Friday, December 29, 2000

Year-End Leather Review

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #146, December 29, 2000)

Updates and further thoughts on some of this year’s columns

The holiday season and the year are drawing to a close. As we all get ready to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” here are some updates and further thoughts on a few of this year’s Leather Life columns.

Even though this is a leather column, until this year I had never written about leather itself. Well, I fixed that oversight—the year’s first column was about leather care (“New Millennium, Clean Leather”) and a recent column dealt with how leather is produced. That column prompted a letter from Robert Davolt, former editor of Drummer Magazine:

“I read with interest your column on leather processing. I have never seen a leather column taken to such an entertaining and literal end. I will be using your recipe on a few of the folks here in San Francisco—the prospect of making something actually useful out of old dinosaur hides is quite exciting.

“In one of those delightful blends of kinks, did you know that leather production in ancient times made human urine a valuable commodity? It took the urine of the entire city of Rome to supply the tanners who outfitted the Legions with leather armor and equipment.

“You can’t imagine how long I have waited for an even vaguely appropriate application for this piece of historical trivia.”

The May 5 issue’s column dealt with Queer Youth Exist, a BDSM education group for minors that was created by two high school students, Hedge and Katze, as their Girl Scout Gold Award project. The column wound up being quoted as a “Cheer” in the “Cheers and Jeers” column of On Our Backs magazine. Since the column appeared Hedge has gone off to college; Katze is continuing the group on her own.

“Baby On Board: Leather Lesbians on the Mommy Track” appeared in the September 22 issue and featured a big picture of parents-to-be PJ and Vicki Knight, who have since been nominated for Pantheon of Leather’s Couple of the Year award. On September 24, two days after the issue hit the streets, Eli Francis Knight was born. He’s doing fine, as are the parents.

On December 3 the Atons of Minneapolis held their traditional Holiday Fundraiser (see photos on the Snapshots page), which raised over $4,200 for Every Penny Counts and the Aliveness Project. In addition, over 1,300 pounds of non-perishable food and personal items were collected for the Aliveness Project. The Atons thank everyone who made the event such a success.

Election Fantasy? Election Nightmare

I’ve saved the strangest follow-up for last. In the June 30 issue (“An Election-Year Fantasy”) I wrote what I thought was a satirical piece, fantasizing about what would happen if the country chose the President of the United States in the same way the leather community chooses International Mr. Leather (IML). The contest would be called the American Mr. President contest, and the titleholder would be chosen “every year in Chicago by a panel of judges,” as International Mr. Leather is chosen. I wrote that the 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.”

Well, aided by masterful election engineering by those wonderful folks in Florida who brought you Anita Bryant, this election came down to the Supreme Court effectively awarding the “American Mr. President” title.

In some ways the analogy between presidential election and leather contest was not followed. Allow me to again compare the presidential race to IML and other leather contests: Normally the winner of a leather contest is not announced until the tallymasters have completed their counting (and, we hope, rechecked their figures). Better to make sure the figures are correct before announcing them than to risk an error, a challenge, and subsequent embarrassment. But I guess they don’t feel that way in Florida or Washington, D.C.

Of course, at a leather contest there’s an entertainer, usually a fabulous diva, on hand to keep the audience amused while the tallymasters total up the scores. If the contest entertainer has finished their set and the tallymasters still haven’t finished their tally, the audience waits and the entertainer does an encore. By contrast, the presidential election-night coverage was followed by a seemingly endless parade of politicians, lawyers and court cases. That’s entertainment? It seemed to enthrall much of the nation, or at least the media, in the same fashion as the OJ, Princess Di, and Monicagate stories. But for many it was simply the latest in a long series of media-hyped train wrecks, and they tuned it out. Maybe if Babs or Cher or Donna Summer had provided post-election entertainment the recounts could have continued. Oh, well—I guess we’ll never know.

Several groups and organizations have expressed interest in doing an after-the-fact count of the Florida ballots under the provisions of Florida’s Sunshine Law. What happens if that recount shows that Al Gore actually won the popular vote in Florida, as he won the nationwide popular vote? Well, in the leather community anyway, that calls for stripping someone of their title and awarding it to the person who should rightfully have it.

