John Joseph "Jack" Fritscher is an American author, university professor, historian, and social activist known internationally for his fiction, erotica and non-fiction analyses of popular culture and gay male culture. A pre-Stonewall riots activist he was an out and founding member of The Journal of Popular Culture. Fritscher was the founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer magazine.
1. Early life
Fritscher was born June 20, 1939 and 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 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." 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. 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 masters and doctoral program, writing a dissertation on Tennessee Williams entitled Love and Death in Tennessee Williams 1968.
2. 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 Witchs Mouth 1972. His short-story collection Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain OMalley 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.
Fritschers 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 Martins Press, Gay Mens Press London, as well as by dozens of magazines, newspapers, and book publishers including his cover for James Purdys Narrow Rooms 1996. His videos and photographs are in the permanent collections of the Maison europeenne 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.
3. Drummer magazine
Fritscher entered post-Stonewall gay publishing as founding San Francisco editor-in-chief of Drummer March 1977-December 1979, San Franciscos longest-running magazine 1975–1999. He was one of only two editors-in-chief in Drummer history. Fritscher was the magazines 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 SM 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.
Fritschers eyewitness recollections and interviews of Drummer history was published in 2007 as GAY PIONEERS How Drummer Magazine Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999.
A selection of Fritschers writing in Drummer was published in 2008 as Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer.
4. Man2Man magazine
After leaving Drummer, Fritscher published a raunchy zine, Man2Man. It lasted for eight quarterly issues 1980–1981, according to copyright dates, preceded by an introductory/marketing issue. Under the slogans "What Youre 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 todays standards are extreme. Mark Hemry is identified as the publisher and credited with graphic design.
5. 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 Franciscos California Action Guide 1982. With California Action Guide, Fritscher became the first editor to publish the word "Bear" with the gay culture meaning on a magazine cover November 1982. 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.
6. Gay historian and cultural participant
As an eyewitness participant, Fritcher contributed an article on Chuck Arnett "Artist Chuck Arnett: His Life/Our Times”, 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 Springs 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 Bulgers 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 Wrights Bear Book II and contributed to Ron Sureshas Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions as well as to editor Mark Hemrys 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.
7. Personal life
Fritscher is married to Mark Hemry, founding owner of Palm Drive Publishing. The couple met May 22, 1979, the night after the White Night riots under the marquee of the Castro Theatre. Following a civil union in Vermont July 12, 2000 and a Canadian marriage August 19, 2003, they were married in California June 20, 2008.
Fritschers previous significant partners were David Sparrow and Robert Mapplethorpe.
In the 2018 biopic film, Mapplethorpe, Fritschers character was played by actor Anthony Michael Lopez.
8.1. Bibliography Novels
Fritscher, Jack 2005. Some Dance To Remember: A Memoir-novel Of San Francisco, 1970-1982. New York City, New York: Harrington Park Press. ISBN 1560233273.
Fritscher, Jack 2012. Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew. San Francisco, California: Palm Drive Publishing. ISBN 1890834084.
Fritscher, Jack 1998. The Geography of Women: A Romantic Comedy. San Francisco, California: Palm Drive Publishing. ISBN 1890834254.
Fritscher, Jack 2002. What They Did to the Kid: Confessions of an Altar Boy, A Tale of Priest Abuse. San Francisco, California: Palm Drive Publishing. ISBN 1890834378.
Fritscher, Jack 1984. Leather Blues: The Adventures of Denny Sargent, a Novel. San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press. ISBN 0917342496.
8.2. Bibliography Non-fiction
Fritscher, Jack 2010. Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer - A Memoir of the Sex, Art, Salon, Pop Culture War, and Gay History of Drummer Magazine - The Titanic 1970s to 1999. 1. Mark Hemry Editor. San Francisco, California: Palm Drive Publishing. ISBN 9781890834395.
Fritscher, Jack 2004. Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witchs Mouth 2 ed. University of Wisconsin Press/Popular Press. ISBN 0299203042.
Fritscher, Jack 1971. Television Today. Mark J. Brummel, C.M.F., R.J. Liskowski, Tom Hogan. Chicago, IL: Claretian Fathers/Claretian Press.
Fritscher, Jack 1994. Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera: A Pop Culture Memoir-An Outlaw Reminiscence. New York City, New York: Hastings House Publishers. ISBN 0803893620.
Fritscher, John 1967. When Malory Met Arthur: Love and Death in Camelot Doctoral Textual Qualification. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Library.
Fritscher, John 1968. Love and Death in Tennessee Williams Dissertation. Chicago, IL: Loyola University Library.
8.3. Bibliography Featuring writing by Fritscher
Labonte, Richard 2010. Muscle Men: Rock Hard Gay Erotica short story collection. Cleis Press. ISBN 978157344392-0.
Jack Fritscher Appearing in Others Works
Leyland, Winston 1991. Gay Roots: Twenty Years of Gay Sunshine, An Anthology of Gay History, Sex, Politics, and Culture. San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press. ISBN 978-0940567122.
2016 – National Leather Association International Cynthia Slater Non-Fiction Article award shared with Jaco Lourens
2009 – National Leather Association International: Geoff Mains Non-Fiction Best Book Award - Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer Vol. 1
2009 – National Leather Association International: Cynthia Slater Non-Fiction Feature Article Award - "Spill a Drop for Lost Brothers: An Obituary for Larry Townsend"