10 Most Provocative Covers of “Drummer,” the Iconic Gay Leather Magazine

In honor of the publication's 25 years, "Drummer" staff past and present offered their scandalous rankings.

Launched in Los Angeles in 1975, Drummer magazine offered striking insight into the lifestyle of gay leathermen and kinksters. Controversial, hot, and deeply beloved, the publication sadly shuttered in 1999, leaving behind a celebrated 24-year history during which renowned artists like Tom of Finland, Rex, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Opel, Samuel Steward, and many others were featured.

In October 2019, Drummer relaunched, rising from the ashes as a quarterly magazine and kicking off its 25th year of publication (and 45th anniversary). As the newly appointed editor in chief, I spoke to Drummer’s past and present talent to uncover the top 10 most provocative covers from its legendary history. Strap up and enjoy!

  1. Issue 12, 1977

    Drummer

    “Had anyone ever seen embossed leather, Western-style wrist restraints and nipple clamps before (or after) they appeared on this cover?” —Nick Wafle, Drummer writer and cover man in the upcoming issue

  2. Issue 3, 1975

    Roger Earl/Drummer

    “With no apologies or hesitation, this cover speaks to the edgier and overtly sexual nature of what we do as leathermen and kinksters. With imagery from the intensely kinky movie Born to Raise Hell and the touting of a diary of a slave, this cover speaks directly to the erotic rebel energies that made the magazine so refreshing and welcome at the time.” —Race Bannon, Drummer writer

  3. Issue 82, 1985

    John Krause/Drummer

    American Gothic reimagined.” —Guy Baldwin, Drummer writer and cover man (1989)

  4. Issue 67, 1983

    Jim Wigler/Drummer

    “Who doesn’t want a cute blond boy in a cage? Simple and direct, this cover is every dom’s fantasy.” —Nick Wafle

  5. Issue 24, 1978

    Robert Mapplethorpe/Drummer

    “Mapplethorpe shoots for Drummer? How wouldn’t that have been provocative, especially when one of the articles is ‘Ex-Cons: ‘We Abuse Fags’?” —Jack MacCullum, Drummer publisher

  6. Issue 2, 1975

    Fred Halsted/Drummer

    “Years before controversy around the film Cruising, we published a still on the cover from Sextool, a film by sex-radical Fred Halsted. It was so provocative that it, in part, lead to the staff of Drummer and 42 subscribers being arrested by LAPD fundamentalists who, figuring S&M movies and magazines were documentaries, increased harassment of bars and theaters. Drummer was forced to flee from disaster in L.A. to destiny in San Francisco.” —Jack Fritscher, Drummer editor in chief (1977-79)

  7. Issue 175, 1994

    Drummer

    “I’ve always had this thing for SkinHeads. Hanging out in London, I’d get stared down by them and, in my head, I’m thinking, You wanna beat me up or fuck the hell out of me? Both were intriguing!” —inkedKenny, Drummer photographer

  8. Issue 174, 1994

    Illguz Productions/Drummer

    “Graylin Thornton was the first African-American Mr. Drummer. He showed that kink and leather had no racial boundaries.” —Jack MacCullum

  9. Issue 9, 1976

    Robert Opel/Drummer

    “Robert Opel shot this genderfuck cover of the Cycle Sluts. Readers hated it. Undeterred, Drummer helped create and educate the leather culture it reported on. This first shot at gender diversity opened editorial policy to women and bisexual trans men like Patrick Califia and Mapplethorpe model Cynthia Slater, founder of S&M Society of Janus.” —Jack Fritscher

  10. Issue 72, 1984

    Drummer

    “To the best of my knowledge, this cover depicts the most extreme bondage and torture scene ever previously seen on a Drummer cover. It nudged guy’s BDSM sensibilities into edgier realms and introduced an entire generation of men to investigate some of the more hardcore aspects of BDSM.” —Race Bannon

And a peak at Drummer’s current issue:

Issue 216, Winter 2020

PIGtures/Drummer
“Is it mud or is it shit? Is it gunge or is it scat? This issue also features hi-viz construction gear, a horse market, generator oil fetish, and consensual captivity.” —Mike Miksche, Drummer editor in chief

Hot and bothered? Subscribe to Drummer here.

Mike Miksche has written for The Advocate, Slate, Vice, Lambda Literary and The Gay and Lesbian Review.
@MikeMiksche