Last Wednesday, instead of the usual class, we went to a talk being held downstairs at the NYPL with Justin Spring, author of Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade. I read about the book and was cautiously interested.
When we entered the auditorium the image on the screen was a of a dusty black file box with a label reading Stud File in Germanic lettering. Does it get more enticing than that?
The presentation began with a slideshow by Spring, the author of the biography, to acquaint us with his subject. He included historical maps, family photos, pics of famous friends and fucks, hotel postcards, a pubic hair reliquary, hotel bills, erotic paperbacks written by Steward, homemade hardcore stationery and Polaroids filled with the usual thing. There was talk of a five-hour Kinsey interview, Hell’s Angels and unwritten novels. The unwritten codes of gay flirtation, safety and safety from safety. Plus we got to see some naked men. Not only was it exciting to learn how the author pieced together Steward’s life from Steward’s meticulous file-keeping, but the Q&A focused on Spring’s relationship with his dead subject and how living with a sex obsessive in your mind changes your view on your own sexuality.
Before the visuals went up, either Spring or the cohost, Honor Moore, stated that without rescue “our [LGBT] history is lost.” This is of course true of all of our history, and each history is a part of a larger and larger one until the histories get so expansive that they come back to you, yes, you. You or I. You and I.
Are you a loser or a keeper?
It’s complicated to save other people within yourself without losing yourself. This is something I've grappled with for a long time. I'm not sure how close to an answer I've gotten.