Secret Historian: "The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade"

(Warning: this post is for adults, and the video embedded contains sexual content)

I haven't read Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade yet, but it sure sounds amazing—BB mod Antinous just hipped me to it this morning. The new book by Justin Spring new book chronicles the contents of an archive he discovered in San Francisco a few years ago, including a thousand-page diary belonging to Samuel Steward, a man of many identities....

...including several that the subtitle of the book omits: pioneering sex researcher, collector of celebrity conquests, drug addict, masochist, Catholic (briefly), Navy enlistee (even more briefly), conquistador of vast provinces of America's pre-Stonewall homosexual subculture. Most fortuitously, he was apparently a graphomaniac who documented his long, dark, exuberant, sad, dangerous life in journals, an unpublished memoir, reams of letters, poems, erotica, semifictionalized short stories and even a 746-entry card catalog of his sexual history, scrupulously maintained over five decades and in some cases ornamented -- perhaps for future biographers? -- with what Spring decorously calls "DNA-verifiable" evidence of his liaisons.
That, from the New York Times review (which ran with a terrific title).

All told, Steward is reported to have had sex with 807 different people, a total of 4,647 times, including Rock Hudson and Rudolph Valentino. Regarding those impressive numbers, Adam at Butt Magazine opines,

However, the true value of his promiscuity lies not in the number of loads blown, but in what those loads can teach us. (...)

At times he was Samuel Steward, drunken professor, obscure literary figure and pen pal to the stars. He was also an author, first of serious fiction - Angels on the Bough - and later acclaimed memoirs - Dear Sammy: Letters From Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. George Platt Lynes, Alfred Kinsey and Tom of Finland all counted him as a friend. As a tattoo artist he went by Phil Sparrow. He mentored Ed Hardy and inked the Hells Angels. He even engraved 'LUCIFER' on Kenneth Anger's chest. In his dirty work he was the ripped Greek hustler Phil Andros. This particular alter ego dealt in filthy stories, pumping out titles like Shuttlecock and $tud, and attracting the attention of literary heavyweights like Christopher Isherwood.He was all of these things and more. Mr. Steward was also a sex researcher and self-proclaimed whore. Perhaps his most important occupation, however, was that of historian. For in the cache of his remaining belongings exists an individual history unparalleled in its meticulousness.

Video trailer for the book follows (contains sexual content.)

Video at

More about the book and what it all means: Huffington Post, Facebook page for book, website.

Amazon: Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade



  1. This makes me feel as if I am ultimately alone, a drop of protoplasm adrift in an incomprehensibly vast, utterly uncaring universe.

    1. This makes me feel as if I am ultimately alone, a drop of protoplasm adrift

      If you’re lucky, you’ll land on one of Samuel Steward’s catalog cards, where you may yet live forever.

  2. Fascinating…I’ve put this book on my library hold list. However, that video is NOT safe for work, unless your workplace is ok with multiple scans of pictures of men with their pants down and graphic orgy scenes (in which case, lucky for you…).

  3. FYI: the video is not work safe, unless you work in a place where they allow you to look at panning shots of orgies.

  4. Xeni, your definition of “work-safe” is interesting.
    I guess it depends on where you work…
    Nudity, orgies, S&M tools?
    What do you consider NSFW?

    But you’re right, it was fascinating.

      1. Oddly no “weenies” (again, you were multitasking) but a coupla’ photos of faceless men Greco-Roman wrestling…I guess it was enough to frighten the horses…

  5. Query: if he was (albeit briefly) in the Navy why is he wearing a Coast Guard uniform in the cover photo? Service-curious?

      1. Somewhat disturbingly, I have a bag of ancestral (head) hair. Tiny locks of baby hair from god knows who, tied up in little snippets of fading ribbon.

  6. I finished the book a couple weeks ago. While it seems like an interesting topic, in the end it’s just a tedious recitation of the life of a sex addict who made very little of himself.

  7. #19 Respectfully, I disagree. I too, finished the book a couple of weeks ago (and was also moved to read Sam’s autobiography, which is very stylishly and entertainingly written) and it was an amazing story and an entertaining read. This guy was a fascinating combination of intellectual, voyeur, renegade, historian and researcher. He lived a difficult life, sometimes under brutal circumstances, yet he triumphed over it all and his obsessive record-keeping is a testament to it – also an important and rare document of a long period of American gay history, which would otherwise be largely unknown.

  8. There was a great line in CARNAL KNOWLEDGE that Art Garfinkle tells Jack Nicholsom’s character who was his former college buddy:
    “You know, you can’t make fucking your life’s work” Apparently Samuel did!

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