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

by Jack Fritscher

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The Back-Stage Drummer Musical

Drummer catered to the awakening diversity of gay taste, and popularized fetishes that had never been outed before Drummer came along and helped create the very culture it reported on.” —Jack Fritscher, “Being Obscene: A Panel of Pornographers,” Featuring Susie Bright, Tom Bianchi, Tee Corinne, Jack Fritscher, Robert Davolt, and Willie Walker, Presented by the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society, GLBT Center Rainbow Room, September 27, 2002

* * * *

On October 9, 2003, Joseph W. Bean, who edited Drummer for Anthony DeBlase from 1989 to 1992, wrote me an email explaining how he handed over all contents of his own last three issues of Drummer to the new Dutch owner, Martijn Bakker. Bean’s experience was exactly the same as mine with John Embry during Autumn 1979 when I also saw my final four strong issues as editor turned into insipid hybrids by Embry himself, with his churlish Los Angeles amanuensis John Rowberry standing behind the curtains like Eve Harrington with a knife. In addition, both Bean and I, without credit on the masthead, had both edited issues of Drummer earlier than the issue on which we first were listed as editor. Joseph Bean wrote:

Jack, To answer your question about Drummer:

I started working for Drummer months earlier [than it seems in the paper trail on the masthead credits], filling in because Peter Lackey was unable to do his job and Paul Martin (Heltsley) for all his energy was not really familiar with the publishing business. So, it’s hard to say which issues would be the first I actually edited since that was a creeping reality. But, starting with Drummer 132 [August 1989] (where I am not yet credited), I was working on everything in the magazine. I began to be officially credited as editor with Drummer 133 [Fritscher’s “Mapplethorpe” issue, September 1989] as “Assistant Editor” along with Paul. Then as “Managing Editor” in Drummer 134, October 1989. At Drummer 50, September 1991, the credit changed from “Managing Editor” to “Editor,” but nothing in my job description changed. Then, with Drummer 159, December 1992, was the last in which I was credited as editor. [Martijn Bakker purchased Drummer in September 1992 and changed its name to International Drummer.] For the next several months, contracts, contacts and even editing from my tenure [as editor] were used in the [Bakker version of the] magazine (along with my writing), but I was outta there. Issues #159 through #161 were a mixture of things I prepared before I left and things that were done after I was gone. So, my tenure was very short, starting in reality around March 1989 and ending officially in December 1992....

Eyewitness Jeanne Barney, the founding Los Angeles editor-in-chief of Drummer for one year (1975-1976), said the same hybrid mix and flow happened to her editorial work when she left Embry after Drummer 11, December 1976. She also testified that John Rowberry, Embry’s default puppet, twisted the hybrid issues and militated to trash her in Drummer.

Facts are facts, and even if history turns out to be all Rashomon, the clock and calendar are absolute.

For literary detectives and historians, all the internal evidence necessary to substantiate these points of fact and opinion about who drove Drummer lie in the pages of Drummer itself.

Embry’s high-handed autocracy was why so many independent artists and writers broke off with him. Even while owing money to the Drummer talent, Embry made working conditions worse. He stood foursquare against the moral and legal issues of us workers asking that our intellectual property of writing and illustrations and photographs needed to be branded with the copyright symbol for each of us creators. None of us was under contract. We were all freelance. We all owned our individual pieces of Drummer content. When he did pay, Embry never bought rights beyond one-time publication while he liked to think that he owned everything ever published in Drummer. His constant reprinting of Drummer contents angered the creators and contributors, and pissed off the subscribers who did not like buying the same thing twice. Jeanne Barney recalled that in Los Angeles Embry was tagged as “Robert Ripoff, the Prince of Reprints.”

REFUGEE FROM LA: 1978-1979

Regarding John W. Rowberry during March 1977 and December 31, 1979, I must report that he did not work for Drummer when I was editor. When I first heard his name, he was working as the night porter at a motel in West Hollywood until, in one of his fits of mood, he suddenly chased after Embry, moving to San Francisco, where he talked Embry into hiring him to edit The Alternate. Rowberry was second choice, after my friend David Hurles first took the job of editing that magazine which Embry always really wanted instead of Drummer. The Alternate was supposed to be the rival of the political Advocate, and was supposed to make Embry as relevant as his competitor, Advocate publisher David Goodstein.

