Jack Fritscher

Jack Fritscher (born June 20, 1939) is an American author,[1] novelist, magazine journalist, photographer, videographer, university professor, and social activist known internationally for his fiction and non-fiction analyses of popular culture. As a pre-Stonewall activist he was an out and founding member of the American Popular Culture Association. Fritscher was the founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer Magazine.

Jack Fritscher
Fritscher in 1972
BornJohn Joseph Fritscher
(1939-06-20) June 20, 1939
Jacksonville, Illinois, United States
OccupationWriter, photographer, videographer
Alma materPontifical College Josephinum
Loyola University Chicago
GenrePopular Culture
LGBT History
Literary fiction
Literary movementNew Journalism
American Transcendentalism
American drama
American film
SpouseMark Hemry
PartnerRobert Mapplethorpe
David Sparrow

Early life

Fritscher was raised in Peoria, Illinois. His father was the child of Socialist Austrian-Catholic immigrant stonemasons (arrived in 1885) and his mother was the grandchild of Irish-Catholic immigrant steelworkers (arrived in 1847). His uncle and namesake was the noted World War II Catholic army chaplain, Father John B. Day. Born during the Great Depression and growing up during World War II in rental housing, Fritscher was part of the gay generation who in their teens, during the 1950s, rebelled against conformity through the birth of pop culture and the Beats. In their twenties, during the 1960s, these gay youth marched for peace and civil rights, and in their thirties, during the 1970s, they worked to secure the cultural and aesthetic foundations of modern gay liberation in its first decade after the Stonewall riots.

In 1953 at age 14, Fritscher received a Vatican scholarship to the Pontifical College Josephinum, where he attended both high school and college, studying Latin and Greek. He earned a degree in philosophy in 1961, followed by graduate work in theology and the Scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas (1961–1963). He was also schooled by Jesuits in the Humanism of Marsilio Ficino, Erasmus, and Jacques Maritain. While in school, Fritscher earned his first publication (1958) and the production of his first play (1959). He has said that while he was celibate at the seminary. "I probably became gay because of the Josephinum, although nothing happened (to me) there."Boston Herald

In 1962 and 1963, inspired by French Worker-Priests and tutored by Saul Alinsky, Fritscher worked as a social activist on the South Side of Chicago, in the same neighborhoods worked twenty-five years later by Barack Obama. He was ordained by the Apostolic Delegate with the orders of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. In 1964, he entered Loyola University Chicago and completed his master's and doctoral programs, writing a dissertation on Tennessee Williams entitled Love and Death in Tennessee Williams(1967).

Academic life and writing

In 1961 Fritscher arrived in San Francisco and established a base there. Beginning in 1965, he taught at Loyola University Chicago, received tenure at Western Michigan University, and was a regular visiting lecturer at Kalamazoo College. From 1968 to 1975, he served on the board of directors of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts where he founded and directed the museum film program. In 1969 he founded and taught the first film-as-literature courses at the Western Michigan University Department of English. In San Francisco in between academic posts, Fritscher used his academic credentials and publishing career in the Catholic press to find jobs as an editorial writer for KGO-ABC TV, as a technical writer for the San Francisco Muni Metro, and as manager of marketing at Kaiser Engineers, Inc. (1976–1982).

Fritscher has published both fiction and non-fiction works. His first novel was What They Did to the Kid: Confessions of an Altar Boy (1965), and his first gay novel was I Am Curious (Leather) aka Leather Blues (1969). He authored the first nonfiction book on gays and magic in Popular Witchcraft Straight from the Witch's Mouth (1972). His short-story collection Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain O'Malley (Gay Sunshine Press, 1984) was the first collection of leather fiction, and the first collection of fiction from Drummer magazine. The title entry Corporal in Charge was the only play published by editor Winston Leyland in the Lambda Literary Award Winner Gay Roots: Twenty Years of Gay Sunshine - An Anthology of Gay History, Sex, Politics & Culture (1991).

