Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer by Jack Fritscher , Palm Drive Publishing, 714 pages, $39.95.
Jack Fritscher, founding San Francisco editor of Drummer Magazine, brings together a treasure trove of leather and gay-sex history in this lengthy first volume of his work, Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, collected and edited by Mark Hemry.
The book covers the incredible rich history of the 1970s and through 1999. Drummer covered hard-core sex for gay men on the edge, and Fritscher was in the heart of the San Francisco scene, documenting the art, politics, health scares and controversies. Fritscher was also lovers with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, and he tracks the rise and fall of San Francisco's popular gay areas, Folsom and Castro.
The book begins with several introductions by respected writers and activists, including Joseph Bean, Harold Cox and Larry Townsend. As Cox writes in his piece, subtitled "How Jack Fritscher Survived Every Owner, Publisher, and Editor" ( of Drummer ) : "The history of Drummer is closely tied to the liberation history of masculine-identified gay male sex in the United States and there is no one alive today better qualified to write that history than Jack Fritscher."
Fritscher has connections to Chicago, and his Chicago 7 chapter, about the Democratic National Convention riots of 1968 and related protests, is especially of interest to our local history. He writes: "Without antiwar defiance of the cops in Chicago in August 1968, Stonewall might not have happened in Greenwich Village in June 1969." He said his social activism in Chicago began in 1961 when he worked with the Woodlawn Organization, among other groups, and he marched once in a protest lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Mayor Richard J. Daley's office.
There is a chapter, "Star Trick," on Chicago-based artist Dom "Etienne" Orejudos, lover of Chuck Renslow. The piece was originally published in Drummer in 1977. "Having come out in Chicago in the early 1960s, I became personally familiar with the Renslow-Orejudos leather family," Fritscher writes. "I played in the heady and 'outlaw' leather culture spun out of the Black Castle where they lived." Fritscher also married into Renslow's clan when he "married" Gold Coast bartender David Sparrow. Fritscher documents the leather mural movement as well, including Dom, who he credits as helping found the movement with his famous Gold Coast murals of super-endowed gay men. [ Fritscher is among those interviewed for Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow, a book I co-authored with Owen Keehnen earlier this year. ]
There are many other Chicago references, including this comment about the notoriously gay Lawson YMCA: " [ The ] Lawson YMCA was a sperm-o-rama orgy party from the roof sundeck down through the rooms and toilets, down through the stairwells where I had to step over writhing bodies, down to the showers and the pool. This was the Chicago scene in which Renslow and Orejudos flourishedyears before Stonewall."
The book also features photos and artwork representative of the era, including photos of men from the 1950s onward. The essays and selections from Drummer are given updated context, which is very helpful in placing the pieces in their proper historical place.
This is a wide-ranging book and of interest to both leather folks as well as gay historians. It is filled with important stories, anecdotes and personal reflections from someone who was and is on the frontlines of gay history.