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An Erotic E-zine of Masculinity and Power

Leather Lit

Excerpts from Drummer Magazine's Narrative Nonfiction

"Drummer publisher John (Robert Payne) Embry . . . embraced themes meant to appeal to masculine men who enjoyed erotic literature with SM and punctuation. I thought Ember clever to quote Thoreau's 'beat of a different drummer' to set the tone. As a poet and activist, Thoreau was important to American culture. So with both literature and leather in the repertoire, we developed a Drummer style of writing that in those days was referred to as 'Leather Lit.'"

—Jack Fritscher, editor of Drummer between 1977 and 1979, in "The Magazine with Balls," Drummer #188 (1995). The unabridged version of this article is available online.

Note: Links on this page lead to the full article online. All articles are copyrighted in the names of their authors.

When my eyes had settled back into my head and were no longer jumping from man to gorgeous man, I took a look around and realized this was no everyday place. To begin with the cell bars just inside the entry and the well-muscled cowpoke watching the door tended to leaven the glittery effect of the gigantic silver bombs I had just passed outside. There was a single island bar, obviously hand-crafted of fine woods, above which neon lights shouted TAIL, AMMO, GUNS and of course COCK. The orange-red glow of the neon spread out over the throng making each one look as if he were Gary Cooper fighting his way through the Pyranees' to Ingrid Bergman . . . and her Spanish chicken companion. Behind the bar the bartenders were bouncing about like Hindu holy men walking on hot coals, as they attempted to quench the thirst of this steadily growing mob. I watched fascinated for what seemed like hours as they reached and stretched, rock-hard chests, wash board stomachs, bulging muscles all aimed at the same goal, "get this man a drink."

[Bill Whiting, "Silver Bullet / Houston," Drummer #14 (1977)]

The backroom bars, watering holes for night bloomers, are phenomena of the Third Kind: Contact. They are native to San Francisco and New York. They began as literal backrooms, spontaneous, in bars like The Tool Box, The Folsom Prison, and The Ambush. They came out on their own as The Covered Wagon, The Anvil, and with increasing intensity, The Zodiac, The Toilet, and the latest infleshtation, The Mine Shaft.


After midnight, after the lights go down low, a man of the Third Kind can see what the boys in the backroom will have: fantasy actualized a la carte. New York's Mine Shaft is the current front-runner. Down a steep doorway, The Mine Shaft offers "The Lourdes Room," featuring a full-length white porcelain bathtub suitable for baptizing and initiating any man who dares. . . .

One night, a perfectly groomed dude climbed into the tub wearing wingtips, a Brooks Brothers dark wool suit, Ivy League tie, a white oxford cloth dress shirt which, when he pulled open the suit coat, exposed holes cut out over his large nipples on his hairy chest. His hands found his crotch and fished his own cock hard from his white jockey shorts. On all sides, he looked up at the fifty or so piss-filled men looking down on him. A guy in full leather hawked up some deep spit and flumed it down on the dark suit. His baptism had begun.

[Jack Fritscher, "Pissing in the Wind," Drummer #20 (1978)]

Frank Cross, a 51-year-old former priest and proficient S&M Top, demonstrates his homemade trapeze, a wondrously wicked device for securing a Bottom to tit clamps. The clamps attach to ropes. The ropes go along a pulley, and on the other side of the pulley are knots in the rope for hanging lead fishing weights. "If he's a heavy Bottom," Cross says, "you can increase the weights to increase the pull on his tits."


Cross, who wears leathers and sunglasses like they were papal vestments, pulls out a large leather hide. An admitted fetishist, Cross adores black leather. He speaks of its "bouquet" and handles it with the awe and respect one associates with fine wine.

Cross moves to the subject of flagellation, speaking in rhythmic, ritualistic tones. "You're possessing the Bottom's mind, his body, his sensitivity," he says. "You're whipping out every sense of reality except pain. Pain . . . your brain . . . pain. Pain. You get his full attention."

"I love this man!" a woman shouts out.

Cross smiles, just slightly. He respects adoration from the Bottoms.


It's Show-and-Tell at a Society of Janus meeting, and the motley San Francisco crowd, sardined into a small room above a Market Street bar, gobbles up Cross' bits of S&M lore like manna from heaven. Cross was, after all, once a priest; and once a priest, always a priest. Now, the Society of Janus is his parish.

