MID-CENTURY GAY WRITERS
A gay pioneer from the 1960s, he wrote the 1968 novel, I Am Curious (Leather), began before Stonewall his research on Popular Witchcraft, befriended the legendary and elderly gay author Sam Steward (Phil Andros) in 1969, and became the founding San Francisco editor shaping the legendary Drummer magazine (1975) which published his features, fiction, and photographs for 25 years in more than 62 issues. Those writings and photographs, annotated with historical commentary by the author, are available free online at this site.
In 1953 at age 14, he came out into the closeted gay world by writing a "gladiator novel" while attending the Vatican's ultra-exclusive Catholic seminary, the Pontifical College Josephinum, where the bullies were not the jocks but the opera-and-liturgy queens. His short fiction was first published in 1958 in the Catholic press.
Also adolescents at this time, his American gay peers were John Rechy; William Carney; Rita Mae Brown; and Dorothy Allison; as well as Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White who founded their Violet Quill in late 1980.
These mid-century careers made possible the next generation: the fin de siecle writers who appeared after HIV in 1982. They rose during the late-80s invention of historyâs first viable small lesbigay book publishers whose anthologies took the place of the once-flourishing gay magazines which by the millennium had collapsed because of internet competition.
DIVERSITY, PERVERSITY. THEOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY
As a diverse wild card among his 20th-century contemporaries, Fritscher is the only Catholic writer, and the only actual holder of an earned PhD in literature. In addition, he is the only writer who also composes and creates as a photographer and videographer. In 1966, he wrote the world's first PhD dissertation on Tennessee Williams titled Love and Death in Tennessee Williams: His Philosophy and Theology. Themes and rituals of Catholicism thread through his fiction and nonfiction from the incarnational Some Dance to Remember to the passion and death of Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera. His formal training in philosophy, theology, literature, and criticism is the architecture of his sweeping historical work on witchcraft, the drama of Tennessee Williams, the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, and the popular culture of homosexuality. His photography is a succession of heroic and suffering images from the Roman Martyrology of the Saints. Click for First Lines/Opening Lines of his writing.
In 1984, critic John F. Karr wrote in the Bay Area Reporter, "Jack Fritscher invented the South-of-Market leather prose style and its magazines" referencing both Drummer and Man2Man Quarterly. PlanetOut.com wrote: "Fritscher is the ground-breaking editor of Drummer magazine." Calamusbooks.com: "Jack Fritscher made Drummer magazine a terrific contribution to the erotic literature of gay men." Michael Bronski on Fritscher's fiction: "Like Genet's work...a masculine version of true love. Ian Young: "Jack Fritscher's gift for language makes me think of the poet Dennis Cooper." David Van Leer, The New Republic: "Classic."
NEW FOR 2005: CHASING SATAN, POPULAR WITCHCRAFT, ANTON LAVEY
His nonfiction book, Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch's Mouth, will be re-published March 2005. He has rewritten this classic book (first published 32 years ago in 1972) and has reset its clock for the 21st century.
Historically, this is the first book to investigate gay wicca and witchcraft; pink magic; gender magic; the Satanism of Anton LaVey; leather SM; the gloryhole grimoire of Saint Priapus aka Saint Sebastian; and the Christian sexism of the Inquisition demonizing women, gays, Jews, and Muslims.
In the gay history time line, Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch's Mouth (1972) was joined by the similarly double-jointed Anne Rice/Roquelaire, Interview with the Vampire (1976), and the anti-patriarchal Arthur Evans, Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture (1978).
Of those three authors from 18th and Castro Street, Fritscher is the only one who is an exorcist officially ordained by the Catholic Church (October 1963).
The 21st-century authority, Magister Peter H. Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, has vetted Popular Witchcraft as "a perceptive and witty survey" and for its "uncensored perspectives on Christianity, feminism, drug use, homosexuality, tattooing and racism."
Most famously, the book features Fritscher's canonical interview with the immortal Anton LaVey, the founding High Priest of the Church of Satan.
2004: 20th ANNIVERSARY OF SOME DANCE
The year 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of his completing his historical epic, Some Dance to Remember: A Memoir-Novel of Gay Liberation in San Francisco 1970-1982. Some Dance to Remember is the autobiography of Castro Street and Folsom Street South of Market.
