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GAY SAN FRANCISCO: EYEWITNESS DRUMMER
by Jack Fritscher
Chapter also available in PDF and Flip
by Tom Hinde with Jack Fritscher
Written and produced in March-April 1977, at the request of Tom Hinde as a press release to accompany his drawings and quotations for Drummer 16 (June 1977), Second Anniversary Issue.
This same text was also published at Hinde’s show at the Eons Gallery, 708 Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, August 2-31, 1977.
I. Author’s Eyewitness Historical-Context Introduction written December 22, 2001
II. The feature essay as published in Drummer 16, June 1977, Second Anniversary Issue
III. Eyewitness Illustrations
I. Author’s Eyewitness Historical-Context Introduction written December 22, 2001
Gay art spontaneously combusted into the first designated “gay galleries.” Lowell and Herb’s Eons Gallery in Los Angeles, like Robert Opel’s Fey-Way Gallery in San Francisco and Lou Weingarden’s Stompers Gallery in New York, was one of the pioneer galleries for queer art in the 1970s. Eons opened in March 1976 showing the photographs of Drummer contributor, Robert Opel; the 1977 Eons show featured Tom Hinde, Tom of Finland, Go Mishima, and Zach of Los Angeles. Tom Hinde’s first solo show at Fey-Way was January 20 to February 18, 1978. (See the telegram from Eons’ “Lowell and Herb” congratulating Etienne and A. Jay on their dual opening at Fey-Way, May 1978, in the “Star Trick” entry in this book.)
Tom Hinde sold his S&M lithographs as 8x10 prints in limited editions of 125 signed-and-serially-numbered “suites” through his own mail-order company, Denim Publications, San Francisco. Through Denim, Tom Hinde published the 120-page paperback novel titled Leather Boy, Leather Man. Billed as “At last, a sensitive S&M Sex/Love Story,” the novel was particularly well written by Robert Stewart (whom I always believed to be Tom Hinde toying with the heritage names of Jim Stewart and Sam Steward). The cover and the 10 interior illustrations— one for each chapter — were drawn by Tom Clave (aka Tom Hinde). Hinde’s drawings in that book are original and distinctive, yet seem to share the nervous, speedy South-of-Market look similar to drawings by legendary drug-addict artist, Chuck Arnett. Tom gave me a copy of this limited-edition novel in 1977, and I treasure it to this day.
Tom Hinde’s personal story in a sense is the story of Drummer — out of many stories of Drummer. The 1970s were a Golden Age before HIV sucked out the gold and turned the light as fluorescent as an ICU.
Tom Hinde, born in San Francisco, was the kind of artist Drummer needed to invent itself. His story is typical of how personal sex encounters led into the pages of Drummer at a time when everybody was fucking everybody else. Tom Hinde, a brilliant erotic artist of submission, was both my friend and playmate. He starred as “the martyr” in my two-reel Super-8 color film, The Imitation of Art (1973), two years before Drummer was invented. The film trans-substantiated Tom’s autobiographical S&M drawings onto his own flesh, which, of course, made him so much the more interesting as an artist whose lust included the performance art of his own erotic suffering. I filmed the movie at Allan Lowery’s playroom on Castro near 15th Street. David Sparrow did the lighting. My films and videos usually focus on one man on screen from the photographer’s point of view. If I walk into the frame, my camera is on my tripod.
Over time, Tom Hinde introduced me to several other artists and bodybuilders who also wished to appear as martyrs on screen as if, I think, to be able to see themselves lit and angled and shot in ways even more intimate than in a mirror. This “suffering artist” phenomenon in the 1970s in San Francisco was not new to me, even when “original-recipe martyr,” Michel Foucault, showed up to play among the Drummer salon on Folsom Street, because in the 1960s in New York I had shot a number of rather severe films of several artists and critics and writers (the names of the dead, the famous, and the still living are deleted). In San Francisco, one in my series of S&M films, Muscle Agonistes (1972), was shot in the same location as was Tom Hinde. The little epic starred Tom Hinde’s friend, the very handsome blond bodybuilder Robert Walker who was a painter famous as a muralist in Los Angeles interior design. He was also the personal chef for the very famous “name deleted,” the doyenne of the San Francisco social scene whom Armistead Maupin fictionalized in Tales of the City.
(Many of my Super-8 films and 35mm transparencies — some shot with Tony Tavarossi at the Slot Hotel in the Stocks Room #226 — premiered during a number of performance-art “happenings” staged with the poet Ron Johnson at the No Name bar on Folsom Street during 1972-1973. The No Name became the Bolt which became the Brig which became the Powerhouse.)
