Page 450 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
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430                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
               With show business in his blood, Dom Orejudos was a classic ballet
            choreographer and principal dancer with the Illinois Ballet Company.
            At the same time he was art director for Kris Studio. Lightly guided by
            Sam, he chose Kris’ dramatic, classic, often stage-y themes, designed the
            Platt-Lynes’ Balanchine-meets-Hollywood glamour lighting, and posed
            the heteromasculine models that the more technical photographer Chuck
            Renslow artfully lensed.
               In the indie-movie narrative of their relationship, whose screenplay
            I’d like to write in the fashion of Christopher Hampton’s Total Eclipse,
            Dom intermittently grew his own identity and absented himself from
            Renslow and Kris Studio to dance in touring companies of Song of Nor-
            way, The King and I, and West Side Story. Leather artist Chuck Arnett was
            also a chorus boy. He arrived in San Francisco with the touring company
            of Bye Bye Birdie (1960) and never left. He settled into the waterfront gay
            scene of San Francisco at the foot of Folsom Street, created the Tool Box
            bar in 1961, three years after the founding of the Gold Coast which he had
            enjoyed while Birdie played Chicago. As the “Leather Lautrec of Folsom
            Street,” Arnett, unlike Orejudos, was listed under “Contributors” on the
            masthead of Drummer. As a muralist, Arnett inspired Orejudos.
               In Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, see my leather-history
            feature “Artist Chuck Arnett,” Drummer 134 (October 1989); Arnett was
            one of the original charter members of the Drummer salon.
               Because of cross-pollination inside Renslow’s Chicago leather salon,
            I think it reveals something about Orejudos to examine a bit about his
            senior mentor Sam Steward.
               The aristocratic Sam Steward was a different class than Renslow and
            Orejudos, but they both had more testosterone. Sam, the sage and teacher,
            had this lyric whimsy that tattooists, at least tattoo artists under his tute-
            lage, should be named after birds. Cliff Raven followed his advice, but
            Sam’s protégé Ed Hardy and others did not convert.
               (Sam was immensely amused that Sparrow was truly David Sparrow’s
            family name. He found it very “Edna St. Vincent Millay, very ‘Passer
            Mortuus Est.’”  Spero  in Latin means “I hope.” Sam wrote a monthly
            column, 1942-1949, for the Illinois Dental Journal using the pen name
            “Philip Sparrow.”)
               I think Sam’s romantic idea of the role of the tattoo artist inflicting
            beauty and pain at the same time was reinforced by Tennessee Williams’
            very popular bird imagery of the 1950s. Savage birds of beauty fly through
            Tennessee Williams’ stories and dramas such as Sweet Bird of Youth and
            Suddenly Last Summer. Williams’ first play has a title that sounds in fact
            like a description of a tattoo: I Rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix. After Wil-
            liams penned The Rose Tattoo (1951), Sam, who began tattooing in 1952,

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