Page 376 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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356                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            professor and was working as a writer at Kaiser Engineers in Oakland,
            and basically preferred my approach to gay business through writing and
            photography, although the glamorous lure of owning a piece of leather
            nightlife, and managing its hot bartenders (which was a lot like owning
            gladiators) was quite tempting.
               We had a very sexy shoot staging these promotional Leatherneck
            photos in a very private performance before the bar’s grand opening,
            because Allan Lowery designed his bar as a performance-art set, complete
            with props, so that customers could spontaneously act out S&M scenes.
            Chris Meyrovich appears in three photographs including one half-hoisted
            onto a cross (page 82). The sweet Allan Lowery is pictured profile, with
            beard, facing one of his famously beefcake bartenders over a beer bottle
            on the lower right of page 83.
                In the grand and early tradition of having gay artists create murals
            for new bars, making them instant folk-art galleries, Drummer art direc-
            tor, A. Jay, made four huge mural panel-paintings for the Leatherneck. He
            continued the legacy of artists such as Tom of Finland painting the murals
            for Tom’s Saloon in Hamburg, Etienne painting the murals for the Gold
            Coast bar in Chicago, Chuck Arnett painting the Lascaux murals for the
            Tool Box, and Skipper painting the four 4x8 panels for the Sanctuary bath
            in LA. One of the four panels painted for the Leatherneck by A. Jay aka
            Al Shapiro, is pictured in the photographs with this article.
               Art in Bars: Of course, these core murals by key artists led bar owners
            and artists to hang other paintings, drawings, posters, and photographs
            displayed in revolving exhibits, often with special opening-night parties.
            In this way, before gay art galleries existed, huge crowds of men saw a vast
            amount of gay grass-roots art simply by going out to the bars.
               Bars as Performance Space: The Leatherneck and the Ambush bar,
            both heavy S&M watering holes, were expansions on the 1960s and early
            1970s ideas of bars as drinking establishments. The Ambush bar, with logo
            art work by Chuck Arnett (who had designed the Tool Box and the Red
            Star Saloon), was, besides being a bar, a practicing leather workshop where
            leather artists like Ambush owner David Delay created leather bondage
            gear and leather clothing which patrons, drinking a beer a few feet away,
            could watch him and his staff tool and dye. Among all the immortal bars
            of the 70s, the Ambush was, with its Folsom-defying location on Harrison
            Street, the lead pub in opening up the covenant of strict “leather” into the
            wider democracy of the homomasculinity of outdoorsmen and bears and
            mature men. When I took Robert Mapplethorpe to the Ambush in his
            full leather to meet poets Ron Johnson and Thom Gunn, he felt so out of
            place I had to drive him back to my home for a quick change into jeans
            and a flannel shirt.

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