In 1972, the ever gracious Robert Walker asked my lover David Sparrow and me as a favor to him to pose for one of his very large paintings which was not meant to be a portrait of us. Because Robert Walker had appeared in my Super-8 film, turn-about seemed fair play. That experience of being made into the object of a painter’s eye is recounted as an episode in my 1975 short story, “Rainbow County,” in the female character named “Cleo Walker.” Robert Walker after several sessions said, “I can’t capture the two of you in one frame. There is too much tension.” Neither David Sparrow nor I needed to ask exactly what that meant. The painting which was mythic in theme lies unfinished in some San Francisco attic. The short story that remains appears as the title story in Rainbow County and Other Stories, as well as in Sweet Embraceable You: Coffee-House Stories featuring my spin on Virginia Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway Went That-A-Way.”
David Sparrow and I were gorgeously tempestuous lovers, truly in love and loving each other, officially from July 4, 1969, through March 17, 1979. After that we became even more tempestuous friends who continued to fuck together, as well as tempestuously create together (mostly billed together, explicitly or covertly), shooting many photographs for Drummer under the names “Spitting Image” and “David Sparrow.” Actually, from 1977-1979, the salon of friends and talent and fighting at Drummer drove David and me closer together in creative work, and drove us apart as a domestic couple. Drummer at that period of High Sex was the only game in town, and the very handsome David Sparrow — depressed by his genetically addictive and suicidal personality, confirmed by his sister — never felt he could compete with other players such as Robert Mapplethorpe, who, as I recall, bought several drawings by Tom Hinde, because, Robert said, he admired Tom Hinde’s work at Tom’s second Fey-Way Gallery show, January 21 to February 18, 1979. (David Sparrow, my first true love, is loosely fictionalized as the character Teddy in Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1979-1982.)
Everything about our lives in the Titanic 70s was in the fast lane, but at least we were celebrity passengers in a decade when everyone was a star. On March 3, 1979, Fey-Way, the first art gallery South of Market, celebrated its first anniversary hosted by founder Robert Opel and his muse, the poet and singer Camille O’Grady. On April 20, 1979, I recorded live my interview with Camille O’Grady and Robert Opel which was published in Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera (1994). On May 21, San Francisco gays, angered by the light sentence given to assassin Dan White, set police cars on fire outside City Hall during the White Night Riot. A week later, Robert Opel appeared as Gay Justice in the Civic Center plaza and with a gun acted out “executing Dan White.” Six weeks later, on July 8, 1979, a real gunman entered Fey-Way Gallery, cornered Robert Opel and Camille O’Grady and Anthony Rogers, and in an exchange of words shot Robert Opel to death. To handle the horror the leather-and-art salon immediately spun a joke about how cruel a critic could be.
Critics can be merciless. Rewind tape! Five months before the murder, on January 30, 1979, Camille O’Grady, distressed at a review of Tom Hinde’s work in The San Francisco Sentinel newspaper, wrote me a letter introducing herself. She was that month literally “new in town” and she trusted that as Drummer editor I could help rebut the review. Her approach to me was typical of the power of not me but of the editorship of Drummer. Mapplethorpe approached me in the same way. (Camille and I discussed that her letter was both personal to me and an “open letter” meant for publication, and that her letter to the Sentinel was also an “open letter” which she gave me to publish at my discretion.)
Camille O’Grady c/o Fey-Way Studios 1287 Howard Street
San Francisco Calif 94103 January 30, 1979
I have been in San Francisco for about a month — I read Drummer, & we have many friends in common both here and in N.Y.C.
I thought that this article & my reply to it might be of interest to you & others at Drummer. Since I don’t know whether my letter will be published in the Sentinel, I am sending you this copy of it. [Camille included a clipping from page 9 of the Sentinel, January 26, 1979]
I am reachable through the gallery–626-1000. If you haven’t seen Tom Hinde’s show, come by and see it.