Cynthia Slater, an earth-woman in her hot 30's, wearing stiletto-heeled boots and spurs, takes the floor moments later, demonstrating particulars on her human bridle. Slater shoves the bit into her Bottom's mouth, straddles her, and picks up the braided reins that extend back from the headpiece. Slater yanks on it expertly. "Some people," she cautions, "have sensitive gag reflexes."

The litany moves along to thumbcuffs, more whips and cats, ideas on shaving a partner's genitals prior to splashing hot candle wax. (Never use beeswax. It burns for real, not ritual!) When handcuffs get locked, and the key is lost, we're told, don't panic. Call the San Francisco Fire Department. "In this town," Slater says, "they don't even bat an eye."

[Eric Van Meter (pseudonym of Jack Fritscher), "S&M: The Last Taboo – The Janus Society," Drummer #27 (1979)]

This was the eighth annual Inferno, the S&M event put on by the Chicago Hellfire Club. Over 225 men had gathered around the country to attend the weekend that had been whispered about in leather bars from coast to coast. They had come by invitation only; to get past the front gate some member of the club, or some trusted friend of the club, had to sponsor the guest. This was no come-one-come-all bike run. This was to be serious business. . . .

One naked bottom was strung by his wrists to a yoke hanging from the ceiling. His entire head was covered with a leather hood, no opening was left undone for his mouth or eyes. The tall, dark man who walked up to him had him at his mercy. There was no defense. His grasp at the slave's chest was perhaps too hard, too fast, too quick for the young man's experience. A firm hand on the top's shoulder belonged to someone more knowledgeable. "Go slower, work up to it, there's no reason to start there." And the dark man slows down his kneading of the exposed flesh, heightens the sensation, increases the mutual satisfaction. Hellfire Club members are spread through the crowd, soberly watching the action surrounding them. There is someone here for everyone, they know that, and they know that there is a great expertise. Their eyes are keenly watching to make sure no one goes too far, unless the bottom is really willing.

"We know that all participants in an event such as this cannot be experts. We must all serve as our brother's keepers for his safety and our own. If you see an activity going on that you truly feel is dangerous or that is forced upon an unwilling bottom, please notify a Hellfire member at once."

[John Preston with Anthony DeBlase, "Hellfire Inferno," Drummer #33 (1979)]

The night we were at Malehide's Leather Cell was during the Gold Coast's Mr. International Leather contest and every square inch was packed. . . .

I stood talking with the director of the Quarters from San Francisco, who had his personal slave at hand – stripped to the waist, in harness with his arms behind his back. Respectful. Men from all over the country came up to say hello and comment on the contest, the magazine, the slave and/or the Leather Cell. As with almost any group of men on the prowl, everyone was moving so all one had to do was stay in one place to have the whole world pass on review. I noticed the reaction of many of them to the Cell and its contents. One young buck stood looking into the bars, holding his beer with one hand and a bar with the other. He wore only tight-fitting leather pants, boots and a wide collar fastened around his neck. He stood watching the men go by, waiting for someone to come along, fasten a leash to the ring on his collar and lead him off to a similar, if more private setting. I looked away and when I later looked back, he was gone. Perhaps someone had done just that and was making his fantasy come true. I certainly hope so.

["'I Was Window Shopping in Chicago . . .'", Drummer #38 (1980)]

Hell Fire is open three nights a week: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10pm until. The Club has a large playroom filled with stocks, manacles, special invention machines, and a bar. In the middle of the room a small stage dominates and showcases specific acts for the edification of anyone and everyone. Some tables and chairs line on wall. Another section of the Club is a room of cubicles and small private areas. Yet another room holds toilets and bathtubs.

I had been told the crowd would be mixed and friendly. It was both, an almost 50-50 split between gay men in leather and uniforms mingling with non-gay men and women in a variety of clothes and gear. There was an edge of sexual tension between the gay and non-gay men that added tremendously to the already highly-charged sexual atmosphere. But always there was a foundation of friendliness and honesty. . . .

A young non-gay man with a highly-defined and muscular body, his head and upper body shaved of all hair, slowly rubs the stubble on his head against the bare back and ass of a young woman. She leans forward over a wooden street barricade. On the other side of the barricade three gay men in leather suck and bite her nipples, as a crowd forms to watch the scene.

