Friday, June 16, 2000

Web Extra: IML 2000 Second Runner-up Bob “Puppy” Pedder

(Leather Life column published on Lavender Magazine website, Issue #132, June 16, 2000)


Bob “Puppy” Pedder comes from the same leather family as new IML Mike Taylor, and Taylor refers to Pedder as his “evil brother.” Pedder is an event marketing specialist and fundraiser by profession, and one of the things he envisions is putting together large fundraisers benefitting both the Leather Archives & Museum and local charities.

Pedder is HIV-positive and legally blind. He gave details on his vision loss at the IML Winners’ Press Conference: “I lost 80% of my vision from CMV (cytomegalovirus) and I’ve been legally blind since October, 1996. A lot of my vision is almost like looking through some of that fog that you saw coming up on the stage at the contest last night. There’s no focus. I can’t tell if a lot of you are wearing a shirt or a t-shirt—I can’t really tell if you’re sticking your tongue out at me.”

At the contest the night before, Pedder started his speech by saying, “I was with Judy Collins a few weeks ago—she sends her best. She was receiving a lifetime achievement award for battling cancer, and I had a chance to talk with her about my battle with AIDS, losing my vision, being a puppy, and coming to Chicago for IML.” Pedder said Collins told him what she enjoyed most about his story was “seeing the pride in your face.” Pedder continued, “Our community has accomplished so much, and we have much to be proud of. And although I can’t see the pride in your face, I feel it. So I’d like to honor that pride by singing a song Judy recorded in 1971. Please hum along.”

He then sang “Amazing Grace”: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me/I once was lost but now I’m found/Was blind but now I see.” He later told me it was appropriate both literally and metaphorically—it touched not only on his vision loss, but also on “what it’s like to come into the leather community lost, and be taken under someone’s wing or a group of people’s wings.” He also said he very much appreciated “all of the contestants and the folks at IML” being so compassionate and helpful during the weekend.

Pedder said he is also very pleased with the choice of Scott Bloom as first runner-up. Bloom “was one of the first contestants I met at contestant registration, and from the very start he continued to come up to me and remind me who he was. So I got to know him probably a little bit better than a lot of the other contestants.”

There has never been another IML contestant with a vision impairment. Several years ago a vision-impaired contestant from Iowa registered for the contest but wasn’t able to actually come to Chicago to compete.

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