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

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