The Advocate reviewed Some Dance as "the gay Gone with the Wind...Mythic, epic, a graphically elegant style." The novel is a Proustian tale of the City darker than Armistead Maupin's comic Tales of the City.
San Francisco gay-tour guides have suggested that tourists might better enjoy their visits to SOMA and to the world-famous intersection of 18th and Castro with a copy of Some Dance to Remember as an emotional, historical guide to Folsom Street and the Castro whose Golden Age was the 1970s. "The soundtrack to Some Dance," Fritscher says, "is the Eagles' Hotel California."
As the bi-coastal lover of Robert Mapplethorpe, he wrote his erotic bio-memoir of their "Titanic 70s" life together revealing Mapplethorpe's charmingly scandalous personality. In that book, Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, memoirist Fritscher "skating a Figure 8 that opens up the book" wisely turns journalist and conducts essential interviews giving voice to other Mapplethorpe intimates: George Dureau, Holly Solomon, Joel-Peter Witkin, Mark Walker, Miles Everett, Rex, Edward Lucie-Smith, Joseph Vasta, Camille O'Grady and Robert Opel who streaked the Academy Awards. He also wrote the short story, "CBGB 1977: Hunting the Wild Mapplethorpe Model" and the "Mapplethorpe" entry for Censorship: A World Encyclopedia.
HOMOMASCULINE GAY PHOTOGRAPHY
In Europe, 55 of his homomasculine photographs were published in the British coffee-table book, Jack Fritscher's American Men. Lambda Book Report wrote, "the raw essence...of these images helps re-define male beauty." This redefinition comes from Fritscher's never photographing the gay cliche of a svelte male "modelle" standing in deep shadow holding a hula hoop. In 1996 his photography was included in the permanent collection of the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, Paris.
GONZO WRITER AS ANALYST
A longtime intellectual foe of the politically correct and of academic jargon, Fritscher is a professed humanist with a parallax view. He is both a maker and a recorder of history. A pioneer participant in creating primary gay art across its multiple genres, he is also professionally credentialed as analyst, critic, and historian defining the parameters of gay culture and queer studies within American popular culture.
The narrative arc of his writing life matches the mid-century rise and fall of gay liberation and its viral aftermath. Steven Saylor (Aaron Travis) wrote that Fritscher, a forebear of the West Coast School and San Francisco School of gay writing, fills his stylized fiction with "enough ghettoized angst to keep the Manhattan literati wired for months."
Fritscher has written that "Political correctness is a jealous and vengeful act of reverse racism and reverse sexism by neo-Marxists who don't get it that communism doesn't work."
In 1967, he was a founding member of the American Popular Culture Association which, introducing diversity to university curricula, prepared him to identify, witness, conceptualize, and write about the post-Stonewall emergence of masculine-identified gay men in literature, art, photography, theater, and film.
In 1977, out of journalistic necessity, he coined the word homomasculinity. "I write about the geography of men at the existential X-point where our male latitude crosses our gay longitude."
MEN WRITING ABOUT WOMEN
Ever the humanist channeling whatever voices come to him as a writer, he crossed the gender barrier with his Geography of Women: A Romantic Comedy (1998). This novel is available free online at this site. When staff at the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review lamented not knowing "how to review a book about women written by a man," he asked how they handled Tennessee Williams, Allan Gurganus, and Patricia Nell Warren. Click here on Geography to sample 13 reviews of 3 Southern women living in the 1950s of big hair, big tail fins, and big desserts.
ANTHOLOGIES, EDITORS, AWARDS
He contributed the revealing essay "Porno Ergo Sum: The Incredible Lightness of Being Male" to The Burning Pen: Sex Writers on Sex Writing, edited by M. Christian. His erotic drama, "Corporal in Charge," was published by Winston Leyland in Gay Roots which won a Lammy Award. He has written the historical prefaces to Larry Townsend's Leatherman's Handbook and Les Wright's Bear Book II. He was a major historical contributor to the best-selling history book, Leatherfolk, edited by Mark Thompson.
Besides Drummer and Man2man, his writing and photography has appeared in thirty magazines including James White Review, Honcho, Bear magazine, Bear Classic, Skin, Skinflicks, In Touch, California Action Guide, Manifest Reader (MR), Just Men, William Higgins magazine, The Target Album, Power Play, Bunk House, Thrust, Hooker, Expose, Fetish Noir, and Dan Lurie's Muscle Training Illustrated.