To Embry, Drummer was a bastard child sired out of Larry Townsend’s H.E.L.P. Newsletter. The wild child Drummer found success not in politics but in erotica which, Embry judged, did not lead to the gay mainstream respectability that reassured big corporate advertising agencies fearful that their product placement might land next to ads for dildos or poppers. Hurles who was a genius photographer and entrepreneur could not, on top of his own agoraphobia, handle Embry’s volatile business style. He retreated to his SOMA studio apartment at the exact moment that Rowberry roared into San Francisco seeking employment from Embry.

Bonded by their magazine work and roots in LA, Embry and Rowberry convinced each other that in tandem exile they might make The Alternate happen in San Francisco—the way Al Shapiro and I had made Drummer happen in San Francisco. Having published the first six issues of Drummer in LA, Embry had changed the business name from “Drummer Publishing” to “Alternate Publishing” in Drummer 7 (July 1976). It was not a good counterintuitive move to subordinate the brilliant brand name of Drummer to a backup magazine titled purposely to equate it to, or confuse it with, The Advocate.

When Rowberry waltzed into our Drummer office, he tried casting the spell of his LA attitude that, like his padrone Embry’s, didn’t play in San Francisco. Both Embry and Rowberry were, at heart, petulant LA queens, and neither ever was one of the boys among the leather players. Embry thought San Francisco was little more than Los Angeles’ ugly stepsister. The leather staff of Drummer, ourselves all newish immigrants to San Francisco, with some attitude of our own, kissed the entitled Rowberry off as the “office boy,” as a “page boy” to the self-consciously “royal” Embry who, dreaming for himself the memes of the divine right of queens, bragged about “all the years of my [his] reign” [italics added] at Drummer in his Manifest Reader 30 (1996), page 82.

Back in LA in 1976, Rowberry’s first writing for Embry was his snuff poem, “White Death,” in Drummer 5. In a truism of publishing, most freelance poetry in magazines is “filler” designed in to finish a page of other material. In its first LA issues when Drummer was new, and its filing cabinets were empty, and no one was sure that “leather” would in fact be the core Drummer identity, Embry was so desperate to fill empty pages that he published writing, new to him, that was sometimes as off-topic as the drag cover of Drummer 9. Or, worse, he would plagiarize entire feature articles from straight men’s magazines such as Argosy. With Rowberry’s poem, Embry flouted the laws against snuff pornography existing in the homophobic city of the LAPD where the groundbreaking S&M film Born to Raise Hell (1974) could not even be screened. Embry, of course, further endangered the very LA existence of Drummer when he featured that forbidden sex film on the cover of the infant Drummer 3.

Breaking the straight community’s taboo against “snuff sex” pornography presaged the offensiveness the LAPD found in the feature article, “The Great S/M Murder Mystery,” which Rowberry—with former Advocate employee, Rue Dyllon aka Larry Reh—had co-authored as a freelancer for Dateline, a magazine that Embry considered his rival. When Dateline imploded after one issue, Embry crowed victory, and with quick Schadenfreude serialized the Rowberry-Dyllon piece, edited heavily by editor-in-chief Jeanne Barney, in Drummer 9 through Drummer 11. In publishing Rowberry-Dyllon, Embry, who had hated Dateline, took up dancing on his competitor’s grave with harsh words in Drummer 9, page 72, and Drummer 10, page 76. Barney was fierce in reminding me how much editing Rowberry’s writing always required.

