Friday, December 27, 2002

Whipping the Post

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #198, December 27, 2002)

The leather community can be rightfully proud of the fact that one of our most respected members, Jack McGeorge, is serving in Iraq as one of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) weapons inspectors on the team headed by Dr. Hans Blix. McGeorge is a take-charge, get-it-done kind of guy: co-founder and past president of Black Rose, a Washington, D.C.-area pansexual SM group; a founding officer of the Leather Leadership Conference (LLC); former board chairman of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF); and a frequent presenter of SM-related workshops. Cheers to McGeorge for being willing to serve humanity by undertaking such a strenuous and delicate task. (We will now sing a chorus of “We’re Everywhere.”)

Certainly, McGeorge was not chosen for the UNMOVIC team because of his contributions to the leather community (those qualifications will be discussed later), but he almost lost his spot on the UNMOVIC team because of those contributions. Yes, we’re everywhere, and thanks to a recent media circus started by The Washington Post and picked up by other media outlets, the whole world knows it whether or not it was any business of theirs.

The Post’s story started like this: “The United Nations launched perhaps its most important weapons inspections ever yesterday with a team that includes a 53-year-old Virginia man with no specialized scientific degree and a leadership role in sadomasochistic sex clubs.” The Post felt the story was important enough (sensational enough?) to put on Page One of the Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28, 2002) edition.

The story tried to raise several concerns about the weapons inspection process, among them charges that the current weapons inspection team lacks experience and qualification, and that inspectors with more experience and qualifications were passed over for political reasons. But approximately half the article focused on McGeorge, singling him out and either making his qualifications for the job seem weak or sensationalizing his leather/SM activities.

The article noted that McGeorge said he would tender his resignation to Blix if the Post printed a story about him: “I have been very upfront with people in the past about what I do, and it has never prevented me from getting a job or doing service. I am who I am. I am not ashamed of who I am—not one bit. But I cannot allow my actions, as they may be perceived by others, to damage an organization which has done nothing to deserve that damage.”

On Saturday, November 30—this time on page A18—the Post ran a follow-up story: “Inspector’s Resignation Rejected by U.N.’s Blix.” In the story Dr. Blix’s spokesman Ewen Buchanan was quoted as saying, “We are not aware of any grounds for his resignation, and Dr. Blix has not taken up his offer” to resign. This was followed by an entire paragraph detailing, yet again, McGeorge’s SM activities.

A subsequent paragraph reported that “Hua Jiang, deputy spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, was asked yesterday by reporters if McGeorge’s role as a leader in sadomasochistic sex clubs could be offensive to Muslims during the diplomatically sensitive mission in Iraq.” Her reply was that all the inspectors had been given training, including awareness of and sensitivity to “the local culture and religion.” The rest of the second story again raised issues and doubts about the inspection team’s composition and training.

Other media outlets also jumped on this golden opportunity to sensationalize and denigrate both the leather/SM community and the UNMOVIC inspections. The New York Daily News gleefully noted that “Harvey John (Jack) McGeorge also lacks a specialized university degree—although he was once honored with a ‘doctor of S&M arts and letters’ from ‘Leather University.’ ” The New York Post headlined its article “Saddamasochist” and noted “While it was unclear whether his experience in dominance and submission might be useful in probing Saddam’s arsenal, his group’s website listed a number of salty approaches for ‘coming on to the person you want to know.’ ” It called McGeorge “chubby” and his private life “peculiar.”

The same publication’s opinion columnist John Podhoretz likened the UNMOVIC team to the “Keystone Kops” and referred to Dr. Blix and the team as “Inspector Clouseau and his merry S&M band.” Even Pravda got into the act, saying “For inspectors like McGeorge all weapons of mass destruction boil down to a leather strap . . .” (Hmmm—now what is that supposed to mean? Maybe it loses something in the translation.)

CNN called on syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage (“Savage Love”) to explain SM to its viewers; Savage was able to impart some good information about safety, trust and negotiation before the interview degenerated into a discussion of other fetishes culminating in “people attracted to stuffed animals. Plushophiles, they’re called.”

The Washington Post got letters. On December 7, on page A23, a letter from Andrew R. Carruthers stated what should have been obvious to James V. Grimaldi, the writer of the original story, but evidently wasn’t: “. . . I cannot see a single iota of relevance in the decision to trumpet McGeorge’s sexual proclivities, no matter how distasteful they may seem, in such an article, let alone at the top of a Page One column.”

