2012 Leather Hall of Fame Inductee
Samuel Steward (July 23, 1909 – December 31, 1993)
Samuel Steward claims a place in the Leather Hall of Fame and our imaginations as tattoo artist Phil Sparrow, SM porn laureate Phil Andros, Alfred Kinsey sex researcher, keeper of The Stud File, and all around “sexual renegade” brought back to life in Justin Spring’s 2010 biography Secret Historian, a National Book Award finalist1.
Steward started his career as a tattoo artist while employed as a professor at DePaul University. In order to protect his university position and reputation, he took the name Phil Sparrow. This was 1952 and tattooing was not the popular art form of today; it was the mark of military recruits, prisoners, and outlaws. For a gay man with an obsession for soldiers, sailors and rough trade to open a tattoo parlor in the roughest part of Chicago in 1952 was a personal and professional risk for Steward. For DePaul administrators, Steward’s second career as Phil Sparrow did not fit their idea of a university professor and in 1956 DePaul refused to renew his teaching contract.
As tattoo artist "Phil Sparrow," Steward literally left his mark on a seemingly endless stream of young sailors and military men who fueled his sexual fantasies. Later, in Oakland, California, Steward became official tattoo artist for the Hells Angels, who called him Doc Sparrow. He mentored Ed Hardy and Cliff Raven—who went on to become two of the world’s best known tattoo artists.
For Steward, tattooing was sexually gratifying art. If there was a hot young guy in uniform with a big dick and a fresh tattoo, Sam Steward was going to tattoo him, photograph him, have sex with him, and document the experience on a STUD FILE index card. Inking also had its practical uses. Early in his tattoo career, Steward inked an accurate ruler onto his forearm — “small red marks, barely visible to the nekkid eye,” he wrote — to verify or disprove various “fantastic claims.”
An author in his own right, Sam Steward enjoyed moving in literary circles and developed friendships and acquaintances with such figures as Thorton Wilder, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Mann, and André Gide. He authored fiction and non-fiction under his own name including two Gertrude Stein-Alice B. Toklas mysteries featuring the famous lesbian couple as detectives. He also edited the book Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Readers of his articles in underground newspapers and magazines knew him as Ward Stames, Thomas Cave, and Phillip von Chicago.
For readers of gay leather porn, it was Sam Steward writing under the name of Phil Andros that aroused our imaginations. Starting in the 1960’s, the Phil Andros stories were not only a turn on but exceptional in their glorification rather than condemnation of rough trade sado-masochistic sex. Phil Andros (combined from the Greek words for love and man) was both pen name and the name of the stories’ SM hustler protagonist. The first of his writings to be published as a book, and the most powerfully engaged with BDSM eroticism, is the story collection RING-AROUND-THE-ROSY (which was later republished in the USA as THE JOY SPOT.) $TUD is perhaps the best known collection of Phil Andros stories. $TUD’s tales of interracial and sexual domination were autobiographic, well written and unapologetic. And, in a time during which the legality of publishing gay erotica was subject to prosecution, courageous.
The Phil Andros stories and novels were reprinted in the mid 1980’s featuring original cover drawings by Tom of Finland. Due to the widespread exploitation of erotic writers by publishers, Steward received little financially from sale of the Phil Andros books. Now, due to the notoriety occasioned by Justin Spring’s Secret Historian, Phil Andros books have become collector’s items. Have a well read copy of a Phil Andros in your porn collection? Take good care of it—paperback copies of $TUD and THE JOY SPOT sell for $450 and up on ebay and Amazon.
Alfred Kinsey and the Institute for Sexual Research
The turbo-charged sexual life Steward enjoyed first in Chicago and later in the San Francisco Bay Area involved sex with men in uniform, laborers, military recruits, and criminals. The diaries and documentation Steward kept of these adventures catalogue his sexual obsessions: flagellation, pain, group sex, public sex, sex with hustlers, and sex involving bondage and discipline, domination and submission. Perhaps his greatest sexual obsession was collecting, cataloguing, and memorializing his sexual exploits: including drawings, paintings, sculptures and photography as well as fiction, diaries, letters, journals, statistical calculations, and his notorious STUD FILE. All of this was of great personal and professional interest to famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey--who met Steward in 1949. Steward volunteered for Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research Institute both as a research subject and as a research associate, and donated significant portions of his sexual records and fetish memorabilia to the Kinsey Institute during his lifetime—including a thousand page confessional journal.
Kinsey’s extremely influential research on sexuality included observations about male BDSM based in part on his contact with and observations of Steward. Steward regularly sent Kinsey excerpts from his journals and sexual record keeping and Kinsey met with Steward during trips to Chicago to visit his apartment and review Steward’s collections of BDSM drawings, sculpture, Polaroid photos, and disciplinary devices. At one point, Kinsey brought Steward to Bloomington Indiana where Kinsey’s Sex Research Institute was located at the University of Indiana. For this particular research, however, Kinsey constructed a play space in the attic of his own home and flew in a well recommended “sadist” from New York. Kinsey and assistants then observed and filmed two days of BDSM action—with Kinsey’s wife making occasional sandwich deliveries.
The Stud File
Steward kept a green metal card catalog labeled "Stud File," a documented record on index cards of every sexual experience and partner over a period of more than 50 years. Sam's special interest in paddling, flagellation, restraints, group sex, rough sex with no limits, and rough group sex with no limits are carefully described within the Stud File. He engaged in these activities in the days before AIDs, but risk-taking and life-endangerment were important aspects of his more extreme sexual activities.