Years later, Embry also spit on the fresh grave of my successful Man2Man Quarterly which publisher, Mark Hemry, and I had shuttered because as our subscriptions increased, the personal sex ads grew increasingly unsafe and dirty in the psychological denial of the first years of AIDS (1981-1982). As an eyewitness, journalist John Calendo wrote a gloriously perfervid review of Man2Man in In Touch for Men, Number 58, August 1981, quoted below as a finale to this chapter. For the same health concerns, my longtime friend and doppelganger, Sam Steward, as verified by Joseph Bean in Drummer 153 (March 1992), had retired his “Phil Andros” character from his books so as not to encourage unsafe sex. Embry, who was so instantly envious of Man2Man that he immediately began tagging the Drummer “Personals” ads as “Man to Man,” nearly died when Mark Hemry and I ended Man2Man by doing an unheard-of thing in lesbigay publishing: we calculated the amount remaining in each subscription and sent out complete refund checks to all subscribers. Jim Stewart (M. J. Stewart-Addison), owner of Fetters in London wrote on March 19, 1982:

Dear Jack,...Sorry to hear Man2Man has come to an end. It will certainly become a Collectors Item. Congratulations on keeping up the standard and the output so consistently. Please thank Mark Hemry for the very “together” letter which reached me last week. I’m sure readers of Man2Man will appreciate the refund and be amazed that in gay publishing a magazine has ended on such a businesslike level. All my very good wishes. Congratulations on 8 issues of M2M. —Jim


In recalling Rowberry, I wish to take nothing away from his true contributions to Drummer, because, as I did with Lou Thomas and Al Shapiro and Bob Johnson, Rowberry and I both later worked cordially enough together, in separate locations, away from Drummer and from Embry. We both worked as freelancers in San Francisco producing several new magazines for George Mavety at Modernismo Publications: I as a writer beginning in 1979, and Rowberry, years later, as a fulltime packager beginning in 1986 when he was fired from Drummer, continuing up to his death in 1993.

To fill Mavety’s magazines, Rowberry bought maybe thirty erotic stories and articles from me. In fact, on June 14, 1988, Rowberry, whose South of Market office was 1156 Howard Street, paid me a check for $500 so he could buy one-time rights to my 1987 novella, Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew, for his Uncut Magazine, September 1988. That was more than twice what Embry had paid me ten years before for a month of editing Drummer. Our running joke was that we were two of the hundreds of escapees from “The Embry Experience” which was worse than David Goodstein’s emasculating self-help program, the risible “Advocate Experience” spun gaily out of Werner Erhard’s EST that caused the Advocate to turn even more politically correct.

San Franciscans held so much contempt for The Advocate in the 1970s that almost as soon as Goodstein chose to move his editorial and his “pink pages” sex-personals office to San Francisco, he realized that the City had too ironic and hip an attitude toward his bourgeois Southern California rag, and that he had better quickly return to the gay fundamentalism of LA with its Werner Erhard philosophy, its WeHo lingua franca, and its Hollywood veneers. Embry, who had been forced to move Drummer from LA to San Francisco, rejoiced that his archenemy had “retreated” the way that his early publishing competition at H.E.L.P. and Dateline had disappeared. Still feuding in 1979, the triumphalist Embry, whose publishing tentacles always remained deep in LA, could not resist printing a satiric screed, full of Los Angeles vitriol, trashing Goodstein and “The Advocate Experience” in the cover feature, “The Thing That Ate the Advocate,” written in LA by alleged former Advocate employee, Dean Gengle, for Alternate, issue 9, edited by Rowberry who listed on the masthead his old pal, Rue Dyllon, as Los Angeles correspondent, and Embry’s Slave Auction attorney, Al Gordon, as Los Angeles legal counsel.


At the end of the twentieth century, in the thirty-year swirl around Drummer history, Embry, no longer owning Drummer, embraced Robert Davolt like a new John Rowberry. As a smiling ventriloquist whose lips rarely moved, Embry always needed a talking sock puppet in which to shove his fist of sticky fingers. He liked the fact that Davolt had managed to be hired by the third publisher of Drummer, Martijn Bakker, conveniently out of the picture in Amsterdam. He figured that Davolt, thus embedded, could be hired as a double-agent—working inside Drummer, while spying on Drummer, and stealing from its library of original photographs, drawings, and manuscripts that Embry coveted as if it were his own private heritage. Davolt’s character as a reliable historian—that is, as a mouthpiece for Embry and a spokesman for Drummer—must be judged on how Embry and Davolt colluded. Davolt, who was much loved in the bars, exuded blond bonhomie. Behind the public face, he had the blond ambition of a social climber arriving late after the main party was over. When Embry met Davolt, the 1970s party was long gone, Drummer was dying and dead, and the pair bonded like two geezers at one of those historical re-enactments of a past gone with the wind.