In another letter, Harvey Zar wrote: “I don’t see what Jack McGeorge’s interest in sadomasochistic sex has to do with his qualifications to be a weapons inspector . . . your paper never showed how this affected his professional performance. If McGeorge had been gay or a Scientologist, your paper likely would not have considered these private behaviors as appropriate criticisms of his background. Apparently, the United Nations doesn’t consider McGeorge’s private life as affecting its mission, either.”

Zar’s letter recalled “the last time Washington was obsessed with sexual conduct. While President Clinton claimed sex wasn’t sex and members of Congress pleaded ‘youthful indiscretion,’ al Qaeda was planning its attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.” He concluded: “We have more important matters at hand than the private conduct of consenting adults.”

On December 8, on page B06, Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler wrote:

A few dozen readers complained that McGeorge’s sexual activities and associations are irrelevant to his job performance and saw the story as an effort to discredit him because of those activities. “If Mr. McGeorge is unqualified, due to lack of experience or qualifications, then that is another matter. But to try to use his private life as an excuse for the article is reprehensible,” wrote one reader, reflecting a fairly common view. Eric Umansky, a media writer for the online magazine Slate, called it “gratuitous and sleazy. The Post should apologize . . . and get 40 lashes.”

Getler went on to note that for many reasons this story was not up to the Post’s usual journalistic standards.

McGeorge is a former Marine and Secret Service munitions specialist who since 1983 has been a security consultant in the field of chemical and biological weapons. According to the New York Daily News, “he has appeared many times on TV as an explosives expert, analyzing the Cole, Oklahoma City and Africa embassy bombings.” UNMOVIC spokesman Buchanan was quoted in the original Post article as saying “I believe that Mr. McGeorge is technically very competent. He knows his subject, which is weapons.” McGeorge himself was quoted in the same article: “I was a military ordnance explosive disposal specialist. I was very well trained on chemical and biological agents.”

A take-charge, get-it-done kind of guy with those professional credentials seems like exactly the type of person one would want as a weapons inspector in Iraq.

Friday, December 13, 2002

The Man in the Uniform

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #197, December 13, 2002)

I didn’t remember how I had gotten there, but I found myself in the waiting area of a large and very grand transportation terminal of some sort. I was sitting on a bench that was surprisingly comfortable, waiting for—I knew not what. I was dressed in my best leathers—boots, pants, shirt, vest and jacket, with my hat on the bench by my side—and, unusual for me, all the leather had been polished and shined to a fare-thee-well.

The crowd in the terminal was a random mix of people, but no one else who was waiting was wearing any leather at all—and I gradually became aware that the leather I was wearing was a source of amusement for some of my fellow travelers and a source of consternation for others. I overheard a man sitting across from me whisper somewhat too loudly to the woman next to him, “How did somebody like him get on this flight?” From the expression on my face he must have realized that I had overheard him; this caused him first to glare at me and then to quickly look away. Another man, a few seats away, also overheard him but didn’t bother whispering as he said to the woman sitting next to him, “Yeah, when did they start letting perverts into heaven?” She laughed and replied, “If they let people like that in, are we really sure we want to be there?”

I’m not sure which was more startling: the dawning of the realization that I was dead, or the fact that even here in the afterlife I was an object of disapproval and derision because I happened to be wearing leather.

As I was pondering this state of affairs, a man in a uniform walked up to the man who hadn’t bothered to whisper and asked, “Is there a problem here, sir?” The man pointed at me and said belligerently, “Yeah, there’s a problem—that guy over there! I’m not going to spend eternity with someone of his ilk!”

The man in the uniform smiled patiently and asked, “What ilk would that be, sir?”

At this point the man who had whispered joined the fray, but he was no longer whispering: “You know very well what he’s talking about! First, he’s obviously queer, and second, he’s one of those queers who think it’s fun to beat each other up! And he’s probably into all kinds of other immoral, weird, disgusting, filthy, vile—”

The man in the uniform interrupted him by asking, “If you can tell just by looking at him that he’s such an evil person, how do you think he got on the same flight as you?” The woman who was with the other man said, “That’s what we mean—we think there must have been some kind of mistake!”

The man in the uniform, realizing that he was dealing with more than one passenger with an objection, started addressing them all as he said, “There has been no mistake. I take it you all consider yourself Christians, am I correct?” Many heads nodded. “I thought so. Would you have the same objection if a follower of, say, Buddhism were sitting in your midst?” No one responded. “Is it right that someone should not be allowed on this flight just because you object to him? You realize, I’m sure, that there are many people in the world who hate people like you, who are convinced that all Christians are evil. They hate the Christian infidels so much that they believe they will achieve spiritual glory by killing them. If they objected to your presence on this flight, would that mean you should not be allowed to go?”

