RE/Search: How did you start On Our Backs?
Susie Bright: At Modern Times bookstore I had been reading some of my poetry…somebody heard me reading these poems and a few days later I got a letter saying, “Hi, we’re two gals starting a magazine called On Our Backs…” When I read that I burst into laughter because I knew exactly why they were making fun of the feminist newspaper Off Our Backs which had been denigrating the sexual voices coming up in recent years.
They said they really liked my poetry–well, can you imagine? And it continued, “Would you like to submit some of your writing?” So I sent in some erotic work I had done, and also offered any help I could give. I had been doing “commie” papers, underground papers, and other radical propaganda since high school–I knew a little bit how to make it happen.
Eventually I called the phone number on the letter and asked “What’s up? I’ve been waiting every day for you to publish this magazine!” I realized that they were new to all this. They had some great material, but no money.
One of the founders, Debi, was a stripper. She knew so many gay strippers that she said, “Let’s have a ‘Lesbians Only!’ strip show to raise money for the first issue”–and that’s exactly what we did. I sold ads to everybody that I met through Good Vibrations; we sold advance subscriptions to people on the Samois mailing list. Then we took our first issue to the Gay Day parade and hoped it would sell enough so we could pay the printer the other half we owed–and fortunately, it took off.