Friday, August 30, 1996

Route 66, Part 2

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #33, August 30, 1996)

What I did on my summer vacation, continued . . . Oklahoma City was might pretty, all right, but one thing was missing: Their local leather bar, Levi’s, burned down two weeks before my visit. First Rod’s in Madison and now this—I suddenly sympathize with churchgoers in the South whose churches are being burned.

From Oklahoma, Route 66 continues through the Texas Panhandle. From the Cadillac Ranch (ten vintage Cadillacs buried fins-up-nose-down in a cornfield) to the 72-ounce steak at the Big Texas Steak Ranch (eat it, and all the trimmings, in one hour and it’s free—otherwise it’s $50), you really know you’re in Texas. But while the leather community is strong in Texas, there’s not much evidence of it along Route 66.

Albuquerque, on the other hand, is a Route 66 town with a strong leather presence. Every bar in town tries to attract leather, cowboys, or both. (And all the bars are conveniently located on Route 66!) A fun cowboy bar called The Ranch incorporates a leather bar called Cuff’s which is the home of the Sandia Leathermen (more about them later).

Unfortunately, Route 66 does not go through Phoenix and Tucson, where much of Arizona’s leather community flourishes. Instead it goes through Flagstaff, a charming little city where the Damron guidebook says a bar called Charlie’s is “discreetly frequented by the local gay population.” After Flagstaff, I experienced an adventurous (harrowing?) drive through mountains and the strange beauty of the Mojave Desert, as seen in the film Bagdad Cafe. Civilization at last reappeared in Barstow, California. From San Bernardino to the ocean, the remainder of Route 66 was a drive through urban Southern California.

The final stretch of Route 66, Santa Monica Boulevard, held one very special feature for me. For its entire length as one of the main drags (no pun intended) through the openly-gay community of West Hollywood (and past the International Male store!), the same highway that runs through the Bible Belt sports a grass median with flagpoles flying rainbow flags! The Mother Road has a powerful lesson to teach us: Like it or not, it unites us all; it brings together white, black, native American, Asian, Jew, Fundamentalist Christian, children of the rainbow—and leatherfolk. We’ll all be much happier if we learn to live comfortably with one another.

Kevin Watson is International Mr. Fantasy ’96

Kevin Watson, International Mr. Fantasy ’96.
The Twin Cities was well-represented at this year’s International Mr. Fantasy Contest in Omaha, Nebraska; in addition to our contestant, Robert Riley, I saw many other Twin Cities faces.

On Friday night the outgoing International Mr. Fantasy, JD Buchert, was roasted in traditional, semi-embarrassing fashion. To his credit, JD (who lives in Dallas, Texas) has taken this newly-established international title and given it a solid, credible start in its first year. My hat is off to him and to his partner, David Gillis. Prior to the roast, in the presence of the audience, JD and David renewed their marriage vows onstage. It was another of those genuinely touching moments for which Fantasy is becoming noted; last year’s contest was the scene of an onstage marriage proposal.

Saturday’s contest opened with a wacky but inspired production number re-creating the opening scenes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The evening was marred by some technical difficulties and problems with pacing, but those problems were forgotten as the fantasy performances heated up. By a fortunate accident, the final fantasy of the evening was also the best one by far—a sizzling cowboy scene featuring a lazy ranch-hand and an angry owner determined to teach him a thing or two. Some fancy ropework and a finale with a branding iron made this one of the best fantasies I’ve ever seen anywhere.

The results: Rick Strub (Nebraska) was second runner-up; Jeff Sappenfield (Texas) was first runner-up; and Kevin Watson, the man wielding the branding iron in the above-mentioned fantasy, is International Mr. Fantasy 1996! Kevin is from New Mexico, and the many Sandia Leathermen who traveled with him to Omaha held what turned out to be a victory party at the hotel after the contest. There was general agreement among audience members (and even other contestants) that “the right guy won.” Kevin, here’s hoping you have a wonderful year as International Mr. Fantasy 1996!

Drummer Contest Update

This year’s International Mr. Drummer Contest will be held in San Francisco on Saturday, September 28. VIP reception (hors d’oeuvres & open bar) starts at 2 pm, contest starts at 3 pm and runs 3-4 hours. VIP tickets are $40, regular tickets are $25. (My personal recommendation: spring for the VIP tickets.) To order, call the Townsend Box Office voice mail; have your credit card number and your mailing address handy.

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