A brief history of the jockstrap
Gayletter started out as a newsletter in 2009, providing a highly selective guide to New York gay culture. In this fourteenth issue, editors Abi Benitez and Tom Jackson take readers back in time via an interview with legendary drag queen Linda Simpson, a linchpin of the 80s downtown queer scene. Collage spreads of Linda’s own photographs accompany the feature, showing fabulously glitzy, grainy shots of RuPaul and Lady Bunny, Amanda Lepore and Joey Arias.
Linda ran an underground zine called My Comrade documenting the scene in the 80s, and reading this 2021 interview with her gives you privileged access to that zine and the world it celebrated. Tom Jackson does the interviewing, and he doesn’t explain the backstories of the drag stars Linda mentions; it is assumed that if you are a Gayletter reader you are already familiar with the history of the NY icons, because it is your history. This kind of intimacy is typical of Gayletter, and it is precisely this quality that makes the magazine a worthy successor to the New York zines of the 80s and 90s. Of course, there is a poignancy to this New York nostalgia; many of the clubs and parties Linda name-checks — like The Building, and her club-night ‘Channel 69’, and the annual New York drag festival ‘Wigstock’ — are now defunct, which makes this interview a eulogy for a culture that has been eroded.
Part of what makes Gayletter such a pleasure to read is that it has a sense of humour. One delightful feature in here offers A Brief History of The Jockstrap – taking care to mention the moment in the mid 70s when the designer Roy Halston Frowick took his lover’s sweaty jockstrap to a perfumier (apparently this is how the feral, animalistic notes in Halston’s legendary perfume was developed). There is also a fabulous underwear shoot with drag queen Baby Love; one image shows her smothering a zombie lover.
Below, we’ve photographed our favourite spreads.