Page 214 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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196      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999


            sometimes Larry Townsend. The stylish and tiny Barney was the only
            woman at a table of increasingly plump old men whose friendly nostalgia
            for the good old days could quickly morph into competition, bragging, and
            attitude. On December 24, 2007, Barney wrote me the day after the latest
            of the traditional Christmas luncheons:


               Brunch went well. I realize that now [that] I’ve accepted the fact
               that I’ll never get my $ out of him [Embry], and [that] I don’t have
               to spend much time with him, he’s bearable. I do wish, though, that
               ...[he] would not regale me with stories of costly remodeling and
               brand-new LG appliances for...apartments.


               Drummer was wildly popular in the late 1970s, yet always burdened with
            mysterious debt. Al Shapiro and I sensed that Drummer profits were financ-
            ing Embry’s fast-moving real-estate deals. He was living off the Drummer
            buck. Respecting that his business was his business, we began to protect our
            own professional interests inside Drummer especially after our salaries trick-
            led down so slowly to nothing in 1979 at the Divisadero office. As soon as Al
            and I quit because of money owed us, the publisher of the “cash-strapped”
            Drummer suddenly produced an instant down-payment and bought a new
            office on Harriet Street, South of Market in 1980.
               If we’d been in synch, Embry and Shapiro and I in the 1980s might
            have grown Drummer progressively transcendent and practical even as the
            curse of HIV pulled Drummer back from being a 1970s sex magazine with
            verite photographs of real players. In January 1980, four things reshaped
            1970s Drummer:
               1) Shapiro and I exited ending what readers, historians, and Embry
            called the 1970s “Golden Age of Drummer”;
               2) the new Mr. Drummer Contest reshaped editorial content into a kind
            of leather-runway fanzine;
               3) the arrival of corporate video studios paying for their slick profes-
            sional models to appear in Drummer pushed aside real grass-roots photo-
            graphs of attainable leather tricks, characterized in reader’s selfies featured
            in the monthly “Tough Customers” column; and
               4) AIDS changed the sexual lifestyle from liberal to conservative.
               The upside of Drummer featuring hundreds of pages of leather contes-
            tants is that those photos are a happy record of a generation of leathermen
            snapped as they are bravely carrying on even while being hit with the tsu-
            nami of HIV. Some anti-contest readers complained that 1980s Drummer
            had caught “sash rash” from its Mr. Drummer Contest and published too


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