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Copyright Jack Fritscher, Ph.D. & Mark Hemry - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Jack Fritscher

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Chapter 6



“Sometimes it almost seems as if the universe was designed
by the Marquis de Sade.”

—Tennessee Williams, The Night of the Iguana

Following almost a year of ailments, John Embry had cancer surgery March 16, 1979. If illness can be caused psychosomatically, or even if it is simply symbolic, was the cancer eating Embry’s guts during the Summer-Fall of 1978 and the Winter-Spring of 1979 caused by the LAPD? By that I mean to indict American homophobia as a direct cause of cradle-to-grave gay mental anxiety, physical illness, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The psychosomatic template around Embry’s personal disease foreshadowed the intersection of government denial and medical neglect of the physical suffering and societal tensions around AIDS which was a homophobe’s dream disease.

In the free-love 1970s, we were young and callow enough to meet up in the crowded waiting room of the San Francisco Health Department and joke, like Stephen Sondheim’s “Gee, Officer Krupke,” about penicillin and our social diseases which somehow mystically bonded us. In the uptight 1980s, the joke was on us when homophobic AIDS hysteria reminded us that in 1950 Congress had passed the McCarren Act allowing restrictions of civil liberties and free speech, as well as the rounding up of undesirable Americans for detention in existing federal “concentration” camps that continue to be used for illegal immigrants. That McCarren Act has never been repealed. Its threat continues to smoulder perilously under gay culture.

Because of the centuries of abuse queer people have been forced to endure as children, teens, adults, and seniors, we gay Americans might follow Native Americans and American Blacks and demand an apology and financial reparation from the American government for physical, psychological, and civil rights’ damage dating back to the first execution of sexual deviants by American Christians in colonial New England, as reported by Puritan William Bradford in his diary Of Plymouth Plantation 1642-1650. The Protestant Christian torture and murder that landed on Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, including the beheading by Miles Standish of an Indian Chief two years after the first Thanksgiving, could be the premise for a BDSM sex story in Drummer.

William Bradford ...legally detailed the crime and punishment of a list of sins common among the colonists: bacchanalian drunkenness, witchcraft, homosexual sodomy, and buggery, as in the case of the young Thomas Granger who for “buggering a mare, a cow, two goats, diverse sheep, two calves, and a turkey” was hanged on September 8, 1642, but only after the mare, the cow, the goats, the sheep, the calves, and the turkey were killed before his eyes.... The score at the Salem witch trials of women and men was 144 accused, 54 confessed, and 19 hanged. —Fritscher, Popular Witchcraft, University of Wisconsin Press, pages 43-44

Who knows what caused Embry’s colon cancer? But if his were a fictional story, it would dramatize possible cause and effect. In reality, the very large-boned man Embry seemed unstoppable except for illness. That twist of his bad luck was an ill wind that blew some good luck. As editor-in-chief, I had to take charge of Drummer even as he cycled through months of failing health, diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and recovery. In 1975, only four years earlier, Embry confessed he had been psychologically “traumatized” when his then lover, a blond from whom he was separated, was hospitalized with cancer, and refused, for whatever reason, to see him. The profile of his emotional health appeared in his autobiographical Epilogue in Drummer 2, page 46; in an Epilogue revision in Drummer 6, page 15; in The Best and the Worst of Drummer, page 64; and in Drummer 188, page 23.

Embry wrote about “the Angel of Death,” and how “the Big ‘C,’” which was how he termed cancer, was “the bogey man” who had come for his lover Don, and how he had “wished I could exchange places with him,” and how the last time he saw him “was the day that the first copy of the first issue of Drummer was first unleashed on an unsuspecting public....The first Drummer came off the press on June 23, 1975, Don’s and my second anniversary. The magazine was bound by hand...and delivered with two roses in a gold box to Don’s hospital room.” (Drummer 188, page 23)

Jeanne Barney, who was their go-between at the hospital, revealed to me: “The particular lover was an alcoholic who left John when he got sober. It had nothing to do with his leukemia.”

In 1970, Erich Segal’s romantic tear-jerker novel and hit movie, Love Story, swept through popular culture a dozen years before its archetypal story would be retold as an AIDS movie. Segal’s plot featured a young college co-ed dying of cancer in the arms of her boyfriend. In tune with Segal, Embry’s romantic telling of his own “love story” differed in what seems a harsh rejection which left him reeling. During the many months when he simultaneously fled LA, fled the LAPD, and fled his unrequited lover, our San Francisco Drummer staff had to cope with his bruised psyche.

In health and love, Embry’s human anguish, which touched one’s heart, was a hidden anxiety that stood like the First Elephant in the Room at our Drummer office on Divisadero Street. Illness seized him, and isolated him, years before illness, seizing us all, brought us together. Turning fifty, he was a generation older than we who in the 1960s had marched with protest signs saying, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Even on the rebound with his second choice, his non-blond lover, Mario Simon, to comfort him, Embry, who said he preferred “Nordic blonds,” seemed a lover who carried a torch of “unrequited love” made worse by the fact that the ex-lover, romantically portrayed as doomed, did not die, and continued to live in LA, estranged and out of touch.

I only observed his “love story” from the outside in, but as Embry himself grew privately aware that he too was becoming ill as had his partner, he became, in his public mood swings, increasingly unavailable to Drummer for quite some time even before his long ordeal of disability from cancer and stress from court appearances stemming from his arrest at the Slave Auction. On fate’s wheel of fortune, I felt no Schadenfreude that his bad year from Summer 1978 to Summer 1979 was the best year I had working for Drummer. The staff had dismissed his biting temperament as simply “very LA” until the night in Autumn 1978 when he sat us all down so charmingly, so disarmingly, and, smiling through, revealed what was happening to him, and how he wanted us to carry on whether he lived or died. He said he had confidence in all of us. He shook my hand. I believed him.