By this time I was wondering if I should just get up and leave, but suddenly the man in the uniform looked directly at me. It was almost as if he knew what I was thinking, and somehow his look communicated to me the message that I should stay, that everything would be all right. He continued speaking to the crowd: “Everyone who is waiting here has traveled their own path to get here. Some of you trod an easy path, while others of you had a more difficult journey. Yet all the paths have led in the end to the same destination. Although the spiritual path this man trod was different from yours, it was no less valid and no less effective for teaching him the things he needed to learn in his lifetime.”

I was surprised that the man in the uniform knew so much about me and my life. But he seemed to be explaining it perfectly, better than I could have explained it had I been called upon to defend myself.

He continued: “This man was part of a community that was and is much misunderstood in the world. The form of love they practice is often radical and not for the timid. But it most certainly is love! And if their methods are extreme, so too is the degree of love, learning, compassion, understanding and enlightenment they can achieve and experience. The disciplines he followed during his life allowed him to transcend barriers and taste a spiritual ecstasy that few others have tasted. He was ready for such ecstasy—he yearned for it—and therefore the means to achieve it were granted him.

“All that he experienced on his journey as part of that community has brought him here, one flight away from eternity. And he deserves as much as anyone here to make that flight.” Then, scanning the crowd, he continued, “If anyone here is not ready to get on the flight with this man, perhaps they’re not ready to make the flight at all.”

The air was tense, and it seemed to me that many in the crowd had not liked what they had just heard. But the man in the uniform didn’t seem to be bothered. He looked at his watch and then addressed me: “It’s just about time. Are you ready?”

Before I could answer the room suddenly grew blazingly bright, and the air was filled with what sounded at first like a chorus of angels—but which turned out to be only a Bach chorale, played through the shrill speaker of my clock radio.

*With apologies to C.S. Lewis.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Book Review: “The Soul Beneath the Skin” by David Nimmons

(Commentary by Bill Schlichting published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #196, November 29, 2002)

Gay Life: Maybe It Really Isn’t (Or Needn’t Be) What One Thinks It Is

By Bill Schlichting

Saturday night rolls around, and many gay men find themselves in gay bars, wanting connection, but dealing only with competition; in baths, seeking solace, but finding only sex; in clubs, seeking affection, but getting only attitude—or standing outside them all, wishing for inclusion, yet feeling excluded. For David Nimmons, this is a phenomenon that should not, and need not, be. And he is doing something about it. Nimmons has written a book, The Soul Beneath the Skin, that describes changes in the gay community that have occurred in the past thirty or so years, almost without notice, and how these changes can apply to and affect the lives of individual gay men.

The Soul Beneath the Skin has two parts. In the first eight of ten chapters, Nimmons looks beyond the shared, common, and, according to him, unwittingly adopted view of gay life, and presents a radically different interpretation of gay men and their habits. Nimmons argues that the prevailing view of gay life, held by gays as well as straights, obscures deeper and more important truths; he asserts that all of us, gay as well as straight, are not seeing “the soul beneath the skin.”

For Nimmons, the conventional caricature of gay life as one-dimensional, body-obsessed, shallow, sexually profligate, powered by consumerism, with cultural values of competition, isolation, narcissism, and hedonism, and practices that discourage true intimacy is profoundly incomplete, inaccurate, and grossly misleading. He asserts that a careful reading of the facts supports a far different conclusion. Nimmons then details how gay men are crafting powerful changes around bliss and ecstasy, gender roles and sexuality, intimacy, friendship and communalism. He finds that this cultural experimentation has been little recognized, either by gay men themselves or society as a whole. He asserts that much empirical evidence suggests that self-identified gay men are engaged in a striking range of cultural innovations and social practices that present a picture far different from the prevailing one.

Nimmons describes and discusses these cultural innovations and social practices. He finds that levels of public violence in gay venues are vastly lower than those in non-gay ones; that gay men volunteer more often, demonstrating higher levels of altruism and service quite distinct from other men; that patterns of intimacy and interpersonal connectedness of gay men are taking new forms; that gay men are redefining gender relations in powerful and novel ways; that gay men have distinctive patterns of caretaking in sexual and communal realms; that gay men are enacting new definitions of public and private, family and friends, and transforming relations of pleasure, community, and authority; and that gay men are pioneering a wide range of untried intimate relationships, with new forms, rituals and language.

