Page 155 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 6                        137


                Embry wrote about “the Angel of Death,” and how “the Big ‘C,’” which
             was how he termed cancer, was “the bogey man” who had come for his
             lover Don, and how he had “wished I could exchange places with him,” and
             how the last time he saw him “was the day that the first copy of the first
             issue of Drummer was first unleashed on an unsuspecting public....The first
             Drummer came off the press on June 23, 1975, Don’s and my second anni-
             versary. The magazine was bound by hand...and delivered with two roses in
             a gold box to Don’s hospital room.” (Drummer 188, page 23)
                Jeanne Barney, who was their go-between at the hospital, revealed to
             me: “The particular lover was an alcoholic who left John when he got sober.
             It had nothing to do with his leukemia.”
                In 1970, Erich Segal’s romantic tear-jerker novel and hit movie, Love
             Story, swept through popular culture a dozen years before its archetypal
             story would be retold as an AIDS movie. Segal’s plot featured a young col-
             lege co-ed dying of cancer in the arms of her boyfriend. In tune with Segal,
             Embry’s romantic telling of his own “love story” differed in what seems a
             harsh rejection which left him reeling. During the many months when he
             simultaneously fled LA, fled the LAPD, and fled his unrequited lover, our
             San Francisco Drummer staff had to cope with his bruised psyche.
                In health and love, Embry’s human anguish, which touched one’s heart,
             was a hidden anxiety that stood like the First Elephant in the Room at our
             Drummer office on Divisadero Street. Illness seized him, and isolated him,
             years before illness, seizing us all, brought us together. Turning fifty, he
             was a generation older than we who in the 1960s had marched with protest
             signs saying, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Even on the rebound with his
             second choice, his non-blond lover, Mario Simon, to comfort him, Embry,
             who said he preferred “Nordic blonds,” seemed a lover who carried a torch
             of “unrequited love” made worse by the fact that the ex-lover, romantically
             portrayed as doomed, did not die, and continued to live in LA, estranged
             and out of touch.
                I only observed his “love story” from the outside in, but as Embry him-
             self grew privately aware that he too was becoming ill as had his partner, he
             became, in his public mood swings, increasingly unavailable to Drummer
             for quite some time even before his long ordeal of disability from cancer
             and stress from court appearances stemming from his arrest at the Slave
             Auction. On fate’s wheel of fortune, I felt no Schadenfreude that his bad year
             from Summer 1978 to Summer 1979 was the best year I had working for
             Drummer. The staff had dismissed his biting temperament as simply “very
             LA” until the night in Autumn 1978 when he sat us all down so charmingly,
             so disarmingly, and, smiling through, revealed what was happening to him,


               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-14-2017
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