— Camille O’Grady ©1979 Camille O’Grady
This letter opened a friendship. Camille and I bonded (over Tom Hinde) within our mutual circle of New York and San Francisco artists and writers who traveled back and forth between Drummer and Fey-Way. (We also bonded as quivering Catholics, and she gave me copies of dozens of her song lyrics and mystic poems. I gave her journal pages from Some Dance to Remember.) Camille was to Robert Opel what Patti Smith was to Robert Mapplethorpe, except that Camille was hot. Forget comparisons to the intellectually engaging Patti Smith who is cool in her own right. Camille O’Grady seemed to me to be channeling Jim Morrison. In the early 70s, she was an artist who was a singer and a poet. She came up in the underground sex-art-punk milieu of Manhattan. At the Mineshaft, where no women were allowed, the crotchety Wally Wallace who founded and managed the Mineshaft (opening night, October 8, 1976, to the closing in 1985), told me in my videotaped interview with him (March 28, 1990) that he actually welcomed the full-leather Camille into his infamous sex club. (Wally Wallace died September 7, 1999.)
Camille O’Grady lived the liberated pop-and-art life Camille Paglia wrote about ten years later. To me, Camille O’Grady was the “Queen of the Drummer Women.” She was second only to Jeanne Barney, the founding Los Angeles editor in chief of Drummer.
As an exorcist ordained by the Catholic Church, I know about witches: Camille was born a changeling. In the 1977 text-and-photo book Hard Corps: Studies in Leather and Sadomasochism by Michael Grumley and Ed Gallucci, she appears in two photographs: as a striking woman, and as a genderfuck leatherboy. (I wrote in 1979, “Camille O’Grady is a lady. And the lady is a tramp. That’s hot.”) In fact, Wally Wallace not only let Camille in to play, he invited her to sing at the Mineshaft’s 1978 anniversary party where she belted out her piss song, “Toilet Kiss.” She wrote all of her songs from a gay man’s point of view. Camille had assembled her own band dubbed “Leather Secrets” who were a prototype of punk and new wave. Camille told me on audiotape that she played at Hilly Kristal’s CBGB “before Patti.” Her flyer announcing her appearance at Max’s Kansas City, October 9, 1977, sported a drawing of her with a bullet-snifter of poppers (or coke?) up one nostril. Her temporary tattoos read “Wounded Not Broken” and “Stigmata Hari Bleeds for You.”
She had messed around singing with Lou Reed who called her “Patti Smith without a social conscience.” That whole Warhol Factory superstar scene, and Interview magazine crowd, welcomed Camille’s creation of her own wild twin, “Stigmata Hari.” Camille met Robert Opel about the time he streaked the whole wide world on live television at the 1974 Academy Awards. My former house mate Jim Stewart whose work I introduced to Drummer photographed Camille for his show at the Ambush bar. The show opened on March 3, 1979, with Camille appearing in a “Special Guest Performance.” Jim Stewart had moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan, with David Sparrow and me when we all heard the call to head to San Francisco where Jim Stewart lived with us on 25th Street. Camille was, before the trauma of the murder of Robert Opel, a kind of earth mother, a leather lioness of the arts.
And Tom Hinde was one of her cubs. Her significance emphasizes his.
Excuse me for thinking about these times, and these people, and that art the way some think about the lives and art of all charmed circles of their young adulthood.
At the time, I thought they were all of interest.
That’s why I saved everything: letters, invitations, the last Quaalude.... And took notes.
And shot photos.
And made audiotapes and films, and then videos.
Camille’s letter to the Sentinel is interesting and maybe important because she voices her own view of art and morality, which, while very liberated, reveals the reactionary Catholic underneath.
Her art-for-art’s-sake letter is dated “January 27, 1979,” and says:
In his review in the Jan. 26 Sentinel, Beau Riley has compared the art of Thomas Hinde as representing “evil,” and the art of William McNeill as representing “good.” This approach is unfair to both artists, and is irrelevant to the criticism of art itself.
If Riley is to criticize art, he cannot approach his subject as a moralist; he must leave his and others’ lives and lifestyles behind, particularly regarding art of a sexual/sensual nature.
Riley’s major criticism of Hinde’s work is a reaction to the subject matter, and his (Riley’s) projections about it. He was obviously quite disturbed by the work. He was, on the other hand, quite delighted with McNeill’s work.
Riley then proceeds (very ambitiously) to declare that one man’s work is “art” and that the other’s is not — on a “good-evil” basis. What each artist is appealing to is an experience in a specifically sexual area — where one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure, where one man’s “heaven” is another man’s “hell.”
One of the main properties of successful “art” is its ability to place the viewer in the artist’s spirit; in the case of these two artists, in his sexual persona and flesh. If one is to truly experience sexual art, he must approach it with an acceptance and willingness to have congress with the artist’s own vision. If one is to criticize it and negate it as “art” outside of technique, the only
dismissal of sexual art is that the critic was totally unmoved [word is underscored by Camille’s hand in ink] in any sensual way.
