Page 466 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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448      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

               In truth, the magazine-sized “book” edition of Mr. Benson was no lon-
            ger “original or unedited” because the manuscript had become a concor-
            dance of re-writes that was too mixed to be restored to Preston’s original
            draft. Protesting a bit too much, Embry wrote that “...the trade paperback
            edition has been completely revised [the operative eyewitness word that veri-
            fies my contention] by the author, with a revealing new epilogue from Mr.
            Benson himself.”
               The phrase “Mr. Benson” thus became for awhile yet another pseud-
            onymous mask for Preston himself—as if he were Mr. Benson. Embry shoe-
            horned him into a fictitious identity for marketing purposes, selling t-shirts
            saying “Looking for Mr. Benson” and “One of Mr. Benson’s Boys.” Fiction
            is not autobiography. In fact, Preston was a novice, if not ersatz, leatherman
            who like all hustlers could mime whatever the paying customer wanted for
            sex or for publishing. He knew how to strike an S&M (“Stand & Model”)
            pose. He merchandised himself as the Drummer photographer “Yank,” and
            as the “Dark Lord” on the cover of his Tales from the Dark Lord, published
            by the aptly named Masquerade Books. He was no more “Mr. Benson” than
            he was the “Dark Lord” than he was “Franny” in his best novella Franny,
            The Queen of Provincetown.
               Like Embry who gestured at being a leatherman for publishing pur-
            poses, Preston seemed rather much a vanilla opportunist hooking himself
            up to the new leather literature which, more than gay literature itself, was
            hungry to recruit new writers. He calculated in the 1970s decade of very
            few gay magazines, after he was ejected as editor of The Advocate, that he
            might make a name for himself by hanging his bespoke leather manuscript
            on the S&M band wagon that was Drummer. Recycling his Benson idea
            with little regard for feminist politics, psychology or esthetics, he even
            contemplated a novel titled Ms. Benson, and under the pen name “James
            Prince” wrote a cliche-ridden spanking-and-fetish story about a hetero-
            sexual dominant mistress for Penthouse Variations titled “Ms. Benson’s
               Conflicted about male S&M, Preston was no famous leather player in
            San Francisco. In search of a gateway into newly emerging gay magazine
            culture, he seemed rather much a “leather sex tourist” from the world of The
            Advocate. A lone ranger, he estranged himself from the wide-open fraternity
            of the Drummer Salon that even the elitist Robert Mapplethorpe liked. Even
            though we were polar peers in our professional relationship as author and
            editor, I must be morally honest about my eyewitness analysis of Preston
            because he died so young that he, like Mapplethorpe, never had a chance to
            mature fully into what his youth may have promised.

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