In doing this, Nimmons cites a growing body of evidence from public health and epidemiological studies, sociological and psychological inquiry, marketing and public opinion surveys, anthropological texts, and ethnographic studies, as well as personal stories. This evidence, according to Nimmons, powerfully contradicts the generally-accepted version of gay males’ lives. Due to its volume, the discussion becomes, at times, almost drudging. But keep reading, if you can—it will in the end be worth the effort.

In the last two chapters of The Soul Beneath the Skin, Nimmons addresses how these radical cultural innovations and social practices occurring in the community of gay men as a whole affect and apply to the lives of individual gay men. Nimmons acknowledges that the actual collective patterns and practices of the gay community may be, and in many cases are, so detached from individual lives and experiences that an individual may see no gay world he knows in the culture and society described in the first part of the book. Nimmons admits that too often individual gay men “participate in a set of public practices that, if anything, work to extinguish those very values of love, care, compassion, and kindness” that they value and, as a result, are “left hungry for intimacy.”

The paradox is, if the gay community really is such a caring community, why have gay men built a public culture that smothers the very ideals they value and seek?

Nimmons responds as follows: He notes that gay men have already rewritten the rules in enormous and sweeping ways. He writes: “Nobody handed us the queer lives we enjoy. We hewed them from the hard rock of a homophobic world.” He suggests that now is the time for a new kind of work. He writes: “(G)ay men’s truly radical act is no longer simply to claim our sexuality, but to reclaim our hearts within it.” The challenge now is to dismantle one set of givens, all the more potent because gay men themselves have created them, and replace them with another. He writes: “As gay men built our culture, we can reshape it.”

Nimmons asserts that “(w)e can shift the discourses around beauty and body; channel new archetypes, create new language, and adopt new habits and rituals.” “We can remind ourselves, in word and deed, of some truths we have long known, but often forgotten.” All the truth-telling is just preparation for work in the real world. The next step is to subvert cynicism and manifest love.

This brings Nimmons to Manifest Love, a project founded by Nimmons that “exists to help gay men find new ways to be with and for each other.” It invites a variety of gay men “to create a new kind of world together, one that better reflects (their) best values and aspirations.” It seeks to foster “a more critical understanding of (recent) cultural innovations . . . and to find concrete ways to manifest sustaining values of (gay) communities.”

A key focus of Manifest Love is “creating individual and collective acts to help (gay men) reflect, experience, and practice values of care and nurture in new ways.” These “loving disturbances” are “innovations and experiments in applied affection;” they are “concrete real-world experiments devised to nudge the patterns and practices of gay lives into more affirming and humane directions.” (Readers of Lavender were introduced to Nimmons and Manifest Love in the March 23, 2001, and May 4, 2001, issues of the magazine.)

The Soul Beneath the Skin is both a clearing away of myths and misinformation about the gay community, and a call to act to bring these transformations to the lives of individual gay men. This book describes a part of a heritage of gay men of which many may not be aware; it provides a basis and foundation, and encouragement, for those who find public gay life other than what they would like, and would like to change it; it shows that the lives of self-identified gay men are not what they often are assumed to be, and that public gay life need not be what it often feels like and appears to be.

Copyright © 2002 by William H. Schlichting

Lessons From a Scene Gone Wrong

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #196, November 29, 2002)

An unfortunate leather/BDSM-related tragedy that happened recently in St. Paul has become national news, and in the process has cast both the local and national leather/BDSM community in a very unflattering light.

Here’s what we know: Maceo Brodnax, who lived in West Hollywood, Calif., is dead. St. Paul resident Steven Bailey, a/k/a “The True Master” (his internet handle), is in police custody, charged with second-degree manslaughter in Brodnax’s death. Bailey is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine, or both.

Here’s a condensed version of what apparently led to this outcome: Bailey and Brodnax hooked up over the internet, and on Nov. 2 Brodnax traveled from West Hollywood to Bailey’s apartment in St. Paul. He apparently died there that same day, but Bailey waited several days before trying to dispose of the body. According to a St. Paul Police report, on Nov. 6 at 3:17 AM officers responding to a report of “suspicious activities” found Bailey trying to load Brodnax’s body into his car so he could “dispose of the body in the river.”

The police report states that Bailey originally told police that he and Brodnax “had gotten together to engage in strangulation sex,” but Brodnax had begun to choke him too hard and he then struck Brodnax with an ashtray. When autopsy reports cast doubt on this cause of death, Bailey “admitted he had fabricated his earlier accounting of the incident.” He then said that as part of their activities he had put a gas mask on Brodnax and covered the end of the mask with a plastic bag containing a rag soaked in chloroform. At this point, again from the police report, “the phone rang and he must have lost track of time”. When he realized Brodnax was no longer breathing “he ran back into the bedroom and took the mask off and tried to revive” Brodnax to no avail.