Art is the forum where men can transcend many limitations, one of them being the area of “good” and “evil”: many physically uncommitted crimes have been transfigured by artists into great moments to be recognized and experienced by others. The critic’s function is to determine whether that moment occurs — not whether he is physically repelled by it or not.
Camille O’Grady [signed in black ink from a fountain pen]
©1979 Camille O’Grady
Tom Hinde’s drawings were so controversial in the Titanic 70s that they made critic Beau Riley foam at the mouth like a right-wing Republican — in fact, like a 1979 prototype of the new wave of the politically correct. Riley reviewed two shows: William McNeill’s “Seven Deadly Virtues,” seven large mixed-media drawings at the Ambush bar, and Tom Hinde’s “Thomas G. Hinde,” forty-one small drawings at Fey-Way Gallery. The two South of Market venues were about two blocks apart.
Beau Riley was writing about not just Tom Hinde. He was also flaming on about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll South of Market in the same fundamentalist way as had Richard Goldstein in his shock feature article “S&M: The Dark Side of Gay Liberation,” Village Voice, July 7, 1975 — two weeks after the first issue of Drummer was published, June 20, 1975.
In truth, in that time in that place in the politically correct Sentinel, Riley was really writing about Drummer and the culture of Drummer.
Odd, the way he perceived it, because at the same time he was writing his point of view for the Sentinel, I was writing my point of view about art, politics, gay leather culture, and the fashioning of homomasculine identity in Drummer.
I find it absolutely necessary to quote fundamentalist Beau Riley because he voices precisely the politically-correct bigotry that I was fighting against in the pages of Drummer. In the fair play of fair use, I quote the vanished Riley nearly in full because his militant article in smearing the leather culture South of Market as an “explicit hell” and “forum of depravity” is historical “Exhibit A” of swanning gay puritanism. He requires inserted line-item rebuttals and scholar-like comments. And, to be fair to him and readers who may want to judge if I have “bent the bent” of his primary text in then publisher Charles Morris’ The Sentinel, I quote him for textual examination because his article seems otherwise irretrievable.
Beau Riley wrote in part:
William McNeill’s seven colossal-sized works are clearly idealizations. They all represent nude males, rendered in a mix of black, white and gray media, in a loose, quick, Zen-inspired style....The group has been given a satiric name, deadly virtues [sic], a warning to the wary not to take the works at face value, not to see them as only seven naked men.
Thomas Hinde has been equally and oppositely direct. His forty-one small drawings are specimens of precise draftsmanship, mostly in pencil, a few with washes of ink or paint, one washed with the artist’s own shit. The subjects are sadomasochistic sexual activity, including bondage, mutilation, and the (nowadays) inevitable fistfucking. No reference is made to abstractions, to ideals, or to anything which a camera might not have seen as well as Hinde. His men, trussed and slung for fisting, seem to insist that we not see a male nude, but merely the debased and dis-clothed [sic] human object.
Clearly Hinde is an eroticist and McNeill is not, but this is where the ambiguity begins. Hinde’s cold, even clinical approach seems to prevent an erotic response....
Both artists are working from the milieu in which they are exhibited, the black-and-white, EXPLICIT HELL SOUTH OF MARKET, THAT FORUM OF DEPRAVITY [I added caps
to emphasize Beau Riley’s Jonathan Edwards-like preacher’s approach to “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; or is he more a campy version of Harold Hill singing “We Got Trouble” in The Music Man.] which has arisen in our troubled day, in part as a response to our confusion. We seem to be looking for something basic, durable and present which can be used as a referent [sic], and we seem to find this in ultimate forms of sexuality.
But Hinde’s appreciation of whatever is going on out there in the sex clubs and bars and deserted streets is typically American, short-sighted and mislead by appearances. He is content to locate and show the events, the symptoms of this social exploration, in this case the extreme sex acts themselves, together with their miasmic atmosphere of decay, ruin, and disgust, all of it neatly, nicely, medically framed under glass on white walls, and for a clientele in their dress-leathers.
By contrast, McNeill’s approach is typically Japanese, understated, lyric, ironic....
Two scenes: Hinde in a gallery, free wine, everybody seeing and being seen. McNeill in a scrufty [sic] bar, supply your own drugs and look out for reality....Hinde’s work is a spectre, McNeill’s a prospect....Hinde’s work is ILLUSTRATIVE, his technique MAGAZINE-LIKE [I added caps to emphasize the prejudice that the “proper gay establishment” has always had against gay magazines as a genre], his ideas are those which are comfortable in their perverse way, and the works themselves [are] as easily dismissed or obsessionally retained as any pornographic image....