In closing: Happy New Year, and Happy Real Millennium.

Friday, December 15, 2000

Home for the Holidays?

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #145, December 15, 2000)

The holiday season is upon us, and it has a way of making good things very good and bad things horrible. If you are a kinky person (of any sexual orientation or preference) who is part of an understanding and accepting biological family, you are perhaps counting your blessings and looking forward to some sort of wonderful holiday family get-together.

Or perhaps your biological family knows about your kinky tendencies and some or all of the family members don’t approve. Maybe it’s your parents. Maybe it’s your kids (or your grandkids). Maybe it’s a brother, a sister, an aunt or uncle. In any case, their disapproval may mean that the time you spend with your family this holiday season will range from uncomfortable to downright excruciating. Or it may mean you won’t be spending any time at all with them by either their request or your choice.

Even though you may find yourself feeling sadness, anger, resentment or regret about your relationship with those disapproving members of your biological family, at least you’ll be free to spend time with people whose company you actually enjoy. Ask yourself how you really want to spend the holiday. Don’t be limited by convention. Do you want to gather at someone’s home for a big holiday meal? Spend the day with just your partner, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a sling? Have a Solstice orgy with 20 or 30 or 100 of your closest friends? (“I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas . . . “)

Or perhaps your biological family doesn’t know you’re kinky. Maybe, as far as you’re concerned, that’s a fine state of affairs since it’s none of their business anyway. The time you spend with your family might be satisfying or awful, but the quality of that time won’t be influenced by feelings of guilt, shame or rejection relating to the fact that you feel you must hide something from them.

If for some reason you feel your kinkiness is their business—if you feel it’s getting in the way of open and honest communication and you want to share this aspect of your life with your family (or at least certain family members)—here are a few things you might want to consider as you contemplate how you will “come out” to them as a kinky person.

• Do you want to tell them during the holiday season at all, or would some other time be less emotionally loaded?

• Telling someone news that may shock them is better done on the day after Christmas than the day before Christmas (or Christmas Day itself).

• Don’t try to sugarcoat things by inviting someone for a grand holiday meal or other festive event during which you deliver the news. If someone is going to be upset by your revelation, they’ll be doubly upset that you ruined what up to that point had been a perfectly lovely occasion.

If you’ve already come out as a member of the GLBT community you may find that you’ve already gone through a similar process. As a matter of fact, these tips are adapted from a wonderful book by Mary Borhek called Coming Out To Parents: A Two-Way Survival Guide for Lesbians, Gay Men And Their Parents. It discusses holiday issues along with other family-related topics, and many of the book’s discussions about GLBT issues can also be applied to kink issues. If you or your parents (or your kids) are feeling family stress I recommend it highly (and the fact that I’m the author’s son has absolutely nothing to do with my recommendation).

Finally, remember that you have options and choices in the matter of how you’ll spend this holiday season. It doesn’t matter so much what other people think about how you celebrate the holiday. What matters is that it be uplifting and meaningful for you. That’s my holiday wish for all my readers—whatever holiday you celebrate and however you celebrate it.

Starting Jan. 3: Wednesday Evenings at The Tank

A new mid-week leather hangout: The Saloon’s leather bar, The Tank, will be open Wednesday evenings from 10 PM to 1 AM starting January 3, 2001 (the kitchen will be open 10-11:30 PM). The dress code will be “relaxed,” but there will be free pool for men in leather. (The Tank will still be open Sunday evenings as well.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, Dec. 15, 7:30 PM-closing: Wear your club colors to Club Colors Night at The Minneapolis Eagle.

Saturday, Dec. 16, noon-7 PM: Do your holiday shopping at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar at Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. In addition to various vendors there will be a silent auction benefiting the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest (to be held in January, 2001). $5 at the door; visit for more info.

Wednesday, Dec. 22, 10 PM-1 AM: Chris Steele, a leatherman’s fantasy, and legendary porn-film director Chi Chi LaRue will be making an appearance at The Saloon.

