Now he's letting the world know.
This one-time Ph.D. candidate in philosophy has written "Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass," in which he details his experiences since transforming himself into a permanent performer – a decision that has entailed an estimated 700 hours of tattoo work dating back to 1994. Sprague, now 37, says he is only about 80 percent finished.
The book compiles articles, interviews and Q&A sessions with fans, all originally written for the body-modification site BMEzine.com between 2003 and 2007.
The Lizardman tackles such topics as individuality, cultural acceptance and pioneering the bifurcated tongue after convincing an oral surgeon to perform the operation in 1997. "I won him over with the fact that I was sane and rational and had a plan," he said.
He also talks about his appearances at Ripley's Believe It Or Not! museums and other events, which he turns to for income.
In addition to thought-provoking viewpoints on modifications most of us would never have imagined, The Lizardman serves up a hefty dose of the stuff every reader will want to know, like what his mom thinks, how he'll feel about himself when he's 80 and that if possible, yes, he'd get an alligator tail graft.
You'll also find out that The Lizardman does not own any lizards. But he and his wife do keep several ferrets in their Austin, Texas, home. And if you're wondering, no, she is not a Lizardwoman.
Aside from his own experiences, "The Modified Looking Glass" also features interviews with like-minded people. It's a chance to peer into the mind of the Great Nippulini, who lifts anvils from hooks in his nipples, or Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore founder Dick Zigun.
But while most interviews involve members of the sideshow community, Sprague's favorite tattooed subject is Mike Jones, the pianist for Penn & Teller's live shows. "He's got some of the most unique and incredibly well-done stuff out there. And on top of that, he is a world-class-level jazz pianist," The Lizardman said.
Jones' bodily illustrations include a ram's horn on both sides of his head and Doc Martens boots on his lower legs and feet. "I just like the way it looks," Jones says in the book.
Despite the pianist's distinctive ink, no one within the tattoo and body-modification world knew of him. "For me to get to bring him to that community was fantastic," Sprague explained.
Publishing provided a unique experience for this self-proclaimed "professional freak," whose time is usually filled with sword swallowing, fire eating and other flirtations with danger, not to mention serving as "lead spectacle" in a band called Lizard Skynard. Becoming an author proved to be a much different challenge than, say, pushing a power drill into his nostril.
"[It] is a lot more grind work with less instant gratification – no one applauds when I finish reworking the fonts and type spacing," Sprague said.
"However, there is a very deep sense of gratification when people show appreciation for the work and discuss it with me in a thoughtful manner – it goes way beyond simple applause or someone shouting, 'Wow, that's cool.' "
"Once More Through the Modified Looking Glass" is available online through The Lizardman's Web site.
From the chapter: What About When You Are 80?
From the Q&A section:When I am 80, or however old I live to be since 80 is just an arbitrary age which most people would throw out as a point of getting reflective due to 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.
How long is your tongue split? Does it re-grow?
The depth of the split depends on how I hold my tongue but is approximately a little more than an inch. It does not re-grow; the depth has been stable since it finished healing after the second operation in 1997.
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.
The transformation itself started as a concept art idea which became a performance project which then continued to develop and absorb/integrate many of my pet ideas and loves; like sideshow. I chose a reptilian motif out of pure personal aesthetic – I just like how it looks.
What is the worst reaction you have ever had from a random member of the public? How did you respond?
A very large biker once walked by me, paused, turned and said, "You make me want to punch you in the face." I looked at him and said, "You gotta do what you gotta do." We stared at each other for a second or two, then chuckled, and he decided, "You're alright."
Since nothing actually bad happened (he just felt the need to "size me up"), I don't know if that was the worst but it certainly had the potential to be far worse than anything else that has ever happened to me. He was not alone and I was.