Page 430 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 430

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

            to John Embry, had to learn how to make their gay business work within
            the straight business model.
               Gay culture in the 1970s had a fast and steep learning curve as profit
            replaced innocence with the drama, intrigues, jealousies, and ambitions
            around cash, competition, and assimilation. Segregated for so long from
            the straight world, we thought our gay world was somehow superior, but
            as soon as given the chance, we sold out our Eden, and all hell broke loose.
               The gay media business was born.

                                         * * * *

            John Embry was never transparent or accountable. His public life, at least
            his thirty stentorian years in leather publishing to which I was both an eye-
            witness and accomplice (1975-2009), was one long grudge match of “Embry
            VS The World.” Masking his jealousies masking his greed, Embry filled the
            few published sections of his autobiography, Epilogue, with his own remem-
            bered agenda. His selected memories are as validly Rashomon as anyone’s.
            His papers and memoir stand open to anthropologists, critical thinkers, and
            ironic comedians as a forensic dig of internal evidence of his pugnacious
            mindset in the pages of Drummer and his other magazines.
               As a gay mail-order salesman, John Embry was the Willy Loman of gay
            publishing. Both men were drummers peddling their wares. I think atten-
            tion must be paid to whatever baggage the cunning Embry left behind in
            any of his polemical periodicals, manuscripts, and archives. Any bits of his
            memoir, Epilogue, must be evaluated critically and fact-checked historically
            as must mine and other Folsom Street historians such as the photographer-
            memoirist Jim Stewart and feminist-Marxist anthropologist Gayle Rubin.
            The huckster had tales to tell and he was never afraid to rant loudly in print
            about cops, competitors, and staff. When proved to be true, or revealed as
            false, his then adjusted recall may help reveal an even more objective story of
            Drummer which as a cultural force was bigger than any of us who created it.
               As documented by letter and by email after 2001, I offered several times
            to interview Embry about his “take” on Drummer, but he always declined
            because, I think, as a publisher he knew investigative journalists pursue
            facts, nuance, and accountability. Nevertheless, despite the blood under our
            bridge, my former employer asked me four times if I were interested in copy-
            editing his long-gestating manuscript of Epilogue. Like him, I demurred. I
            always answered: “Not now. Maybe later. When my own writing is com-
            pleted.” As editor, I did not want to repair his manuscript the way I had to
            shine up most of the manuscripts submitted to me at Drummer, including

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