Friday, September 24, 1999

What Are Fantasies? Leather Theater.

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #113, September 24, 1999)

Regular readers of this column have often seen the words “fantasy” or “fantasy presentation” used in connection with leather contests or events. If you’ve ever wondered “What the heck is a fantasy?”—wonder no more.

A psychologist friend of mine is fond of pointing out that whatever our differences, and no matter what community (or communities) we belong to, “we’re all socialized the same.” Hence, the Miss America Pageant has the “talent competition,” drag queens have drag shows—and the leather community has “fantasy presentations.” This weekend, in San Francisco, Gary O’Neill will represent the Great Plains region (which includes Minnesota) at the International Mr. Drummer/Drummerboy Contest in San Francisco—the contest which annually presents the most stupendous fantasies of the leather year. (The only major leather contest which does not feature fantasy presentations is International Mr. Leather.)

Fantasies may take many forms, from simple (your basic flogging scene) to grand (anything by Ron Athey or, closer to home, a Michael deLeon extravaganza featuring the Ballet of the Dolls). I’ve heard fantasies described as “erotic skits,” but for me that’s too simplistic a definition. Fantasies are the leather/SM community’s form of theatrical expression. (If you have ever been onstage as part of a fantasy, you can legitimately impress people by telling them you have done performance art.) Over the years certain fantasy performances have become legendary—for instance, anyone who has ever seen one of Joey Kraly’s Bugs Bunny/Loony Tunes fantasies will never forget it.

A good fantasy a) makes you laugh, b) makes you think, or c) gets you, uh, “aroused.” A fantasy that does one of these three things is good, but two out of three is better and all three is a knockout.

A good fantasy has honesty and authenticity going for it. If I’m not into flogging, but I decide to present a flogging fantasy because that’s what I think my audience will like, it probably won’t work. If I’m really into flogging, on the other hand, I can present a fantasy that communicates my passion to the audience even if not every audience member is into flogging.

Like all theater, there are certain basic practical rules of stagecraft that can make or break a fantasy presentation, and staging skills gained during prior theatrical experience (high school, college, community, or professional) can be used to advantage. I’ve seen countless flogging fantasies where both flogger and floggee spend the entire fantasy with their backs to the audience; I was always taught that this is bad form, theatrically speaking. There’s also the question of who is the “hero,” or most important character, in the fantasy. Usually in a contest setting, the contestant should be the one to shine onstage, yet I’ve seen fantasies where the contestant simply lies there while various accomplices perform all the action (and get all the attention).

Just as Broadway has been overtaken with the spectacle of life-size helicopters on stage and crystal chandeliers which crash to the floor nightly, fantasies in recent years have fallen victim to what I call the “Biggest Prop Wins” phenomenon. I’ve seen a fantasy with a gallows that was eleven feet high, and I’ve seen one with a spider web (made of rope) that was eight feet in diameter—and which revolved. While those fantasies worked well, I’ve also seen fantasies that connected with the audience while using almost no props. Personally, I think that’s a greater (and certainly rarer) accomplishment. And it certainly makes it easier to “take the show on the road.”

If, after reading this, you’d like to try your hand at presenting a fantasy, let me encourage you. Maybe you could compete in a leather contest, or maybe you could present a fantasy in a noncompetitive atmosphere, such as a leather event or fundraiser. However you decide to do it, you’ll find an eager audience waiting to, as Chanel’s ads used to put it, “share the fantasy.”

PHOTO: Gary O’Neill, shown here in his Mr. Minnesota Drummer fantasy performance, will be representing the Great Plains region this weekend in the 1999 International Mr. Drummer competition in San Francisco.

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