Fritscher's notable books include Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1970-1982, Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer - A Memoir of the Art, Sex, Salon, Pop Culture War, and Gay History of Drummer Magazine from the Titanic 1970s to 1999, and the memoir of his lover Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, and the British photography book, selected and edited by Edward Lucie-Smith, Jack Fritscher's American Men. His writing has been translated into Spanish, German, and Greek.

Fritscher's academic writing has been published in the Bucknell Review, Modern Drama, Journal of Popular Culture, Censorship: A World Encyclopedia, and Playbill. His photographs have been published by Taschen, Rizzoli, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Saint Martin's Press, Gay Men's Press London, as well as by dozens of magazines, newspapers, and book publishers including his cover for James Purdy's Narrow Rooms (1996). His videos and photographs are in the permanent collections of the Maison européenne de la photographie, Paris; the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction; and the Leather Archives and Museum. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and on BBC Channel 4 with Camille Paglia.

Drummer magazine

Fritscher entered post-Stonewall gay publishing as founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer magazine (March 1977-December 1979), San Francisco's longest-running magazine (1975–1999). He was one of only two editors-in-chief in Drummer history. Fritscher was the magazine's most frequent contributor as editor, writer, and photographer through all three publishers, emerging as historian of the institutional memory of Drummer. While at Drummer, Fritscher introduced into gay media such artists as Robert Mapplethorpe and David Hurles (Old Reliable), and showcased talents such as Robert Opel, Arthur Tress, Samuel Steward (Phil Andros), Larry Townsend, John Preston, Wakefield Poole, Rex, and A. Jay.

As an analyst and framer of gay linguistics in the first post-Stonewall decade when gay journalists were inventing new words for the emerging gay culture, Fritscher coined the gay-identity word homomasculinity, as well as redefining S&M as "Sensuality and Mutuality" (1974). Documenting on page and on screen the dawn of the "Daddy" and "Bear" movements, Fritscher was the first writer and editor to feature "older men" (Drummer 24, September 1978) in the gay press.

A selection of Fritscher's writing in Drummer was published in 2008 as Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer.

Fritscher's eyewitness recollections and interviews of Drummer history was published in 2007 as GAY PIONEERS How Drummer Magazine Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999.


After leaving Drummer, Fritscher published a raunchy zine, Man2Man. It lasted for 8 quarterly issues (1980–81, according to copyright dates), preceded by an introductory/marketing issue. Under the slogans "What You're Looking For Is Looking for You" and "The Mag You Can Stick Your Nose In," it consisted of 44-60 pages, primarily created on a typewriter. Each issue had totally uncensored and sometimes weird personal ads, readers' letters, pictures from Old Reliable, Rex, and others, interviews, pornographic fiction by Fritscher, ads by purveyors of erotic merchandise, and articles on such topics as "Clothes Harvesting" (stealing athletes' clothes from locker rooms), jockstraps, cigars, and other fetishes which by today's standards are extreme. Mark Hemry (born May 14, 1950) is identified as publisher and credited with graphic design. The entire run is available online, with sexual organs blacked out.[2]

Video and other print work

Fritscher was the founding editor of the first gay "zine" of the 1980s, Man2Man Quarterly (1979–1982), as well as San Francisco's California Action Guide (1982). With California Action Guide, Fritscher became the first editor to publish the word "Bear" on a magazine cover (November 1982).[3] He also contributed to the start-up of dozens of other emerging gay magazines as well as booking anthologies for new publishers such as Gay Sunshine Press and Bowling Green University Press.

With producer Mark Hemry in 1984, Fritscher co-founded the pioneering Palm Drive Video featuring homomasculine entertainment. Palm Drive Video expanded in 1996 to Palm Drive Publishing, San Francisco. For Palm Drive Fritscher wrote, cast, and directed more than 150 video features. His work includes documentary footage of the first "Bear" contest (Pilsner Inn, February 1987). These videos are no longer for sale, as Fritscher declined to shift to DVD format and shut down the video company.

