Jeanne C Barney
"Drummer's ﬁrst editor was a woman, and a straight one at that”
Drummer 38, 1980
"Barney created Drummer with John Embry.”
Patrick Moore, Beyond Shame 2004
It will come as a surprise to many that Drummer, America‘s "magazine for the macho male," was co- founded by a woman, Jeanne Barney. Barney was also Drummer's first editor-in-chief in its incarnation as a leather magazine, and she set much of its enduring tone and style.
Gay male leather is, above all, a male world. But there have always been a few women who have had a place in that world: women like Cynthia Slater, Camille O'Grady, Joanne Gaddy, and an unknown woman who managed to become a regular denizen of San Francisco’s Handball Express. Jeanne Barney was one of these. She not only made a place for herself in this man’s world, she helped to make that world what it became in the 1970s, and what it is today. She left an indelible imprint on Drummer magazine. Drummer, in turn, helped create an increasing national common leather culture in the 1970s. Jeanne Barney helped give that culture its voice and its inimitable style. She was not only at the center of leather publication. She was also a key participant in major conﬂicts over the legality of homosexual conduct and of SM social life.
Barney was born in Chicago, but spent a peripatetic childhood moving back and forth between California and Chicago. She became a professional writer, and it was as a writer - for many different kinds of publications - that she made her living. She became involved with the Los Angeles gay press around 1970, and began to write "Smoke from Jeannie’s Lamp,” an advice column for The Advocate. She quickly became part of the gay scene in LA, and over the years, her leather circle included John Embry, Larry Townsend, Jason Bleu (of The Cellar), Ken Bartley, Dick Grifﬁn (of Griff’s), Wes Cuney, Larry Young, Val Martin (the ﬁrst Mr. Drummer), Jim-Ed Thompson (later a Mr. Drummer and an editor of Drummer), ﬁlm maker Fred Halsted and his lover, Joey Yale, and many others. She still lives in Los Angeles and is still close with Terry LeGrand and Roger Earl (of Born to Raise Hell), as well as many others she met through Drummer and The Leather Fraternity.
The Los Angeles gay movement and its press were ﬂuid, as publications changed hands, opened, and closed. Drummer did not begin as a leather magazine. John Embry had used the name for a short-lived entertainment magazine, and later used the name for the newsletter of H.E.L.P., the Homophile Effort for Legal Protection. Homosexual conduct was then illegal in California, and the Los Angeles police department and its chief, Ed Davis, were particularly aggressive in their harassment of gay bars, businesses, and individuals. H.E.L.P. provided legal counsel and assistance for those arrested. Around 1970, John Embry had gotten in touch with Larry Townsend, who was then president of H.E.L.P. Embry joined H.E.L.P., becoming its president and the editor of its newsletter. Embry had also established a contact and correspondence organization, The Leather Fraternity.
Barney met Embry at a St. Patrick’s Day party around 1972, and they began to collaborate. They brought out the ﬁrst issue of Drummer, the leather magazine, in 1975, with Jeanne as editor. She also wrote much of the copy, which included her "Smoke from Jeannie’s Lamp," an article on S&M on campus, and "The ABC's of S&M." That ﬁrst issue also contained a book review by Larry Townsend, a movie review of Fred Halsted’s Sex Tool (also written by Barney under a pseudonym), a directory of the leather bar scene, and the column "In Passing," which became a regular feature. It also contained the classiﬁed ads for The Leather Fraternity. Drummer was initially intended to be a publication for The Leather Fraternity, but under Barney’s editorial guidance, it quickly established its own identity. As she later commented, she wanted Drummer to be "a gay leather S/M Evergreen Review."
These early Drummers were remarkable indeed. Barney remained as its ﬁrst editor-in-chief for eleven issues, and ﬁlled its burgeoning pages with a who’s who of leather artists, ﬁlm makers, writers, and photographers. These included Fred Halsted, Val Martin, and Robert Opel, famous for streaking the 1974 Academy Awards and who later opened the ﬁrst West Coast gay leather art gallery, Fey-Way in San Francisco. By Drummer 4, Opel had written a feature article on Chuck Arnett, the artist whose mural in San Francisco’s Tool Box bar had graced the opening pages of Life magazine's 1964 article on "Homosexuality in America." By then, nestled among the leather images and ﬁction, Drummer was providing overviews of SM themes and images in main-stream media (ﬁlm, books, and comics), stories on prominent leather bars (which would eventually include Larry’s in LA, the Folsom Prison in SF, the Gold Coast in Chicago, the Ramrod in Phoenix, and the Eagle in NYC), and astrology for sadomasochists. Issue 5 sported a Chuck Arnett cover. Arnett also illustrated "The Babysitter," a short story by Sam Steward (under his nom de plume, Phil Andros). The scene in which “The Babysitter" was set was the actual dungeon playroom of two of Steward’s close friends, San Francisco’s Jim Kane and his slave, Ike Barnes.
Later issues included features on tattooist Cliff Raven, cartoons by Bill Ward, a cover illustration by Rex, a portfolio of artist Etienne (Dom Orejudos), and increased coverage of the gay motorcycle clubs. Robert Opel interviewed Mikal Bales (later of Zeus Studios), about the Cycle Sluts, a short-lived but wildly popular leather send-up of a drag review.
