Friday, November 20, 1998

Red Ribbons and Checkered Hankies

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #91, November 20, 1998)

Another year, another World AIDS Day. Surely you remember AIDS, don’t you? Oh, it was a horrible time. Thank goodness it’s over and we can move on to something else. Life can get back to normal—sex can get back to normal. Ahh, those protease inhibitors are amazing stuff. Some poor folks still seem to be stuck in an AIDS time warp—but come on, get over it! Yessiree, it’s great to be alive—or perhaps, still alive—in this great big wonderful post-AIDS era we live in. Care to bareback?

December 1 is World AIDS Day, 1998. To paraphrase Mark Twain: Rumors of the end of AIDS are greatly exaggerated. True, not as many people seem to be dying of it these days. But AIDS is still killing people all over the world. It’s still making people sick. It’s still causing people to take large quantities of medications which must be rigidly scheduled and which have daunting side-effects. (There are, of course, other people who don’t have access to these drugs or for whom the drugs are not effective.) The HIV virus is still being spread. There’s still no cure—people with AIDS can’t “get over it.” And the leather/SM community is still dealing with the devastation that AIDS has caused. I’m sorry if I’m being pessimistic, but none of that sounds “post-AIDS” to me.

While AIDS has had terrible consequences for many groups of people, it was especially tragic in leather/SM circles because it ripped apart one of our basic foundations of our community. In bygone days, younger people new to the scene were tutored and mentored by those with more experience; it was an effective way to pass on knowledge and keep traditions alive. The AIDS epidemic caused major disruption to that mentorship system, and the consequences of that disruption will be with us for a long, long time.

A large part of leather identity has always been the way in which the things a person wears (leather, hankies of various colors, run pins, etc.) become outward manifestations of the spirit of the person wearing them. One of my personal responses to the destruction that AIDS has caused, and continues to cause, is that whenever I wear leather I always include two symbols. I still wear a red AIDS-awareness ribbon, even though it may be considered passé by some people, because it still has meaning for me. And in the back-left pocket of my jeans is a black-and-white-checked hankie, which stands for safe (or at least, safer) sex. That hankie reminds me that there are things I can do, choices I can make, that will help stop the spread of AIDS. Every new HIV infection is another defeat. But every time sex happens, and the HIV virus doesn’t get a chance to spread, is one more victory.

Perhaps someday AIDS will be only a terrible memory. Someday. Perhaps. Today, toward the close of the year, the century and the millennium, AIDS is still very much a part of the landscape. So I remember the friends I’ve lost and cherish the ones who are still here. I respect myself and others by playing as safely as possible. And I try not to lose hope.

Remember. Cherish. Respect. Hope. Red ribbons and checkered hankies. Faced with the continuing age of AIDS, that’s what I do.

Upcoming Leather Events

Hanky Social
Wednesday, Nov. 25, 8-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
Formerly the Red Hanky Social, the scope has been broadened to include all hanky colors and all interests represented by those colors. This is a recurring event; time and location have been changed to the last Wednesday of each month from 8 to 10 pm at the Minneapolis Eagle. Future dates are Dec. 30, 1998 and Jan. 27, 1999. FFI: e-mail

Black Guard Chili Feed
Sunday, Nov. 29, 5-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
A perennial favorite, now in its 22nd year. $5 at the door includes chili plus $1 off first drink or $1 off beer bust price.

Atons “Smoker”
Friday evening, Dec.4 (call for more information)
A social and informational evening for men who are interested in joining the Atons. Call their hotline for more information.

Atons Holiday Fundraiser
Sunday, Dec. 6, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
If you’re not in a holiday mood yet, this should do it. Photos with Santa, bootblack, and prizes galore. $5 at the door; net proceeds will benefit Every Penny Counts. Also, please bring non-perishable food items for the Aliveness Project.

Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Meet and Greet
Saturday, Dec. 12, 6-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
Meet the contestants and bid in the Bear Auction benefiting the winners’ travel fund: Live bears will be auctioning off stuffed bears. $5 at the door includes free shot.

Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest
Sunday, Dec. 13, 7-10 pm, The Saloon
$10 at the door includes free shot. If you want to compete, contact contest producers Joshua or Tom Smith. Prizes include airfare to New Orleans for Pantheon of Leather and the International Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest.

Friday, November 6, 1998

Winter Getaways, Leather-Style

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #90, November 6, 1998)

Leather gives us plenty of reasons (excuses?) to travel—there’s always a run or a contest somewhere. Even if you’re traveling for business, you can connect with the local leather scene in your off-hours; publications like Drummer, International Leatherman and The Leather Journal have advertisements from leather-related bars, lodgings and other businesses in most major cities. But beyond the basics, and in keeping with the theme of this issue of Lavender, here are some out-of-the-ordinary leather-related travel ideas to make this year’s winter getaway the best yet.

• Lots of cities have leather bars, and some of those bars even have restaurants. But while you can get a great burger at the Minneapolis Eagle, only in New York City will you find a place like La Nouvelle Justine. In this SM-themed restaurant the waiters are masters, the busboys are slaves, and the menu features items like “public humilitation” and “verbal abuse” in addition to filet mignon. You may like it, or you may feel your community is being exploited. But as near as I can determine the restaurant is run by authentically kinky people rather than poseurs who settled on SM as a good gimmick. How’s the food? I can’t answer that; I’ve visited but haven’t yet dined there. Conveniently located in the heart of Chelsea: 206 W. 23rd St. at Seventh Ave.