This official recounting of the tragic tale of Brodnax and Bailey raises many questions, to most of which we will probably never know the answers. To anyone at all familiar with the leather/BDSM community the situation as reported presents several “red flags”—elements of the story that make no sense. I was unsuccessful in my attempts to arrange an interview with Bailey for this column, but if I could have talked to him these are a few of the questions I would have asked him:

• How can a top “lose track of time” talking on the phone while a sub is in the next room in a chloroform-filled gas mask? Why would anyone even answer the phone in such circumstances? Why would anyone leave the sub and go to the next room?

• If one’s own efforts at reviving someone failed, why wasn’t 911 called?

• Why wait several days before attempting to dispose of the body? And why, in the middle of a major metropolitan area, would anyone think they could haul a body out to a car at 3 AM without attracting attention?

Since this story came to light I have heard many theories and scenarios trying to explain what went on, and especially the seemingly nonsensical elements, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to recount them here. At this writing they must be regarded at best as only speculation—we’ll probably never know exactly what happened or why, or who’s to blame for what. Maybe more information will come to light during Bailey’s trial, and then more conclusions can be properly drawn. Or maybe not.

That said, what can the rest of us learn from this tragic turn of events? Plenty. For starters, remember that edgeplay is risky. (SM is risky. Sex is risky. Life is risky. But I digress.) If you’re an edgeplayer, the risk is one of the things that makes it exciting and stimulating. Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes accidents happen. Usually by accepting that risk one acknowledges that something unpleasant might eventually happen, and one therefore needs to prepares as best one can to deal with it when it happens.

If your definition of edgeplay is “whatever I think is too risky,” that’s an example of YKINOK (Your Kink Is Not OK) thinking, and it’s an attitude that is not helpful to anyone. Remember that something you enjoy might be someone else’s idea of edgeplay. Much of the media seems to think that anything beyond the missionary position qualifies as edgeplay and is having a field day using this story as a bludgeon against kink in general.

A lesson we can draw from Bailey’s plight is to realize that what happened to him could happen to almost anyone. Edgeplay scenes can go wrong. So can less-extreme SM activities. So can vanilla sex, for that matter. What happens if you bring a trick home who subsequently has a heart attack or a stroke? No matter what the emergency, it’s good to be prepared to deal with it by thinking about the possibilities and planning for them beforehand:

• Have appropriate safety equipment available (condoms, gloves, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, bolt cutters, whatever the scene calls for) and a working phone. Another safety idea: MSDB periodically sponsors kink-friendly CPR/first-aid courses; visit their website at for more information.

• Don’t play either top or bottom while angry, under the influence of substances, or when your judgment is otherwise impaired.

• If something goes wrong, don’t panic—panic will keep you from dealing with the situation effectively. Remain calm, stop the action immediately and deal with the problem.

• Don’t be afraid to call 911—someone’s life may depend on your making that call.

Tops, remember that you are responsible for your bottom’s safety. If something goes wrong the bottom might suffer physical, mental or emotional consequences—but most likely you will suffer any legal consequences.

We can also draw a lesson or two from Brodnax’s fate. Foremost among those lessons would probably be the value of getting to know people in your local community (through whom you can check the background and references of potential play partners) and the value of caution when meeting people over the internet (where checking references is not as easy—you can still ask for references, but how does one check the references’ references?).

A good scene starts with trust between the partners, but trust takes time to develop. Meeting someone for the first time and “trusting them immediately” is naive at best and dangerously delusional at worst.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, especially in an unfamiliar place or another city, don’t meet them alone. If that’s not practical, set up a “safe-call” buddy system—bring a cell phone with you and check in with your buddy at pre-assigned times to let them know you’re okay and how things are progressing. Any resistance to this idea from the person you’re meeting should trigger major warning sirens about their trustworthiness. (For more information about safe-calls visit

Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t—walk away rather than risk further involvement. If you’re already in a bad situation, get out of it by any means necessary. Do whatever you need to do. Remember these ultimate safewords: “NO!”, “HELP!” and “9-1-1!”, screamed at the top of your lungs if necessary.

Friday, November 15, 2002

What to do If the Cops Show Up

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #195, November 15, 2002)

Suppose you’re attending a dungeon party. Suppose you’re in the middle of heated action and there’s a knock on the door. It’s the police. What do you do?

Now suppose you’re the host of said dungeon party. What do you do?

