Page 218 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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200      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

            Stonewall, and I enjoyed the Busby Berkeley musical-comedy production
            number in the Associated Press photo of the pilots and stewardesses stand-
            ing on the wings of the Jumbo Jet. I was staying at the leather S&M Argos
            Hotel whose foundation was footed in the gay middle ages (1950) when the
            owners of the building, circumventing police and building codes, turned
            their living room into the Argos Bar and their bedrooms into a sanctuary
            hotel of sadomasochism. I had no expense account. I paid my own way. I
            lived it up to write it down, and poured the cream of sex into my writing
            and eventually into Drummer.
               Early on Friday afternoon, August 3, 1979, in the Drummer office, with
            Al Shapiro witnessing what he wanted to find out, John Embry made a fatal
            mistake that revealed his character and eventually cost him the ownership
            of Drummer.
               That afternoon, I asked Embry for my back pay at $400 a month (nearly
            $4000, a huge total back then), and said if I weren’t paid, I’d be giving
            notice that I was finishing up all my incremental editorial progress toward
            the autumn issues 31, 32, and 33, which took Drummer through December
            1979. Because Embry had only recently returned from his bout with cancer,
            I did not want to exit abruptly, nor did Embry want me to because I special-
            ized in creating trendy leather-culture feature articles not found in his files.
            After I exited, no one else went on location to write gonzo journalism of
            rodeos, prisons, and swimming meets. Jeanne Barney told me in 2006 that
            when she left Drummer in 1976, Embry owed her “...$13,000, and Larry
            Townsend has even computed the interest on that.”
               If Embry had paid all of us, he might have been able to own his Drummer
            for twenty-four years. Instead, he cut off his nose to spite his face. As an LA
            businessman, he knew the cost but not the value of paying the workers who
            were the contributors and the in-house staff. He ruined his own reputation.
            The talent drain over time cost him his “beloved” Drummer in 1986.
               Eight years after my exit, in a letter dated August 24, 1987, the still-
            enraged Embry, who had not been publisher of Drummer for a year, lied
            to the new  Drummer  publisher Tony DeBlase that Fritscher “still owes
            Drummer  nine issues as editor-in-chief for which he was paid in full.”
            Funny, he’d never mentioned that before. Among those who died laugh-
            ing: Mapplethorpe (died 1989) and Sparrow (died 1992) and DeBlase (died
            2000). When  Drummer  photographer David Sparrow died, Embry still
            owed him nearly one thousand dollars from thirteen years earlier. BDSM
            author Rick Leathers, who worked eleven years in Embry’s mail-order office
            before and after he sold Drummer, wrote, “John never advanced a penny to
            anyone for anything.”

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