Page 252 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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234      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

            bars. As a born salesman, he figured to cash in on the mail-order success of
            both Mizer and Larry Townsend. Embry’s imitation of Townsend’s leather
            publishing business ignited the on-again and off-again feud between the
            two that lasted their entire lives, and was made worse by the mail-order pub-
            lic often confusing one’s name with the other. It was a purposeful confusion
            nurtured by Embry to his own advantage.

                                 “TOP 10” HIT SONG 1955
                        “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots”

               The seminal “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots” was the
               first biker song. I remember it and its thrilling teen-identity context
               clearly. I was sixteen. I bought the black-vinyl 45rpm for 25 cents. I
               sang along with the lyrics I learned by heart. A week after the release
               of this single composed by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and sung by
               “The Cheers,” James Dean, age 24, died in a car crash—the ultimate
               1950s Teen Tragedy—fueling in straight and gay popular culture the
               archetypal romance  of  biker  rebels  without  a  cause  that  Marlon
               Brando had ignited in The Wild One (1953).

                     “He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
                      And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
                       He had a hopped-up ’cycle that took off like a gun
                          … axle grease...underneath his fingernails
                          On the muscle of his arm...a red tattoo…”
                                 © 1955 Lieber and Stoller

               With producer-distributor Mizer’s tough young studs in mind, seeing
            the LA bike gangs streaming on the freeways, and noticing the crowds at
            the LA leather bars, Embry calculated, for cash and not passion, to exploit
            the innate homoeroticism of straight bikers’ appeal to a gay consumer audi-
            ence. We had all experienced the pop-culture wave of mid-century media,
            from AMG to Chuck Renslow’s Kris Studio Chicago to major Hollywood
            studios, making homomasculine stars and icons of blue-collar workers, bik-
            ers, and cowboys defined by the combustion-engine styles around motor-
            cycles and hot-rod cars: Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
            and The Wild One (1953), James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and
            Giant (1956), Kenneth Anger in Scorpio Rising (1964), Dennis Hopper and
            Peter Fonda in the Swinging Sixties’ culture-changing Easy Rider (1969),

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