Pseudonyms 2: Samuel Steward

Continuing the pseudonyms theme, I turn to the remarkable character Samuel Steward, the subject of Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade by Justin Spring (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), which was nominated for a National Book Award this year (but was aced out by Patti Smith’s touching Just Kids).

Back on August 26, the NYT Arts section had a piece (“Sexual Outlaw on the Gay Frontier” by Patricia Cohen) about the book and the man. The section on his pseudonyms:

The novelist and professor at a Roman Catholic university [DePaul] who was born in 1909 into an austere and puritanical Methodist household in Ohio was Samuel M. Steward. But as the author of gay pulp fiction, he went by Phil Andros and a half-dozen other pseudonyms; Hells Angels in Oakland, Calif., who used him as their official tattoo artist, called him Doc Sparrow; readers of his articles in underground newspapers and magazines knew him as Ward Stames. To a close circle of artistic friends like [Thornton] Wilder, [artist Paul] Cadmus, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Christopher Isherwood, the photographer George Platt Lynes and others, he was simply Sammy.

Spring’s book lists (p. x) some of the pseudonyms Steward published under: Donald Bishop, Philip Cave, John McAndrews, Phil Sparrow, Philip Sparrow, Ward Stames, D.O.C., Ted Kramer, Biff Thomas, as well as Phil Andros.

As someone who had sex with an enormous number of men (some of them very famous) and kept records of his encounters, he was a valued source of data for Alfred C. Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) (a book from which I learned an enormous amount about sex as a kid, starting around age 9; astonishingly, it was available on the shelves of the Reading PA public library and wasn’t stolen or defaced).

I have four Phil Andros books: $tud (1966), Below the Belt (1982), Different Strokes (1984), Shuttlecock (1992). Literate porn with a male hustler as its central character. (There are several more available as used books, but at exorbitant prices: My Brother, My Self; Greek Ways; Roman Conquests; Boys in Blue; The Joy Spot.)

Steward edited the letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas to him and combined them with a long memoir, with photographs, in Dear Sammy (St. Martin’s, 1977).

And now we have An Obscene Diary: The Visual World of Sam Steward (edited by Justin Spring, with extensive notes: Antinous Press & Elysium Press, 2010), a great big book of drawings (almost all sexual, many pornographic) and sexual photographs of men (some of them showing Steward having sex with them), plus some cards from the detailed records he kept. There’s even a photo of “the mock reliquary containing a lock of pubic hair Steward had kept after his 1926 sexual encounter with the film star Rudolf Valentino” (page number unknown; the pages are unnumbered).

3 Responses to “Pseudonyms 2: Samuel Steward”

  1. Jack H Says:

    I met him once; quite a character, but a bit of a snob in his own way. His books are quite good, and some stories show an unusual degree of research for the genre – for example, the story about the foot fetishist that included a list of bacteria commonly found on the feet.

  2. Two Stein books « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A final visual note, on Stein’s celebrated line ”Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”, as interpreted by her friend, the tattoo artist and gay pornographer Sam Steward (a posting about Steward on this blog, here): […]

  3. Patrick Henry A Pseudonym | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] postings on this blog (in 2011) about pseudonyms: here on my pseudonyms, here on Samuel Steward’s. Meanwhile, also from 2011, there’s Carmela Ciuraru’s […]

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