Wednesday, Dec. 27: The monthly TIES Munch starts at 7:30 pm, Legends Cafe, 825 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. Come hobnob with about 150 other kinky folks at the perfect after-Christmas social gathering. If you’ve just been visiting the relatives in the hinterlands and need to get back to reality, this should do it.

Friday, December 1, 2000

Walkin’ in a Winter Leatherland

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #144, December 1, 2000)

What is there for a leatherperson to do this winter? Plenty! This column was supposed to be a leather calendar for the next few months, but there’s so much going on that I only have room for December’s events. Here goes:

Sunday, Dec. 3: Start the holiday season on a high note with the Atons Holiday Fundraiser at The Saloon, December 3, 5-10 pm. This event is a benefit for The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts, and it will be huge! Last year the Atons raised over 700 lbs of non-perishable food items and $3,000 for The Aliveness Project and Every Penny Counts. At this year’s event, a silent auction (you can preview auction items at features over 50 choice items including an original signed and numbered Tom of Finland print, leather clothing, uniforms, books, posters, toys, and even—and I bet this sends some of you scurrying to your web browsers—some SantaBear and Department 56 Snow Village collectibles. Portfolio Studios will be taking photos with Leather Santa. Vince the leather barber will be doing haircuts, and a bootblack will be on duty. There will be door prizes, drink specials and free food, and even a spanking booth. Admission is an $8 donation at the door, or $5 with 2 lbs. of nonperishable food items or pennies and other change. (Penny donations will be challenge-matched by both The Tank and First National Bank of the Lakes up to $100 each.) For more information and a list of nonperishable food and personal items to donate, visit If you can’t attend the silent auction you can still bid on items in advance; e-mail for details.

You might want to precede the Atons Holiday Fundraiser with a visit to the Mall of America at 1 pm, where PrideAlive will be having their 3rd annual Hand Hold In. According to Sean Kurysh, PrideAlive’s community organizer, “Holding hands in the mall shouldn’t take courage . . . but it still does.” This event is for all genders, ages, couples and singles, and it would be great to see the leather community represented. Meet at the Mall of America, Upper East Side entrance, Level 4 (top floor of the mall), right across from—you guessed it—Hooters.

Monday, Dec. 4: Order tickets to the area premiere of “The Rocky Horror Show” live on stage at the Phoenix Theater. Director Tim Lee has issued a special invitation to the leather community, noting that leather is prominently featured in the show. (A bonus: Thanks to this show you don’t have to travel to New York City and try to score a ticket to “The Full Monty” if you want to see full frontal male nudity on stage.) The show runs through Dec. 17. Call for tickets.

Friday, Dec. 15: Wear your club colors to Club Colors Night, starting at 7:30 pm at The Minneapolis Eagle.

Saturday, Dec. 16: Do your holiday shopping at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar, noon to 7 pm at Club Metro Underground in St. Paul. In addition to various vendors there will be a silent auction benefiting the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather contest (to be held in January, 2001). Admission is $4 in advance or $5 at the door; visit for more info and a ticket order form.

Dec. 15, 16 and 17: For the holidays, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus presents “Making Spirits Bright,” their first concerts under new artistic director Dr. Stan Hill (who formerly directed the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus). Call for tickets. It should be noted that at least a few chorus members usually show up at The Minneapolis Eagle after a concert performance.

Tuesday, Dec. 19: Pride Alive, the queer men’s initiative at the Minnesota AIDS Project, presents another edition of my favorite Cafe Chat discussion/seminar: “Kink-O-Rama.” 7-9:30 pm at Dunn Bros., 329 W. 15th St. in Minneapolis. Register by calling Sean or e-mail

Wednesday, Dec. 27: The monthly TIES Munch starts at 7:30 pm, Legends Cafe, 825 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. Come hobnob with about 150 other kinky folks at the perfect after-Christmas social gathering. If you’ve just been visiting the relatives in the hinterlands and need to get back to reality, this should do it.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

See above.