When he returned full-time, Al Shapiro and I were driving Drummer in a new direction of an American masculinity wider than the simple leather identity of the “Leather Fraternity.” Dumping Embry’s obsession with Puritan LA cops and local LA bars, Al and I wrote gonzo sex articles about actual guys having real erotic experiences in real sex venues in San Francisco and New York where gay liberation was in full swing. Our switch to a national point of view was noticed by readers and by Embry. We both wrote our New Journalism from insights and experience gained in the erotic life we were living among thousands of leathermen who, the mornings after the nights before, exchanged sexploits over braggadocio brunches at cafes such as the Norse Cove across the street from the Castro Theater. Because I had been one of the founding members of the American Popular Culture Association in 1968, and was one of the speakers at the follow-up American Studies Association conference on October 31, 1969, I was motivated to add an inclusive “tag line” to Drummer to brand the our new content and direction on the masthead beginning with Drummer 25: “The American Review of Gay Popular Culture.”


In the 1990s, against all odds, Wickie Stamps became the “editorial manager” and then the “editorial director” of Drummer when what staff remained turned to her for help, and she stepped up to keep Drummer on life support from Drummer 183 (March 1995) to Drummer 208 August 1997. Like every other person who ever worked for Drummer, she was caught in a web that was bigger than any one of us. Examining the monthly issues Stamps produced under the most difficult circumstances, I have the greatest empathy and sympathy toward her efforts, and toward her who is so talented. She told me that as a woman, she would not herself have applied for the job, but she stepped up when the staff of five, fearful for their own jobs, asked her to deal with the new publisher Martijn Bakker who, she said, quickly subverted her authority as editor. Among that staff, she was the only person involved in BDSM.

Seeking content, she found the archival filing cabinets were in disarray, and that most of the previous contributors Drummer relied on were dead. She could not recruit new writers and photographers because Drummer was deep in debt. In a corporate outsourcing move, Bakker hired a designer named Sam Sanchez who, she said, had “minimal if any exposure to the men’s leather scene.” Nevertheless, this outside consultant was Bakker’s choice to pull the final version of each issue together. “Sam had to get almost all of the photo shoots for free from porn companies,” Stamps said. He “...did an amazing job getting what he could for free as well as doing a great deal of writing as well as design work. For herself, Stamps underscored, “I had a great deal of responsibility but virtually no influence.”

With Stamps backed into a corner, queer historians may note that in Drummer 188 (September 1995), she penned a minimalist, and, therefore, revisionist, introduction to “The Drummer Twentieth Anniversary Issue.” Her editorial set out to track the changing marketing “tag lines” on Drummer mastheads, such as “The Mag for Macho Males” and “The American Review of Gay Popular Culture.” However, as she told me, she did not have time to dig through all the jumbled in-house archives or the 187 existing issues. Nevertheless, someone on staff might well have taken a quick peek at the nineteen previous Drummer anniversary issues to assess what was standard “anniversary” content. Or what was quirky. For instance, in “The Fifth Anniversary Issue,” Drummer 38 (June 1980), ventriloquist Embry conducted a coy conversation with himself, using bodybuilder Greg Strom as his “interviewer,” so he could pen his own personal “parthenogenesis” origin story of Drummer, its pre-history, and, to Stamps’ point, its tag lines. She, however, counted down the timeline of her tag lines from Drummer 187 to Drummer 63, bypassing all the original tag lines in issues 1 to 62.This decision made all that earlier marketing work by all the Drummer forebears invisible, even as she and her staff soldiered on in an office surrounded by rifled file drawers spilling over with the institutional history of Drummer. Robert Davolt explained the irony of this office turmoil when he wrote in notes he gave to me that Drummer had “The greatest photo and art collection in SM/leather history (or at least everything that had survived 25 years of looting by former employees) was sitting in boxes—unsorted, unusable and decaying rapidly.”

Stamps, never fully titled as “editor,” approached a leather-history signature moment for Drummer and for herself that evaporated when she produced “The Twentieth Anniversary Issue” which should have been published on time three months earlier in June. The tardiness was not hers. During the nearly three years I was editor-in-chief, I had no control over how Embry managed almost monthly to fail to find funds to pay the printer so that my issues could maintain their schedule. Knowing some of the ancestral history of Drummer, Stamps, who was always of good will, was percipient in inviting survivors such as Joseph Bean, John Embry, and me to write our own eyewitness histories of Drummer for her anniversary issue.

However, it was disappointing that circumstances caused her to excerpt my bespoke text without consultation. That, I admit, is an editor’s professional prerogative. What author and editor always see eye-to-eye? But it was the first time in twenty years that anyone at Drummer edited my writing simply to cut costs, and to fit the page, in an issue cluttered with what amounted to “filler.” It was an opportunity lost to leather history that fewer than twenty-five of the anniversary issue’s eighty-two pages (32 percent) covered Drummer history. Even with Bean, Embry, and me attached to the issue, it seemed de rigueur that an editor who was not disabled by the publisher would have also included essential eyewitness histories from two of the several founders of and original contributors to Drummer: Jeanne Barney and Larry Townsend.

Judging that decaffeinated anniversary issue, a journalism student grading it might ding Stamps’ editorial choices which seem cornered by Bakker as much as Sanchez’s advertising choices seem driven by Bakker. In the ratio of the few pages of low-budget editorial content to the dozens of high-income pages of video advertising, what could have been a splendid anniversary issue missed its historical purpose within the leather community. That issue flopped because it gave little to the Drummer faithful and never became a popular-culture success and was never coveted as a collectible. Anniversary issues existed to excite readers’ continuity of loyalty, and to drum up subscriptions. Had Stamps not been hobbled, and had the good-natured Sanchez any instinct for BDSM design heat, she might have helped sustain Drummer by making what could have been a rich and glamorous anniversary issue one for the ages. Historically, that was what Embry tried to do with Drummer 50. It was what DeBlase intended when he published Drummer 100. It’s not as if Drummer had no autobiographical tradition in writing about itself in special issues dedicated to preserving its institutional memory.

