Friday, September 21, 2001

Dispatches from the Future: The Leather Summer of ’28

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #165, September 21, 2001)

With autumn fast approaching it’s time for a look back at some of this summer’s leather activities. And what a summer it’s been! But with a kick-off event like the 50th International Mr. Leather (IML) contest, how could it not be? The event was held over Memorial Day weekend, as always. And for that weekend, Chicago’s McCormick Place became the world’s largest leather bar—filled to capacity with leatherfolk of all genders, ages and descriptions.

A capacity crowd jammed the McCormick Place auditorium to watch the contest, and estimates placed the number of viewers who watched the contest via the internet in the millions. The evening’s most unforgettable moment: first-ever IML titleholder David Kloss (all these years and he still looks good!) received a standing ovation from the crowd after reading the list of next year’s judges. New IML Lik Tinghe (from Antarctica—it’s only the second year they’ve sent a contestant) won’t be spending much time at home this year as he fulfills his titleholder duties.

In contrast to IML, which is firmly rooted in Chicago, the International Ms. Leather (IMsL) contest in recent years has never been in the same city twice in a row. This year they returned to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Mary Kay Khali, Ms. Leather Dakota, was chosen from a field of 64 contestants as the new International Ms. Leather. The last time they were there was back in 1999, and what a difference the intervening years have made! This year’s host resort was Las Vegas’ newest and kinkiest showplace, The Charenton. Named for the insane asylum where the Marquis de Sade spent his last years, it was a perfect backdrop for the weekend’s activities. Imagine—a hotel where every one of the 5,000 rooms is a fully-equipped dungeon. Only in Vegas, folks.

The excitement of IMsL had barely subsided when it was time for another competition of a different sort: the Summer Olympics, this year returning to Greece. Several new competitive events have been added this year; after much campaigning and lobbying by members of the leather community we will finally get to witness both Tag Team Fisting and Competitive Bullwhip. (Tag Team Fisting was first proposed as an Olympic event by a contestant in International Mr. Leather 2001—that’s how long it has taken to get that event added to the Olympic lineup.)

The leather/SM community also continued to influence the world of entertainment. Last year’s Broadway smash “Fantasy: The Musical,” an all-singing, all-dancing revue of breathtaking leather fantasy performances, is still packing them in (you’ll be lucky if you can get tickets for 2031). Building on the success of the musical, “Fantasy On Ice” has been touring major metropolitan ice arenas this summer, and from the crowds lining up at box offices across the land it looks like Disney has another winner. (But how they can skate and flog at the same time is beyond me—after the show in Minneapolis one of the cast members got me on the ice and I tried it, but even with his coaching I just couldn’t make it work.) By the way, plans are in the works to make “Fantasy: The Musical” the permanent show at The Charenton in Las Vegas.

And now, a look ahead: The Leather Summer of ’28 will officially close with another milestone, the 50th annual International Mr. Drummer contest. This year it finally returns to San Francisco (as the song says, right back where it started from) to be held in conjunction with the Folsom Street Fair—which outgrew Folsom Street years ago and now stretches along Market Street from downtown to the reclaimed and revitalized Castro. Drummer and Folsom in the same city on the same weekend—all’s right with the world again.

Romano-Blas takes Ms. World Leather title

PHOTO: Annie Romano-Blas and Mindy Chateauvert

PHOTO CREDIT: Marcus Hernandez

From a field of nine leatherwomen/activists Annie Romano-Blas was chosen the first-ever Ms. World Leather on September 2. Romano-Blas is a health advocate and is the domestic partner of former International Ms. Leather Jo Blas.

Runner-up honors went to Mindy Chateauvert, a college professor from the Washington D.C. area. The contest weekend was held in Dallas, TX. (Thanks to Marcus Hernandez, leather columnist for San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, for contest details and photograph.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Leather Fashion Show
Sunday, September 23 (doors open at 7PM, show starts at 8PM), Quest Nightclub
Featuring the work of designer Sean Doyle in his first-ever solo fashion show. Eye-popping leather fantasywear for women and the unveiling of the designer’s line for men. He also has some fun accessories that might appeal to anyone who’s into leather. General admission $10 at the door, VIP admission $25. For a preview visit

Friday, September 7, 2001

Woof! A Dog’s Life

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #164, September 7, 2001, special pet section)

It’s a charming scene: A dog and his master return from their evening walk. While the master sits in his easy chair by the fireplace, the dog dutifully fetches the master’s slippers. Then the dog lies down by the fire and lays his head on his master’s lap. His master lovingly pats the dog’s head and they both drift off to sleep. Next morning, his master fills the dog dish, the dog eats breakfast and then heads for his job as a corporate-events planner.

