Friday, October 23, 1998

Postcard from Drummer/Folsom

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #89, October 23, 1998)

Random thoughts on this year’s International Mr. Drummer Contest/Folsom Street Fair weekend in San Francisco:

• San Francisco is high on my list of favorite places to visit. It has generally nice weather, a scenic setting by the bay, interesting architecture, and more nice scenery in the form of gorgeous men. There’s another feature of San Francisco that’s not so pleasant: high numbers of homeless people begging on the streets. (My traveling companion at one point wryly remarked that we needn’t have bothered with hotel reservations, we could have just brought bed rolls.) Throughout a weekend charged with sex, fantasy and celebration, the homeless were a constant and somewhat disturbing presence.

• This year’s International Mr. Drummer Contest was held at a new venue: San Francisco’s Russian Center, where the auditorium was plain but serviceable. For the past several years, general admission ticketholders have had to stand at the back of the room throughout the entire contest and were probably unable to hear most of it; this year everyone got a seat where they could both see and hear what was going on.

• The theme of this year’s contest was “Drummer Boot Camp”—a phrase which, when you think about it, could have meanings the contest organizers never intended (or maybe they did). Fortunately, the “boot” factor was high and the “camp” factor low as emcees Brian Dawson and Queen Cougar took the part of drill sergeants who put the ten contestants/new recruits through their paces.

• The International Mr. Drummer Contest can be counted on for good fantasy presentations, and this year’s offerings more than lived up to expectations. Mr. Southeast Drummer Tom Stice got a standing ovation with his White House fantasy featuring, among other things, both Clinton and Newt Gingrich in bondage. Mr. Florida Drummer Michael Cruz’ “Toy Story” fantasy portrayed a hot three-way between life-size Billy, Carlos, and G.I.Joe dolls; the action was interrupted by Barbie stumbling onstage, looking for Ken. Mr. Europe Drummer Hervé Bernard presented an “Avengers”-themed fantasy that was very European in feel (and much better than the recent “Avengers” movie.)

• Mid-Atlantic Drummerboy ryan goldner became the new International Mr. Drummerboy; goldner is the assistant director of a gay men’s health and HIV prevention organization in Philadelphia.

• In the Mr. Drummer competition, Northern California Mr. Drummer Ray Tilton was second runner-up; Mr. Southeast Drummer Tom Stice took first runner-up honors; and the new International Mr. Drummer 1998 is Mr. Europe Drummer Hervé Bernard. Bernard is from Paris and is an actor, writer, Buddhist and activist. He currently does voice-over work for French radio and television, so if you lived in Paris you would recognize his voice. He was in Minneapolis several years ago when he appeared at Target Center in a show called “Jesus Was His Name” (!), and he has happy memories of “the back room at the Gay 90’s.” Let’s hope someone persuades him to make a return visit to the Twin Cities during his title year.

• Saturday’s Drummer contest was followed by the climax of the weekend, Sunday’s Folsom Street Fair. Now in its 15th year, it’s the third-largest fair in the state of California (according to the California Department of Tourism) and has attracted up to 300,000 people in recent years. But even in San Francisco, the kink community gets no respect—the only mention of the fair in either of San Francisco’s major daily newspapers, the Chronicle and the Examiner, was a note about how it would affect traffic.

• For fourteen years the Folsom Street Fair has been blessed with beautiful weather. This year, for the first time ever, it rained. Most of the huge crowd took it in stride, but the rain seriously dented sales for at least one vendor I talked to. In spite of the rain, and in spite of having been to the Folsom Street Fair three times prior to this one, the experience still was impressive. The sight of a couple hundred-thousand members of the Leather Nation spending an afternoon on a street in San Francisco remains a powerful spectacle—one that I would recommend to anyone, whether they’re just getting into leather or are an old-timer.

Dan Savage Savages Leather Community? Not Really

It has been a longstanding policy of mine that I don’t use this column to trash people. But I was prepared to make an exception for nationally-syndicated sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. I was going to take him to task based on a quote from him which appeared in the October 4 New York Times Sunday Magazine, in which he called SM sex “ridiculous” and “laughable.”

I read the quote in a weekly media watch put out by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom ( and was outraged at the disrespect Savage showed the leather/SM community. I downloaded the text of the article (“Sex Advice for the Clinton Age” by Rebecca Johnson) from the Times website and was further outraged—elsewhere in the article SM is mentioned on a par with bestiality and incest.

Well, it just so happened that Savage was appearing in Minneapolis at the Gay 90’s to promote his new book. So off to the 90’s I went, bringing along my copy of the Times article.

Savage started the evening by reading from his book—specifically, the chapter on “Kink.” It was hilarious, but the information he conveyed was sound. Throughout the evening’s question-and-answer session he addressed subjects such as bondage, water sports and even scat, and I heard a lot of good information being dispensed—but nothing disrespectful or condescending to the leather/SM community.

During the question-and-answer session I asked him how someone so seemingly kink-friendly could have said something so kink-unfriendly in the New York Times. He asked to see the article and read the offending paragraph aloud. He then admitted that when he first saw the article in print he thought he might have a problem, because the Times hadn’t printed everything he said.

Here’s what the Times printed:

“ . . . Even the most vanilla sexual scenario has a subtle interplay of power back and forth. In the leather S&M scene, they take those seeds and exaggerate it until it’s laughable. You watch people having S&M sex and it’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen. It’s like cops and robbers or Indians and cowboys with your pants down.”

But when he was originally interviewed for the article Savage went on to say that ANYBODY looks ridiculous when they’re having sex, regardless of gender, orientation or what they’re doing. The Times didn’t print that part, however. Savage meant no disrespect to the leather/SM community (of which he considers himself a kinky, card-carrying member), and it’s unfortunate that the Times and/or Rebecca Johnson abridged his words to make it appear that he did.

As far as I can tell, Savage is sex-positive, gay-positive, kink-positive and humanity-positive. The only thing he seems to be against is stupidity. Here’s hoping he writes a letter to the Times to clarify his position, and here’s hoping they print it.

Moral of story: I guess these days one can’t even trust the New York Times to always get the story right. Other moral of story: Savage can take comfort in the fact that “You know you’ve finally arrived when you’re misquoted in the New York Times.”

No comments:

Post a Comment