Stamps worked against the odds to fill pages inexpensively, but was a picture really worth a thousand words? A larger-than-necessary reprint of the famous Robert Mapplethorpe cover of Drummer 24 failed to give any editorial mention of the historical importance of Drummer to Mapplethorpe or his importance to Drummer. The old photos were a slight to monthly subscribers always demanding new porno. Most likely not aware that the graphics assigned to him had been previously published, Sanchez recycled juiceless pictures and reruns of large Bill Ward drawings that ate up the pages, squeezing out seminal Drummer photographers such as David Hurles (Old Reliable), Mikal Bales (Zeus), and Lou Thomas (Target), as well as ignoring key artists such as Tom of Finland, Rex, the Hun, and A. Jay (Al Shapiro). Was it a ringer of gay culture’s feminist bias that the reprinted fiction included several pages by Anne Rice who never wrote for Drummer? The rest of the writing was banal bits of “filler.” Where one page would have been too much, there were five pages of cliched photographs of two porn stars, Rick Bolton, and the atypical Drummer model, the boy-chick Scott O’Hara who once was favored by Embry on page and screen but was so unpopular he was lucky he could suck himself off.

The charge “filler” applied also to the wobbly two pages of the “Drum Media” feature, reviewing books and videos, written by the amateurish “Dyrk” who reviewed himself having his own problems with “new media” when he might better have written a conceptual column of the rich history within Drummer of reviewing the arts, including the New York Arts special issue Son of Drummer featuring Rex and Mapplethorpe, or even the publishing of early performable BDSM leather plays such as George Birimisa’s Pogey Bait (Drummer 12 and 13), David Hurles’ Scott Smith: Heavy Rap with a Solitary Ex-Con (Drummer 21), and my Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain O’Malley (Drummer 22 and 23). Was it feminist privilege that injected that interesting, but gratuitous, excerpt from Anne Rice’s Beauty’s Punishment into a leathermen’s erotic magazine? Why was the polished Rice served up with a sticky non-erotic drawing that, taking up two-thirds of page 36, was repeated exactly full page on page 39? The three unexceptional and limp “Sex Art 4” photos, having no connection to Drummer history on pages 40 and 41, show how Bakker’s budget squandered the space in this anniversary issue. Where was a collage of the reader-reflective selfie photos that, since 1978, actual Drummer readers sent in as “Tough Customers” to inject into the magazine its grass-roots identity, its street cred, and its face? Jeanne Barney, wrote in “The First Anniversary Issue,” Drummer 7 (June 1976), that “ Anniversary Issue [should] be initiative,” which means that the issue should look to the future as well as to the past. But that mix was off balance in Drummer 188 which failed to respond to its rich history of 187 previous issues.

Further editorial space was nibbled up by the scattershot design whose specifications wasted many column inches and pages. In addition, the Drummer “Style Guide” must have gone missing because the proofreader did not bother to italicize the word Drummer or other titles in most instances. The failure of form and content in this anniversary issue, which is typical of most all the other issues of the 1990s, proved that editing Drummer required as much respect, expertise, and professionalism as any straight magazine.

Stamps had the distinction of being the fin de siecle managing editor. Driving that rising millennial perspective, she might have looked into the rear-view mirror to animate what she could in the soul of each of her new issues of Drummer. She had only to look at issues produced by Drummer editors such as Jeanne Barney, Tim Barrus, JimEd Thompson, and Joseph W. Bean, or browse through our 1970s San Francisco issues, 18-30, that helped set the bar for leather publishing during that first decade of gay liberation when we were inventing the vocabulary, and the qualitative criteria, with which we wanted to represent ourselves as we uncloseted our leather culture in American media.

Because editors and owners change, I kept my allegiance true to Drummer itself. In the 1990s under the absent third publisher Bakker, I was not paid in cash but in trade. For the last dozen years of the magazine’s run, it cost Drummer nothing to exchange my writing and photography for a quarter-page display ad for my Palm Drive Video in each issue. When in 1998, Mark Hemry and I met in the Drummer office with Davolt, an obviously non-S&M accountant swished in and told me I owed Drummer six-hundred Dutch guilders—I mean dollars—for my one little Palm Drive display ad because stories and fiction were worth only sixty dollars. After I politely offered him a new body part, and explained the ancient Drummer trade agreements to him, he ran away in his wooden shoes. That ended that conversation. Stamps, no matter what she tried, faced the same European devaluation of her work. During this time of chaos at Drummer, I debated why I even bothered to have anything to do with the Dutch Drummer where all the power and decisions and taste were far away in Amsterdam.

Nevertheless, Stamps and I continued to work together. She published nineteen newly stylish “frame grab” photographs of Colt model Dave Gold starring in my Palm Drive Video feature Dave Gold’s Gym Workout as an interior photo spread along with my story “Hustler Bars” in Drummer 204 (June 1997). On June 12, 1997, at the suggestion of Stamps’ friend, the poet Chris Hewitt, I faxed Stamps an assortment of five of my new and seasoned leather and fetish performance poems which Hewitt liked but whose receipt Stamps never acknowledged: “The Young Turks Dream of Derek Jarman,” “Foot Loose” from Drummer 29 (May 1979), “The Real Cowboy” from Man2Man Quarterly, “Tomorrow on TV Talk: Adults Who Wear Leather,” and “Rough Trade: Chico Is the Man” from Son of Drummer (September 1978) which had won two poetry awards. In 1998, I gave Stamps four of my color photographs of Palm Drive’s Mickey Squires, the Colt model, which I offered for publication in Drummer itself, but somehow they jumped into the Drummer spin-off magazine Tough Customers 12 (1999) where they were shifted from editorial content and turned into a two-page commercial ad selling that magazine.

Did my photos travel from Drummer to Tough Customers in someone’s carry-on luggage? Or was it the accountant’s revenge in that underhanded gay way we dismantle each other? Whatever the twist in the case, it seemed forgotten that the “Tough Customers” concept, column, and title were my invention, and legally belonged to me because, as a freelance contributor, I owned the copyright to all my writing and photography in Drummer as did Larry Townsend and all the other contributors.

