Page 158 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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138                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            begun writing three months before. A chapter of I Am Curious (Leather),
            based on James Dean’s leaving home, and on our bomber-jackets, was
            serialized in Son of Drummer (September 1978), and was announced as
            “the new Drummer novel.”
               When I began shaping the psychological input of Drummer in 1977,
            James Dean (hot and dead), even more than the obvious Brando (old and
            fat), flowed into my concept of a homomasculine ideal for Drummer in
            fiction, features, and photography.
               In the pop-art 1960s and 1970s, huge black-and-white photo posters
            of James Dean hung like icons on the walls of leather bars like Keller’s
            in New York and Chuck Arnett’s Tool Box in San Francisco. On Folsom
            Street, the Ramrod bar in those pre-VCR years switched on its 16mm
            movie projector every Wednesday night to build a crowd, and frequently
            screened reels from all three of James Dean’s films, as well as Mel Brooks’
            “Springtime for Hitler” sequences from The Producers (1968).
               In Giant (filmed in 1955), the chain-smoking cowboy Dean invented
            the “Marlboro Cowboy” that came to dominate 1960s American adver-
            tising. Before James Dean, the Marlboro Man, created by Leo Burnett
            in 1954, was not necessarily a cowboy. Post-Dean in Giant, Marlboro
            Country, fetishizing itself, became nothing but saddles, boots, yellow
            slickers, riding gloves, cowboy hats, and bunkhouses. The Marlboro Man
            so infused American ideas of masculinity that I folded that sensibility
            into 1970s Drummer to queer Marlboro’s man-to-man sex appeal, and
            to ground Drummer so that it would not be light in its loafers. Just as
            the world loved the Marlboro Man, gay men internationally loved the
            open-faced American masculinity of Drummer which, with its leather
            and cowboy lifestyle, was not like all the other effeminate and campy gay
               The most reviled issue of Drummer was first publisher John Embry’s
            “Cycle  Sluts” drag  cover  and  contents  of  Drummer  9  (October  1976)
            which readers wrote they never wanted to see again. The second publisher
            Anthony DeBlase, pressured by political correctness, and desperate to sell
            the Drummer business, made a similar anti-erotic misstep leading to the
            death of Drummer when he printed “Dykes for Madonna” in Drummer
            150 (September 1991). His mistake of switching icons Dean and Brando
            for Madonna in his nagging, preachy, and camp issue created an uproar,
            alienated core readers, and put off potential American buyers.
               As if in proof of Drummer gestating the Marlboro male isolato image,
            Dean’s laconic smoking cowboy in Giant, with his rifle slung across his
            shoulders, filtered through gay lore and surfaced as the prototype for
            actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger (especially) in Brokeback Moun-
            tain (2005).

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