Page 215 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 8                        197


             many repetitive pages of leather contestants. However, of those plague years,
             who can say if the tail wagged the dog? The historical value of those photos
             is that some of those dear young men during that first desperate decade
             of AIDS sported big smiles bravely covering the fact they knew they were
             positive and this was their last chance to be drop-dead gorgeous before they
             faded away: sashes to ashes.
                As a Mr. Drummer Contest judge and as a video director, I fell privy to
             a certain back-story narrative told on a sad loop. Having shot five or six Palm
             Drive feature videos of several handsome Mr. Drummer contestants like
             Larry Perry (Mr. Detour Leather) in Naked Came the Stranger, Wes Decker
             (Mr. Southeast Drummer) in Sodbuster, and Rick Conder (Mr. Southwest
             Drummer) in Leather Saddle Cowboy Bondage, I became both eyewitness
             and, perhaps because of my eleven years of training for the priesthood, a
             kind of father confessor administering Last Rites. I asked Keith Ardent,
             star of my Pec Stud in Black Rubber, whom I shot for the Rubberotica cover
             and interior photo spread of Drummer 118 (July 1988): Why are you doing
             this? He said: “Your camera makes me immortal. I want to be shot by as
             many photographers as possible.” Leather contests such as International Mr.
             Leather and its imitator Mr. Drummer were the opposite of the closet. They
             offered to males born outside the “straight pale” a chance to stand up in
             public to be cheered as victorious male personalities exhibited as good as
             and as valid as their straight brothers. To Embry, Mr. Drummer was little
             more than a publicity stunt staged to exploit the eager models and the ticket-
             buying leather community in order to provide him free photographs of “his”
             contestants.
                Under Embry and Rowberry from 1980-1986, Drummer  recycled
             several of my original fetish themes such as “cigars” and “older men and
             daddies.” Mostly, however, they diluted the essential leatherfolk reality show
             of 1970s Drummer photography. They welcomed slick photos of faux-leather
             porn models provided free by the first-emerging new video companies. The
             cost-conscious Embry gladly sold his covers and centerfolds to the highest
             corporate bidder salivating for international product placement of its video
             stars on a Drummer cover. In the 1970s, Drummer had feasted on verite
             leather and S&M “movies shot on film” by a select few talents: Fred Halsted,
             Wakefield Poole, the Gage Brothers, and Roger Earl with Terry LeGrand
             who produced the controversial Southern California Mr. Drummer Contest
             in 1991. In 1982, startup video companies, hearing Embry pitch his monthly
             press run at 42,000 copies, thought Drummer could make kosher their faux-
             leather actors zipped into “costume” chaps. Because Embry was neither per-
             sonally nor erotically into the existential quintessence of leather itself, he


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