Some young straight men, mostly in sneakers and slacks, probably from New Jersey, stand and gawk – their eyes wide and their mouths salivating. I turn to my friend, who has brought me to this place, and point them out, "They look like they're seeing Jesus!"

My friend replies, "El Diablo, they're seeing Hell Fire."

Someone standing next to us adds, "They'll be back next week wearing leather chaps."

[Roy Armstrong, "The Sewers of New York: Hellfire Beyond Gay," Drummer #45 (1981)]

No one knew a man was going to get branded.

No one knew there was a sling behind the black tarp.

No one – not even San Diego's gay newspaper, Update, which always knows what's going on with its readers – knew that once the branding started and the rules of this conservative, cop-sailor-sex-tinged city were broken, the men of San Diego would turn into unleashed dick-groping, pit-tonguing, tit-torturing animals. Acting just like they were in San Francisco and not a place that elected Ku Klux Klan officials to government posts.

["San Diego Gets Down," Drummer #54 (June 1982)]

The death, authorities ruled, was neither a murder nor a suicide but an accidental autoerotic hanging, the result of a sexual experiment gone bad.

Roy Hazlewood of the FBI's Behavior Science Unit says there are at least 500 autoerotic deaths a year in the United States and at least 300 of them result from accidental hangings. Hazelwood and his colleagues have uncovered 100 such cases – the largest number ever studied – and have learned that one in ten was originally classified as murder. Almost a third were mistakenly labeled deliberate suicide.

"They're just assholes," Ed tells me. "You have to take precautions, man – there ain't no thrill in being dead."

Ed is into bondage and leather. Not erotic hangings exactly. "It leaves bruises, and it causes too much pressure in the brain, might pop an artery," he says.

Ed prefers suffocation.

It wasn't hard meeting him. The bar was crowded, people were talking. The bartender, short, emaciated, in a leather bikini and collar, knew what I was after. He told me to buy Ed a drink.

I did.

"So what're you after?"

"You know anybody into hanging?"

He smiled. "You wanna get hanged?"

[Robert Bahur, "Deadly Kicks," Drummer #55 (1982)]

The slave moaned into the soft leather darkness as he felt the slippery wet shaving cream spurt into his exposed armpits, as he felt fingers rub the pungent cream, coating his skin and the luxuriant dark hair. He tensed as he felt the shiny sharp steel against his skin, scraping, removing the dark hair from his damp defenseless armpits. His cock thickened, lengthened across his thigh, crawled till it pointed toward his face. When the hot cream spurted against the hair on his pecs and belly, he moaned, and was reassured when he heard his Top murmur into his hooded ear. The razor cleaned his firm arched pecs, skirted his tender nipples. He moaned when the cream coated the hair of his belly and his groin, covering the jungle of dark hair around his cock and on his thighs and his tenderized balls; he gasped and twisted; he held still only when his Top's voice ordered him to. Hands took hold of his stiff erect cock, pointing the dripping head toward the ceiling, and the sharp blade slid over his belly and around his dark shaft; hands took hold of his balls and pulled them to the bottom of their sac, and the blade was there, too. He whimpered inside the hood as the hairs of his manhood were taken away at his Master's whim. When the shaver finished, the bottom trussed on the rack was hairless from the neck down. The shaver reached, and the slave yelled, twisted, groaned, as the stinging rubbing alcohol splashed against his tender balls which had been made more tender by his Top's previous attentions. The slave's throbbing cock never lost its hardness. . . .

The Pocono Warriors' Whitewater Weekend of 1982 was underway.

[Victor Terry, "Whitewater Run '82," Drummer #56 (August 1982)]

Somebody had to clean up the place for starters. Our photo editor recommended (no, suggested; 'recommended' is too strong a word) a fellow who needed a place to live (the beginning of a string of likely-situated employees) who, in our man's words, was a bit strange, but needed work and was available. He appeared as if by magic and I came by a day or two later to see the results of his efforts. There weren't any. Our star employee was fixing up his little nest in the apartment and announced he would like to talk to me about 'his contract,' before he got involved.'

"What kind of contract, Harry?" I said, patting him on the head. He whipped the document out. Neatly and laboriously lettered in pencil was his version of an agreement that would have done the AFL-CIO proud with some colorful clauses they couldn't have thought of in their wildest dreams.

"Very nice, Harry. But what have you been doing here for the past couple of days?"

