Page 434 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 434

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

            Follies, as provocative as he needed to be to have this serial become his first
            published book. When he arrived, hiding behind the mask of one of his seven
            or so pen names, he seemed depressed and bitter after having been fired as
            editor of The Advocate. He was not the first dumped Advocate employee to
            head straight for Drummer. He followed in the footsteps of other Advocate
            refugees such as first Drummer editor-in-chief Jeanne Barney and early col-
            umnist Aristede Laurent. The East Coast Preston of 1979 imitated the East
            Coast Mapplethorpe of 1977. Just as the virtually unknown Robert, seeking
            leather fame, arrived at my desk at Drummer with his portfolio and his hat in
            hand, Preston needed the power of Drummer to help rebuild his self-esteem
            and to kick-start his sadomasochistic writing career. So he ran the gauntlet
            to climb between the covers at Embry’s Alternate Publishing.
               A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, but Preston’s ambition exceeded
            his erotic talent. In the mid-1980s he became an intriguing editor of books
            who opportunely found social power in anthologizing authors grateful to be
            published at the height of the AIDS crisis, but he hadn’t the gift of editing
               Having lost face when he lost his position at The Advocate, he never
            became what he was desperate to become in the early 1980s: the editor of
            Drummer magazine.
               His own nemesis, the ruthless John Rowberry, who became editor after
            my exit, kept his foot on Preston’s neck.
               Drummer had a palpable power and magic. When its contents were
            managed synergistically, the magazine was a rich source for growing features
            and fiction into books because book publishers found a certain trial-balloon
            confidence in the pre-sold “pitch” made by such magazine publication to an
            eager core audience of fans reading the 42,000 copies of Drummer published
            monthly in the late 1970s.
               Knights Press also grew out of Drummer in terms of staff, authors, and
            books. Even Advocate journalist Craig Rowland took note, writing a perky
            feature about its founder Elizabeth Gershman titled “Betty’s Books” in issue
            517, January 3, 1989, page 56. A year later, Elizabeth published Some Dance
            to Remember on St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1990. With Knights Press’
            three printings, that first edition sold over forty thousand copies and was
            a Lambda Literary Award finalist as best book, “Gay Men’s Small Press”
            category, the third year of the Lammy competition. It placed as a Finalist
            in that contest, staged by the East Coast bookstore Lambda Rising, when
            three of its four fellow Finalists were books published by the Boston cor-
            poration, Alyson Publications, which was bought by The Advocate in 1995.
            While Some Dance finished tied with Robert Chesley’s Hard Plays/Stiff Parts

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