Friday, June 5, 1998

Twentieth IML Contest Heralds Birth of Leather Nation

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #79, June 5, 1998)

PHOTO: Tony Mills, International Mr. Leather 1998

PHOTO: IMLs #1 and #20: David Kloss, left, International Mr. Leather 1979, congratulates Tony Mills, right, International Mr. Leather 1998.

PHOTO: From left: Andrew Lennox, IML 1st runner-up; Tony Mills, International Mr. Leather 1998; Ed Ryder, IML 2nd runner-up; Matthew Duncan, International Boot Black 1998.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest in Chicago, but the contest shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, it just keeps getting bigger and more interesting.

This year’s contest weekend attracted so many people that six hotels (a record number) had to be used to house them all. Friday night’s contestant introduction at the headquarters hotel, The Congress, presented 62 contestants from 24 states, six countries, and Puerto Rico (including Mr. Minnesota Leather 1997, Roger Gregg). Also introduced were the judges and many previous IML titleholders including David Kloss, the first-ever International Mr. Leather (still looking extremely good twenty years later!)

Saturday night’s physique pre-judging was a new and worthwhile addition to the weekend: all the contestants were presented in their most appealing (i.e. minimal) attire. Being a first-time event, there were the inevitable staging difficulties—nothing that can’t be worked out next year, and nothing that stopped the crowd from enjoying the evening.

Sunday night’s contest at the Congress Theater started with the world premiere of “One Common Heartbeat,” a leather anthem by Gary Aldrich which got a standing ovation from the crowd. Other entertainment included the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps (ROTC), the She-Devils, and disco diva Linda Clifford, who got the audience standing, dancing and clapping along to her hit rendition of “If My Friends Could See Me Now” (an appropriate song for every one of the evening’s contestants). Another world premiere, this time of the leather documentary “In God We Trust, In Leather We Lust,” took place during the evening’s intermission. In his step-down speech, outgoing International Mr. Leather and Twin Cities hometown hero Kevin Cwayna had the vision to proclaim that leather is a community, a people, a tribe . . . and suddenly, we’ve become a Leather Nation. (He’s seen it first-hand this past year, so he should know.)

Production values for the evening’s show were uniformly high, and the pace was brisk. There were a few minor problems: contestants kept tripping over some poorly-placed on-stage loudspeakers, and a record number of contestants (including the winner) went over the allotted 90-second time limit and had their microphone turned off in mid-speech. (This also happened to Cwayna last year.)

The new International Mr. Leather 1998 is Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Tony Mills, whose physique is so well developed that they broke the sash trying to get it around his chest. He is 36 years old, is on the Board of Directors for the Tom of Finland Foundation, and is the Leather Archives & Museum’s Regional Coordinator for South Florida. He was sponsored by Centaur Motorcycle Club of Virginia. For the second year in a row, International Mr. Leather is a physician. Sober Leather members take note: Mills has been in recovery for 3-1/2 years.

First runner-up Andrew Lennox was born in New Zealand but now lives in Australia. He currently works as an executive chef and was sponsored by Mephisto Leathers of Australia. Second runner-up Ed Ryder was sponsored by Leather Central Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; he is a retired dentist who is evidently well known to the Washington, DC leather community. During the physique pre-judging portion of the contest, he revealed that he has “put more porcelain in [emcee Frank Nowicki’s] mouth than all the American Standard [plumbing fixtures] in this building.”

The International Boot Black competition is held each year in conjunction with IML. This year’s winner was Matthew Duncan, the boot black at the DC Eagle in Washington, DC. He was sponsored by the same club that sponsored the new IML: Centaur Motorcycle Club of Virginia.

One final item of interest: among the 62 contestants, one was a first for IML—Billy Lane, Seattle Mr. Leather ’98, is a female-to-male transsexual. Lest anyone think he was a token contestant, it should be noted that he was one of the top twenty semifinalists.

Upcoming Leather Events

Ms. Minnesota Leather Fundraiser and Beer Bust
Friday, June 5, 8 pm-close, Town House, St. Paul
Ms. Minnesota Leather—she's back and ready to party! But, unfortunately, she's broke. So come help the Ms. Minnesota Leather Contest Committee welcome Kevin Cwayna and Roger Gregg back from IML. There will be door prizes and wet T-shirt/jock contests. Enter your ideas for a Ms. Minnesota Leather logo design and win weekend passes and more! Incidentally, the Ms. Minnesota Leather Contest will be held September 18, 19 and 20. For more information e-mail or call W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions

Mark Your Calendar . . .

June 26-28: This year’s Leather Pride Celebration has expanded to three days. Friday night kicks off the festivities at The Town House in St. Paul. Saturday evening features dinner on the rooftop deck at the Minnesota Bar and Grill, with fabulous views of the Minneapolis skyline and a champagne toast at sundown. Sunday afternoon and evening, after marching with the leather contingent in the Twin Cities Festival of Pride Parade, the party is at Tropix. In addition, plans are being made to have a Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Festival of Pride in Loring Park, which will be staffed by representatives of the various leather community clubs and organizations. Watch for more details.

July 10-12: The 6th annual North Star Regional Rodeo, presented by the North Star Gay Rodeo Association (NSGRA). They’re looking for volunteers to help with the rodeo—call if you’re interested.

July 17-19: The Atons present Gopher Broke, Lucky 13. It’s their thirteenth semi-annual run, and the theme is 1950’s leather in the spirit of Marlon Brando and “The Wild Ones.” For information and a registration form call; e-mail; visit; or write Atons of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN.

Date Change: August 21-23: The International Mr. Fantasy Weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. Minnesota will be represented by Mr. Minnesota Fantasy Ken Flanagan.

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