"This," he said proudly, thrusting the note paper back at me.

[John H. Embry, "So You Want to Own a Leather Bar," Drummer #58 (1982)]

While I think the photographs will probably illustrate the basic activities more satisfactorily than it would be possible to do in words, there are several situations where photography would have been inappropriate. One of these stands out in my mind as the epitome of an SM experience . . . at least from the standpoint of the bottom. Picture a small clearing in the woods, late at night, very dark, still warm from an almost oppressively hot summer day. A slender young man stands between two trees, naked except for a blindfold and gag, his arms secured to the solid trunks on either side. The front of his body is illuminated by the glow of a flickering candle in a crude container a few feet in front of him. The only sound comes from the half dozen men who have placed him there, now relaxing on the ground in pairs or singly, either watching their captive or interacting with each other as they await their leader's next instruction. In the distance there is an occasional shout or snap of crackling impact from the run site, but these are alien and distinct from the action within the clearing.

The young man is moaning, swaying slightly as a gentle movement of air caresses his skin, where the marks of his previous activities are clearly etched. During the course of the last two days, he has served several Masters, and his body bears criss-cross scars on the back, lingering rings from previous bonds around his wrists and ankles. He has worn a catheter and he has felt the tingling sensation of electric current through his lower body. He now waits for whatever attentions his present Master will accord him on this final evening.

[Larry Townsend, "Hellfire's Inferno XI," Drummer #59 (December 1982)]

Saturday began a little slowly as those of us who, God knows why, were already up at 7 a.m., muttered around in our greasy wrappers, clutching 'eye opener' cocktails or coffee. Some, like me, clutched one of each. By the time the rider/navigator teams left on the Enduro Run at 9 am, the whole camp was up and about. At 10 o'clock the infamous scavenger hunt began. Individuals and teams scoured the area for douche bags, latex gloves, hairiest asses, shaved crotches, used rubbers, hardest cocks, longest cocks, heaviest dildoes, and fifteen other objects d'art on the official list. At 11:30 the plunderers presented whatever they'd been able to scrounge for the judges' close (except for the used rubbers and one dildo) consideration. The scavenger hunt was a very popular event as the 'hardest' cock (60 seconds to get it up), 'longest' cock (60 seconds to get it out), and a variety of hairy asses and shaved crotches were displayed on top of the judges' table. While I admired one hairy ass in particular, I was positively intrigued by the heaviest dildo in the bunch. As I remarked to a guy next to me, "A truly remarkable asshole is attending this run."

["Golden Fleece XII," Drummer #67 (August 1983)]

Finally they let the young man stand and fastened his wrists together behind his back with the deputy's handcuffs. I noted he was still stroking the leatherman's big hanging cock. I suppose he had been ordered to. He got down on his knees then and began servicing the club members, expertly and lovingly. He held those big cocks (one at a time) and stroked them with his mouth as though he were preparing an oversized cigar to smoke. He licked and worshipped, as befitted his position. Another hour or so went by and everyone was serviced to their satisfaction.

The big moment came. The fellow sat on the floor and one of his peers handed him a cigar. He unwrapped it, prepared it as though he had been smoking them all his life, put it in his mouth (which had held virtually everything else in the room that evening) and waited only a few seconds before each man held a match or a lighter to its end. He was one of them.

[Robert Payne (aka John H. Embry), "Cigar Studs" (on a leather organization for cigar smokers), Drummer #74 (May 1984)]

The finest hour of the Seventh Annual Review came Saturday night at the Officers' Mess, a traditional, full dress affair with all the pageantry of a reception jointly hosted by NATO and the Law Enforcement Officers' Association. The Blue Knights staged this year's grand banquet under the crystal chandeliers of a fine, old Victorian mansion. Blue Knight Leon Marfell told me it would be elegant, but I wasn't ready for the ramrod trim, mustachioed West Point Cadet who opened the door with a flourish of white gloves and respectful directions. "Good evening, Sir. Please hang your coat in the closet there and proceed through that doorway for cocktails."

Through that doorway, I could see a Luftwaffe Colonel, a Royal Dragoon, a U.S. Marine captain, and a young leftenant in Her Majesty's Army. A splendid sight, indeed, but it made me pause. Suddenly, the addition of a black bow tie to my New Mexico sheriff's uniform seemed rustic competition for this collection of militaristic Beau Brummels! Then, a CHiP and a Delaware State Trooper strolled into view, and I strolled into four hours of uniform ecstasy.

