After Dark magazine
May 1968 to mid 1980s
After Dark magazine was a cultural icon for gay baby boomers coming of age. Its tone and content fell somewhere between the under-the-counter culture of Physique Pictorial and the earnest dryness of One and Vector. It was hatched from a ballroom dancing magazine and always kept a strong focus on dance, which justified the many near-nude dance belt shots.
Like Anderson Cooper, the magazine never quite came out as a gay, but it didn’t hide either. Editor William Como was already of a certain age when he launched the first issue in May of 1968. He certainly came of age in a time when men just didn’t mention all that.
The magazine covered a wide range of topics— from all forms of show business to lifestyle, politics, and travel—but the strongest emphasis was on the New York stage. Bette Midler, Donna Summer, Lucille Ball, Cal Culver, Peter Allen, Lily Tomlin, and more all found their way to After Dark covers. It was the perfect vehicle for folks like Lily Tomlin and Peter Allen who were dedicated to their gay audiences but hadn’t made the final step out of the closet at the time.
The launch of more uncompromisingly gay magazines like Blue Boy and Drummer made After Dark’s coy vagueness seem quaint and out of touch. The editorial directorship also passed through a few hands, including longtime New York editor and writer Patrick Pacheco. But by the mid ’80s, the cake was left out in the rain.
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“Inventors of Gay" is our series on important people and cultural influences in LGBT history that helped create the culture we enjoy today.