Gay historian and cultural participant

As an eyewitness participant, Fritcher contributed an article on artist Chuck Arnett to editor Mark Thompson's Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice. He was a frequent historical journalist for the Bay Area Reporter and Leather Times. In 1972, he was the first gay writer to unearth and interview Samuel Steward (Phil Andros); his Steward audiotapes were referenced in Justin Spring's biography of Steward, Secret Historian (2010). As a gay popular culture critic, Fritscher began collecting his extensive gay history archive in 1965.

Chris Nelson photographed Fritscher for Richard Bulger's original Bear magazine as well as for the photography book The Bear Cult, selected and introduced by Edward Lucie-Smith. As a writer and photographer, he contributed fiction and photographs for covers and interior layouts for Bear magazine and other Brush Creek Media magazines. He wrote the introduction to Les Wright's Bear Book II and contributed to Ron Suresha's Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions as well as to editor Mark Hemry's fiction anthology Tales of the Bear Cult. In addition to Chris Nelson, Fritscher has been photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, Daniel Nicoletta, Arthur Tress, David Hurles, David Sparrow, Robert Opel and his nephew Robert Oppel, and Jim Tushinski.

Personal life

On May 22, 1979, the night after the White Night riots, Fritscher met his spouse Mark Hemry under the marquee of the Castro Theatre during a post-riot Castro Street peace demonstration that also celebrated the birthday of Harvey Milk. Following a civil union in Vermont (July 12, 2000) and a Canadian marriage (August 19, 2003), they were married in California (June 20, 2008). Fritscher's previous significant partners were David Sparrow and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Writing by Fritscher



Academic & Professional Publications
Short Fiction Anthologies
Plays and Screenplays
Short Fiction Magazine Erotica

Books featuring writing by Fritscher

Jack Fritscher Appearing in Others Works



  • San Francisco Book Festival: Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer Vol. 1
  • Living Now Book Awards: Gold Medal-GLBT Fiction - Stonewall: Stories of Gay Liberation
  • Pantheon of Leather: Northern California Regional Award



  • ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year: Bronze Medal-Gay/Lesbian Fiction - Stonewall: Stories of Gay Liberation


  • Erotic Authors Association: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year: Bronze Medal-Gay/Lesbian Non-Fiction - Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer Vol. 1


  • ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year: Gold Medal-Gay/Lesbian Fiction - Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1970-1982


  • Small Press Book Awards: Gold Medal-Erotica/Sex - Rainbow County and Other Stories


  • Lambda Literary Award: Finalist/Best Gay Novel - Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of San Francisco 1970-1982


  • Society for Technical Communication Awards, San Francisco, Pacifica/Golden Gate Chapters Best Public Relations Brochure: "Alumina: Kaiser Engineers, Inc."
  • Society for Technical Communication Awards, San Francisco, Pacifica/Golden Gate Chapters Best Public Relations Brochure: "Steel: Kaiser Engineers, Inc." (The two brochures tied for First Place.)


1975 Faculty Research Fellowship Grant, Western Michigan University, Department of English: Completion of Interviews Conducted in 1972 of Samuel M. Steward (aka Phil Andros)
1974 National Endowment for the Humanities, Literature and Culture in America, University of California, Berkeley
1969 Ray B. Browne and Pat Browne Research Grant, American Popular Culture Association: Interviews of Anton LaVey, Frederic de Arechaga, and Others for Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch's Mouth
1969 Filmmaker Grant, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts: 16mm Film for Television: Kalamazoo Art Center

See also


  1. Konrad, Rachel (October 4, 2003). "EBay halts gay-themed "Schwarzenegger Shrine" auction". Chico Enterprise-Record. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  2. http://www.jackfritscher.com/shortfiction/gay%20erotica/man2man.html, retrieved 2014-09-04
  3. Bernadicou, August. "Jack Fritscher". August Nation. The LGBTQ History Project. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
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