Drummer’s origins in the gay movement‘s attempts to curtail legal harassment were especially evident in its coverage and involvement in two major police raids. The first was the 1972 raid of the Black Pipe, then a leading Los Angeles leather bar, during a monthly fundraiser for H.E.L.P. and its efforts to provide legal assistance for those arrested for gay-related offenses. Twenty uniformed ofﬁcers and several plainclothes detectives rounded up twenty-one of the bar’s patrons, including the President (then Larry Townsend) and most of the board of H.E.L.P. According to the account (Drummer 3), police were particularly interested in the H.E.L.P. treasurer, who was getting gays to register to vote. But he eluded capture, and was able to quickly get out word of the raid. H.E.L.P. and the Los Angeles Tavern Guild sprang into action to raise bail money, arrange for lawyers, line up bail bondsmen, and assemble a group of supporters who gathered in the lobby of the police station. The legal cases for this "Black Pipe 21" dragged on for two years, but as a result of this effective community response, many of the charges were dismissed and even most of those who entered guilty pleas had their records expunged. This was a key moment for the gay movement in Los Angeles, and in some ways, the beginning of the end of a certain kind of routine police persecution.
However, it was not quite the end, and it was only the beginning of Drummer’s own legal saga. The LAPD turned its attentions to Drummer itself. The magazine‘s ofﬁce, and the plant where Drummer and other gay organizational and religious publications were printed, were put under surveillance. The phone lines were bugged. So were the homes and phones of the editor and publisher, Jeanne Barney and John Embry.
Twenty-four hours a day, a minimum of four able-bodied highly paid secret police watched members of the two households go to the market, the post ofﬁce, the bank, the laundromat, and the bathroom. Curious neighbors, fearing the strangers with binoculars were narcs, started harvesting their crops. Deliverymen for the printers complained about being constantly followed by black and white cruisers, even into cities where the LAPD had no jurisdiction. The phones became so bad that half the time they wouldn’t ring. (Drummer 6)
When The Leather Fraternity decided to put on a slave auction as a charity fundraiser, the police pounced. The slave auction was held at a local bathhouse, the Mark IV, on April 10, 1976.
Shortly after midnight, two helicopters hovered overhead and two big buses drew quietly up in front of the Mark IV. The street was closed off by ﬂares. Police cars were everywhere. Klieg lights were set up for ﬁlming by both police cameramen and television stations which had been alerted to Ed’s [Ed Davis] big night...They came in like mad-men, busting down unlocked doors, shoving people around, being abusive in the ﬁnest traditions of the department....lt was nearly 3AM before the first bus drove off to the Parker Center. No one was allowed to go to the toilet.... (Drummer 6).
The next day, newspapers sported headlines such as this one: "Police Free Gay ‘Slaves'." One ofﬁcer was quoted as saying “we went in and liberated them."
In addition to the helicopters, over one hundred of LA's finest were deployed to detain eighty people, including Fred Halsted and Terry LeGrand. Forty of those detained were actually charged, with violating an obscure 1899 statute prohibiting "white slavery.” The statute did not actually refer to "slavery" in the usual sense; the terminology of white slavery was used around 1900 to refer to prostitution. Of those charged, there were thirty-nine men, and one woman: Jeanne Barney.
When Barney was finally bailed out and went home, she found that her house had also been raided. "My God, when I got home after a couple of days, I saw those cops had been in my house but you can’t believe how torn up it was. They had taken my dresser drawers and emptied them in the middle of the bedroom. They emptied the laundry hamper. They had taken stuff out of my medicine cabinet and it was thrown all over the bathroom. It was a terrible mess!" (Jack Rinella, Interview with Jeanne Barney, 1997).
A defense committee was established, and funds raised for legal fees. Ultimately, most of the charges were dismissed, but four people were charged with felonies: Embry, Barney, Val Martin (who had been the auctioneer), and Doug Holiday, who happened to be working the door. After two long years enmeshed in the legal machinery, all four entered guilty pleas and were sentenced to community service.
Although the police action did obtain these convictions, the Mark IV raid backﬁred for the LAPD:
The Mark IV incident was, in fact, a political disaster for the LAPD. “Gay” and "straight" publics alike saw the raid as a waste of precious resources that should have been spent ﬁghting real crime. As if to dramatize the sense of public priorities that was affronted by the LAPD's overzealous actions, a woman was mugged and murdered just ten blocks from the Mark IV while the raid was going on. One hundred and seven cops to bust a charity ball but not a single one to save a woman’s life - needless to say, this image did not play well...The District and City Attorneys immediately dissociated themselves from the LAPD’s position until the prosecution dropped the ridiculous "slavery" charges, and the City received hundreds of letters from The public protesting the raid. The raid and its aftermath have been compared to the Stonewall riots.... (Benardo Attias, Left History, 2004).
Jeanne Barney was at the center of these events, and she was also involved in many other legal maneuvers whose purpose was to end the routine arrest of individuals for consensual homosexual conduct, or for even being in a gay bar when it caught the attention of the vice squad or the alcohol licensing authorities. A straight woman, she fought for gay rights with courage and determination. In 1976, the Hawks of southern California named her as "Humanitarian of the Year."
After the Mark IV cases were settled, Embry moved Drummer to San Francisco, which by then had a more gay-friendly legal environment than Los Angeles. Barney elected to stay in Los Angeles, and Embry (as "Robert Payne") assumed the editorial responsibilities. By then, Drummer had developed its distinctive character: A brilliant writer and editor, Jeanne Barney skillfully created a mix of porn, politics, news, ﬁction, art, and humor that would characterize Drummer from its ﬁrst issues to its last ones. As the ﬁrst leather magazine with a national (and even international) circulation, Drummer helped establish a common vocabulary of leather, a common set of leather styles, and a common reservoir of leather knowledge. And as Drummer's ﬁrst editor- in-chief, it was Jeanne Barney who provided both the template and much of the substance of what we now know as "leather culture."
[The Leather Hall of Fame thanks Gayle Rubin, Tyesha Best, Vince Andrews, and the Leather Archives for their help with these biographical comments.]