Clearly McNeill has bested our fractious times...to assert himself and to plea for goodness. Clearly Hinde has been bested by it all, been objectified and victimized like his subjects, has surrendered his own feelings to the crowd notion of what is real. Hinde has been specific, naked if you will; but McNeill has made art.
— ©Beau Riley, “The Naked and the Nude,” The San Francisco Sentinel, January 26, 1979, page 9.
Beau Riley makes me think of the German saying from the 1890s, “Just because you take it up the ass doesn’t mean you’re a critic.” Like so many under-educated and agenda-driven gay critics in The Sentinel and in the Bay Area Reporter, instead of reviewing the art, he uses the art as an opportunity to stand on his moralistic, fundamentalist, bi-polar soapbox. Of course, Tom Hinde was absolutely “illustrative” and “magazine-like.” That’s why Drummer published him. Of course, he had “perverse” ideas and had been “objectified and victimized.” That’s why we all had sex with him. And made movies of him. He suffered beautifully. He was
like Christ in Gethsemane. He was a great bottom.
As of this date, Thomas G. Hinde, who gave me several of his drawings, is listed by his alma mater, St. Mary’s College, San Francisco, among the “Lost Alumni” of 1964.
Camille O’Grady— God bless her — is rumored to be alive and well and living at an undisclosed location.
Tom Hinde was the kind of S&M player who, breathless over the poet, e e cummings, did not use upper-case capitalization he thought suitable only for masters and tops. He signed his drawings both as “T. Clave” and “Thomas G. Hinde” playing with S&M metaphor: that clave is a word for a hardwood stick used in a pair for percussion, and that hind can also mean rear-end and deer.
II. The feature essay as published in Drummer 16, June 1977, Second Anniversary Issue
Body Worship, Submerged in Sex...
Tom Hinde Portfolio
The Artist Speaks
by Tom Hinde with Jack Fritscher
Mr. Hinde was born in San Francisco and was raised in Mill Valley, California, and in the Napa Valley, north of the San Francisco Bay Area. He has studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute, College of Marin, St. Mary’s College, and the University of California Extension Center, San Francisco. His training includes lithography, etching, silk screen, painting (oil), landscape, and portraiture with major emphasis upon life drawing and the human form. His current medium is graphite and pencil, turpentine washes, and pastel. His subject matter of sex, language, and worship can best be summed up in his own words.
I once saw an alley cat in heat, spread eagle on a concrete walkway between my house and the place next door. looking over the fence I saw her lying flat on her belly with her rear sticking up in the air, her tail whipping from one side to the other. her front claws dug into the concrete path pulling at it. gathering in the alley were several toms [Tom’s own multiple personas] fighting with each other over who would mount her first. four of them fucked her savagely and with each thrust she backed farther against that captor mating as violently as she could; she didn’t care who screwed her or how many times each one did. she simply lay there howling for more and wanting no pause between shifts.
man as animal, like that alley cat or a bull wild in his mating; man mounting man, the spirit all carnal. man feeling his body, not thinking, enjoying his instincts as he submits to his body, freeing that animal to act: to taste ass, cock, sweat, to slap, kiss, grunt, to fart, to fuck, to eat cock, to rim, to howl, to cry. the power enjoyed while controlling another body— whether fucking it, beating it, tying it down, or stringing it up. the joy of surrender. the celebration of the animal in man.
I draw people who are human, people completely submerged in their sex with bodies which are real, faces filled with feeling, playing with other bodies, bare expressions which are quite direct. in the intensity of
this specific sexual language no thought is paid to any reality outside of the immediate. no value exists except the desirability of each body involved and the pride in which each person offers himself. “I am a man,” his actions say, and as a man, he kneels or boastfully stands to take the pleasure he wants.
It is within this context, this personal climate that I draw my subject for it is here that a man lies exposed, his feelings expanded and open, his senses ignoring all caution or censure. the reverence demonstrated and acknowledged when one kneels before another “giving head or ass or body” is an act done in worship of the body. the cooperation between each person involved, seeking a common end produces that intensity experienced in their moments of climax; both work towards it, each one prodding the other on with a kiss or his hand. the reverence, the cooperation, the language, and each mood of this communication is what I acknowledge with my drawing. the dignity of those touches, and their intimacy, is worthy of respect.
— Thomas G. Hinde, May 24, 1977