• Turn your next Palm Springs getaway into an educational experience by signing up for one of Butchmann’s SM Training Weekends, a “3-day/2-night Live-in Experience.” Group or individual, beginning and advanced sessions. Palm Springs, CA; or e-mail There’s a very informative website at

Team Delta, an elite unit of former special forces, military intelligence and military police personnel, is waiting to provide you with “intensely realistic military experiences.” From the looks of their website, they aren’t kidding. Choose from POW Interrogation, Basic Training, or War Games/Battle Tactics. Call toll-free, write to Philadelphia, PA or visit

• A fantasy voyage of another sort: Join Mr. San Francisco Leather 1996 Gary Virginia for Leather Cruise ’99 from Acapulco to San Francisco, a seven-day cruise departing May 12, 1999 aboard the Dawn Princess. For more information contact Travel Trends, San Francisco, CA.

• Speaking of cruising: if you like to stay at Beck’s Motor Lodge when you’re in San Francisco (because it’s so convenient to Castro Street, of course), where do you stay when you find yourself in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma? Head for the Habana Inn, mid-America’s largest gay resort complex. This huge two-story motel complex includes a restaurant, nightclubs, shops, and twin swimming pool courtyards. Lots of free parking, too. Wear your leather—the locals who congregate here will be impressed. I’ve stayed at both Beck’s and the Habana Inn and would recommend either for a good time. Oklahoma City bonus suggestion: When I was there, the fishing looked promising at Lake Overholser, on the outskirts of town.

• What’s your humble columnist’s favorite winter getaway destination? Puerto Vallarta, the only place in Mexico that has an annual Gay Pride Parade. Charter air service from the Twin Cities can be cheap if you play your cards right, and the non-stop flights are frequent. Once there you’ll find relaxing sunny beaches, great restaurants and nightlife, a rustic Mexican atmosphere (in the old part of town, at least), interesting shopping and sightseeing, and gay men and lesbians from all over the world (at least some of whom are into leather). Head for the blue chairs at Los Muertos Beach—with any luck, that’s where I’ll be for at least one week this winter.

Upcoming Leather Events

International Mr. Rubber Contest
Friday-Sunday, Nov. 13-15, various Chicago locations
Black Guard member Thomas Smith of Minneapolis will be competing, and he invites everyone to travel to Chicago with him for a fun time. Friday: Welcome Party, Cell Block, 9 pm-2 am (free). Saturday: Rubber Buddies Brunch 9 am-2 pm, Buddies, $10; Rubber Swap & Market 2-6 pm, Cell Block; Contest 8:30 pm-3 am, Cell Block, $10 (includes a $5 drink coupon). Sunday: Rubber Ball Beer Bust, Cell Block. Host hotel: Park Brompton. For more information on the contest call David at the Cell Block bar in Chicago.

Black Guard Chili Feed
Sunday, Nov. 29, 5-10 pm, Minneapolis Eagle
A perennial favorite, now in its 22nd year. $5 at the door includes chili plus $1 off first drink or $1 off beer bust price.

Ongoing Leather Events (clip & save)

The Twin Cities leather/SM community includes many events which happen every week, every other week or every month. Space limitations don’t allow us to list them in every issue, so clip this list and save it for future reference.

Black Guard Fundraiser: 3rd Sunday of each month, various locations.

Dykes on Bikes: Meets every other Monday at District 202.

Hanky Social: Formerly the Red Hanky Social, the scope has been broadened to include all hanky colors and all interests represented by those colors. Time and location have been changed to the last Wednesday of each month from 8 to 10 pm at the Minneapolis Eagle. Next dates are Nov. 25, Dec. 30 and Jan. 27. FFI: e-mail

Knights of Leather: Women’s leather club meets every 2nd Wednesday of the month, Sabathani Community Center. FFI: e-mail

Leather Roundtable: This newly-formed group of leather/SM community titleholders, club officials, event organizers, and other interested folks meets first Monday of each month at 8 pm to plan and coordinate leather events. Meetings are open, so if you have time, talents or ideas to contribute, call Joshua for more information.

Leather Spirituality Discussion Group: Every Wednesday, 7 pm, All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, 3100 Park Ave., Minneapolis. FFI: Call Joshua, or call the church.

Sober Leather: All-inclusive club dedicated to “safe, sane, consensual, sober” meets 3rd Monday of every month at Cafe Zev, 7 pm.

T.I.E.S. (Tremendously Intense Erotic Situations): All genders/orientations. The TIES Munch (a non-play social gathering for the express purpose of meeting people in a non-threatening environment) is held on the last Wednesday of every month at Legends Cafe, Minneapolis. The Munch starts at 7:30 pm; there is no set ending time. TIES also sponsors two monthly discussion groups in private homes, one for dom(me)s and one for subs. FFI, see the TIES website at TIES membership is not required for attendance at the Munch or discussion groups.

(Un)leashed: Loosely-organized club for women and transgendered persons meets 2nd Sunday of the month. FFI: Minneapolis, MN or e-mail