In addition to the sailors, bikers, boxers, outlaws, and hustlers Sam aggressively pursued, the Stud File also included cards for Rudolph Valentino (a month before his death at 31, when Steward was 17); Lord Alfred Douglas (lover of Oscar Wilde); Roy Fitzgerald (who became Rock Hudson); and Thorton Wilder. No Kinsey. He kept a lock of Valentino's pubic hair in a reliquary by his bedside for the rest of his life. It was, however, working men rather than celebrities Steward found most compelling. His lifelong search was for what he described as “the authentically masculine male.”
The Stud File’s 746 index cards are arranged alphabetically, coded, charted, and occasionally ornamented. Among other things, the Stud File is a card catalogue of BDSM sex: one card per sex partner, and sex codes to mark each card. Each card is neatly typed out with name, location, date, and memorable intimate details (“has never come. . . . except w girls.” “Afraid of him, yet saw him a lot.” “Watched Roy jackoff through peephole.”) Of Valentino, filed under the actor’s real name, Guglielmi, R., Steward wrote: “Nuf sed.” Occasional index cards were ornamented with souvenir scotch-taped pubic hair or a business card. One index card from June 1951 is a typed contract between Steward and one of his students at DePaul in which Steward guarantees 5 course grades of A in exchange for Sam “going down” on the student once a month through December of 1951--with bonus cocksucking in June and July.
In the corners of each Stud File card, Steward recorded number and letter codes. Letter shorthand for penis size and shape (L for “Long,” Tk for “Thick,” C for “Circumsized,” Cl for “Clean,” B for “Bent,” H for “Huge,” B for “Beautifully shaped” in case you didn’t think there was an aesthetic as well to Steward’s obsession). The number codes referred to the action: 5 for Piss, 6 for Spit, 9 for Trade, 50 for Several mutual, 96—Brown suck, 100—Jackpot, 88—Love & kisses, 13—Whips. . . .
At the end of every year Steward meticulously graphed frequency and number of encounters-- measuring the current year against previous years’ statistics. The Stud File does not chronicle BDSM sex exclusively. Sam's sex life was a cornucopia of erotic experiences, of which BDSM is but one aspect - admittedly the most dramatic and compelling! It's the range and variety of Steward's sex life - and variety of sex partners - that makes his life story so revelatory.
Samuel Steward lived his sexual fantasies, obsessions and fetishes. By even contemporary standards, events of his daily life would seem obscene to many. His life is a mirror and window for leathermen and women. A mirror for other sexual renegades, and a window into the politics of repression against homosexual activity and thought that permeated the formative and adult years of his life. Steward didn’t identify himself as a leatherman, but would do almost anything for a hard mean top. That he documented the details of his sexual obsessions is perhaps what he will be most remembered for. He preserved the details of a life lived on the sexual edge that is both inspirational and cautionary.
In terms of Leather history, Steward introduced Chuck Renslow and Dom Orejudos to BDSM practices, and helped shape the early direction of DRUMMER Magazine. Steward's interviews and oral histories helped write the history of 1930s and 40s early leather movement sex practices. Steward helped Kinsey not only to learn about homosexual BDSM through his writing, but also enabled Kinsey to develop a network of BDSM sexual contacts in Chicago that ultimately shaped the awareness of homosexual BDSM sex practice among mid-century sex researchers. Steward also demonstrates the link between BDSM sexuality in Paris, New York, Rome, Chicago and San Francisco during the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s in a way that no other individual does. Finally, Steward is connected through his writings, correspondence, and personal friendships to a number of significant members of the leather community—including Jim Kane, Guy Baldwin, Jack Fritscher, Joseph Bean, Stephen Saylor, Chuck Renslow, Dom Orejudos, Jeanne Barney, Thom Gunn, Kenneth Anger, and John Preston.
Living alone in Berkeley, California, semi-impoverished and in poor health Steward died at 84 on New Year’s Eve 1993. The cause was chronic pulmonary disease. Shortly before his death, at a party in his honor hosted by the Golden State Peace Officers Association, a number of the officers told Steward how his Phil Andros stories had inspired them “to join the force.”
“He paid the price for being himself,” Justin Spring writes, “but at least he got to be himself.”
Samuel Steward aka Phil Sparrow, Phil Andros, Doc Sparrow, Ward Stames, Thomas Cave, Philip von Chicago, Sammy: university professor, tattoo artist, sexual renegade, reformed alcoholic, painter, photographer of naked men by themselves and having sex, best selling SM author, Alice B. Toklais biographer, poet, sex obsessed masochist, sexual record keeper, Alfred Kinsey SM case study. . . . 2012 inductee to the Leather Hall of Fame. He lived his fantasies and obsessions. To use his own Stud File coding: 100—Jackpot.
--by Jack Lock with very substantial help from Justin Spring
1SECRET HISTORIAN is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a 2010 National Book Award Finalist, a Top 10 Biography of the Year on Amazon, an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book for 2011, a winner of the Lambda Literary Award in Biography; a winner of the Randy Shilts Prize for Gay Non-Fiction; and a winner of the Geoff Mains Non-Fiction Prize of the National Leather Association. It's also a runner up for the PEN America Center/Weld Prize for Distinguished biography, an ARTFORUM Top 10 of 2010 pick and a Top 10 Book of the Year in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Sexual Outlaw on the Gay Frontier” by Patricia Cohen, New York Times, July 25, 2010.
A Very Magical Life--Talking with Samuel Steward by Owen Keehnen.
Secret Historian: The life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade by Justin Spring, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2010.