Or suppose the party is being hosted by an organization of which you are a member, or even of which you are the leader. What do you do?

In all three of the above scenarios, your preparations need to start long before the police ever arrive. Actually, there are steps that organizations, private hosts and partygoers can take that will minimize the possibility that the authorities show up. If (in spite of everyone’s best efforts) the police pay a call anyway, there are things that can be done that might defuse the situation before it spirals out of control.

This information comes to you from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). Disclaimer: Neither NCSF nor your humble columnist is in the business of presenting legal advice. These are common-sense guidelines. Every situation is different. Your mileage may vary.

Whether hosting a party or attending one, one of the first things to consider is the question of how likely it is that this party will attract the attention of the authorities. What will be happening at the party? A grope/orgy room in the basement? BDSM activities in a dungeon? Is the BDSM “non-sexual” or might it include sex? Is the party all-male, women only or mixed-gender? It is unfortunate but true that certain activities and certain groups of people are of less concern to the authorities than certain other activities and groups of people.

Imagine you’re a police officer. You know about as much as the average citizen knows about sex parties or BDSM activities. Your police department has probably not given you training in these areas.

As an individual officer you might take action against activities you find at these types of events for any number of reasons: You might perceive the actions as illegal; there might be peer pressure from other officers; you may be afraid not to do something in the situation (CYA, in other words); or you just might not like someone’s attitude and feel like teaching them a lesson. Your police agency might encourage or direct you to take action against these kinds of activities for all the above reasons and/or for the added reasons of politics (internal or external) and community pressure. That’s some of what’s motivating the officer who knocks on your door.

Here are some ways to minimize the chance of that officer paying a visit Some don’ts: Perhaps no alcohol. Definitely no illegal substances. Definitely no minors. No money should change hands at the door—that looks too much like “sexual services” for compensation. Either let it be a free party, use a true donation system, or pre-register attendees in advance.

There’s a formidable amount of legal research that should be done beforehand, including applicable state and local laws, local permit rules, zoning ordinances and fire codes. Don’t allow occupancy by more than the legal number and don’t block fire exits. (You might also want to consider the matter of insurance coverage for the event.)

Don’t draw unwanted attention. Advertising and invitations must be targeted and discreet. Respect the neighborhood: Partygoers should not park illegally, should be wearing street-legal attire to and from the party, should not litter and should obey all local smoking ordinances. Too much noise or any public displays of activities that the neighbors might find offensive are sure ways to get the cops on your doorstep.

The entry to the party must be a defined area that is visually separated from the various activity areas, and there should no sex, BDSM activities or socializing in the entry area. There should be designated door personnel who should admit only people who have been invited to the party. As guests arrive they should be asked to sign a “Waiver of Liability” or “Assignment of Risk.” A sign in the entryway and a statement on the sign-in sheet should inform guests of the nature of the party; this demonstrates that all guests had “informed consent” as to just what kind of party this is.

These preparations will pay off if, in spite of all your precautions, the party is visited by the authorities. If that happens, one of the designated door attendants should go outside, close the door and ask if they can be of assistance. Try to resolve the issue there. If the officer wants to gain entry, the door attendant should politely advise them that they do not have the authority to grant entry and that they will go get a person who does. They should then leave the officer outside while getting the host, property owner, rentor, lessor or organization member in charge. That person should then go outside and talk to the officer, again trying to resolve the matter there.

All this time, of course, word should be spread to the rest of the party so guests can compose themselves. Stop the action, clean up and get dressed as soon as possible.

You do not have to allow a “consent search” or a “voluntary entry.” However, if the officer does not want to wait and decides to enter without permission, do not block the officer’s entry. (That would be called “obstruction of justice.”) Voice your objection and stand aside.

In dealing with law enforcement officials, the following tips are taken from a “Pocket Reference” card provided by the NCSF. They are important for anyone to remember, and not just at parties:

In dealing with officers:

• DO stay calm.

• DO be respectful, polite and courteous.

• DO use your common sense.

• DON’T have a “bad attitude.”

Statements and Communication:

• You have the right not to make statements.

• You have the right not to incriminate yourself.

• Be honest in whatever you decide to say.

• Use simply language, clear and easy to understand. (You don’t want to come across as speaking down to them.)


• In cases of interrupted BDSM play where the officer suspects abuse, volunteer to have your partner talk to the police to reinforce the consensual nature of the action.

• Transport toys in a secure location and in the trunk of the vehicle. Do not consent to a search.

• Keep in mind those things that demonstrate that consensual SM is different from abuse.