[Richard Saiser, "Men in Uniform" (on the American Uniform Association), Drummer #79 (1984)]

Polaroid – Two men standing in the corner, one with just torn jeans and the other with black leather vest and boots, connect their nipple rings together with cords. Pulling back against one another, reinforcing the bond that binds them, and jacking off together. Building, moaning in a kind of primitive sexual dance, the energy circling back and forth until they both spew forth.

While no behavior is restricted or off-limits, there is a sincere concern for safe sex. Jerry provides rubbers, and the individual cups of lubricant. But there is one general agreement, if someone is in bondage and you have not discussed sexual behavior, safe sex must be observed. It is an atmosphere that acknowledges the health crises and insists that men playing be responsible for their own behavior. The Polaroids prove that responsibility is not a deterrent to men making each other feel good . . . and their dicks hard.

[Mark I. Chester, "S.F. Bondage Club," Drummer #83 (1985)]

You can lump all your fetishes into one basket. You can say that focusing on the specific takes your mind away from the general. That someone searching out the imperfect has little love for himself. But who says it's degrading to go with a midget? Certainly not the midget. And in a world where opposites attract like magnets, why shouldn't an able-bodied man be attracted to someone disabled?

Just ask Jason. Ask him why he shouldn't let some guy suck on the rounded ends of his leg stumps. Or why he shouldn't send nude photos of himself through the mail. For years he sat in his wheelchair, his right hand supplying the closet thing he would ever come to a love life. Then, one day, somebody looked at him. Somebody looked at him real strange. And as he lay in bed with that someone, his shortened legs being carressed and worshiped, he started to realize that he was someone sought after. Maybe just for freak appeal. But with your load resting on someone's lips, you ask questions later. You enjoy the attention and think that maybe this guy will go beyond the abstract and see the brain behind the body.

[Michael Agreve, "Other Bodies," Drummer #93 (1986)]

We walked to Jack McNenny's flower shop, Gifts of Nature, at 6th and Houston. Robert was as famous for his tenitalic flower photographs, especially cala lilies, as he was for his phallic fetish pictures, such as "Mr. 10&1/2" and "Man in Polyester Suit" wherein a King-Kong black penis droops for days from the unzipped fly. Jack McNenny – the sweetest man, the talented floral designer with the dropdead breath of an outhouse – always saved Robert his filthiest jock-straps and his best blooms for his Baudelairean flowers-of-evil still-lifes.

At Jack's shop, standing among the pure, white calas, Robert suddenly, intuitively knew I did not want to go to bed with him. Not that night. Not anymore.

He wanted to know why.

I didn't know why.

I think now it was because he had photographed me and I was afraid the devil had shot my less-than-lily-white soul, gaining power through some weird kind of photo-voodoo.

[Jack Fritscher, "Pentimento for Robert Mapplethorpe: Fetishes, Faces, and Flowers of Evil," Drummer #133 (1989)]

Earlier that day we had gathered on the thick carpet of lawn that grows to the bank of the river. Sitting in a circle with joined hands, we appraised one another. Friends sat bunched in groups of three or four, other men sat alone and apart. Some men gleamed in the midmorning light, their leather vests and chaps lustrous against the emerald grass; others lay sprawled, bare butts to the sky, their bodies decorated only with an occasional tattoo or bright piercing. The circle had been woven out of many stories, out of many journeys that had led here.

To my right was an older leatherman, his posture signalling years of experience, his wiry body exuding a natural, if gritty masculinity. On my left sat a much younger man with pale skin, lambent eyes, and an extravagant bush of curly hair, what the poet Robert Bly would call a "soft man." Around the circle I could see men of all ages, shapes, and backgrounds. And somehow, on this first day of our meeting, we found ourselves linked together.

What bound us was a curiosity to know a deeper part of ourselves, that place where light and dark stay gripped as one in a neverending dance – where the source of our authentic power resides. So, sitting in a circle we uncapped the well and peered down, wanting to partake of the energy there. And being men, or desiring to be men, or wanting to affirm our manhood in new ways, we began to submerge ourselves in the reflective waters that lay waiting within the circle's subterranean core.

[Mark Thompson, "Black Leather Wings," Drummer #136 (1990)]

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