The life of Samuel Steward has all of the makings of a feature length movie. A Professor of English at Loyola and De Paul Universities, a confidant of Gertrude Stein, the author of Bad Boys and tough tattoos and assorted pornography, a tattooist known for mentoring Ed Hardy and tattooing Hells Angels members and Occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger and a major contributor to Alfred Kinsey’s human sexuality studies Steward (who also went by the names Phil Sparrow and Phil Andros) lived a life worthy of the silver screen.
Or better yet, in comic form. Artist Eric Rivera has been illustrating stories from Sparrow’s Bad Boys & Tough Tattoos and from the sample pages I’ve seen it would be a killer full length adaptation. His style is a perfect match to the content. You can check out his work here: Eric Rivera.
If you’d like to read more about Steward’s life, Justin Spring’s Secret Historian is an amazing biography worth checking out.
Not content to just do kickass Jodorowsky and Wicker Man tattoos, tattooer Simon Erl has started incorporating the works of Occult Cinema wunderkind Kenneth Anger into his tattooing. This tattoo is from Anger’s Rabbit’s Moon, which was shot in 1950, released in 1972 and rereleased with a new soundtrack in 1979. I was lucky enough to see a restored print of Rabbit’s Moon along with a Q&A with Anger several years ago. While not as overtly occult as his Magic Lantern films, it’s beautiful none the less. Shot in cool blues and featuring the ironic Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbina, it holds up as a classic in indie/ avant-garde cinema.
Several years ago I got to meet Charles Gatewood, and for the first time in a long time I was a little in awe. His contributions to modern anthropology through photography cover almost every radical subculture of the last forty years. Before the rest of the world caught on and capitalized, Charles was there with his camera. Mardi Gras, Biker, Rock and Roll, Tattooing (he did several books with Spider Webb) Body Modification, William Burroughs, Sexual Fetishes… His photos from all of these scenes have become iconic- A time and place documentarian who also happens to be one of the friendliest folks you could imagine.
This photo popped up on his Facebook feed today, and with his permission I’m including it here on OV. Slightly NSFW, but what the heck. We’re all adults here.
Kenneth Anger’s LUCIFER RISING lacks any of the cheeky irony presented in his earlier films; gone are the pop songs (replaced by a Beausoleil score, composed from Bobby’s prison cell) and homoeroticism that made him famous- Rising is a symbolic analogy of the Age of Horus and while dated belongs in the movie collection of anyone interested in Esoteric Cinema.
I was pleased to find this photo in my inbox this morning; a tribute to Mr. Anger’s Thelemic vision, tattooed on the fingers of one of the UK’s more impressive tattooers Simon Erl.
Daniel Abrigo did the tops of his hands, with the LCFR RISE lettering by Rich Hardy.
I recommend checking out the high def transfers of Lucifer Rising, but if you just want a quick fix:
Another update from musician Bobby Beausoliel on his Lucifer tattoo. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the soundtrack for Anger’s LUCIFER RISING, swing by White Dog Music for the download. (OR the LP!)
Yes, I tattooed LUCIFER on myself while at San Quentin, back in ’73. I had been caught up in a serious fracas on the SQ yard, and was in the infirmary mending a broken jaw and broken left hand. A friend smuggled some ink and guitar string into me, and I did several tattoos on myself in the weeks I was in the infirmary with my jaw wired shut and my hand in a cast. The Lucifer tattoo is below an eagle that had been done earlier. It represents a personal vow I made then to dedicate my life to creativity, renouncing violence and destructiveness, to live and express as an artist (i.e. “lightbearer”) for all of my life thereafter. I have stuck to that vow.
PS: Hardy’s description of meeting me and what my apartment was like was the only accurate section on that page from Spring’s book you sent me.”
I received word from Lucifer Rising’s Bobby Beausoleil that my recent post about his LUCIFER tattoo, as reported by Justin Spring’s ‘Secret Historian- the life and times of Sam Steward’ isn’t quite correct. Bobby, who appeared in Invocation of my Demon Brother and scored and appeared in Lucifer Rising had this to say:
“Kenneth Anger may have been tattooed by Phil Sparrow, but I wasn’t a participant in that. All of my tattoos were done while I’ve been in prison, all designed by me, many tattooed by me. Other jailhouse tattoo artists did the work in the places where I couldn’t reach with my right hand or see with a mirror.”
This proves it’s always best to go to the source when available and I’m glad Bobby was able to set the record straight for us.
Sometimes things tie together so nicely; a few weeks ago I posted a photo of Occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger’s iconic LUCIFER tattoo; earlier tonight while reading the amazing biography of tattooist Phil Sparrow (aka Samuel Steward) I came across this passage:
“Shortly after being introduced, Anger came to the Anchor to have Steward tattoo the word Lucifer across his chest in large Old English letters, and to have a similar Lucifer emblazoned across the chest of his young companion, a musician named Bobby. Because Ed Hardy was at that point keen to meet Anger, Steward arranged an evening with him in the Haight, during which Hardy lit up a “couple of high-powered joints” and the three men got high.”
Bobby, of course, was Bobby Beausoleil- the on again/off again star and music composer of Anger’s Lucifer Rising.
BobbyBeausoleil with LUCIFER tattoo
Steward’s biography (Secret Historian) has been a revelation so far; aside from starting the careers of both Ed Hardy and Cliff Raven, ‘Sparrow’ was one of the largest single contributors to the Kinsey Institute and lived a life that would make the most adventurous blush. While tattooing only plays a small part in the book (written by Justin Spring) it’s been an incredibly captivating read so far.