WE know much more about the first edition of The Sydney Star than we do about the man behind it.
The very first edition of the Star hit the streets in early July, 1979. It was a free, 16-page affair that carried a bunch of community service announcements (anyone for gay soccer?), an astrology column, and a review of Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas in the nuclear thriller, The China Syndrome.
The first Star also featured a page of entertainment and business listings, together with advertisements for amyl nitrate and sex-on-premises venues such as King Steam and The Kensington Karate Klub.
“G’day”, wrote the Star’s founding editor and publisher, Michael Glynn.
“We are one week old today and, as in all new birth, we need to grow and understand. We need your help for that. If you have any special events, or juicy bits of gossip let us know. We need sources for local news concerning gay life in Sydney. Gay consciousness does not come but once a year. We also want to support gay businessmen. Let us know who you are.
“Some of us have just finished celebrating Gay Solidarity Week, when we tried to express ourselves through various ways. If we had a strong sense of community, a real feeling of support from friends and others, then we might be able to face the conflicts that rage about us. We could live in unity and strength and love. The whole process is called ‘getting your act together’. We can do it. You can do it. Reggae Lady — this is for you.”
Some of this editorial seems cryptic now. And Glynn’s subsequent comments about “being a man and being gay” are positively archaic. But at the time, it was pure Glynn.
Glynn got the idea to start the Star after a friend handed him a copy of a gay business and entertainment guide from Texas.
“I looked at it and I thought this would work here because we’ve got nothing. There were no free papers going, just campaign [a monthly gay mag] and that was it,” Glynn told the Star’s Gary Dunne.
“Having a look around town at the various venues, it was pretty poor pickings… if you were going out, it was drinks and drag shows and that was it. I gathered that if we put all this in print, or the lack of it, that people would wake up and say, ‘we can do better than this’.”
Glynn printed a couple of hundred copies of his first Star and hand-delivered them on Friday night to the handful of gay clubs on Oxford St and in neighbouring Darlinghurst. “On the Monday morning, I went around to all the businesses, picked up the cheques and cash for all the ads and went and paid the printer. That was the first issue.”
Glynn had emigrated to Australia from the USA in 1971. He was a good-looking 23-year-old then, still shy about being gay. But over the years, he morphed into a moustachioed and opinionated leather-man who embraced leather sex, partly because he believed it disrupted the straight world’s stereotypes of gay men as well as our own expectations of ourselves.
“Before leather bars,” he said, “the gay scene was more or less ruled by the drag scene. But with the leather bars came the idea that you could be both man and gay. The fluff image was traded for the macho image.”
Not surprisingly, Glynn orchestrated Australia’s first Mr Leather competition, held in April 1980 in the basement of The Strand Arcade, in Sydney.
There were plenty of Mr Leather photos in following editions of the Star. A very hunky Patrick Brookes, accepting his Mr Leather trophy, graced the newspaper’s front cover once, while an inside photo-spread included a shot of the Master of Ceremonies, Michael Glynn, exactly as he wished to be seen: owning the microphone and his audience, surrounded by images of this new gay masculinity, hairy-chested and sexually charged.
Terrence Michael Glynn was born on April 7, 1948 in Chicago, Illinois. He died in Glebe on July 10, 1996. He is forever remembered as “a lanky American with no shortage of attitude and chutzpah” whose vision for a gay community newspaper continues to benefit us all.
Over the years, The Sydney Star eventually became the modern-day Star Observer masthead. Today, the publication that Glynn founded has grown to become Australia’s only national LGBTI news source in both print and online. Copies of the monthly edition, which was launched earlier this year, are distrubuted in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra.
Dominic O’Grady is a former editor of the Star Observer and author of the manuscript, Preaching to the Perverted: The Life and Times of Michael Glynn. More at www.domogrady.com
**This article first appeared in the current August issue of the Star Observer, which is now available in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. Click here to find out where you can grab your free copy.