Friday, June 30, 2000

An Election-Year Fantasy

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #133, June 30, 2000)

“The reason we have [the International Mr. Leather] contest is not to establish a national leader. It’s not about choosing Bill Clinton — it’s about choosing Vanna White.”

Tony Mills, International Mr. Leather 1998, as quoted in POZ Magazine

Fair enough, Mr. Mills—although:

If we chose International Mr. Leather (IML) like we choose the president:

The Leather Journal would have more than enough advertising revenue from all the political ads. They could go back to being a magazine—a four-color glossy magazine. And they could publish weekly.

• Some of that advertising revenue would probably spill over to local publications as well. (What am I bid for the page opposite my column? I know the strings to pull to make sure you get it.)

• There would be only two candidates for International Mr. Leather, from the two major political parties: the Old Guard and the New Guard.

• Each leather voter would register to vote at their local leather bar, which would also be the polling place.

• International Mr. Leather would not be elected on a strict majority vote. The majority winner at each leather bar would get all of that bar’s electoral votes; some bars would be worth more than others. Each bar would then send a representative to the Leather Leadership Conference to formally cast that bar’s electoral votes and determine the new International Mr. Leather.

On the other hand, if we chose the President like we choose IML:

• It would be called the American Mr. President (AMP) contest. In spite of the efforts of Geraldine Ferraro and Liddy Dole, there would probably be no corresponding Ms. title.

• There would be no more four-year terms. The American Mr. President winner would be in office for only a year, and there would be no repeat titleholders. If he had something he wanted to accomplish, he would have to be snappy about it.

• There would be more than two candidates from which to choose. Bored with Gore? Don’t like Dubya? AMP would have room for Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Bill Bradley, John McCain . . . and even Jesse Ventura. Guaranteed variety—something for everyone’s taste.

• American Mr. President would be chosen each year in Chicago by a panel of judges. The American Mr. President contest (except for the interviews with the judges) would be televised on all the major networks so that all Americans could be inspired and entertained by the event, which is all it seems the majority of today’s American public wants. They would no longer be able to vote for the president, but many if not most Americans don’t vote now. (At least the American Mr. President contest would be televised—this year the major networks aren’t even bothering to televise the Republican and Democratic conventions. Instead they are leaving that chore to CNN.)

• The American Mr. President judging panel, nine wise elders of the community (otherwise known as the Supreme Court), would be entrusted with the task of choosing the man to lead the nation for the next year. The Supreme Court would be chosen every year as well, with no repeat judges. (Who would choose the Supreme Court each year? Well, whoever chooses the judges for IML seems to be doing a good job; let’s leave it to them.)

• The fact that the selection of American Mr. President would rest with only nine people would mean that polls and focus groups will be unnecessary, and there would be no huge expenditures for advertising. Which would mean no huge advertising budgets. Which would mean no fundraising, no fundraising scandals, no PACs or lobbyists. The American Mr. President candidates would be judged not by how much money they raised, or whether they said what they thought people wanted to hear. They would instead be judged on their character and record of service to their community.

• The position of Vice President would be replaced by the position of President’s Boy. He would be responsible for presiding over the Senate as well as White House bootblacking and other duties.

• During the contest each candidate would take a question at random from the audience and would have 90 seconds to answer the question before the microphone was turned off. Think about that while you’re watching the summer’s presidential debates.

• The winner of the American Mr. President contest would receive no compensation, only a travel fund. His reward for being American Mr. President would be the places he’d go, the people he’d meet, and the knowledge that he was able to be of service to his country.

• There would be one slight difference between International Mr. Leather and American Mr. President: The IML “physique” segment (also known as the “jock walk”) would have to be replaced with something else (a leather jock would not be flattering attire for most presidential candidates). And the American people know just what to replace it with, too. Since nowadays the #1-rated cable television shows all feature wrestling, that’s obviously what the public wants. Why not replace the jock walk with a presidential-candidate wrestling match? (The fact that Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura would be a shoo-in for this category has absolutely nothing to do with this suggestion.)

Now, on a serious note: This is an election year, and it’s an important one. Here’s what IML Founder and Executive Producer Chuck Renslow said from the stage of the recent International Mr. Leather contest:

“The next political party will most likely appoint judges to our Supreme Court. We must use our power to make sure that the next court is attuned to our needs.” Renslow expanded further on this theme the next day: “Right now I believe there are 23 federal judge vacancies open . . . I’m just worried that if we get an extremely conservative Congress, or a president who’s from the religious right, they’re going to appoint judges to that court—and I don’t mean just the Supreme Court, I mean district courts and any federal court—and the religious right is out, as I said last night, to annihilate us. . . . They’ve tried it in Washington, they’ve tried it in other places, and it hasn’t worked because they don’t have the power behind them. But if they ever get the power behind them, they will succeed. And I think it’s up to us to make damn sure that they don’t succeed.”

How do we do that? We vote. We vote intelligently. We pay attention to the candidates. We support candidates who support us, and we don’t support candidates who don’t support us. And we mobilize others to vote intelligently, too.

At times it’s tempting to say that none of it matters anyway because it’s “only politics,” and to tune it out. But we as a community can’t afford to do that this year.

Register Now for Atons Gopher XIV Run

Friday through Sunday, July 21-23, The Atons of Minneapolis present their Gopher XIV Run: The Legend of Paul Bunyan. The men of Paul’s lumber camp, deep in the Northwoods, invite you to join them for a celebration of summer. Live the life of a lumberjack or loggerjill for a weekend. Huge meals, gargantuan games, and stupendous parties (not to mention their infamous dungeon). For more information and a downloadable application form visit Or call the Atons HotLine or e-mail

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Saturday, July 8, Nora’s (3118 W. Lake St., Mpls.)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Join other leatherfolk for dinner on the patio. Call the Atons HotLine for more information and to make reservations. Information is also available at the club’s website:

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