Page 467 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 18                       449

                Born before him, I have lived nearly thirty more years than he whom
             Fate shortchanged; but, even with that empathetic perspective, I cannot
             ignore the Drummer history of my memories, my impressions, and my criti-
             cal thinking about him at that time in that place in the “Preston Origin
             Story” where he bottomed to Embry’s publishing power. To gain the bal-
             ance of others’ perspectives about Preston, the book that is essential is
             the admirably elegiac 1995 anthology edited by Laura Antoniou, Looking
             for Mr. Preston: A Celebration of the Author’s Life - Interviews, Essays, and
             Personal Reminiscences of John Preston with eulogies by twenty-seven liter-
             ary friends including Antoniou, Larry Townsend, Sasha Alyson, Owen
             Keehnen, Andrew Holleran, Celia Tan, Carol A. Queen, Jesse Monteagudo,
             Drummer model Scott O’Hara, and 1990s Drummer editor Wickie Stamps.
             Conspicuous by his absence among the keening eyewitnesses was Preston’s
             Henry Higgins: John Embry.
                As Cleve Jones, an intimate of Harvey Milk, finally said to the friends,
             fans, and idolaters of Milk, “He was not a genius and not a saint.” Among
             some fans, Preston’s premature death (age 49) elevated him to a certain cult
             status. But he died older than the Romantic poets Bryon (age 36), Shelley
             (age 29), and Keats (age 25), and passed about the same age as Mapplethorpe
             (age 42) and Milk (age 48). His being swept away in the epic drama of AIDS
             is a great tragedy, but that fact should not sway or coerce the subsequent
             history of facts and opinions about any public author’s life, personality, or
                In 1989, no one gave Robert Mapplethorpe a Viking hero’s funeral,
             a memorial anthology claiming his legacy, or even a culture-war break.
             Instead, one hundred days after he died of AIDS, right-wing politicians,
             fundamentalist preachers, and vanilla gays trashed him personally and pro-
             fessionally in the biggest art scandal of the late twentieth century that saw
             him denounced on the floor of the United States Senate. That Preston died
             was a terrible loss; but how he lived his petulant life at Drummer and in
             gay publishing is a legitimate and essential measure of the man’s actions,
             at least during the turbulent 1970s. While every canonization requires a
             Devil’s Advocate, Preston, needing one, has not yet had one. As an eyewit-
             ness writing memoir, I am not judging him so much as I am holding him
             up to the same transparency to which I held my controversial Robert in
             my feature obituary, “Pentimento for Robert Mapplethorpe,” Drummer 133
             (September 1989), which grew into my book about Mapplethorpe.

                “Like  Republicans constantly  imagining  what  Ronald  Reagan
                would do or say about the issue of the day, City Hall folks seem to

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