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About Drummer Magazine

Between 1975 and 1999 Drummer was an iconic magazine documenting and influencing gay men's leather subculture. It featured homomasculine erotica, articles about leathersex and fetish gear, and interviews with prominent leathermen and women. It also provided a space for readers to share their own stories and experiences.

The more conservative elements within the gay community often criticized it for not being politically correct.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
- Henry David Thoreau

In-Page Table of Contents

In an arena during half time. A staid Uniformed band dressed in drab grey marches in sync except for one drummer in a black leather and red socks.  He drums wildly and dances out of step.

A Brief Timeline for Drummer Magazine

In 1969, the Homophile Effort for Legal Protection (H.E.L.P.) was formed in Los Angeles to defend homosexuals during and after arrests by Los Angeles Police Department.

In 1972, Larry Townsend, activist, author, and president of H.E.L.P., founded the "H.E.L.P. Newsletter."

John Embry replaced Larry Townsend as the president of H.E.L.P. in 1973. Embry renamed the "H.E.L.P. Newsletter" as "H.E.L.P. Drummer". Jack Fritscher writes that the newsletter became a prototype of the glossy Drummer magazine.

In June 1975, John Embry, Alternate Publishing, began publication of Drummer magazine. He hired Jeanne C. Barney, a straight woman, as its editor-in-chief for the first eleven issues.

In October 1975, Drummer #3 included the publication's first masthead listing Robert Payne as Publisher, Jeannie Barney as Editor in Chief, and V. C. Kuemmel as Art Director.

On April 10, 1976, the Los Angeles Police Department raided a "Slave Auction" fundraiser being held at the Mark IV baths as a sponsored by Drummer magazine. The L.A.P.D. arrested forty participants --- thirty-nine men and one woman: Jeanne Barney. The police charged them with breaking a law enacted in 1899 banning “white slavery.” The following day a local newspaper printed ann account of the raid under the headline "Police Free Gay ‘Slaves'."

Cartoon in Drummer parodying the police actions

Despite the term "slave," the auction was entirely consensual. All participation was voluntary.

Most of the charges were eventually dismissed, but John Embry, Jeannie Barney, the auctioner, and the man working the door were charged with felonies. After two years of legal procedures all four pleade guilty and were be sentenced to community service.

Barney resigned as Editor in Chief over a matter of more than thirteen thousand dollars in back pay. John Embry was listed as Publisher for the first time in issue #12.

In March, 1977, John Embry, moved Drummer from LA to San Francisco at least partially due to harrasement by the L.A.P.D. He hired Jack Fritscher as founding San Francisco editor-in-chief. (Embry and Fritscher worked together on Embry's various magazines referencing Drummer until Embry's death in 2010.) Fritscher was committed to embuing the magazine to a "homomasculinity" aesthetic and philosophy.

On March 16, 1979, John Embry underwent surgery for cancer. During the six-plus months Embry was falling ill, had surgery, and spent time recuperating, he was absent from the office and gave editor Jack Fritscher and art director Al Shapiro the space to complete the transition of Drummer from an LA magazine into a San Francisco magazine. On this same date, Fritscher met with John Preston and accepted the first draft of his novel Mister Benson for serialization in Drummer alongside Fritscher's own novel, Leather Blues: I Am curious (Leather).

According to Jack Fritscher in Appendix 1 of Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999 (i.e., "A Quick Who’s Who in Drummer"):

March 1977. Embry hires Allen J. Shapiro (A. Jay) as art director and Jack Fritscher as editor-in-chief to change LA Drummer into San Francisco Drummer; beginning after Drummer 18 (August 1977), which Fritscher ghost-edited, Drummer takes four-month publishing hiatus, absent from the news stands and starting up again when Fritscher debuts his first issue, Drummer 19 (December 1977); the most representative, intense, archetypal, and perfect issue of Drummer in writing and graphic content is Drummer 21 (March 1978); Fritscher edits Drummer for three years: 32 months; Shapiro designs Drummer for 34 months

