Friday, July 2, 1999

Great Plains Drummer: Great Entertainment

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #107, July 2, 1999)

PHOTO: Left: New Great Plains Mr. Drummer Gary O’Neill. Right: Great Plains Mr. Drummer runner-up Joe Welch.

PHOTO: Men Out Loud performing at the Great Plains Regional Drummer contest. Left to right: Steve Steinberg, Joseph Pearce, Rob McElroy and Santo Ragno.

PHOTO: Gary Aldrich singing “One Common Heartbeat,” a leather anthem.

The Great Plains Regional Drummer Contest was held Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19 at Club Metro in St. Paul. In an extremely close contest, Mr. Minnesota Drummer Gary O’Neill took the sash, with Mr. Kansas City Drummer Joe Welch taking runner-up honors. If you are one of the many who weren’t there, here’s what you missed.

Friday night’s Meet & Greet was combined with the erotic-wear portion of the contest. O’Neill looked great in traditional black leather while Welch struck a more military note with a camouflage-patterned leather jock strap. In addition to those entertainments, the (unfortunately rather small) crowd heard a stirring performance of “One Common Heartbeat,” the leather anthem commissioned for the 1998 International Mr. Leather contest. It was powerfully sung by Gary Aldrich, one of the anthem’s creators (and also one of the judges for this weekend’s contest). There was also an impromptu performance by Men Out Loud, a Los-Angeles-based group of four gay male close-harmony singers and dancers. They gave a preview of their Saturday-night performance as they wowed the crowd with their rendition of “Good Love.”

Saturday night’s contest and show started with an encore performance by Aldrich of “One Common Heartbeat,” which was followed by the contestants’ fantasy performances. O’Neill donned a welder’s helmet and overalls for his fantasy and had an entire welding shop set up on stage. While impressive-looking sparks flew out from the metal he was welding, a slide projector showed pictures of men in a cage—the cage O’Neill was in the process of building. Of course, welding can be a hot and sweaty business, so it was only natural that as the fantasy progressed O’Neill shucked more and more of his clothes.

Welch’s fantasy started with various children’s books set up at the edge of the stage; if you looked closely, you could see that all the books had double-entendre titles. The opening music was the theme from “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” and the show’s host (Welch) made an entrance in a conservative white shirt and necktie. He quickly transformed into a black-leather top who had his way with a boy (Dean Galloway) who wandered onto the set and was looking through the various books.

Both contestants made short but heartfelt speeches, and were then presented one last time for the leather image/pop question category. Then it was time to tally the judges’ scores and announce the winner. Judges for the weekend, in addition to Gary Aldrich, were current Ms. Olympus Leather Cori Ander, current International Drummerboy Ryan Goldner, and your humble columnist.

While the judges’ scores were tallied, Men Out Loud took the stage for a full hour of close-harmony song and high-energy dance. The group is composed of bass Steve Steinberg, baritone Rob McElroy, second tenor Joseph Pearce and first tenor Santo Ragno. To say these guys are talented is an understatement. Here are four great voices that blend into one spectacular sound, no matter who’s taking the lead and who’s harmonizing. Some of the songs (“Sweet enuf 2 eat,” “Only Want to Give You Love”) had a heavy-bass instrumental backing which I’m sure makes them more commercially appealing. But I liked their a capella numbers best (“Good Love,” “Express Yourself”)—who needs a backup band when these four voices can magically become an entire orchestra?

It doesn’t hurt that all four are drop-dead gorgeous (I hear that one of them has appeared under another name in various skin mags), and it doesn’t hurt that they all know how to move to the music and have a great choreographer (Steinberg, who is also the group’s manager). As far as I’m concerned, they can come back to Minnesota and perform any time they want (there is a possibility that they will perform at next year’s Twin Cities Festival of Pride). Until then, if you want to find out more about them, hear samples of their music, order their CDs (they’re on the Mercury Records label) or just send them fan mail, you can visit their website (

And while we’re on the subject of CDs—a CD of “One Common Heartbeat” is now available through the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. For more details call them, write them in Chicago, or visit their website at (And while you’re at their website, check out the art gallery.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, July 10

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Cocktails at 7 PM, dinner at 7:30 PM, Fabulous Fern’s Bar & Grill, 400 Selby Avenue, St. Paul
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

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