And finally, although I sincerely hope you never need to use this piece of advice:

• If you are arrested, do NOT make any statements, and ask for an attorney.

NCSF has much more information available on this topic. Contact them at National Coalition for Sexual Freedom/Law Enforcement Outreach Program, (301) 585-7820 or

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

MSDB Bizarre Bazaar
Saturday, November 16, 11AM-6PM
Location change: Moose On Monroe, 356 Monroe St. NE, Minneapolis (call for directions)
Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds (MSDB) presents its 3rd annual fetish holiday shopping experience: fetish/leather, books, piercing jewelry, portrait photographer, tarot readings, and live entertainment by Psychic Slutz. $3 in advance, $5 at the door; advance tickets available at Dreamhaven Books, Deluxe Piercing, or at

Friday, November 1, 2002

The Next Generation of Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #194, November 1, 2002)

Leather, like almost every other community these days, has to deal with a generation gap. Our version is called Old Guard vs. New Guard, and it can make the routine battles of parents and teenagers look like high tea. Here is a brief snippet of typical dialogue—or rather, two monologues—from the two camps:

Old Guard: New Guard, you say you’re the future of leather? Boy, are we in trouble! You’re undisciplined, you’re disrespectful, you’re slovenly! You think you know everything, but take it from me—you know nothing! You’re hopeless! Why should I waste my time trying to whip you into shape—so to speak—when you show absolutely no interest in shaping up, getting your act together, and doing it right?

New Guard: Old Guard, you’re an old fogey! You’re still fighting World War II, or at least Vietnam! The world has changed, but you haven’t! People don’t go for all that hierarchy and discipline stuff any more, and most of your vaunted protocols are just so tired! Why would I want to play those games? Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I want to be your apprentice for the next 20 years! What do you have to teach me anyway? Who said your way was the only right way? Who made you leather god?

It didn’t used to be like this. For the first several decades of the leather community’s existence there was no Old Guard vs. New Guard. Those expressing an interest in leather were mentored by those already in the community; in this way the community’s knowledge, traditions and values were passed down from generation to generation. The AIDS epidemic destroyed this system of mentoring, as described by noted leather author and International Mr. Leather 1989 Guy Baldwin in a recent speech:

“. . . the old leather tribal elders . . . became distracted by the need to help care for their own brothers who were suddenly fighting for their lives, and all too often, losing the battles . . . the tribal elders simply no longer had the time or the emotional energy necessary to focus on bringing new ‘children’ into the fold. And just as in any culture, whenever elders can’t make time for their children, those elders become irrelevant as children strike out on their own to explore their interests . . . whatever they happen to be.”

So that’s the problem. What do we do about it? Here’s a starting suggestion: You know all the advice and cliches about parenting and raising children that you’ve heard over the years? Some of us who didn’t have kids thought we could safely ignore them. But—guess what—they apply now, to our community. The elders are parenting the community, and the next generation represents their leather offspring. They don’t call them Daddies for nothing.

So, what do leather parents need to know? First let me say that your humble columnist writing about parenting is like a priest offering marriage counseling. So I am indebted to Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People for this bit of parenting wisdom:

“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children—one is roots, the other wings.”

Ponder that for a moment. Let it sink in.

We can give the next generation of leather roots by remembering, respecting and honoring our leather traditions and those in leather who have gone before us. The Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago is so important because it’s all about roots. So is the heritage of leather clubs. We also give the next generation of leather roots through education that goes beyond mere technique—by modeling and sharing our community’s heart, soul and values. There’s more to BDSM than just technique, and there’s more to Leather than just BDSM.

Because of the huge hole left in the community’s structure by AIDS, the New Guard felt it was in the position of having to reinvent the wheel. A sense of roots lets the next generation of leather know the who and the how and the why of the community, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel—they just have to update it.

We give the next generation of leather wings by giving them freedom—by letting them update that wheel. They’re not us. They will do things differently, and their leather community will reflect them, just as today’s leather community is a reflection of us.

We can’t know what the future holds—who could have seen AIDS coming? But we do know one thing the future holds: change. I’ve seen leather change since I started writing this column in 1995, and it will continue to change and evolve. It won’t stay the same. If we try to keep it the same—if we don’t let it change—it will die. We will kill it.

As we pass the leather torch to the next generation, we can’t tie their hands—so to speak—by saying, “Here, we bequeath this to you—but you must always do it like this.” What kind of estate planning is that? Besides, we won’t be around to check up on whether they’re doing it “right.” All we can really do is to foster a next generation who understands leather, respects it, cherishes it, and is smart enough to make good decisions about its evolution.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather & Levi Dining Out
Saturday, November 9, Cocktails at 7PM/Dinner at 7:30PM
McCormick & Schmick’s, 800 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Presented by the Atons of Minneapolis, open to all. Please call the Atons HotLine for more information or to make reservations.