Truman Capote would have recognized Davolt and his glomming on to Embry. In Answered Prayers, Capote wrote:

Ann realized something that only the cleverest social climbers ever do. If you want to ride swiftly and safely from the depths to the surface, the surest way is to single out a shark and attach yourself to it like a pilot fish. This is as true in Keokuk, where one massages, say, the local Mrs. Ford Dealer, as it is in Detroit, where you may as well try for Mrs. Ford herself.

Davolt worked industriously to install his name and stabilize his reputation within leather culture using Drummer as a baited hook and, I think, for his part, preying upon the ancient Embry in a way opposite to that in which Davolt tried to destroy and usurp the venerable leather columnist, Mister Marcus, whose job Davolt coveted at the Bay Area Reporter. Because Davolt tried to start a feud, Mister Marcus dubbed him in print as “Robert Revolting.”

Davolt, so went the story in San Francisco, had the nerve to query the publisher of the BAR to fire its star columnist, Mister Marcus, so Davolt could replace him. Leather Elder Mister Marcus Hernandez began his leather column in the BAR in 1971-1972 when Davolt was in grammar school. After eighteen years of not being in Drummer where he belonged, “Marcus the Merciless” began a regular column, “Leather Bulletin Board,” in the newly Dutch-owned Drummer 170, December 1993. That same issue featured my photographs of Donnie Russo on the cover as well in the centerfold where my eight-page photo-plus-essay feature, “Russomania,” had been skillfully laid out by art director, Brendan Ward.

Ten days after Davolt died, Mister Marcus, ever the gent, noting their huge “personal and professional differences,” wrote a very carefully considered elegy: “Honorable in Words and Deeds.” He complimented Davolt, but defined him as “stormy.” Tim Brough, author of Sgt. Vengles’ Revenge, reviewed Davolt at as “a crank, but my kind of crank.”

When Davolt and I were invited to a seminar, “Being Obscene?: A Panel of Pornographers,” we were scheduled to appear with Susie Bright, Tom Bianchi, Tee Corinne, and Willie Walker. The San Francisco GLBT Historical Society brochure announced:

Jack Fritscher, Ph. D., founding SF editor-in-chief, will open the tale of Drummer, the landmark gay male leather magazine, and Robert Davolt, its last editor and publisher, will close it. Together, they will highlight how this magazine not only gave birth to a whole panoply of alternative erotic images and publications, but also how the magazine became the center of a whole cultural phenomenon. Fritscher is a noted author and historian and Davolt is a respected leather historian. [Italics added to show the GLBT Historical Society judgment that Drummer was more than a magazine. Was Embry, who lived in San Francisco, asked to appear, or did he refuse, or did he simply not respond to an invitation?]

Mark Hemry videotaped the event in the GLBT Center Rainbow Room on September 27, 2002. During the audience Q&A, I turned sideways to Davolt and joked: “I may be the first San Francisco editor of Drummer and you may be the last, Robert, but I’ll never be the one to say you killed it.”

For the whodunit of who finally killed Drummer, Robert Davolt was the keeper of that scandal—and I have the notes which he gave me to quote. Drummer was killed by more than just the internet which unplugged the life support on most gay magazines by the year 2000. Mister Marcus, writing as San Francisco’s “Leather-Heritage Journalist of Record,” made great public note that the Drummer brand and the Drummer contest were collapsing through the long-term neglect on the part of the Dutch owner, Martijn Bakker.

In the Bay Area Reporter, October 2, 1997, Mister Marcus, reporting on the previous Saturday’s International Mr. Drummer Contest, wrote:

Kyle Brandon, the departing Mr. Drummer, in his farewell speech, thanked everyone who was instrumental in making his year traveling with the Drummer title a memorable one. He even chided Drummer publisher Martijn Bakker for his inattention—all year—to his marketing icon [the IMD winner-traveling spokesman]. The same complaint [from previous departing winners of Mr. Drummer] seems to come up every year, but it always falls on deaf ears! But this is the first time it [the outing of this non-support] was delivered in front of a Drummer contest audience, so maybe the “message” came through loud and clear. We can only hope!

