Page 436 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 436

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

               Shades of publisher Embry, Alyson, who had taken quondam Drummer
            author John Preston into his publishing house, pulled me aside for a tete-a-
            tete lecture. Hectoring me to join his book row, he seemed intent on turning
            me against Elizabeth who did not want her product, my book, to be in what
            she called Alyson’s ghetto-side aisle. “Gay Alley, Son” was the joke. Not want-
            ing to be marginalized in Alyson’s gated community, Elizabeth had paid for
            Knights Press to host its own booth out on the wide-open floor with other
            mainstream, new age, and feminist small presses. As a result, Sasha Alyson—
            whom I met only that once—seemed a participant in the stealth feuds of the
            kind favored by Embry, as well as the kinds started in the 1980s by the self-
            anointed New York literary establishment against West Coast writers such
            as Larry Townsend, and even John Rechy and Armistead Maupin who both
            eventually got a nod because of their mainstream popularity (fans) and sales
            (cash) which earned a begrudged inclusion in the gay canon guarded by a
            three-faced Cerberus of two-faced Manhattan literary mandarins.
               Some of those most famous gay authors, seven years later in January
            1997, were chased off the stage of the San Carlos Institute at the annual
            Key West Writers Conference, “Literature in the Age of AIDS,” because of
            the outrageous behavior of the screaming Larry Kramer, and other panelists
            being too sexually graphic, and others trashing fellow panelists, including
            the straight writer Ann Beattie for her not writing more about AIDS. The
            Key West president of the Conference, fed up, ran up on stage and—cutting
            entitled and rude queens down to size—told everyone on that stage and in
            the audience to get out. “The conference is over.”
               No matter how dramatic the spoiled tantrums of even the “greatest”
            gay writers, respect cannot be demanded. Ask Tennessee Williams, Truman
            Capote, and James Baldwin. To straight people, gay authors, from porn
            novelists to Pulitzer winners, are little more than genre writers penning
            guilty pleasures like romance novelists, sci-fi cult authors, or formula mys-
            tery hacks. Our segregation from mainstream American literature is perhaps
            one cause of the bitter intramural civil war among status-conscious gay
            American writers and publishers who work their anger out bullying each
               That scandalous January afternoon in Key West all of us invited to
            leave, guilty or not, included alpha authors and agents such as Michael
            Bronski, David Leavitt, Jewelle Gomez, and Michael Denneny who made
            way to the exits while an even-tempered Tony Kushner surveyed the embar-
            rassing exodus.
               Standing in the fourth row where we had been sitting, Mark Hemry and
            I were loving the slapstick Commedia dell’Arte of witnessing high-button

              ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-14-2017
   431   432   433   434   435   436   437   438   439   440   441