Page 436 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
P. 436

416                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
               While the declining John Embry pasted his dialog balloons on every
            photo in sight, and while I wanted the graphics to speak for themselves,
            the extremely patient and diplomatic Al Shapiro spent much of his time
            pasting down balloons John Embry told him to put back after I had told
            Al to peel them off.
               Actually, in these early San Francisco issues (18, 19, and 20) before
            John Embry became so seriously ill that he had to be absent from Drum-
            mer for several months, we three had strained but rather good times.
               I was no stranger to long-term illness; I had become editor less than
            a year after my own father died from a terrible twelve-year ordeal during
            which he had twenty-two surgeries and was frequently in ICU — one time
            for over six months. So my empathy, sympathy, and my life experience
            was there for John Embry when he was struck with what we all were told
            at that time was colon cancer.
               Al and I, left to our own devices, went to bat to make the new kid in
            town, Drummer, into a success.
               After a regimen of many months, including surgery, treatment, and
            recovery, by the time John Embry had returned to relative health and to
            Drummer, the magazine in his absence had become a new kind of hit (no
            one had seen anything like it before), and his mood toward Al Shapiro
            and me in the Drummer office changed dramatically. Was he depressed?
            Was he jealous? He seemed disgruntled. We had not hijacked Drummer;
            we had simply plugged it into the times.
               Who can read anyone else’s mind, but, in my opinion, Al and I — plus
            catastrophic illness — inadvertently made Embry feel his age smack dab
            in the middle of the revolutionary 1960s-1970s American Youth Culture
            intensified by gay culture’s fetish of youth. Born in 1926 — the same year
            as Steve Reeves, Embry was a generation older than all of us. He had cer-
            tainly been formed during a different gay time in a different pre-gay age.
            His persona seemed more of the “Johnny Ray 1950s” than the “acid-rock
            1960s” and he seemed not attuned to the emerging post-Stonewall macho
            of 1970s leather culture that turned Drummer into a hyper-masculine
            world full of bizarre new sex trips. The most leather I ever saw John
            Embry wear was a black leather vest — oh, and one of those de rigueur
            Muir leather caps from Canada. We all wore that hat in homage to Brando
            in The Wild One. I especially prized as fetish wear my 1950s, pre-Muir,
            biker cap made of black cloth with a shiny white plastique brim given to
            me in 1969 by the Catholic leather priest, Jim Kane, who also gave me
            an authentic swastika pin, large as a brooch or medal, but I could never
            justify wearing it, even as a fetish item, on the front of the cap where he
            pinned it.



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