Friday, February 12, 1999

History of The Black Guard

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #97, February 12, 1999)

Welcome to all our out-of-town visitors who are in the Twin Cities this weekend for Black Frost ’99 and The Red Heart Party. To all run participants, both local and visiting, make it a great weekend (and a safe one)! Here, reprinted from the Black Frost ’99 run book, is a short history of your host club for this weekend, The Black Guard of Minneapolis:

The leather scene that started flourishing in America after World War II has seen many leather clubs appear and disappear, but The Black Guard of Minneapolis is still here 22 years after they started. In that 22 years they’ve garnered their fair share of accolades and notoriety, and they’ve learned a thing or two about how to party. Black Frost ’99 should prove that 22 years of practice makes perfect (or at least comes pretty close).

The Black Guard signed its charter in 1977. The club was started with six members, three of whom are still living in Minneapolis. The club worked in conjunction with the Atons of Minneapolis to produce the Gopher III run.

The fledgling club decided it needed to have friendship pins produced. To raise the money to cover pin production, members of the club performed in a show at the old Sun Bar and Disco, which used to be across Hennepin Avenue from the Gay 90’s. That was the start of a long line of show performances that continues to this day.

In 1980 the club held an Anniversary Banquet at a restaurant called Richard’s. Fifteen people attended (including a female member named Nancy). After the banquet the club received many responses from members of the community who wished they had been able to attend. The next year an even larger banquet was held at Richard’s, and this banquet even included a leather fashion show presented by a local leather shop called Goliath’s Leather Emporium.

Members of the Black Guard traveled to a run in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they met and formed a lasting friendship with another new club that was just starting out: the Argonauts of Wisconsin.

The Black Guard presented its first-ever Black Frost in 1982. That first run and show was enthusiastically received by the community, leading the club to make it an annual event. The club and the run quickly developed a national reputation. The Black Guard was recently called “the premiere show club in the U.S.” by Drummer Magazine, and their Black Frost run was selected by Drummer as one of the nation’s top four runs.

Another annual event on the Black Guard calendar is the Chili Feed, which is always scheduled in the latter part of November and is always a fun evening.

But it’s not all just fun and games. According to club historian Ralph Schmidt, “The Black Guard has always been willing to extend a friendly and helpful hand to everyone, and our members have traveled to many states and made many long and lasting friendships that continue to this day.” As an example, he notes that “when the Knights of Leather (a local women’s leather group) first organized, the Black Guard lent them the use of our club house for their meetings.”

Over the years Black Guard members have been generous in volunteering their time, often providing staffing assistance for local leather contests. The Black Guard has also lent their assistance and financial support to many organizations for start-up and ongoing help. A partial list of such organizations would include the Minnesota AIDS Project, The Aliveness Project, Every Penny Counts, Agape House, District 202, and All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church. Most of these donations were done anonymously, and the Black Guard carries on the tradition of charitable giving today. According to a recent Black Guard press release, “The Black Guard of Minneapolis over the last years has dispersed over $80,000 to various Twin Cities and Minnesota GLBT-related charities through their fundraising efforts. They have also worked with, or teamed with, other organizations to raise another $50,000 in that same time period.”

According to historian Schmidt, “Raising funds for charity has always been a part of our philosophy.” But while the philosophy may stay the same, the methods of raising those funds are becoming increasingly sophisticated as The Black Guard teams with corporations and other groups in sponsorship arrangements. This year, sponsors of Black Frost ’99 and the Red Heart Party include U S West, Lavender Magazine, United Airlines, Coors, National Car Rental and, according to the Black Guard, “many others.”

What does the future hold for The Black Guard? Well, to find out, you’ll just have to come back to next year’s Black Frost, and the year after that, and the year after that. . . Seriously, though, members of the club are looking forward to their 25th anniversary celebration in 2002 and are already making plans—BIG plans. Here’s a hint from The Black Guard: “You may just want to have a tux at the ready!”

Mr. Minnesota Olympus contest postponed

The Mr. Minnesota Olympus contest, which was scheduled for the weekend of February 26-28, has been rescheduled for the weekend of March 26-28. The winner of this contest goes on to compete in the International Mr. Fantasy contest in Omaha in mid-August. There’s still room for more contestants, so if you’re interested in competing contact Dale Willman.

“Upcoming Leather Events” moved to Calender section

Part of the new look of Lavender Magazine involves dividing the magazine into six sections, each with its own calendar of coming events. This column appears in the “Out & About” section, which means you will now find leather events listed in the “Out & About” calendar. So turn right now to the calendar page and find out what’s going on in the next two weeks.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Black Frost ’99 Banquet, Show, and Red Heart Party
Saturday, February 13, Camp Snoopy Playhouse Theatre at Mall of America
Even if you’re not attending the whole run, you can be there for the banquet, show and Red Heart Party. The run banquet starts at 5 pm and will be followed by The Black Guard’s usual wild and high-energy show (this year’s theme: “The Land Of Oz”). After the banquet and show is the Red Heart Party, a fundraiser for the GLBT community. Admission for the Red Heart Party only is $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Advance tickets are available at The Brass Rail or through Black Guard members. Call for banquet admission information.

The First Annual Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Contest (Finals)
Sunday, February 21, 8:00 pm, The Minneapolis Eagle
After the Eagle’s usual Sunday-afternoon beer bust (4-8 pm), stay and watch some hot men take the stage. The Eagle is looking for someone who is the embodiment of their clientele: fun, hot, no attitude. Judging will be by customer and staff ballots.

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