In late 1979 (Aug. - Dec 31), Fritscher slowly wound down his involvement in editing the magazine. As he writes in Appendix 1 ("A Quick Who’s Who in Drummer") of Gay Pioneers:

Shapiro and Fritscher exit together taking the Drummer salon of talent such as Robert Mapplethorpe, thus ­ending what Embry and others term the “classic 1970s Drummer”; Fritscher is the second and last editor-in-chief of Drummer; thirteen months after Fritscher exits, John Rowberry becomes editor with Drummer 40 (January 1981) to Drummer 86 (January 1986)

In January, 1980, following Fritscher's departure, Embry named John Rowberry as "assignment editor" starting with issue # 31. Jack Fritscher (1977-1980) continued contributing writing and photographs to Drummer for sixty issues through 1999.

In 1981, Rowberry finally became "editor" in Drummer 40 and held the position through Drummer 86 (1986).

On Aug. 22, 1986, Desmodus Inc. (Tony DeBlase & partner), publisher of DungeonMaster, purchased Drummer, Mach, and Foreskin Quarterly magazines from Alternate Publishing (John Embry). Desmodus relocates from Chicago to San Francisco. DeBlase lets Rowbery go. (Rowberry and Fritscher then collaborated for seven years creating Drummer-like leather features for the gay magazines of the East Coast Mavety Corporation until Rowberry' death in 1993.)

On May 19, 1992, Tony DeBlase sold Desmodus Inc., (including Drummer, Mach, Tough Customers, DungeonMaster, The Sandmutopia Guardian, and The Sandmutopia Supply Company) to a Dutch corporation headed by Martjin Bakker, who is was also the owner of RoB Amsterdam stores and galleries. Tony DeBlase became Editor Emeritis.

In 1999, Drummer magazine ceased publication with issue 214. Robert Davolt was the final editor and publisher of the original run of the magazine.

In 2008, Jeanne C. Barney received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pantheon of Leather Awards.

In 2009, Jack Fritscher received the National Leather Association – International: Geoff Mains Non-Fiction Book Award for Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, his non-fiction book about the magazine.

In 2014, John Embry was inducted into the Leather Hall of Fame. The next year, Jeanne C. Barney was also inducted.

In 2017, the art installation known as the San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley was installed; in it Drummer cofounder John Embry (among others) was honored with a bronze bootprint displaying his name and a short statement about him.

In 2018, Jack Fritscher received the National Leather Association – International: Geoff Mains Non-Fiction Book Award for Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Magazine Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999.

In 2018, Jack MacCullum, a Drummer North America (D.N.A.) titleholder purchased Drummer magazine and its associated events from Martijn Bakker.

In October, 2019, MacCullum resumed publication of Drummer after a twenty year hiatus. The new run of the magazine started with issue 215.

Source Citations


  • Jack Fritscher. The Life and Times of the Legendary Larry Townsend, www.JackFritscher.com.
  • Jack Fritscher. Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999, www.JackFritscher.com.
  • Jack Fritscher. Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer Magazine, 2013, www.JackFritscher.com.
  • "Jeanne C. Barney" on the "Leather Hall of Fame" web site. https://leatherhalloffame.com/inductees-list/27-jeanne-c-barney.html
  • Race Bannon. "Drummer' redux: famed leather magazine gets a reboot." The Bay Area Reporter. November 6, 2019
  • Tony DeBlase, et al. "The Leather History Timeline", www.EvilMonk.org.

EvilMonk.org's version of The Leather History Timeline contains additional historical information for Drummer. Former Drummer Editor in Chief Jack Fritscher contributed some of the entries.

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Further Reading about Drummer


  • Jack Fritscher. Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
  • Jack Fritscher. Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer. (2008) A selection of Jack Fritscher's writing in Drummer.
  • Jack Fritscher (Author), Mark Hemry (Editor.) The Life and Times of the Legendary Larry Townsend (Palm Drive Publishing: Sebastopal, 2021) (See About Larry Townsend for more about this book.)

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