Page 208 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 208

190      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999


            UNDER THE SNAKE SKIN OF HUMANS:
            GAY SUNSHINE PRESS, THE CUTTING EDGE, AND ILLNESS


            On the West Coast in San Francisco, Drummer literature suited the former
            Catholic priest Winston Leyland, the seminal publisher, who in 1975, the
            year of Drummer‘s birth, founded his Gay Sunshine Press which is the “old-
            est continuously publishing book house” of diverse gay literature and gay
            popular culture in the United States. His mandarin literary tastes included
            rough trade. He printed many photographs by Old Reliable in his books.
            In 1984, he put me under contract and began publishing three books of my
            leather writing first published and proved by test-marketing in Drummer:
            Leather Blues: A Novel of Leatherfolk; Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of
            Captain O’Malley and Other Stories, the first ever collection of Drummer
            stories; and Stand by Your Man and Other Stories.
               In the 1970s and early 1980s, several West Coast gay authors and play-
            wrights, such as Mason Powell and George Birimisa, judged the marketing
            rhythms of serial publication in monthly magazines to be a better connec-
            tion to eager fans than one-time publication of a single book. They turned
            their hopes to Drummer special-edition magazine-sized “books.” Leather
            Blues and Corporal in Charge (both 1984) were the first two crossover titles
            bridging from Drummer to Gay Sunshine, from Embry’s “magazine format
            books” to Leyland’s “trade paperback books.”
               On August 1, 2002, the E-Newsletter of Calamusbooks.com, Volume
            II, #38, nailed this centrality of Drummer when it identified my professional
            persona as “the founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer maga-
            zine which, in its early issues, back in the late 1970s [Fritscher at Drummer:
            March 1977-December 1979], was a terrific contribution to the erotic litera-
            ture of gay men—it even featured photos by Robert Mapplethorpe.”
               While I wanted  Drummer  to be cutting edge, it was a measure of
            Embry’s je ne sais quoi that neither of my formative heroes, the avant-garde
            Andy Warhol nor the iconic leather filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, were ever
            mentioned or duly honored in Drummer. In a nasty bit, Warhol’s film, Bad,
            was trashed in one snotty column in Drummer 15, page 62.
               In all good dramas, sex and medical story arcs and unrequited love
            writhe under the snake skin of humans. During the manic-depressive 1970s
            when most gay people were fixing their homophobically wounded and newly
            uncloseted selves with uppers and downers, we were under the discipline to
            produce Drummer one word, one photo, one drawing, one page, one issue
            at a time, every thirty days, twelve times a year.
               During twenty-four years, the monthly  Drummer  averaged an


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