Page 34 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 34

16       Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

               In March 1977, John Embry hired me as editor-in-chief to assist his
            move from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and to write the Drummer story
            inside the magazine.
               Drummer was a first draft of leather history.
               This memoir of Drummer is a second.
               This is a story of some talented artists and some unsympathetic persons,
            with some discomfiting eyewitness testimony about the pressures of art and
            commerce on the moral actions of writers and publishers during the first
            decade of gay liberation after the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. Drummer
            was to me what Chawton village was to Jane Austen who also wrote about
            “a world in small” with characters reflecting the human condition.

                    “I never foresaw the impact that Drummer would have.
                          It was a big surprise to me....I’m amazed.”
                           —John Embry to Robert Davolt, 2003

               John Embry was not a pure bully only because nobody’s perfect.
               This is a backstage story born of a whisper, anchored in evidence, and
            told by many insiders interested in the truths rather than the legends about
               It is a cautionary tale about esthetic, psychological and financial abuse,
            as well as betrayal in the gay community.
               It is a representative history, universal in its specifics, of the 1% of pub-
            lishers exploiting the 99% of writers, artists, and photographers. An internet
            search for “bad publishers” yields 74,800,000 results in 0.23 seconds.
               In  our  transparent  age  of  social  communication,  nothing  is  secret
               This book was ninety percent written when its present-tense immediacy
            changed the morning John Embry died in his sleep on September 16, 2010.
               John Embry (1926-2010), born a Methodist in Winslow, Arizona, moved
            to Los Angeles to study art, was drafted into the U.S. Army (1949), and sold
            advertising in Hawaii and LA before his involvement with H.E.L.P., the
            Homophile Effort for Legal Protection that rescued gay men entrapped by
            the Los Angeles Police Department. The slick life in LA suited his busi-
            ness style perfectly. In 1971, his fledgling mail-order business, the “Leather
            Fraternity,” selling poppers and leather wristbands, needed a small-format
            brochure whose sales pitch he cleverly insinuated within his editorial and
            advertising coverage of bars and restaurants such as the Glass Onion, the
            Sewers of Paris, the Bitter End West, and the Bla Bla Café in Studio City.
            In December, he debuted his first mini-mag “trial balloon” and titled it

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