Page 79 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 2                         61


             (no matter who was editor) in organizing all the disparate talents who filled
             its pages. My motive was to see, out of my editorial curiosity, at least, what
             the talented guests, combined or collaborating, might come up with to
             refresh the ongoing hungry issues of the magazine. The power of Drummer
             pulled Mapplethorpe unbidden by me to my desk. It pulled Tom of Finland
             and Sam Steward as well. In that time on the international leather scene,
             Drummer was the only game in town.
                It is worth noting that Drummer publisher John Embry never met Sam
             Steward, or cared to figure out who Steward’s pseudonymous Phil Andros
             was. Jeanne Barney also never met Sam. But she was most gracious to him
             when I suggested he submit his stories to Drummer, and she published him,
             in the midst of the April Slave Auction turmoil, in Drummer issues five and
             eight (March 1976 and September 1976).
                Justin Spring quoted Sam Steward’s self-focused letter, dated “Valentino’s
             Day [February 14], 1978,” about this February 9 dinner party in his biogra-
             phy, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo
             Artist, and Sexual Renegade. Sam Steward was, even as a friend I admired, a
             wise and wizened queen who could control an arcade of rough sailors with
             an eyebrow, but a dinner party? He had the certain kind of Ionesco absurdist
             gravitational pull that comes when sexual bottoms in search of a center try
             to balance their subordinate lives by claiming to be the primal cause of other
             peoples’ efforts on the self-styled “power bottom’s” behalf.
                As a resurrectionist of Steward’s writing under Jeanne Barney in
             Drummer, I was never one of my dear Sammy’s controllable sailors. Inside
             his demure demeanor, he was a Napoleonic banty of a man who tried to
             trump everyone, and hustle his hustlers and friends and 1980s acolytes,
             such as John Preston, to get the future canonization he wanted by giving
             the upcoming generation what they wanted: their ancestral connection to
             him. When the obsessive Sam Steward tied up loose ends, he was always
             the center of the knot. I adored him as an intellectual friend and as an old
             gent whom I respected as a pioneer gay writer, but I was always careful of his
             diktats because after I interviewed him on audiotape in 1972, he abruptly
             told me, who became aghast, I could not do what I had a grant for: pub-
             lish an article about him. As an alcoholic with a taste for hustlers, he had
             impoverished himself, and out of his poverty, he decreed: “You can’t publish
             anything I told you until after I’m dead. I have to live off these stories.” I
             understood his concerns and complied even as I had to explain to the grant
             giver that I could not publish my research. Nevertheless, I didn’t drop him
             because I truly liked him, and we remained pals for twenty-four years, but
             his request warned me to be ever analytic of him and his motives.


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