Wednesday 13 November 2013

The Real Gay Batman

I suppose any zoologist who studies bats will inevitably earn the nickname Batman or Batwoman. One such zoologist has an exalted place in the lgbt community as THE Batman. This nickname extended from the pure zoological world and into the leather worship world to leave a legacy that thrives today.

I’ve already written an article about Tony DeBlase (1942-2000) in relation to his creation of the Leather Pride  flag. Today I concentrate on his persona as “Fledermaus” (German for “bat”), as he was known in the publishing world of the leather community. It was a pseudonym he adopted in around 1975 when some of his DBSM (Domination, Bondage and Sado-Masochism, actually not as violent or distasteful as it implies) stories were first published. I’ll return to that later.

But first, when and why did bats enter Tony’s life?

Tony studied for a PhD in zoology at Oklahoma State University. In 1969 he moved to Chicago to complete his degree research at the Field Museum of Natural History. This museum housed a large collection of bats, the subject of Tony’s dissertation.

Tony took part in a field expedition to Iran to make a proper study of that country’s native bat species. On his return to America it took a couple of years to complete his dissertation because of other work commitments because he had taken on some teaching and museum administration posts which took up most of his time.

In 1971 he wrote “New Distribution Records of Bats From Iran” for the Field Museum journal “Fieldiana: Zoology”. Eventually, in 1977 his full dissertation was completed and he submitted it to the journal for publication. All of the 38 bat species of Iran were described in detail by and were mapped to show distribution. Tony even identified a new native Iranian species that had only been known previously in other countries, and 5 species were removed as not being native. This made Tony’s dissertation the most comprehensive study on Iranian bats ever written. If you're batty about bats and want ot read Tony's dissertation it is available online here.

Tony has also contributed to other zoological publications, such as “A Manual of Mammalogy” (currently in its 3rd edition, 2011), and the section of bats in “Encyclopedia Iranica” (1988).

It was while he was working on his dissertation that Tony had his first bondage fiction published. He had been writing fiction for a while, and it was Larry Townsend (1930-2008), a pioneer in the publication of leather fetish erotica, who thought the stories were good enough for publication. Tony was asked to adopt a pen-name, something often done to protect the writer’s identity from criticism within their profession, and he chose Fledermaus. “I was doing my dissertation on bats, and the [first published] story was set in a German castle, it seemed like an appropriate name”, Tony said in an interview in 1996.

In 1982 Larry Townsend published a collection of Tony’s stories in “The Fledermaus Anthology”. Through Larry and his Fledermaus stories Tony became heavily involved in the Chicago leather and bondage scene, quickly becoming one it it’s leading figures. In 1979 Tony began publishing “Dungeon Master”, a DBSM magazine he largely wrote himself. It became popular and soon turned into a thriving small business.

When Tony’s partner Andrew took early retirement from medical practice the couple moved to San Francisco to take over “Drummer”, the ailing leather/bondage magazine that had the biggest circulation in America. With it went the Mr Drummer contest. Under Tony’s direction both the magazine and the contest regained its popularity and iconic status before he sold both in 1992.

After a long illness Tony DeBlase – Fledermaus – died in 2000. The legacy of Fledermaus survives. In 1989 Tony created the Leather Pride flag which is recognised worldwide, and in 1991 he founded the Leather Archives and Museum.

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