Page 210 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
P. 210

190                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
               In the first and only book review in the first issue of Drummer (June
            1975), Embry — not loathe to use columnists as hand puppets — trashed
            Townsend’s book, Chains. Reviewer “Cam Phillips” wrote: “the author
            [was] obviously confused”; “dull sex scenes”; “Townsend is not a ‘good’
            writer in the sense that Christopher Isherwood and John Rechy are ‘good’
            writers”; “he is weakest when dealing with his characters outside of the
            bedroom, or when he makes them open their mouths for anything other
            than sexual purposes”; and the cover which Townsend designed “prom-
            ises an extremely heavy sexual book, but this is definitely not the case.”
            (Drummer 1, page 13).
               It was only in 1980 when mutual need caused the two strange bedfel-
            lows to kiss and make up. Embry, having alienated nearly all the talent base
            from the 1970s, needed his pages filled every thirty days, and Townsend
            needed a national platform to keep his name bill-boarded monthly to
            sell his novels mail order. Thus his advice column titled “Leather Note-
            book,” written in trade for free advertising, became a regular Drummer
            feature from 1980 to 1992. This was a suitable fit because Townsend’s
            1972 Leatherman’s Handbook had early on helped invent and form the
            “how-to” aspects of early 1970s leather behavior which he then popular-
            ized in mid-1980s Drummer. He was a leatherman whose vaunted top
            role in S&M propped up his credentials as writer. Larry has reminisced
            to me about his photo-studio dungeon where many a bound-and-gagged
            slave experienced S&M sessions feeling Larry’s greatest “hits” while his
            stereo speakers boomed out tapes of the ominous, fervent hammer blows
            of Mahler’s Sixth as well as his dark, terminal Ninth.
               During my tenure as editor in chief of Drummer in the 1970s, I had
            concentrated on 1) gay literary quality in feature essays and fiction and
            drama, 2) the reflexive verite of gay pop culture as lived by the actual
            readers, and 3) themes of homomasculinity and wild sex.
               I was all about 1970s sex vets: “Do It!”
               Not about 1980s tyros: “How do I do it?”
               In the 1970s, everyone seemed to know how.
               Townsend is a clever man; he knew how to change with the times.
               With the end of the Titanic 70s, and the rise of the HIV 80s, Drum-
            mer moved with the times to transpositions of 1970s sexuality into 1980s
            sociality: 1) practical columns, such as “Leather Notebook,” on how to
            run a safe-sex and a consensual S&M scene; 2) in-house promotion photo
            spreads and centerfolds that focused on Drummer contest winners; and 3)
            an excessive interest in commercial videos as the dumbed-down mental-
            ity of television — via the Trojan Horse of the VCR — began to saturate
            written gay magazine culture — including Drummer itself — which video
            and the Internet eventually destroyed.

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
               HOW TO LEGALLY QUOTE FROM THIS BOOK
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