Friday, June 7, 1996

Dateline: IML 1996, Chicago

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #27, June 7, 1996)

Antonio Sanchez, Joe Gallagher, Mark Norton
Friday, 4:30 pm—Check-in: My partner Ken and I arrive at the Congress Hotel, headquarters for the 1996 International Mr. Leather contest. The lobby is absolutely swarming with beautiful men in leather, latex and uniforms. Everyone is smiling, laughing, greeting each other—it feels very much like the tribal reunion that it is. I’m amazed how many familiar faces I see.

7 pm—Contestant Reception: The contestants, all 49 of them, are introduced and draw their contestant numbers at a cocktail reception. Antonio Sanchez, who is from Spain and is Mr. Leather Europe and Mr. Drummer Europe, gets the biggest ovation by far. I predict he’ll do very well in the competition.

11 pm—Leather in Recovery Reception: I’m amazed at how many leathermen and leatherwomen at this event are in some sort of 12-Step program. Ken and I meet some very interesting people and hear some amazing personal stories.

Saturday, 11 am—IML Leather Market: It’s huge! It sprawls from ballroom to ballroom on the second floor of the hotel; on the third floor are more vendors and a balcony overlooking the vendors on the second floor. The cruising and man-watching couldn’t be better.My award for best vendor space: Our own Wolf Productions, run by Mr. Minnesota Leather Michael deLeon and friends. The booth’s heavy-duty machine-shop merchandise is a big hit with the crowd.

9 pm—The Hometown Party: The outgoing International Mr. Leather, Larry Everett, lives in Oklahoma. He is brought to the stage and seated on a life-size plastic horse while being roasted by friends, family and fellow titleholders. The highlight of the evening is a twisted rendition of songs from Rodgers’ & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”, starting with “The Sling With The Fringe On Top” and ending with a rousing “Oklahomo!

Sunday, 7:30 pm—The Contest: The Congress Theater is huge and elegant in spite of the ravages of time. The theater may be old, but one aspect of this year’s contest is very new: it’s the first contest ever to be “cybercast” live on the Internet and the World Wide Web!

Against a backdrop of fog and brightly-colored spotlights Frank Nowicki, the evening’s emcee, introduces the contestants; mere words like “hot” and “sexy” don’t begin to do them justice. After entertainment by the R.O.T.C. (Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps, who combine the macho militarism of a gun drill with the campiness of baton twirling), the top twenty finalists are announced. Evidently, the judges this year are favoring a traditional leather look; none of the “alternative” leather contestants, including our own Michael DeLeon, make the cut. If it’s a disappointment for me, I can only imagine how Michael feels. (During intermission I see him in the lobby, and he’s all smiles—says he’s having fun, it’s all been a blast. I feel better after hearing him say that.)

The contest now moves into the Speech and Physique competitions. Of course they’re gorgeous, but we can also love them for their minds. The contestants cover a wide range of hot-button issues with speeches that are uniformly well-spoken—so well-spoken, in fact, that I hope to bring you highlights of their speeches in a future column.

While the judges’ scores are tabulated Judy Tenuta takes the stage and has her way with the audience. We love it. We love her. Most memorable line: describing Martha Stewart as a “Nazi Amish milkmaid.”

And the winners are: 2nd runner-up, Antonio Sanchez from Spain, Mr. Leather Europe ‘95/Mr. Drummer Europe, sponsored by Motor Sportclub Amsterdam/ECMC. (We’ll be seeing him again this fall at the International Mr. Drummer contest in San Francisco.)

1st runner-up, Mark Norton, Mr. Dixie Bell Leather ‘96 from Kansas City, sponsored by The Dixie Bell Saloon.

And the new International Mr. Leather ‘96 is . . . Joe Gallagher, Mr. Leather New York from New York City, sponsored by AmFAR. (Liz Taylor and Sharon Stone have every reason to be proud!) He was a clear audience favorite at the contest, getting some of the loudest and most sustained applause. Ken and I met Joe earlier in the weekend and we talked for quite a while. He’s a great guy who will do very well as IML ’96. Congratulations to Joe, Mark and Antonio, and best wishes to all the contestants. Thanks, guys, for making it a great contest!

This edition marks the 1-year anniversary of this magazine and this column, and I want to thank J.D. Laufman for offering me the chance to write it. I also want to thank the editor, publisher, and staff of this magazine; they have shown incredible respect, commitment and support both to me personally and to the leather community as a whole. They have given me the freedom to write what I wanted with a minimum of interference, no censorship and very little editing. Finally, a huge “thank you” to my readers—you are the ones who constitute the leather community I have the privilege of covering. You make it vibrant. So much of what I have written in the past year has been requested, suggested and inspired by you. Thank you for your constant support and encouragement.

Upcoming Leather Events

Main Club “Garage” Opening: Leather/Levi Extravaganza

Saturday, June 15, 9 pm to closing
Main Club, 1813 North Third Street, Superior, Wisconsin

Now here’s a fun weekend getaway. This event is only one of Duluth/Superior’s many Summer of Pride events; if you’re going north for the weekend you may also want to partake of the Pride Bonfire, Friday (June 14) night at dusk on Wisconsin Point, near the lighthouse. And on Sunday (June 16) at 1 pm is the Pride Harbor Cruise leaving from the Vista Fleet Dock in Duluth; tickets are $10.00 in advance, $12.00 at the dock.

New Night and Place for Bondage A Go Go

If you’ve been hearing rumors about this, they aren’t rumors anymore. Bondage A Go Go has moved from Thursday to Monday nights, and from Ground Zero to The Saloon. The action starts at 9 pm. Best of all, there’s no longer a cover charge, so come check it out. (Watch this space for more details.)

No comments:

Post a Comment