Friday, June 2, 2000

Humor: The Mr. Leather International Contest

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #131, June 2, 2000)

(Suggested graphic: Photo of a leather biker’s hat, leather sash at an angle, and leather jeans and boots arranged as if someone were wearing them. That’s only one possibility—see if you come up with others.)

I just got back from the Mr. Leather International (MLI) contest, that perennial leather-community springtime institution. The contest is presented each year over Memorial Day weekend in beautiful Atlantic City, New Jersey (the garden spot of the garden state). Every year the sight of a bevy of leather Adonises in Speedos (black, of course) strutting their stuff on the Boardwalk never fails to inspire me. In keeping with the clean and wholesome image of this contest and title, all the competitors are certified steroid-free.

But it wasn’t just the contestants who were interesting—this year’s physique pre-judging on the Boardwalk attracted some notable celebrities. I spotted Al and Tipper Gore there with Hillary Clinton. I also saw George W. Bush taking in all the action and shaking hands; when asked how long he’d been interested in leather, he answered, “Oh, about fifteen minutes.”

Started in 1921, this was the 80th year for the contest and the 47th time it’s been on television (it’s always a ratings winner for its time slot). After having been on all three major networks through the years, it was fitting that this year’s contest was broadcast on Fox, the good-taste network. The MLI organization always prides itself on choosing the hottest names in entertainment for hosting duties—last year’s emcees were Donnie and Marie Osmond. This year the emcee duties were handled by that dynamic duo of daytime TV, Regis Philbin and Kathy Lee Gifford.

The show, which was jointly sponsored by Miller Brewing Co. and Wet International, opened with the requisite huge production number: Kathy Lee and 65 leathermen from around the world sang, danced and paraded to “Beautiful Men,” a reworking of “Beautiful Girls” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Follies.” (Sondheim personally rewrote the lyrics.) Then Regis introduced and chatted with each and every contestant in the “spokesmodel” part of the competition. Based on the spokesmodel scores, the field of 65 contestants was narrowed down to twenty lucky semi-finalists.

Those twenty lucky semi-finalists did another production number, “We’re Here, We’re Cuir,” penned especially for the show by Elton John. The Evening Wear (leather tuxedo) and Swimsuit segments of the competition were next; both swimsuits and tuxedos were designed for the contest by Bob Mackie. The Talent segment of the judging was next, and it was a good chance for the contestants to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competitors. Todd Olansky of Winnipeg, Canada did quite a mean fire-eating-and-breathing number, while Jason Jackson of Tupelo, Mississippi, combined a sub, a flogger, an accordion and roller skates in a scene the likes of which I’ve never seen before and don’t expect I’ll ever see again. From tiny Luxembourg, Georg Hanfelmann’s duct-tape-bondage-on the-flying-trapeze number went slightly awry, but tragedy was averted by a well-placed safety net.

The crowd reserved their biggest oohs and aahs, however, for Jack Hendries of Cocoa Beach, Florida. Dressed head-to-toe in leather and backed by a chorus line composed of the entire membership of the Cocoa Beach Astronauts (truly a fun leather club if ever there was one), Hendries and company tap-danced their way through a reworking of Marlene Dietrich’s classic “See What The Boys In The Back Room Are Having.” Hendries changed the lyric to “See What The Boys In The Back Room Are Doing,” and by the time the number was through most of the leather had been stripped off and it was pretty obvious what the boys in the back room were doing.

After a commercial break, it was time to narrow the field again, this time to ten lucky finalists, who went through the final judging event: the Pop Question. Philbin asked each lucky finalist the same question: “If you are selected as this year’s Mr. Leather International, what will you do to unify the leather community?” The finalist then had 15 seconds in which to give his answer before the microphone was turned off. (The other finalists were kept in an on-stage glass isolation booth so they couldn’t hear each other’s answers.) After each contestant had spoken, Philbin repeated his catch phrase, “Is that your FINAL answer?”, and the crowd went wild.

While the judges were deliberating, Kathy Lee entertained the audience with selections from her new CD, “Born For You” (fourteen ballads, both old and new, in stores now). Finally, it was time to announce the winners. The second runner-up, winner of a $5,000 scholarship, was Jason Jackson. Todd Olansky took first runner-up honors and won a $10,000 scholarship. And then, the evening’s winner: Pandemonium broke out as Jack Hendries was sashed with the MLI 2000 sash—he goes home with a $15,000 scholarship and a new Daimler-Chrysler PT Cruiser! As a finale, Regis and Kathy Lee invited all 65 contestants back to the stage for a rousing rendition of Jerry Herman’s “The Best Of Times Is Now.”

International Mr. Leather Contest, Chicago

Since I planned to be in Atlantic City for the MLI contest, I sent aspiring leather journalist Steve Harrington to Chicago to cover the International Mr. Leather contest, which was happening the same weekend. (That johnny-come-lately contest has only been going on for 21 years, but I guess it’s newsworthy too.) Well, the funniest thing happened—he was so taken with the contest he decided to enter it right then and there, and he wound up winning the title! And I haven’t heard a word from him since. But I’m sure he’ll have all the details of the IML contest next issue.

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 (Save $25 by registering before July 1.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Road Trip to Milwaukee Pride Festival
Friday-Sunday, June 9-11
The final Atons Road Trip before their Gopher XIV Run in July. On Saturday night this month’s Leather/Levi Dinner will be held at a restaurant in Milwaukee; the Atons will also host a club night at Milwaukee’s 1100 Club in conjunction with the Oberons of Milwaukee and the Castaways of Milwaukee (10 pm to closing). For more information visit; for carpool information e-mail or call Jim.

No comments:

Post a Comment