Defense of copyright is a lifelong task that continues after death for the length of the copyright. On page 41, in The Advocate, July 16, 1975, the West Coast Larry Townsend began defending his copyright from East Coast publishers printing knock-offs of his writing. In 2008, he died while suing one specific publisher for reprinting his books—and fifty bookstores nationwide, named as co-defendants, for selling those counterfeits. As a widowed elder on a fixed income, he reacted to this alleged abuse of his business and his writing which was his identity. He panicked in his self-defense and created so much havoc among bookstores who had no way to tell an authorized book from a fake, that Deacon Maccubbin, founder of the Lambda Book store, the Lambda Book Report, and the Lambda Literary Awards, asked me in an exchange of emails beginning on June 19, 2008, to intervene and calm Townsend down. Maccubbin used the term “scorched-earth lawsuit.” On July 2, Townsend finally surrendered and told me, “If you’ll tell me which bookstores you have heard from specifically, I’ll make sure...[the attorney]...drops them.” Eleven days later, Larry fell into a coma July 13, and died July 29.

My column “Tough Customers” was in the same copyright category as my other feature articles. The only “work for hire” that I did as a paid employee was as editor-in-chief, not as a writer and photographer, and even then, Embry fell far short of paying the editing fees owed. In the whole absurdist comedy as Drummer died, I kept my silence because none of the new people, innocent of the messy past, really seemed authorized to be in charge of anything. What ancient agreements I had with Embry and DeBlase were unknown, and of no concern, to the third owner and his staff, and that was the core to how “old” Drummer business was dismissed by the Dutch Drummer that distanced itself from everything Embry and DeBlase had done. My copyright claim to “Tough Customers” would have fallen on deaf ears that had no money to pay me royalties anyway. I chalked it up to experience, and let it go for the love of the game, and love of the Platonic Ideal of Drummer.

Stamps, under stress and duress in the madhouse that was the Drummer office, accidentally also violated my copyright by requesting my previously published Drummer story “Foreskin Prison Blues” and then, without permission, cutting its 5,000 words down to three columns of text (Drummer 186, July 1995) while splurging a half-page on my drawing by the artist Skipper that I had commissioned for that story.


The blond and bearded Robert Davolt, whose life and talents were about much more than Drummer, arrived fully formed in San Francisco in 1996. His name first appeared on the masthead of Drummer 202 (February 1997) making him the last Drummer “operations manager” while Stamps was “editorial director.” To his many friends and fans, Davolt was a hale fellow well met who, despite some vagaries, I truly respected even as the death of Drummer consumed him. In a sad coincidence, he himself, like Embry, became ill with cancer. Stamps told me, “I believe Robert was pretty challenged by his drinking which affected his professionalism, but boy did he work hard and when we had conflicts, he worked to flesh them out. I appreciated that.” Mister Marcus who wrote his leather “gossip column” for thirty-eight years in the Bay Area Reporter took his own measure of Davolt at Drummer and labeled him in print as “Robert Revolting.” In Marcus’ obituary for Drummer, he wrote that “Martijn Bakker, the Dutchman was the sole killer of Drummer and all it stood for.” This is the turmoil in which Wickie Stamps was trying to work.

Davolt’s “operations manager” title on the masthead of Drummer 201 (January 1997) expanded fifteen months later to “publisher and editor”in Drummer 209 (April 1998). Between 1998 and 1999, Davolt produced only six issues of the “monthly” Drummer, ending when Drummer ceased publication with Drummer 214 (April 1999), and the business closed on Folsom Fair weekend in September 1999.

On January 6, 2001, Davolt, over lunch with Mark Hemry and me at the Café Flore, personally handed me his “Outline” for his proposed history about the “fall of Drummer magazine” which he had, quoting Wagner and straining to be clever, provisionally titled Götterdämmerung: Twilight of the Odds. “That title’s a mouthful and too obscure,” I said, “It’s too camp. Make it a high-concept title telling exactly what it is. Sort of what I’m doing on the manuscript I’m writing, The Rise and Fall of Drummer. ”

Davolt had charmed Embry who fell for his blondness. Embry flattered Davolt in his new publications by listing him as associate editor and by publishing his article, “Guide to Painfully Correct Leather Bar Behavior,” in Super MR, January 2000, just ninety days after the death of Drummer. He figured he could use Davolt to get his hands on even more archival material from the Drummer stash of files that he could recycle in his Super MR magazine in which he was regularly recycling my writing with my permission from 1970s Drummer. Davolt, however, was too bright to be exploited. Seeking my imprimatur, Davolt wanted to run his generational eyewitness past my generational eyewitness and collect my endorsement because he vested me, as he had Embry and his credentials, with a certain authority and continuity insofar as I was so often listed on the masthead as a contributing writer, and, more significantly, Embry had told him I had been a paid consultant to DeBlase. Even so, he and Stamps on their masthead misspelled “Fritscher” as “Fristcher” [sic]. Nevertheless, “over the cups, the marmalade, the tea” at Café Flore, I wanted to give Davolt what he wanted for his specific passion project while I protected the more inclusive institutional memory of Drummer.

From the first issue in 1975 to the last in 1999, civil war raged inside Drummer. Stamps, with her evolving titles, was replaced in Drummer 209 by Davolt himself who in his notes for his Drummer history explained about Stamps:

As a woman, she felt uncomfortable being the primary moving spirit behind an infamous men’s magazine, and she was unconnected to the local Leatherati. [She had no Drummer Salon.] She did not have the required commanding personality...nor did she have the sort of obsession that other editors had. Even as editor, she worked only part time.

Few of the employees were on speaking terms with each other.

Davolt, who claimed himself the champion of diversity in Drummer, erred. Being a woman had not hurt Stamps. Unwittingly, she was yet one more textbook picture of the kind of well-intentioned, guileless, and inexperienced persons of all genders for whom, during the Great Dying of the 1980s and 1990s, it was a step up the old career ladder to walk into a legendary gay male publication depleted by the suffering and death of staff and contributors.

With respect to many of the other women pro-active for years in leather culture and literature, Davolt’s reductive gender-profiling of Stamps revised reality so that leather history was fed his fable that she suffered because of gender issues rather than that she was, as she admitted, not really qualified professionally to handle the editorship nor the office politics. Wickie Stamps would be the first person to admit she was no Jeanne Barney when it came to creating leather culture and leather politics, but her fortitude showed that diversity in leather culture was a general asset and not a problem.

