
Doug used of piercing into the tip of a cotton swab. By some miracle I managed to do the piercing, but the procedure was extremely bloody. Despite everything, Jim was a good sport, and over the years became a regular customer as well as a close friend.

Jim lived in New York and worked at the United Nations. He was quite smart and was one of those people who could work the New York Times Sunday crossword in ink. Often, when he visited me in Los Angeles, we enjoyed having coffee and working the Merl Reagle puzzle together, laughing and groaning over the puns and other gimmicks they often contained. These were times I remember and cherish.

I don’t know whose idea it was to create a crossword for PFIQ, but I decided to accept the challenge, and using the Merl Reagle puzzles as a model, set about to produce my first one. It wasn’t easy. Thankfully, by this time there was a software program available that made the task possible. Without it, I would likely have simply abandoned the idea.

The first three puzzles I created on my own. I devised the themes and the piercing related clues. By the fourth puzzle, I decided to enlist Jim’s help. He had a quick wit and between us we were able to come up with some outrageous puns that delighted both of us.

Sadly, once I completed and published the seventh crossword, it became apparent that I was wasting my time. Not one reader indicated an interest. Perhaps the puzzles were too difficult for the average piercing fan or maybe they just didn’t care. Whatever the reason, it was obviously a feature that wasn’t appreciated, and so it became history. No one ever lamented its passing.

Two years after the last crossword puzzle appeared in PFIQ, Jim passed away from what was officially diagnosed as cancer. It’s quite likely that the true cause was AIDS, though I’ll never know. He was a dear friend and is greatly missed.

Hopefully, a younger generation of piercing enthusiasts will enjoy our efforts. To download a booklet of these puzzles, click here. Happy puzzling!

Change Happens

It was with a sense of déjà vu that I read the post from a Facebook friend last week informing me that the website k9webprotection.com had classified this site as pornography. It’s been over 30 years, and body piercing has become so widespread and popular that it’s hard to believe there are still people trying to tar us with the same old brush.

 

In chapter six of my book, I wrote about how Gauntlet’s ground-breaking magazine Piercing Fans International Quarterly (PFIQ) came into being. It wasn’t long after the magazine’s inception that I began dealing with the allegations of pornography and obscenity.

 

“As the business and magazine in particular grew, there were always new challenges. One was in finding printers willing to handle the material. Because of the unique content and the nudity, many printers wanted nothing to do with us. The first couple of printers were gay men who had no issues with the material, but their shops were only capable of handling one- or two-color jobs. Four-color printing requires larger, more expensive equipment, so I had to look for a new printer.
“Unfortunately, in those days the only places willing to handle the magazine were printers of porn. The first one we used was a sleazy man who owned a print shop in Van Nuys, an L.A. suburb in the San Fernando Valley. He had a gimpy leg and walked with a cane, and I had visions of some mob henchman breaking his leg for some unknown offense.
“Printers weren’t the only problem. Binderies were another. These were the businesses that collated, folded, and stapled the printed sheets into a finished periodical. In some cases printers operated their own binderies. I was never able to understand how the bindery personnel who dealt daily with the raunchiest kind of porn could refuse to bind PFIQ. I remember one that agreed to do the job but only at night after their female staff had gone home.”

 
Printers and binderies were only some of the obstacles we faced. Foreign authorities suddenly felt it their duty to protect their citizens from our “obscene” publication.
 

“Nonetheless, through the years PFIQ did experience censorship, not in the U.S., but most notably in Japan, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand where customs agents regularly seized the magazine. In 1984 New Zealand’s Indecent Publications Tribunal, not unsurprisingly, called it “indecent.” The seizure problem was sufficiently bad that we had to advise overseas subscribers we could not accept responsibility for failed delivery.”

 

Thankfully, things have improved some over the years. To its credit K9webprotection.com provides a means to contest a classification, though you have to dig for it. Once located, I did my best to categorize not only this site, but the book itself within the categories provided. I clicked the “Submit for Review” button and waited. Within a matter of hours I had a reply: “Based on your recommendation and after careful evaluation of the Web content submitted, a Web Content Analyst has recategorized this URL as Adult/Mature Content and Society/Daily Living.” I can live with that.
 

It’s taken a while, but we have made progress.

 

Blogging the Gauntlet

I’m kinda new to this whole blogging thing. When I was a teenager, I started to keep a diary until my mother found and read it and realized I was gay. That pretty much ended my enthusiasm for writing about my life on a daily basis. In retrospect, I wish I’d at least picked up the habit after I started Gauntlet. It would be interesting to relive those years of my life, and I wouldn’t have had to rely so heavily on memory in order to write my book.

 

So why start now? Running the Gauntlet was always intended to be both a memoir and a history of the modern body piercing movement with a primary focus on the latter. Consequently, when I was doing the final edit of the book, I felt it advantageous to tighten up the story by eliminating some of the more personal details.

 

This blog requires no such constraints. With it, I can now share some of the deleted portions of the book as well as add memories that didn’t occur to me as I was writing it. And I feel less constrained to always keep the focus strictly on body piercing. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it anyway.

 

Welcome to my blog!