Page 60 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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42       Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

            explained how he, like Drummer, had evolved out of the pioneering gay
            publishing of the 1960s. So important was his art to Embry that when A.
            Jay quit Drummer, Embry tried to claim for himself the copyright owner-
            ship of Harry Chess. When A. Jay threatened legal action, Embry was forced
            to cease and desist.

               A. Jay: Drummer was the first magazine for masculine gay men, not
               for embarrassed leather queens....I once heard John Embry called
               the “Marie Antoinette of Gay Publishing.” He didn’t really have
               much respect for the intelligence of the readers. Let them eat cake.
               The same pictures and models, especially the beloved Val Martin,
               the same tired beefcake recycled monthly for the public to eat. I
               don’t really agree with all that, but I am used to working with pub-
               lishers with balls. At the beginning, John Embry was an innovator.
               Drummer started back after poppers hit big [actually poppers in
               mesh capsules hit around 1966, nine years before Drummer] and
               the leather market was ripe for its own publication, and not just for
               another mimeographed underground bike club monthly newsletter
               printed on typing paper.
                   Embry and I did lock horns numerous times, but I do give him
               credit for giving me, as “A. Jay,” great exposure, and an opportunity
               to do my art-director thing for almost three years. I did uncover
               budding genius artists like Matt and Domino. [New Yorker Don
               Merrick/Domino’s first West Coast show opened March 24, 1979.]
               Embry, as the cartoon fanatic he is, had the good taste of recogniz-
               ing the pulling power of my Harry Chess and taking it on. Also
               Embry picked up Bill Ward’s wonderful cartoon panels, Drum,
               before he took on Harry Chess. So as a fan of gay cartoons, he did
               some real good.

               Jack: How did you launch  Harry Chess? That strip led you to
               Drummer, yes?

               A. Jay: Harry Chess got started because one of the world’s most
               daring publishers, Clark Polak, put an ad in the New York Times
               twenty-five years ago, saying he needed an art director for his gay
               magazine. He actually used the word gay in the ad! He nearly caused
               a couple hundred heart attacks at the Times when they found out
               what it meant. Anyway, I was considering drawing a gay comic strip
               then, so I proposed Harry Chess to him.

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