In 1983, I wrote a thought voiced by the cheeky narrator, Magnus Bishop, in Some Dance to Remember, pages 180-181:

[Pat] Califia [before FTM transition] and [Camille] O’Grady...held an almost enshrined place in his Catholic heart. They seemed all the more fully women for having transcended radical feminism with the feminist humanism of their art. They were women who had performed the impossible the way Mary became a Madonna through virgin birth. Now that was the first truly, and maybe world’s only, feminist act.

While she was editor, Stamps’ issues were so argued about by Drummer fans that it seemed timely and camp and punk-like to satirize her troubled tenure with an unforgivable pun when I wrote in a history of Drummer for Checkmate magazine (issues 19 and 20, May and August 1997) that “Drummer had become a wickless stamp of its former self.” Stamps, who is no weakling anymore than I am Dorothy Parker, sent me a typed note on Drummer letterhead emblazoned with the tag line “America’s Original Leather Magazine”which is an odd choice of self-identity coming from a Dutch-owned magazine. Writing on September 9, 1997, she zinged back: “Jack, Congratulations on your piece in Checkmate. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, Wickless Stamps.”

If satiric awards were given for the “Worst Issue of Drummer,” Editorial Director, Wickie Stamps, and Operations Manager, Robert Davolt, might be the unwitting winners for Drummer 201. Curious queer historians seeking internal evidence based on “form and content” might compare the arguably “Most Perfect Issue of Drummer,” Drummer 21 (March 1978), with John Embry’s reader-rejected Drummer 9 (October 1976) and Martijn Bakker’s commercial sellout, Drummer 201 (January 1997), which are tied for the “Worst Issue of Drummer.”

Differences of esthetic opinion aside, Wickie Stamps was a good sport, and a valuable eyewitness of what working at Drummer was on her watch. Her initial response when I queried her about an interview on Facebook, January 5, 2011: “Ask away. Glad you are documenting Drummer.” We accomplished our professional accord when she and I conversed frankly by email on January 20, 2011. Her stylized observations are her own subjective point of view and are quoted verbatim, all lower case, minus conventional italics.


FRITSCHER: Wickie, Thank you for switching us from Facebook to personal email. As a gay historian, and as a journalist, as well as the eyewitness founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer, I wish to acknowledge all the other eyewitnesses of Drummer, of which you are a very valuable one. In this regard, may I ask you these questions, any one of which you may answer or not any way---or with any variable I don’t know about that you feel tells the Drummer story during its final collapse.

I don’t wish to impose on your time or your generosity in responding. Your answers may be brief sentences--or more, if you like. And you needn’t answer all of my suggested questions. Pick what you like and feel you know about. I am most interested in your own point of view on specifics you remember as suitable for history.

Who hired you? And when did you begin to edit Drummer (begin and end dates and issue numbers of your tenure). Why did you personally and professionally want the job? Any professional credentials you care to mention? Were you a practitioner of BDSM? Had you published any BDSM fiction or features? At what age did you become editor? How did you feel editing a magazine that was in such transition between owners? Did the office staff feel it was heading toward collapse?

STAMPS: i was already working at drummer handling advertising. frank strona who i knew from gay community news in boston had suggested to the advertising person that he hire me. while working handling advertising, i walked in one day and there was a note on my desk from the then current editor marcus wonacott thanking me for being supportive of him as a writer. marcus had asked my opinion of his writing as i guess martijn had told him he couldn’t write (not sure it was martijn but someone in authority). when i read the note i said to other staff “oh, that’s nice.” they said “you don’t understand, the editor came in and cleared out his desk during the night.” i was then asked into the front office and met with mark (can’t remember his last name). he was the administrator of drummer working directly with martijn (forgive the spelling). mark who knew i was a published writer (although i did not write for drummer) asked me if i would be willing to be the managing editor (i think that was the title). i said yes. and there you have it.

by the time i was hired at drummer, i was deeply involved in the united states’ dyke bdsm scene. i’d also written extensively on sm and radical sexuality including a sm column for The Guide to the Gay Northeast. i was both a journalist and a non-fiction writer and extensively published. i knew mark thompson and john preston personally and had written pieces for some of their anthologies.

FRITSCHER: In a feminist era, if a man edited a women’s magazine, there would be a certain outcry—even though twenty years before you my pal Jeanne Barney was a great editor-in-chief of Drummer. What was your feeling and intellectual take (and/or difficulties) as a female editing a famously male magazine? What might you judge to be your greatest difficulty at Drummer? Or your greatest contribution to Drummer? Or the best/worst/hardest thing about editing Drummer?

STAMPS: i knew that drummer had had female editors before. [Factually, before Stamps, Drummer had only one female editor, Jeanne Barney, who was not “editor,” but was, in fact, “editor-in-chief” of Los Angeles issues 1 to 11, 1975-76. The only two people ever named “editor-in-chief” were Barney and Fritscher.] most recently albeit briefly pat califia who was the editor before marcus wonacott. [Factually, while Marcus-Jay Wonacott was the editor of Drummer, Pat Califia, never the editor of Drummer, was billed as an “associate editor” (issues 173-176), and then double-billed with “associate editor” Wendell Ricketts (177-179).] i had been the one that had informed pat of an opening at drummer. personally, i would not have applied for the job because i was a woman. but when mark asked me i knew that drummer was in a lurch. plus as a writer and editor i love text. when i was editor it was in tandem with an outside consultant that martijn hired on sam sanchez. the staff had shrunk from around 11 to about 5. sam was the first outside consultant/designer at drummer. he was a latino gay man who had minimal if any exposure to the men’s leather scene. he was a designer and wrote text and basically pulled the final product together. sam and i had many conversations about how to restructure my role or his role but he did not want to be editor. unlike anyone else at the time at drummer i was the only person involved in the sm scene. i saw my role as one of identifying the key photographers, writers, filmmakers and illustrators already involved in drummer and maintaining the magazine’s vision. i did not see myself as a figurehead nor setting a new direction. quite honestly, i had very little if any authority as editor. martijn had the final say on everything. i had a great deal of responsibility but virtually no influence. it was a messy situation with lots of vagueness. it seemed that drummer had disconnected from the leather men’s scene before i arrived. perhaps it had already run its course. many of the original writers, photographers and illustrators were dead from aids-as was a massive portion of the men’s leather scene. the wild abandon including the photos that were shot in bars capturing real sex had ended. the archives at drummer were in complete disarray. the magazine with in deep debt. there was no money to pay for much of anything. sam had to get almost all of the photo shoots for free from porn companies. the internet was exploding perhaps replacing print publishing. sam did an amazing job getting what he could for free as well as doing a great deal of writing as well as design work.

what was most difficult about my working at drummer was the position i was in - one where i had all of the responsibility but none of the authority. i really liked mark, martijn and sam as well as many other men. but it was incredibly stressful to be in an environment where there was so much anger and resentment against martijn by people at drummer as well as the community.

