Page 185 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 185

Jack Fritscher              Chapter 7                        167


             mistake. Eustace Chisholm, however, did influence Drummer because James
             Purdy’s book, which should be read universally in leather culture, was one
             of my seminal texts as I was coming out as an erotic and literary writer in
             the 1960s.
                In the synergy of literature, magazines are one thing; book publication
             is another; and both need each other. In the parallel universes of magazine
             and books in the literary world of the 1970s, author Felice Picano, two
             years after Drummer debuted, pioneered two tiny and select book busi-
             nesses: Seahorse Press, 1977, and Gay Presses of New York, 1980, which
             seemingly created a base for the Violet Quill fraternity to “self-publish”
             and review one another, beginning with and continuing after the Violet
             Quill’s formal existence (1980-1981) when Drummer was riding high. At
             the same time, New Englander Sasha Alyson, who famously carried a Teddy
             Bear in the crook of his arm like Sebastian Flyte, entered book publishing
             when Drummer was five years old in 1980. In 1974, when Pop provocateur
             Andy Warhol had carried a Teddy Bear under his own arm, walking down
             Fifth Avenue, Bob Colacello in Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, wrote
             that Andy claimed he was consciously “just putting on airs,” and he quit
             doing it. (Page 174). By 1990, Sasha Alyson seemed, observers gossiped, to
             be godfathering gay book publishing. At the 1990 national convention of
             American Booksellers Association (ABA) in Las Vegas, Alyson popped up
             what seemed like a good idea: a “Gay Publishers’ Row.” The “row” as in “a
             line” turned into a “row” as in “a fight.”
                Enmity arose because, as Elizabeth Gershman (1927-2000), the pub-
             lisher of Knights Press, alleged, Sasha Alyson requested a thirty-dollar sur-
             charge to the ABA fees to set up a booth in his privileged corral. She refused
             his blandishments because her small press budget was down to pennies and
             she thought that Alyson’s apartheid gay ghetto row marginalized the gay
             books she was trying to sell crossover to the mainstream world, including
             my new West Coast novel Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San
             Francisco 1970-1982. When Gershman set up her Knights Press booth, I was
             required to be present as “the author” inside her display, and was trapped
             for three days in the struggle between these two East Coast publishers,
             Gershman and Alyson. In the tension of all that attitude stalking the aisles, I
             politely resisted being tarred with the same brush as the fiercely independent
             Gershman whom I barely knew before the book convention, and knew too
             well afterwards. There were no saints at that national ABA convention that
             some years later became the national Book Expo America (BEA). While
             Gershman was beloved in The Advocate in feature articles such as “Betty’s
             Books,” she as a straight woman was hardly equipped to fend off the gay


               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-16-2017
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