Davolt, who was Embry’s understudy, continued to antagonize the leather feud with The Advocate which had disguised its famous Pink Section “Sex Classifieds” inside its spin-off magazine, Unzipped. A very anti-Drummer slam slipped into Unzipped, January 6, 1998, page 11, when gossip-queen Jack Francis in his column, “Secrets of the Porn Stars,” reviewed Leather Week in San Francisco and trashed the Mr. Drummer Contest:

Thursday night I went carousing with Cole Tucker to —huh?—two auctions. The first was a pre-Drummer Contest function where the contestants had baskets of “goodies” to be auctioned off [how typically Drummer] to help defray their pageant expenses. You can imagine the contents...which included a spray bottle of 100% W. C. Urine. And I somehow got Kyle Brandon to tell the owner of Drummer magazine how snotty his people had been to me when I tried to mooch press credentials to their little contest....

Could I make these Machiavellian plots up? These kinds of shenanigans are the reasons that my eyewitness memoir-novel Some Dance to Remember has so many characters and plot lines. I didn’t shag 13,000 soul-mates and eat 4,000 brunches at the Norse Cove on Castro in the Titanic 1970s without hearing every story in the effing village. As God is my eyewitness, I fucked Mapplethorpe who licked my eyeball with his tongue because he wanted me to be his eyewitness. “I want to be,” he commissioned me, “a story told in beds around the world.” And so, analogously, did others, behaving and misbehaving, standing in front of me, the journalist reporter. Immediately after Some Dance to Remember was published in 1990, a few leatherfolk asked me why I hadn’t included them in the story as I had so many others. Considering the requests for walk-ons, I could have sold space for personality placement in that memoir with sentences such as: “When the fire engines arrived at the flaming Barracks bath, the headlights swept across the faces of_______.” (Fill in the first and last names of any Tom, Dick, and Harry.)

* * * *

In 1979 when Mark Hemry and I began Man2Man Quarterly, times had changed during that first decade of gay liberation after Stonewall. Whereas Drummer had been founded in puritan LA in 1975, Man2Man was a 1980s San Francisco magazine that set out to go farther into wild sex than Drummer dared. Drummer was a large-format slick magazine dependent on advertisers and censorious news stands. Our low-budget Man2Man was the first zine of the 1980s and, as our passionate hobby, depended on no one but us two. It lasted two years because our little magazine was all hand-typed on typewriters, pasted down with wax, and hand-stapled and hand-mailed in those last years before personal computers. Its very success made it too much work for us with our own real careers.

In addition, the classified ads, despite what we could do, became increasingly dirty at the very moment when AIDS first changed sex to safe sex. It was this same dirty sea change that had caused me earlier to break off sex with my bicoastal lover Robert Mapplethorpe who was into dirty Manhattan sex typified by the Mineshaft. Never a puritan, I loved both Mapplethorpe and the Mineshaft. Nevertheless I knew I had to be a hygiene freak from the day I came out of the closet. So while art in magazines may play at being dirty, in real life, edgy sleaze is a whole other issue.

I wrote nearly every word in Man2Man as I had done with much of the text in the issues of Drummer which I edited. Truth be told, I wrote fifty percent of the first sex classifieds in M2M because each to me was like an exciting dirty little sex poem. I wanted each classified ad to be the same experience as going into one different movie booth after another at a dirty book store. Once the readers picked up on the rhetorical tone and style I was showing them by example, they found permission to push open their own versions of lust which is what I wanted when I first seeded the classifieds. However, I had no intention of unleashing every lurid fantasy in a classified format that suggested that these little entries were real. I meant them as jerk-off fantasies no one need try. I figured if they masturbated to risky sex acts at home, it would acquit their urges to go out and do them with others. The Id is mightier than the Superego. It was odd how fast simple sex in gay liberation turned dirty. Other magazines took notice.

In Touch for Men, titillating its own readers with the cheap thrills it could not resist in our Man2Man, pretended LA “shock” at San Francisco sex, and reviewed M2M in the August 1981 In Touch #58 that also published my short story about David Hurles, “B-Movie on Castro Street.”