FRITSCHER: Regarding “The 20th Anniversary Issue” of Drummer: What was your take on Larry Townsend, John Preston, and Anne Rice in regards to Drummer? Did you have any contact with any of them personally?

STAMPS: through my own writing i knew john preston personally and considered him a personal mentor. he had died by the time i became editor of drummer. i met larry via drummer. he stayed in touch with me via cards many years after drummer. anne rice. i did not know her. i negotiated with her agent to re-run some of her work that had previously appeared in drummer.

FRITSCHER: How did Robert Davolt involve you, help you, not help you, or, what are your thoughts on Davolt? Have you read his own history of Drummer?

STAMPS: i have not read davolt’s history of drummer. although i found robert a very difficult personality to work with and for. i cannot say that i was always at my best. i felt that he was a man who was deeply connected to the united states’ men’s leather scene—something that had been missing from drummer. we were both close and conflicted. he did his best to work with me. i did my best to work with him. sam who i had been close too became persona non grata at drummer. that ruined our relationship. robert was very devoted to drummer as well as to the men’s leather scene. i think robert helped to try and get drummer back on track. i think he was a editor in the old school way—totally devoted to the vision of the magazine and its role in the men’s leather scene. i believe robert was pretty challenged by his drinking which affected his professionalism. but boy did he work hard and when we had conflicts, he worked to flesh them out. i appreciated that.

FRITSCHER: What is your main feeling about John Embry at the end of the 1990s? Had you any relationship to him? What is the main thing you remember about Davolt’s relationship to Embry?

STAMPS: i was probably more connected to and friendly with john than anyone else at drummer. i can’t remember if he called me or vice versa. i’d visit him often in his offices on 18th street. he seemed to wish he still could be involved at drummer. i liked john a lot. in fact after drummer i consulted on i think it was manifest reader. through john, i learned a great deal about the history of drummer. i introduced robert to john. i think there were conversations between robert and john about somehow involving john back in drummer. [Italics added.] i think robert liked john perhaps admired him for starting drummer.

FRITSCHER: In the last days of Drummer, what happened to the files at Drummer? That is, the fiction and article manuscripts, the art work, the photography? Did Davolt give or sell everything to Embry who always wanted to buy Drummer back?

STAMPS: i was laid off from drummer and robert continued on. so i wasn’t around when it closed and don’t know what happened to everything.

FRITSCHER: Is there anything else that you might relate regarding Martijn Bakker or Robert Davolt or Tony Deblase or John Embry, or anyone else, or anything else? Is there any one thing or two things, besides the internet, that you think caused Drummer to shut its doors?

STAMPS: no i think i’ve covered everything.

FRITSCHER: Who took over the editorship when you left? How did you feel about Drummer and all the cast of characters when you left? In fact, why did you leave? Were you not paid, etc.?

STAMPS: robert was the last person left at drummer. like my relationship with sam, robert’s and my roles was very unclear. he finally became what i think he wanted all along—to be the editor of drummer.

FRITSCHER: In one word, what was it like to edit Drummer?

STAMPS: an honor.

Signed: Wickie Stamps, former editor of Drummer, author and head of Monstre Sacré, creative coaching and consulting at

FRITSCHER: Thank you for your consideration of these questions. I appreciate all the input you have as an eyewitness on the history of the last days of Drummer.

Cheers, Jack

Fed up with all the shenanigans, Davolt revealed the tone of his association with Drummer in his collection of essays in Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent and Unauthorized Manual for Leather/SM (2003). The unfortunate title reviewed itself: the book was both painful and obvious social twitter about teacups and leather perhaps best suited to the drag issue of Drummer 9. The revealing quote he wrote for his book’s back cover said: Davolt “...has earned a paycheck [italics added] producing goods [italics added] for the leather community.” But what about producing art and writing? Ars gratia artis? Significantly, Davolt mysteriously made no mention of his connection with Drummer on the covers of his book, although he specifically named his associations with other periodicals.

Perhaps he intuited that Drummer was played out. By the end of the twentieth century, we leathermen came to realize that a once-specific leather culture of S&M had divided into something even more specific with the advent of kink and fetish categories of BDSM. Perhaps he felt justified that as an editor with no budget he could stuff almost anything into the ninety pages of Drummer 210 with its dozens of pages of corporate video ads; dozens of pages of tired and stolen photos credited blithely as “From the Drummer archives”; irrelevant “twinkie porn” video reviews; and very little editorial material that was not a reprint dumped in as filler between ads. Once upon a moment, Davolt mentioned that under his aegis Drummer could not afford to pay good authors and photographers for their work, even as Drummer funded him with travel perks. His observation confirmed my experience. Drummer had famously never paid the talent. Yet new material from unsuspecting writers and artists and photographers, ripe for ripoff, continually poured in through the mail slot. Back in the day, DeBlase himself had written a “Letter to the Editor” titled “Raw Deal for US Writers,” lamenting the historically poor pay for writing erotica, in Drummer 189, page 6.

