Page 85 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
P. 85

Jack Fritscher              Chapter 2                         67

                This is the kind of salon of S&M and talent that Drummer fell into
             when arriviste Embry found himself exiled from LA to San Francisco late
             in 1976 and early 1977. Cut to the quick by his banishment by the LAPD,
             Embry was like a man who had lost his country. He never became a “San
             Franciscan.” He had left what heart he had in Los Angeles, and his arrest
             and exile and PTSD may have so eaten at his guts that the stress may have
             contributed to the colon cancer he suffered soon after he set up the Drummer
             office where I worked at 1730 Divisadero Street in San Francisco.
                Distressed in his long move from LA and from illness, Embry was
             absent from Drummer for seven formative months in 1978 (February-May
             while moving, and again, August-December while ill) during which time
             Al Shapiro and I, eager to please this new publisher we had just met, cre-
             ated the San Francisco version of Drummer that changed it from an LA
             magazine into an international success. In an almost ironic coincidence in
             Autumn 2000, John Embry, heading for the International Mr. Drummer
             Contest which he had scorned and sold in 1986, ran down the stairs on
             his way to the airport and fell, breaking his hip. He observed about that
             illness what was true about his earlier long bout with cancer: “The healing
             process takes a lot of energy, leaving little time for the creative process.”
             (Super MR 7, page 5) Even when physically healthy, Embry was far from
             a creative force behind Drummer. At best, he was a show-runner seeing to
             the mechanics and commercial accounts of publishing. He never under-
             stood the soul of Drummer. The hiatus caused by his colon cancer, sad
             to say for him, left open a wonderful door for the creative staff to invent
             a magazine that Embry never understood. That wasn’t the intent, but it
             was the result.
                So confused and jealous was Embry by the diverse reasons for the success
             of our re-imagined Drummer that he obsessively filled his subsequent maga-
             zines such as Super MR with page after page of reprints from 1970s Drummer,
             and often, with reprints of the very features and fiction, like “Prison Blues,”
             that I had penned for the Drummer he so misunderstood he sold it. For
             twenty-four years, he groused and regretted that sale until his death in 2010.
                As an eyewitness of his regrets, I offer his Super MR 7 which contains
             nearly a dozen pages nostalgic for the early  Drummer  whose lightning
             caught in a bottle he never really understood anymore than he understood
             the rainmakers who turned Drummer into a perfect storm of sex, masculine
             identity, and sadomasochism.
                One wonders if Embry so loved Drummer, why did he plunder the
             profits, sell it, and, then, why did he try to reinvent a new Drummer inside
             the magazines he later created? While Embry’s sale of Drummer saddled

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