Page 449 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
P. 449

Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                429
                If history wants an illustration of what was the main idee fixe stored
             and replayed on a loop inside Sam Steward’s head, I would point to Paul
             Cadmus’ The Fleet’s In. That infamous painting, as a national Ameri-
             can art scandal, pre-dated Mapplethorpe in 1934 when Sam, an impres-
             sionable young man of twenty-five, was soaking up the world and had
             already corresponded for two years with Stein. Sam, tippling on the edge
             in France with Gertrude’s “Lost Generation,” had only just met his Stein
             and Alice B. Toklas in 1937 at Bilignin, a year after he was fired from his
             college teaching job at State College in Washington for writing the novel
             Angels on the Bough (1936) which echoes E. M. Forster’s Where Angels Fear
             to Tread (1905). Sam admired Forster who was thirty years older than Sam
             and was the author of A Passage to India (1924) and of Maurice published
             posthumously in 1971 to the delight of “Samuel Morris Steward” fresh
             out of his tattoo parlor in Oakland and sitting pretty in his arts-and-crafts
             cottage at 2016-x Ninth Street in Berkeley.
                Sam Steward was an esthete who wrote, sketched, and painted ref-
             erencing cool classical museum culture warmed with hot-blooded sen-
             suality from the streets. Upper crust and lusting after “les miserables,”
             Sam was magnificently carnal in his hands-on tattooing of the young
             flesh of muscular rebels without a cause (including the original Rebel
             without a Cause, James Dean whose forearm Sam tattooed with a black
             panther before that image became racially political). Sam who was the
             artful dodger “Phil Andros” and “Phil Sparrow” liked his homomasculine
             tough guys “down and dirty” in real occupations like sailors and cops.
             Dom who was “Etienne” and “Stephen” liked his homomasculine “chaps
             in chaps” idealized as irresistible leather tops and cherry-ripe leather bot-
             toms with no more real occupations than Betty Page. Sam pere brought
             every innuendo he had to his tutorial of Dom fils. The art historian Justin
             Spring, author of Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude (2002), is writing the
             forthcoming biography of Sam Steward. He informed me on April 19,
             2007, that Sam and Dom occasionally worked together on drawings, and
             that Dom turned his hand to illustrating Sam’s story “The Motorcyclist.”
                Cadmus’ pop-style satire The Fleet’s In influenced the queer zeit-
             geist — and ballet dancer Orejudos — when legendary gay choreographer
             Jerome Robbins and bisexual composer Leonard Bernstein based their
             ballet Fancy Free (1944) on the Cadmus painting. Gay men of that era,
             including Steward and Renslow and Orejudos, watched the queer evo-
             lution of “sequels” as that famous painting became that famous ballet
             which became the Broadway musical Fancy Free (1944) which became the
             musical-comedy dance film On the Town (1949) starring Frank Sinatra,
             Gene Kelly, and Ann Miller.

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