Davolt may have lacked that certain je ne sais quoi, that gumption, and that enterprise which are the defining stuff of editors aggressively developing creative material while stroking the talent in the Drummer Salon. Playing at being a romantic bohemian and abandoned artist among the Leatherati, he often projected presumptions about Drummer loyalty that were not true. Rescue was, in fact, there for his asking from empathetic writers and artists and photographers, but he did not ask, because he himself so figured Drummer was about money, and earning a living off art, that he couldn’t fathom that payment was not an issue with seasoned Drummer veterans and Salonistas who, almost as a “leather community service,” created specifically for Drummer because they loved the leather heritage of Drummer. Truth be told: even at the end of the 1990s, most writers and photographers with a bucket list would have paid Davolt to have their work published in Drummer because it was the sine qua non pedigree of “Who’s Who in Leather Heritage, Literature, Pop Culture, and Art.”

As one of many eternal supporters of Drummer, I was pro-active in congratulating Davolt to support him in person, on the phone, and in letters. In 1999, Drummer was in an embarrassing nose dive and because Davolt was in a tailspin, I wrote him offering encouragement as well as photos, features, and fiction. The letter was dated March 2, 1999, six months before Drummer closed shop.

Robert Davolt

Publisher, Editor, Drummer

PO Box 410390

San Francisco CA 94141-0390

Dear Robert,

Of all people, having done once virtually alone for early Drummer what you are now accomplishing virtually alone, I can understand your one-man battle to keep the pages hot while fighting censorship inside the gay world and outside in the world of distribution. Keep up the good work.

Enclosed is a new video (very Drummer) which I shot: Party Animal Raw. The ruff-sex themes are included on the cassette box itself. Several photos are included. If you’d like to write up a paragraph or two about the video, please feel free to use the photos all on one page or over a couple-page layout.

Please credit photos on each page: “Tom Howard, Party Animal Raw,” © Jack Fritscher/Palm Drive Video.

If you would like some feature articles or fiction from me, or more photos, I’d be glad to do the usual trade for a Palm Drive Video ad which we can supply you.

Also, on your current masthead, it’s fine if you want to continue to list my name, because it links you to early Drummer. Could you have your copy editor please correct the spelling of my name.Thanks.

Call if you wish to chat.


Jack Fritscher (Phone/Fax Numbers)

If Davolt needed material, he should have queried the huge national leather community he claimed to know through his contest-circuit travels and his blogs, but then he could not have held Drummer and its Mr. Drummer Contest possessively close to his chest for reasons of blond ambition known only to him.

He did not want to share Drummer.

He wanted to be “Mr. Drummer.”

With less hubris, with telecommunications, and with less of his own so-called “Drummer travel” funded from Drummer’s cash so he could party nationwide, Davolt could have evolved and driven Drummer from the printed page onto the internet screen featuring text, photos, drawings, social media personals, and videos, and become the biggest hero in Drummer history. It was Davolt’s millennial chance in the generational change at Drummer, and he blew it. So why blame the Dutch? If I was able against all odds to produce Drummer under John Embry, Davolt should not have been stopped by the lesser of two evils, Martijn Bakker.

When Stamps met Davolt, their biggest misstep was their imitation of Embry in reprinting old material, and not developing original articles, erotic stories, media reviews, and reader-reflecting photography specifically for the new 1990s Drummer audience, whether funded by Bakker or not. All great underground mags—especially in a fin de siecle characterized by punchy little “zines”—were pop art created on a shoestring. In the 1970s, we artists who were writers, designers, and photographers created the golden age of Drummer, which had begun in 1972 as a trial-balloon zine, produced on a budget of thin air, talent, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Even the front cover of Drummer 201 was a corporate sell-out. It was a commercial photo from Falcon Video that was nothing more than a corporate ad. Was there a kick-back for such product placement? Traditionally, previous Drummer covers featuring a film, such as Sex Tool or Born to Raise Hell or Pec Stud in Black Rubber, were sourced not from corporate entities but from grass-roots artists with boutique studios. With no editor funded to acquire and vet genuine leather content, this cover suffered a disconnect in featuring Falcon’s model “Max,” one of the least authentic actors in 1990s corporate porn.


As editor-in-chief in 1979, I wanted to lift the Drummer esthetic from page to screen to harvest some box-office profits that could help fund the magazine. Having shot 8mm films since the 1950s, I pitched a plan to Embry to launch, direct, and shoot an X-rated line of brand-name Drummer films in Super-8. Drummer contributor David Hurles of Old Reliable had been selling Super-8 sex films since 1974. Embry warmed to my idea, but he could not match it with a believable, equitable, and guaranteed business plan. Once again we agreed to disagree. Three years later in 1982 when consumer video cameras began to be sold, Mark Hemry and I founded Palm Drive Video, and Embry founded his Wings video. Casting and technical problems plagued him as a producer. He soon enough changed his producer’s hat for a distributor’s cap because he could make more money with less effort selling other videographers’ features through his mail-order business located South of Market where he had twice moved the Drummer office after my departure from the Divisadero Street office.

The back rooms of that new Natoma Street office became the back lot for his Wings studio where he hired cast and crew for several stereotypical S&M scenarios such as Slaves for Sale and Slaves for Sale II starring Scott O’Hara, one of the blonds Embry said he preferred in his Epilogue. As “director Robert Payne,” Embry was certainly no Hitchock filming blonds in peril and most certainly no Warhol filming hot young superstars in his avant garde Factory in Manhattan. Conflating the Drummer brand, he stepped on his print-magazine Drummer to launch his onscreen “video magazine” by naming it with the exact same title as an earlier special print issue of Drummer: The Best and the Worst of Drummer. Touting his plastic VHS cassette as a “rare” and “limited-edition” “video magazine,” he trumpeted in Manifest Reader #17, page 69, “We can only sell 500 of these!” He should have been so lucky. And why only five hundred when video copying costing pennies was an endless resource?

Finding video production a struggle of great technical, legal, and emotional difficulties, Embry saw the wisdom of turning a quicker buck by switching from production to distribution. At Palm Drive Video, I gave him a fifty-percent discount at his newly named “Wings Distributing” where I dealt only with his manager, Frank Hatfield aka Drummer advertising director and author, “Frank O’Rourke,” the self-professed bank robber and ex-convict, who wrote “Prison Punk” and ran the kind of slippery postal operation that gives mail-order a bad name. Hatfield, who lived in a rental owned by Embry at the Russian River, was attacked there on Canyon One Road by wilding dogs who tore his chest open at the armpit, and he soon after died.

