Page 57 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 1                         39


             A QUARTET FOUNDED DRUMMER; HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE
             CREATED DRUMMER; MILLIONS OF PEOPLE READ DRUMMER


             A stack of 214 issues of Drummer is a coffee-table sculpture 3.5 feet tall
             weighing 120 pounds. Laid flat, top-to-bottom, Drummer stretches sixty-
             four yards which is two-thirds of the length of a football field. At approxi-
             mately ninety pages per issue, Drummer comprises a total 20,000 pages
             filled by hundreds of writers, artists, designers, and photographers, includ-
             ing even more thousands of revealing personal ads voiced and written by
             readers, with commercial advertisers displaying precise pop-culture signs of
             the times.
                Drummer surged beyond calculation.
                A Drummer group photo would look like the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s
             Lonely Hearts Club Band.
                With a 42,000 copy press run for each issue in the 1970s, and with a
             pass-along rate of two readers in addition to the subscriber, approximately
             100,000 people handled each issue of Drummer for an approximate total of
             21 million people.
                The mobbed Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco hosts 100,000 leather
             guests every September.
                Even if Embry exaggerated the press run by fifty percent, each issue
             of Drummer would have been in the hands of 50,000 people. In gay book
             publishing, 5,000 copies sold is considered a best seller, and books fall far
             short of the pass-along rate of magazines.
                Drummer was huge.
                For the last quarter of the 21st century, among the millions of leather-
             folk, there was hardly a person alive who had not heard of or read Drummer.
             Years after Drummer closed, readers continued to write to me that as young
             teenagers they had managed somehow to find Drummer, even in Sweet
             Home, Alabama, and it had answered their incipient needs and shaped their
             masculine identities.
                More people have read one issue of Drummer than have read any one
             book by any deeply established GLBT author in the “Top 100” list of literary
             best-sellers in the gay canon.
                That’s why I added the line to the masthead of Drummer 23 (July 1978):
             “The American Review of Gay Popular Culture.”
                During that same year, Richard Labonté and Norman Laurila founded
             the revolutionary bookstore, A Different Light, in the Silver Lake district of
             LA. In his eyewitness recall, the trend-spotting Labonté noted that during
             ADL’s first months in 1979 while I was editor-in-chief, he had to increase his


               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-16-2017
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