Wednesday, September 03, 2008


October 27, 1930 — July 29, 2008

A veteran Queer and Leather community activist best known for writing the two-volume Leatherman’s Handbook and a regular column on Leather issues for several Queer publications, Larry Townsend passed away on July 29, 2008, less than five months after he made a rare public appearance in San Diego March 13 at a titleholder’s appreciation dinner to honor former Mr. San Diego Leather Lee Butler.

“I look at the community, and what I see with these young guys scares me,” Townsend said in San Diego March 13. “I hope you let them know, because I’ve watched too many guys die.” Asked to elaborate, Townsend said he thought older men in the community have an obligation to “work with [younger men] and try to convince them they’re not immortal. One day they have AIDS or are using crystal, which is almost as bad. People try to pull me into [drug scenes], and I’m afraid of losing control. I don’t use drugs and I don’t drink more than two drinks a night,” he added — offering his own self-control as an example for young people. He boasted that in the 27 years he wrote his Leather column, he always had two consistent pieces of advice: “no drugs, and no glass in the dungeon.”

Jack Fritscher memorialized his longtime friend, Larry Townsend, in the following obituary:

“Townsend was the pseudonymous author of dozens of books, including Run Little Leather Boy (1970) and the first, single-volume edition of The Leatherman’s Handbook (1972), at pioneer erotic presses such as Greenleaf Classics and the Other Traveler imprint of Olympia Press.

“Growing up as a teenager of Swiss-German extraction in Los Angeles a few houses from Noël Coward and Irene Dunne, he ate cookies with his neighbor Laura Hope Crews, who played Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind.

“He attended the prestigious Peddie School, and was stationed as Staff Sergeant in charge of NCOIC Operations of Air Intelligence Squadrons for nearly five years with the U.S. Air Force in Germany (1950-1954). Completing his tour of duty, he entered into the 1950’s underground of the L.A. Leather scene, where he and actor Montgomery Clift shared a lover. With his degree in industrial psychology from UCLA (1957), he worked in the private sector and as a probation officer with the Forestry Service.

“Townsend began his pioneering activism in the politics of Queer liberation in the early 1960’s. In 1972, as president of the Homophile Effort for Legal Protection (HELP) — which had been founded in 1969, before the Stonewall Inn riots in New York city which supposedly launched the Queer liberation movement, to defend Gays during and after arrests — he led a group in founding the H.E.L.P. Newsletter, the forebear of Drummer (1975). As a writer and photographer, he was an essential eyewitness of the drama and salon around Drummer in which his novels were often excerpted.

“His signature ‘Leather Notebook’ column appeared in Drummer for twelve years beginning in 1980, and continued in Honcho to Spring 2008. His last novel, TimeMasters, was published April 2008. The Leather heritage book Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer, published June 20, 2008, contains the biographical sketch from which most of the above was taken and also includes Larry’s ‘Eyewitness Introduction,‘ his last published writing.“

NOTICE: The entire post above, except for the photo and the first two paragraphs, is copyright © 2008 All rights reserved. Used with permission.