Return to Aaron Travis Home Page

Sam Steward Remembered
One of my mentors, and a towering figure in the world of gay erotica, is the subject of a major new biography, Secret Historian: The Life & Times of Sam Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade, by Justin Spring.

Sam was a friend of Gertrude Stein, slept with Rock Hudson (and thousands of others), and published sizzling gay erotica when few would dare to do so. He left a comfortable but stifling life as a college professor to become a tattoo artist (and hang out with bikers and sailors). He kept meticulous records of his many sexual encounters, which made him a fountainhead of information for the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.

I was privileged to know Sam in the last decades of his life, when the late John Preston introduced us; I was editing Drummer magazine and had the honor to publish Sam’s final works of erotica. After I moved from San Francisco to Berkeley, I saw Sam occasionally—his place was about a mile from my house—and treasured every conversation with him.

The bio has had a fantastic reception—it became one of Amazon’s “Top Ten Biographies of 2010,” was named a finalist for the National Book Award, and was cited as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. (See the Times’ extensive coverage, including a photo gallery and video, here). You can order the book from Amazon here.

Biographer Justin Spring also edited An Obscene Diary: The Visual World of Sam Steward, a two-volume, limited-edition collection of Sam's art and photos. A collection of Sam’s writings (letters, sex journals and fiction) is also in the works.