Welcome to the “dog play” or “puppy play” section of the leather/BDSM community, where studded leather collars and leashes take on whole new dimensions.

If the idea of getting into the role and headspace of a dog doesn’t suit you, pick another animal. Dog play is popular with gay men, and so is (what else?) pig play, while pony play is more popular with the pansexual BDSM community. Or maybe you’ve always been fascinated by unicorns—what would it feel like to be one?

If this all seems strange, consider that much of BDSM is built around role-playing and fantasy, of which animal play is just another flavor. It can be enjoyable to experience “a dog’s life” for awhile—nothing to do but nap, frolic on the lawn and just spend time being faithful and adorable. And there’s a shamanistic element for some animal players: what qualities does this animal want to teach them?

It should be noted that we are concerned with role-playing by consenting adult humans here, not with exploitation of real four-legged animals. Bestiality is never condoned or tolerated by the BDSM community because it violates the safe-sane-consensual rule (animals are by definition unable to give consent).

For more information visit, or just type “BDSM dog play” into your web search engine.

Even Daddies Need Daddies: Leather and Aging

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #164, September 7, 2001)

A question I constantly ask myself is “Why can’t the rest of the world be more like the leather community?” Today’s case in point: Age, aging, and ageism.

So much of the world today is obsessed with youth. General-audience fashion and entertainment revolve around images of people (models, actors, entertainers, musicians) in their teens or twenties—and those already youthful images have been retouched to make them look even younger and more perfect. A huge cosmetics industry has been built on “reducing the appearance of aging.” People want to deny aging, because they know that as they grow older they become less desirable and more disposable. But they grow older anyway, and they find themselves lusting after someone younger. Having a young, beautiful trophy wife (or husband) on their arm, they think, will say to the world that even though they’ve gotten older they still have what it takes. (That’s what they think; actually, they often suffer from the comparison.)

Unfortunately, a large segment of the gay male community mirrors this behavior. There are certain bars, coffeehouses and other gay gathering spots where “older” is defined as over age 35. At the other end of the scale are establishments snidely referred to as “wrinkle rooms,” hangouts frequented by primarily older gay men and visited by younger men only because they either want to find a sugar daddy or laugh at the—another unkind word here—“trolls.” The trophy wife concept is mirrored in the gay male community by the concept of the “kept boy,” whose sole function in life is to live at the gym and in the tanning booth in order to present a testament to his partner’s virility.

Members of the gay male leather community (and the bear community as well) tend to think differently about the whole concept of age, whether our own or someone else’s. A person’s age tends to be just another physical attribute like hair color or shoe size. We notice a person’s age, but we tend not to value or devalue them because of it. Instead, we as a community tend to celebrate all ages. We cherish our young men (some of whom call themselves “boys”) for their beauty, their energy, and their potential. But we also cherish our elders (some of whom call themselves “daddies”) for their history, their experience, their knowledge—and their beauty, energy and potential.

Visit any leather contest, or flip through a leather-themed calendar (from The Minneapolis Eagle, International Mr. Leather, or the South of Market Bare-Chest Calendar, for instance) and you’ll see hot men of all ages. Our community’s elders are anything but disposable, as evidenced by the popular t-shirt that reads “Even Daddies Need Daddies.”

Where else would other men realistically and respectfully consider a gay man of age 55, 65, or 75 to be beautiful, attractive, desirable, and sexy? Where else could that man have an image of himself as a beautiful, attractive, desirable and sexy man—and not worry he was delusional? Where else can a man of age 55 get together with a man of age 30 and not be called a chicken hawk? Where else can an older man pursue a younger man, or a younger man pursue an older man, and not set tongues wagging?

Something about the leather and bear communities encourages people to be real. It’s okay to look our age and to act our age, whatever that age is. That quality of “real” can be very sexy. Gray hair or beards can be sexy. Balding or shaved heads can be extremely sexy. On the other hand, bad toupees, comb-overs, obvious dye jobs and other attempted deceptions aren’t generally considered sexy. Trying to look 45 when you’re 60 isn’t real, and it isn’t pretty.

Maybe, for purposes of perpetuating the species, an obsession with youth used to make sense. If I was a man who wanted to keep my genes circulating in the gene pool, I would look for a young partner at the peak of her child-bearing years. Life spans used to be much shorter, so we would want to start having children right away, so we could raise them to adulthood before we died. (And if we lived on a farm we’d want to have a lot of kids because they could help with the chores.)

Well, it’s the twenty-first century. Life spans are longer, people are having kids later in life and families are smaller. Maybe, in another couple hundred years, society won’t be so obsessed with youth because it won’t need to be.

In the meantime, I am thankful that I belong to such a non-ageist community. What a gift it is, what a luxury, to be able to enjoy men of all ages, and to know that as I get older I will continue to be able to do so.