* * * *


Man2Man Magazine

Vivid, Interactive Mag for Readers by Jack Fritscher

by John Calendo,

In Touch for Men #58, August 1981

What a nice world it would be if people did as these two do [referencing a 1960s photo of two British lads kitted up in rubber and necking with mud]. What they’re doing exactly is, of course, up for grabs. You know, putting out a gay magazine is tough. You have to keep abreast of all the latest developments in gay sex. But even we have trouble following the many twists and turns coming out of San Francisco.

Take this picture, for instance. It comes from a wild sex journal called Man2Man (PO Box 6052, San Francisco CA 94101; $3) which lists its contents with one, very apt word: INTENSE. Edited and mostly written by Jack Fritscher, former editor of Drummer and author of our fiction this month (“B-Movie on Castro Street”), the 52-page booklet’s most intense part is its bizarro classifieds, which take up one-third of the publication—rather vividly. While the rank majority of the ads can most effectively be described as “101 Things You Can Do On A Rainy Day With Your Best Friend’s Feces,” certain classifieds take us far beyond that, proving for all those fuddy-duddies who are still into blood-sex and raping Hell’s Angels that such pastimes are—let’s face it—simply not the dernier cri of kink.

Here then is an update: a few of our favorite Man2Man personals.

“BALLOON FUCK: Hot WM, 34, seeks bright butch stud to blow up huge balloon to bursting while I suck/fuck/jerk you off.”

“L.A. ANIMAL FREAK: Wants muscular owners of stallions, Great Danes and Weimaraners. Photo of you and pets gets immediate reply.”

“STALLED VEHICLES: Into cigar smokers in the driver’s seat of stalled cars. Firebirds and Camaros are real auto-fetish treats!”

“NAVY SUBMARINE OFFICER: Wants to exchange his black nylon socks and garters for yours.”

“HARMLESS PSYCHOPATHS: And weird far-out men wanted for everything including MC’s, piss, scat, sweat, kidnaping, cannibalism and anything a gay Charlie Manson might think about. No nuts.”

“EUNUCHS: I want to join you!! Who out there can castrate me skillfully?”


“IT’S SHOW TIME: Dog slave needs to be trained (punished), groomed (shaved), shown (bondage) and rewarded (fucked). Long show sessions desired. Can reciprocate for right puppy.”

“SECLUDED PROPERTY SOUGHT: For outdoors scenes and target shooting. Those interested in holding tin cans, reply also!”

“FIELD PHONE BALL WORK: WM, 35, seeks CBA torture, especially having his weighted, separated balls tightly wrapped with barbed wire and worked over with adjustable field phone with Brazilian parrot’s perch.”

“PARAMEDIC SOUGHT: Am mansex adventurer in search of following scenario: smearing of the muscular scat-donor with a pint of my own blood, drawn paramedically before scene. With the Top glowing bright, glistening red, his muscles would be visually more spectacular than ever.”

And last but not least our very, very favorite:

“MONEY FUCK: Fuck in a bed full of money. We’ll go out together and ask hot straight guys (construction/truckers/cops) if they can change a ten-spot with bills from their wallets riding tight against their butts, and with coins heated in their pockets hanging in next to their warm dicks. You can move in close on a straight guy when he figures he’s doing a man a favor; you can watch the intensity of his face close-up while his big hands count out the change; you can touch his hands as he lays the bills on you. We’ll head home with our mouths full of man-collected coins. Spit cash into each other’s mouths. Suck cock. Shove rolls of dimes/quarters/halves/and silver dollars up each other’s ass. You haven’t shit till you’ve shit dinero. Let’s jerk off worshiping the money. Money is the only power. Money is the root of all evil. Let’s put our money where our mouths are. Let’s put our cash on the sheets and celebrate male greed, power, lust, and the comfort of the almighty dollar. This is a very honest trip. You bring a couple of hundred to match mine. All cash returned at end of night when we hose off the grease together. No foreign currency and definitely no Susan B’s!”

Man2Man has got to be the best roller-coaster ride in the West. It’s not for everybody--OBVIOUSLY. Still it is definitely worth every penny of the three dollars it costs. But just remember: no Susan B’s!

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