Kings Cross gay bar promoter Rod Stringer started the gay magazine Campaign in September 1975 when he was 34 years old. In its heyday, Campaign was Australia’s most widely read gay magazine.

Stringer grew up in St George, Sydney but attended St Mary’s Cathedral College, describing it as a good “introduction” to learning his way around the city. Initially drawn to politics, he was elected an ALP youth council delegate but ended up following the path of accountancy.

In his 20s, he was lured into the “exciting” world of money market trading but came a cropper with the infamous collapse of Mineral Securities Australia (Minsec) in 1971 and found himself out of a job.

He got into the business of running gay bars after friends told him of an illegal casino in Kings Cross that had been closed down by the police, so he opened Castello’s there. He was forced to move the disco to Kellett St a few months later after the landlord did “a deal” on reopening the casino. Thuggish threats convinced him to give up the lease and move to a venue with no liquor licence, relying on corrupt cops to stay open.

Castello’s operated from Kellett St until 1976 when Stringer opened the “legit” Patches Disco on Oxford St.

By then he’d launched Campaign, initially as a modest 16-page monthly tabloid with a cover price of $1. The first issue had news about law reform moves on the front cover and included a pictorial spread of a local dancer, entertainment reviews and gossip, a travel section and personal classifieds.

It relied on the growing gay venue scene for advertising and distribution, and a key focus was social gossip, venue events and broader entertainment features.

The first issue of Campaign was produced by a team of three or four people in the office above Castello’s before moving briefly to a second-floor office at 382B Pitt St next to a coffee lounge catering to a gay clientele. In March 1976 it moved to a third-floor office at 620 Harris St, Ultimo.

The first issue sold only 700 copies, but by 1978 circulation had reached nearly 11,000.

Stringer lost control of Campaign in 1979 at the same time he lost control Patches. The title was briefly placed in the hands of the receivers before being purchased by the owners of Platterpuss sex shop. Campaign had two subsequent owners before it closed in 2000.

Stringer moved to Berry in southern New South Wales and established the gay resort Tara there in the late 1980s before moving to Queenland’s Sunshine Coast and establishing the gay resort Horizons at Peregian, where he lives today.

Next week: Michael Glynn – Founder of Sydney Star

By BILL CALDER

INFO: Former editor and publisher Bill Calder is researching Australia’s gay and lesbian media history from 1969-2000. Follow his progress at www.gaymediahistory.wordpress.com

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