Page 224 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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206      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

            native San Francisco Italian leather-guru, Tony Tavarossi (Drummer 131).
            He and I were intimate pals from 1970 to his death in 1981 when he was
            the first “leather star” personality to die of a mysterious illness no one could
            name. In the 1950s, he worked in Tenderloin drag bars, instinctively absorb-
            ing management skills. He soon attracted the attention of a Mafia guido,
            and even though he could not be “connected” like a “made man” because he
            was gay, he became a familiar. The mob flew him to New Jersey to assess a
            leather bar that had sprung up in New York. Like a good paisan, Tony flew
            back to the Tenderloin, and with discreet backing opened the first dedicated
            leather bar in San Francisco in 1962 (Drummer 131). He was twenty-eight
            and cool. To name his bar, he reversed the spelling of his first name, added
            a question mark, and dubbed his “mambo Italiano” pub Tony’s “YNOT?”
            aka “Why Not?” In 1961, an undercover cop entrapped Tony in his own
            bar, and the SFPD closed it down. Such victimization led immediately to
            the founding of San Francisco’s Tavern Guild to protect bar owners and
            patrons from harassment. Mob support benefitted Tony. His lesson was not
            lost on me. When I made my joke to Embry about calling the Mafia to fund
            Drummer, did I accidentally hit a sore spot?
               Why did he react so explosively?
               Was it because he wasn’t “connected,” or because he was?
               His longtime employee and confidante, Frank Hatfield aka Drummer
            author Frank O’Rourke, who ran Embry’s mail-order business was a self-
            confessed ex-con who liked to brag of his long association, twenty years
            before, with Mafia boss Meyer Lansky in Miami and Havana before Fidel
            Castro seized Cuba and drove out the mob in 1959.
               One must really consider: Was Embry Mafia?
               The principle difference between the Mafia and Embry was that the
            Mafia was organized crime.
               Glenn Turner, publisher of the chicken magazine Stars, who rented part
            of the Harriet Street Drummer building owned by Embry was alleged to
            be “connected.” Turner’s rumored racketeer ties may have been inevitable
            gossip in the modern gay world where tough young Mafia guidos have long
            been a hot urban sex fetish akin to the pastoral sex fetish of Sicilian teenag-
            ers romanticized by 19  and 20 -century gay photographers like Wilhelm
            von Gloeden and authors like E. M. Forster with his Italianate interests,
            and Tennessee Williams in The Rose Tattoo and The Roman Spring of Mrs.
            Stone. That arty and literary crowd of sex tourists framed the 20 -century
            concept of Italian hustlers on the down low as smouldering sex objects ignit-
            ing gay erotic fantasies. In England, Evelyn Waugh’s friend, the writer Sir
            Harold Acton glamorized the lubricious appeal of Sicilian sexuality and the

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