Eric Betz: One Freaky Dude

Written by Elise Glaser

In 2004 at a high school in Crothersville, Ind. a spread featured in the yearbook entitled “Body Decorations” incited an uproar amongst members of the school board. The spread was dedicated to students’ and teachers’ tattoos and piercings. The same year, in Henry County, Ga. a teenage boy was given in-school suspension for a month for violating the dress code by showing up to school sporting eyebrow, nose, labret, and tongue piercings. His mother ended up homeschooling him following the incident.

Photo by Phillip Engh

13 years later, the attitude towards piercings is dramatically different. If you take a look around the Colorado College campus, it appears that many people have something pierced, whether it be their earlobes, cartilage, nose, eyebrow, or some other body part. Piercing is a popular form of self-expression among teens and young adults in this day and age. CC students comprise a portion of the customer base for tattoo and piercing venues in Colorado Springs, including a purple house on Platte Avenue called Freaky’s.

Freaky’s is quite the sight inside and out. Giant pieces of jewelry hang from the purple porch, including hoops, industrials, and septum rings. Inside, visitors are greeted by an impressive display of smoking devices and friendly employees. The artistry takes place upstairs, where a black reclining chair sits surrounded by all sorts of tools for piercing and tattooing. The owner of the shop, Eric Betz, waits at the top of the stairs to greet those who make it beyond the entry. Betz has been in the piercing industry for about 16 years. He spent most of his time working in New York, but came to Colorado Springs for two primary reasons:  “This city doesn’t really have a lot of regulations, so a lot of jackasses tend to work around here.” Betz explained, “I kind of want to be the antidote to all of that.” His second reason: “It’s pretty here.”

Betz became interested in piercing at a young age, mainly due to his mother. “My mom used to take me to tattoo shops my whole life,” he said. “I probably was in the first one that I was ever in when I was like five or six. She’d take me while she would get tattooed and it kept going on from there.” Although Betz initially wanted to be a nurse, he instead opted for piercing because it is still something of a medical practice, but “without all the trauma and drama.” When he was 16 years old, Betz watched people get piercings. A year later, he started piercing his friends, and the rest is history. When Betz first started 15 years ago, he owned the only tattoo and piercing shop in town. Betz said that he would occasionally get visitors who criticized his shop for “performing the devil’s work.” One particular incident stood out above the rest: “I had a lady try to curse us once,” Betz recalled. “She came in the day before and tried to yell something at us. We came in the next day and there was a baby shoe at our door. We picked it up and these Viking rune stones fell out of it. We asked a few people and turns out, she had put a curse on us.”

Although it seems to be common these days, having piercings is still problematic for some people. Betz noticed that the Colorado Springs community tends to be more conservative than some of the others he has encountered. “I have noticed that religious things end up becoming a big influence on a lot of people, or at least that’s my opinion,” he said. He claims that passages in the Bible, like 1 Corinthians 6:19, which states that the body is a temple, have deterred some Christians from getting tattoos and piercings. The Torah similarly bans marking one’s body in Leviticus 19:28.

Cartoon by Caroline Li

Public perception of piercings has also played a huge part in the success of Betz’s business. One of the biggest misconceptions about his work is that, “people with tattoos and piercings are drug addicts, criminals, that whole deal,” Betz said. He disagrees with this perception. “Honestly, most of the people I encounter are professional people,” he explained. “I mean I’ve pierced doctors and lawyers. One of those lawyers is a judge now. I’ve pierced people from every spectrum.” Companies like Target and Progressive, who no longer ban piercings and tattoos in their employee dress codes, are helping to back up this claim. “You’re seeing bigger companies just relax because in 20 years from now if they start putting those regulations on people, they aren’t going to have a workforce,” Betz said.

Piercing is no easy task; they can encounter angry patients or uninvited judgment. Regardless, the job is empowering. “I really don’t have to listen to anybody,” Betz explained. “I get to set my own rules. Basically, I’m in business for myself just by being myself.” Betz’s business is well run; it has high ratings on Google Reviews and receives an influx of positive feedback from happy customers. Betz is praised for a variety of things, including his clean and sterile environment, his good attitude, and of course, his quality products.

So next time you want to get a piercing, consider Freaky’s. Not only will you have the pleasure of hearing stories about Viking Rune curses and New York trends (such as body surface anchors), but you will also be pierced by a bushy-bearded, friendly guy with 16 years of experience under his belt.

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