A RIVET RUNS THROUGH ITFLESHING OUT THE BODY-PIERCING PHENOMENON

The movie The Silence of the Lambs pulled out all the stops to portray that film's serial killer as the sickest villain ever to grace the screen. The filmmakers inserted a close-up that drove home the point for even the most jaded moviegoer.

Wincing, disbelieving audiences gasped in unison as they eyed the killer's bare chest: "What kind of madman would pierce his own nipples?!" Ask that question today, and don't be surprised if someone answers, "A stylish one." Less than two years later, anatomically adventurous trendsetters might logically conclude that the serial killer, Buffalo Bill, was simply an MTV viewer gone wrong.

If anyone doubts that body piercing has come out of the closet, they should have been eavesdropping on one conversation at an arty Zone magazine party held at the genteel Royal Palms Inn last month.

"Right now piercing is pretty much where tattooing was ten years ago," remarked Jayne, a freshly pricked Valley hipstress. "Ten years ago, 'normal' people just didn't get tattooed. Today, you see it on suburban housewives in the check-out lines. It's going to be the same thing with piercing. You'll see."
And while most partygoers never really did get a chance to see, several revelers did get a chance to feel. Eager to prove her point, the scenestress urged astonished friends to rub strategic areas of her sheer cocktail dress, the better to feel the tiny metal rings dangling from her nipples and vagina.

Elsewhere at the bash, her 20-year-old son, Shad, demonstrated for a curious few that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Discreetly slipping behind a pillar in the hotel courtyard, he opened his fly and displayed his own pride and joy. Running horizontally through the head of his penis was a tiny metal rod resembling a miniature barbell.

A cutting-edge fashion statement at its most pointed, this weird marriage of S&M culture and tribal ritual is leaving its mark on nostrils, eyebrows, navels, cheeks, nipples and, yes, even points south.

Ear piercings--once the primary province of women, pirates, gay men and movie pimps--have become so commonplace in recent years that star athletes like Michael Jordan can sport earrings in the men's locker room and nobody blinks an eye. Multiple ear piercings, the next step up the shock-value ladder, quickly wore out their novelty, and it probably won't be long until pierced eyebrows lose their ability to raise one.

@rule:
@body:"You just kind of have to grin and bear it," reports 24-year-old Barbara Trujillo, a Valley hair stylist and record-store clerk who recently had her nipples pierced. A dramatic-looking woman with a heavy commitment to black clothing, Trujillo can't pinpoint exactly why she wanted to nip it in the buds. But having already pierced her nose, she figured, "How bad can it be? Why not go for it?" Today, Trujillo goes for it in a big way. "The piercing has really made my nipples sensitive," she confesses. "When I'm in the car, I find myself twisting the rings at stoplights all the time. I really get some funny looks."

Like many fashion movements, the piercing phenomenon seems to have been spearheaded largely by rock culture. One of the most-talked-about performers to emerge from last summer's Lollapalooza traveling rock caravan was not a musician, but the Amazing Mr. Lifto, a specialty act in the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. When the sideshow troupe returned to the Valley for an encore performance at the Library Cafe recently, 25-year-old Mr. Lifto thrilled a sold-out crowd by hoisting suitcases, cinder blocks and steam irons dangling from rings in his ears, tongue, nipples and penis.

Meanwhile, members of the shock-rock band the Genitorturers made headlines earlier this year when they allegedly pierced a Florida deejay's scrotum during a live radio broadcast.

And even the trend-sniffing Madonna has put her stamp of approval on this disconcerting new fad (however vicariously) via her new, X-rated book of photographs, which includes a handful of shots depicting skewered skin. Perhaps tellingly, none of the ventilated dermis belongs to the lady herself.

"Piercing is not something that should be done lightly," says professional piercer Bob DeJardine. The owner of Tuff Stuff Leatherware, an East McDowell storefront that caters to the leather needs of the local S&M and hard-rock communities, DeJardine is probably the Valley's best-known practitioner of the new needlework. He has six years' experience.

DeJardine says it wasn't long ago that his customers were a small group of sexually adventurous types (many of them into bondage) who were piercing their erogenous zones to heighten erotic pleasure. During the past year, however, DeJardine's business has tripled, and he now pierces anywhere from seven to ten people a week at $10 a head--or whatever. Unlike his customers of a few years ago, most of those he sees today are straight--he assumes.

"Much of this is still carried on today by individuals who wish to use body piercing as an affirmation of their relationship," says the 50ish DeJardine, who has four genital piercings of his own. "If it's done properly, it can be a very nice ceremony. But with the younger generation, I'm afraid, it's strictly a fad."
What's alarming to DeJardine is a pierce-happy public's apparent lack of understanding of the possible hazards associated with piercings. Although infections, including AIDS and hepatitis, can be spread by piercing with contaminated needles, DeJardine says the risk can be virtually eliminated by properly sterilizing needles and using them only once. And he says the risk of postpiercing infection can be greatly reduced by daily applications of a prescribed surgical scrub. Like all piercing purists, he stresses the importance of using surgical stainless-steel jewelry, which generally doesn't irritate the skin.

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