Fritscher is the founding San Francisco editor in chief of Drummer Magazine. Among literary peers Edmund White, Felice Picano, Andrew Holleran, Ethan Mordden, and Rita Mae Brown, Fritscher was the first born, the earliest published, the only documentary filmmaker, and the most explicit literary writer.
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.
Jack Fritscher is an American author, novelist, gay historian, photographer, videographer, university professor, and social activist known internationally for his fiction and non-fiction analyses of gay popular culture. 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 peace demonstration. Following a civil union in Vermont and a Canadian marriage, they were married in California on June 20, 2008.
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).
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 the first ever dissertation on Tennessee Williams entitled Love and Death in Tennessee Williams(1967).
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 solo anthology Corporal in Charge and Other Stories was the first book 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 most notable books are 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.
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) and "Mountain Men Bears" (Drummer 119, July 1988) in the gay press.
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). 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).
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.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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