His writing featured in anthologies, such as Tales of the Bear Cult and Chasing Danny Boy with Neil Jordan, also appears in collections edited by Winston Leyland, Mark Thompson, Camille Paglia, Richard LaBonte, Christopher Bram, Douglas Sadownick, Jesse Grant, Scott Brassart, Ray Browne, Les Wright, M. Christian, Simon Sheppard, Jack Hart, Bill Brent, and Ron Suresha.
He is currently nominated, along with Michael Perkins and Felice Picano, for an "Obelisk Award, Lifetime Achievement in Erotic Writing" by the Erotic Authors Association. The Pantheon of Leather, sponsored by the Leather Journal, also nominated him for a "Forebear Award 2004 and 2005."
ALYSON BOOKS UBER ALLES: CANON OF GAY EROTICA
In 2003, Alyson Books published his landmark collection of 20 textually correct stories, Jacked: The Best of Jack Fritscher. Having appeared in 9 Alyson books, Fritscher is part of the Alyson stable. Publisher Greg Constante, after negotiations to lease the rights for 7 years to Some Dance to Remember, presented Jacked as integral to the canon of gay erotica: "During his career spanning 30 years, Jack Fritscher has written some of the most notorious gay erotica in history." The fiction in Jacked is available free online at this site.
ACADEMIC WRITING, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
Because only the right side of his brain happens to be gay, he has also written non-gay articles for many specialized magazines and academic journals including the Bucknell Review, Modern Drama, and the Journal of Popular Culture.
He received his doctorate from Loyola University of Chicago in 1968. His dissertation, Love and Death in Tennessee Williams, specializing in themes of God, Southern women, and homosexuality, is available free online at this site.
After a long career teaching university literature, journalism, and film criticism, he retired as an associate professor, and currently reads and speaks on the aesthetics and politics of writing, photography, the arts, and censorship.
On the day of the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster, his Tennessee Williams essay, "We All Live on Half of Something" was in the Playbill on the tables in the lobby for the New York Art Theater premiere of Something Cloudy, Something Clear.
SCHWARZENEGGER UBER ALLES: WRITING CENSORED BY eBAY
During the 2003 Schwarzenegger campaign for governor, Fritscher wrote a performance art piece for an eBay offering. The Drudge Report sniffing sex and politics ignited an international news story that brought 61,000 hits to the Fritscher auction. The eBay Corporation made clear to the Associated Press that it was Fritscher's writing that was censored and removed by eBay 96 hours before the election. Censorship of the written word, prior to 9/11, was very unusual. For full news coverage, click on Mapplethorpe at this site or google "Mapplethorpe + Schwarzenegger + Fritscher."
INSIDE THE CATHOLIC PRIEST MOLESTATION SCANDAL
In 2003, he was awarded "Story Teller of the Year" and "Best Book of the Year" for his novel of the closet, What They Did to the Kid: Confessions of an Altar Boy. CNN named this homage to Joseph Musil's Young Torless as one of the Top 100 Books. (A novel of the closet is what happens before the coming-out novel.)
In the 1950s, at the Pontifical College Josephinum, he was a schoolmate of Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston who turned the Catholic clergy sex molestation scandal into a media circus in 2002. What They Did to the Kid is the pre-quel to Some Dance to Remember.
PUBLIC SECTOR WRITING
In the public sector, he has written the Elderly and Handicapped Guide to the San Francisco Muni Metro, as well as A Woman's Guide to Re-Entry to the Workforce for ABC-TV public affairs.
GAY MARRIAGE, GAY CIVIL UNION
Jack Fritscher and Mark Hemry met May 22, 1979, under the marquee of the Castro Theater the evening after the White Night Riot. On August 19, 2003, in Vancouver, Canada, the partners of 25 years were legally married. Previously, on July 12, 2000, they were united in a Civil Union in Brattleboro, Vermont. On the Sunday of Valentine's weekend, February 15, 2004, in San Francisco, they were married on the grand staircase of the City Hall Rotunda thanks to Mayor Gavin Newsom. They were married legally in the state of California on June 20, 2008.
ARTIST PROTECTION OF COPYRIGHT
Jack Fritscher recommends that even the most eager-to-be-published young writers and photographers protect the copyright and maintain ownership of their intellectual property which is their personal 401K. © 2004 Mark Hemry