Romancing his erratic video career as Embry/Payne with no irony, Embry wrote about the “Robert Payne Production” of The Great Slave Video Adventure in his Wings Catalog inside Manifest Reader 17 (1992), page 58. Trying to sound as glamorous as a director from the Hollywood he left behind in Los Angeles, he revealed his daydream and his inexperience when he failed to recognize that no director can simply turn his cast loose any more than a zookeeper might expect a group of monkeys with keyboards to type out Hamlet. Ten hours of tape for a sixty-minute feature can create a tangle few editors can cut.

Many of us have, at one time or another, envisioned being involved in the making of this sort of a video. To those of us in the leather mode, the prospect of putting it together as a director, a producer, a cameraman or maybe especially a the stuff of which daydreams are made. Robert Payne explores such a dream, then turns his cast loose....The camera rolled through ten hours worth of tape.

By 1990, no magazine could support itself without its own video production company. Tony DeBlase, to save post-quake Drummer, teamed up with Mikal Bales’ Zeus Studios in LA to star in and create the perfectly titled USSM. In 1995, the four-part series documenting gay pop-culture S&M activities ran into trouble with the LAPD, and became immediately censored and unavailable.

As editor-in-chief in the late 1970s, I was pushing Drummer forward to the 1980s the way Stamps and Davolt might have pushed it to the Millennium. Besides pitching the idea of film production, I set out to upgrade our leather literary fiction (rooted in my university years teaching journalism and creative writing); and to mix in some leather ritual and spirituality (after the experience gained from a lifetime of Catholic S&M asceticism, and from experiences researching my witchcraft book); and to add practical how-to features (from our communal night games) similar to the articles I had already developed about the Society of Janus (Drummer 27, February 1979) and the “Dr. Dick” health column I wrote, beginning in Drummer 21, March 1978), from my ongoing interviews with the amiable Dr. Richard Hamilton (1945-1989) who was, with Dr. Earl Baxter, one of the two practicing San Francisco doctors involved with our Drummer Salon.

For example, in 1980, Dick Hamilton saved the life of my longtime friend, Hank Diethelm, a post-war immigrant from Germany, who was suffering from an accidental drug overdose that caused him to hallucinate for weeks that he was still a fourteen-year-old member of the Hitler Youth fleeing to the West to escape the Nazis before he was rescued by American troops in Spring 1945. Having dived into the gay American melting pot, Diethelm founded the legendary Brig bar in 1979 on the 1347 Folsom Street site of the earlier No Name bar and the later Powerhouse bar. Like Tom of Finland, Diethelm as a boy was sexually attracted by Nazi style, and sexually terrified and turned on by Nazi cruelty. Tom transposed his fears into drawings, and Diethelm deflected his PTSD paranoia by using S&M games as sensual counterphobic rituals. In May of 1970, the Denver leather priest Jim Kane introduced me to Diethelm who had invited Kane, David Sparrow, and me to crash with him for a month at his 708 Waller Street home. Three days later I shot eyewitness evidence of Hank’s concentration camp fantasies in my Super-8 color film of him suspended, naked and spreadeagle upside down, so that “erotic Nazi torture” could jolt his balls to orgasm with the wicked snap of a rubber ring triggered by castration pliers. In another bondage scene at his next home at 226 Bemis Street, Hank Diethelm was murdered, and set on fire allegedly by a trick from the Brig, in what may have been an assisted suicide, on April 10, 1983.


In sum, I had great empathy with Wickie Stamps and Robert Davolt. Their experience with the absent third Drummer publisher was a cracked-mirror of my experience with the first absent publisher.

In the late 1970s, Embry was torn between his joy at the sudden new success of Drummer and his patriarchal envy that we younger leathermen who were bringing that success were more avant garde than he with his dated camp humor from the 1950s. In Manifest Reader 26, page 53, he looked back at his first four years at Drummer and, still challenging the staff who saved him twenty years before, insisted that in 1976 he was the one “feeling avant garde” despite the retrograde fact that he often plagiarized his bylined writing from straight men’s pulp adventure magazines like Argosy. He forgot that back then, suffering psychosomatically from the homophobia of the LAPD, he was not a well man emotionally or physically. Unlike his arch-rival David Goodstein who would die of a similar bowel cancer in 1985, he was a cancer survivor inconveniently disabled with a colostomy in an office staffed with ironic ass-fuckers and joking fistfuckers who treated his ambiguously once-and/or-future bag like the Second Elephant in the Room.

In recovery during the summer of 1979, Embry returned to the 1730 Divisadero office from his constant round trips to what was left of his support circle of friends and lawyers and backup doctors in LA. He had a new lease on life. He was full of piss and vinegar, roaring with mood swings of pent-up anger over his illness and his endless legal problems with the LAPD. Upon his arrival, we unsuspecting staff stood, grinning like leather footmen, holding what we intended as a surprise gift to welcome him back: the new San Francisco Drummer.

Hoping to make him better, we made Drummer better. During his ordeal, we, with instinct and impulse and subtlety, had driven the magazine forward from his unsustainable fixation on LA politics, camp humor, frenemy feuds, and mail-order gimmicks to the participatory New Journalism and emerging gender joys of the bold new homomasculine identity and avant garde leather scene. It was what national and international readers in the late 1970s came to expect in editorial content. The Drummer personal ads were the Facebook of their time. They reveal everything about the hearts and minds of the readers we reflected monthly. The readers drove Drummer. In those “Leather Fraternity” personals, the most frequently chosen words of “search” and “self-identification” were masculine and masculinity.

Embry was a rich corporate LA businessman who misread our editorial evolution as a workers’ revolution. Drummer was being created by its hired office staff and by the writers, artists, and photographers who made it, and not by the estranged publisher who paid for it.

He realized he had in his hands the hit he had always wanted.

That good deed did not go unpunished.

Blue Bar
Copyright Jack Fritscher, Ph.D. & Mark Hemry - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED