Page 109 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                 89
             transcriber at Drummer. I played with Janus’ founder Cynthia Slater who
             had an affair with my straight brother, and for a time almost became my
             sister-in-law. Cynthia seemed worth introducing to my bicoastal lover
             Robert Mapplethorpe because she was an instant classic in the new iden-
             tity category of “leather woman.” In the stroboscopic zero degrees of a
             woman descending a staircase in an incestuous salon, “Fritscher’s Map-
             plethorpe shot Janus’ Slater at McEachern’s Catacombs.”
                In the same zero degrees, California Drummer  magazine (1975)
             created itself on the Philadelphia magazine Drum (1964-1969); and the
             San Francisco Society of Janus modeled itself on the Philadelphia Janus
             Society. That Janus begat Drum. When Philadelphia Janus split in a civil
             war over lesbian and gender issues, Clark Polak took control of Janus
             and founded the male-oriented Drum which premiered the first panels
             of future Drummer art director Allen J. Shapiro’s satiric cartoon strip
             Harry Chess. Polak shut down Drum when the government accused him
             of mailing obscene materials. Driven out of business, he may have become
             embittered because when the gifted young David Hurles (who in 1976
             became my longtime friend whose talent I immediately embraced and
             whose star I would raise in the 1977-1979 Drummer salon) pilgrimaged in
             1969 to meet Polak, Polak — perhaps overwhelmed by the singular vision
             of the not-yet-famous “Old Reliable” — savaged Hurles’ portfolio. Hurles,
             sweet-tempered enough to be undeterred, flew off to Washington, D. C.,
             to enter the cosmos of erotic media working with the legendary physique
             publisher Dr. Herman Lynn Womack who welcomed Hurles as model,
             apprentice, photographer, and friend working at Guild Press, and testi-
             fying in court defending Womack against the government’s bourgeois
             charge that erotic models are by definition exploited adults. Where Polak
             had been persecuted, Hurles and Womack won the case and pioneered the
             legal road that allowed Drummer to be invented in June 1975. Aspects of
             the lesbigay civil war over gender and internecine rivalries are dramatized
             in Some Dance to Remember, Reel 2, Scene 15, “Queers against Gays.”
                Some leather historians might re-calibrate their perspective regard-
             ing the Catacombs and the Society of Janus. Leather culture was a social
             force far bigger than either important but tiny private venue. It is reduc-
             tive for historians looking the wrong way through time’s telescope to
             try to retrofit either group into more than each was at the time. Most
             leather people in 1970s San Francisco were never personally invited to,
             nor had anything to do with, either. The Catacombs was an elite group.
             The Society of Janus was a private group. Both had “requirements” and
             “codes.” It was easier to get into the clannish Mineshaft or the privileged
             Studio 54 than it was to get into the Catacombs. Over the years, no more
             than a floating total of 200-300 of us played at the Catacombs. The

           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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