Atons Beer Bust: Harness Your Tom (Turkey)
Sunday, November 10, 6-10PM, The Tank (Saloon)
Learn the ABC’s of flogging at the Atons’ monthly $5 beer bust. Demonstrations and door prizes. Tank dress code enforced.

MSDB Bizarre Bazaar
Saturday, November 16, 11AM-5PM
2700 Winter St. NE (off Industrial Blvd.), Minneapolis
Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds (MSDB) presents a fetish holiday shopping experience: fetish/leather, books, massage, piercings, portrait photographer, tarot readings, petting zoo with live animals (not for the kids—wink wink nudge nudge). Live entertainment by Psychic Slutz. $5 in advance, $6 at the door; advance tickets available at Dreamhaven Books, at or MSDB, Minneapolis, MN.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Interview with Stephen Weber, International Mr. Leather 2002, Part 2

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #193, October 18, 2002)

(Continued from Lavender Issue 192)

International Mr. Leather 2002 Stephen Weber lost weight, got in shape—and then got angry. We talked about that anger and how it shaped his time as Mr. Texas Leather, and continues to influence his IML title year.

Shortly after I won Mr. Texas Leather 2002 I started getting invitations to things—sometimes they would be play parties, sometimes they would just be events in the gay and lesbian community—that [prior to losing the weight], I had even e-mailed people asking for admission, or asking what could I do to help, or simple things like that, and was turned away. I know that at least with some of those events I was turned away largely because of how I looked. So then I started to get very angry, and that gave me that burning platform that I really needed, I felt, to make a difference at IML. A lot of people don’t know, I grew up on the Navaho Indian reservation. So I had fought discrimination for a long time, because I was a white man on a Navajo Indian reservation and was a minority at my high school.

Are you comfortable with my asking what your racial mix is?

It’s interesting that you ask, because I did not know what race I really was until after I left high school. I’ll answer that in just a second. I do look like the proverbial white man. And my high school was 76% Navajo Native American Indian, so you can imagine on the reservation there’s a lot of prejudice that comes along with that.

So anyway, I went off to college, and then we learned of my family lineage—we found out that I’m actually Cherokee Indian and German, but really more Cherokee than I am German. So then I find out I’m Native American, and registered on the Bureau of Indian Affairs technically as minority. Well, word got out on that, and now I have some of my white friends discriminating against me, saying “Oh, you’re an Indian.” I had that going on, plus I was wrestling with the fact that I was a heavy guy. I just wanted to hide.

Anyway, I started getting very angry as I was mentioning before about the fact that I was getting invited to different events. Also, I would go out and guys would be interested in me that before wouldn’t give me a second look. Some of them I had even tried to talk to before, and they just wouldn’t give me the time of day. And it really started to make me angry. Yes, I was flattered, and I was like, well, this is really nice, now they’re interested in me. But then I would stop and think: I’m the same guy that I was last year when I was eighty pounds heavier—the only thing different is me physically. I have the same heart, I have the same mind.

So that became a message that I want to share with as many people as I possibly can, specifically in our own closed community. By that I mean GLBT community as well as the BDSM community—because as open as we say we are, what I’m finding is that we are the most critical of each other. We discriminate against each other all the time. Sometimes perceived heavy people or perceived very thin people don’t get opportunities that the good looking, in-shape person might get. And when you take an opportunity away from somebody because of that, it pisses me off, it makes me very angry.

Some people think you have to be this Adonis to be donning your leather, or to be a hit in a leather bar. It’s not a place for heavy people, it’s not a place for thin people, it’s not a place for women, it’s not a place for minorities. Or any other prejudice that people might have, whether it’s age or race or whatever it is.

As a community we strive so hard to gain acceptance and be noticed in the general public’s eye, in the vanilla crowd, but my feeling is that as long as we have this infection or this—it’s a strong word to use, but this disease within our own community, that we discriminate against each other, how are we ever going to present any kind of a unified front to anybody? We’re not believable. It’s so hypocritical.

We’re all different, and we should be different because it would be awfully boring if we were all the same. But there’s so much out there that each of us has to offer that people need to open their eyes and give other people a chance.

So I used that as my platform for IML, and that’s one of the main reasons I ran for IML. I said, if I can go out and win IML, and use that platform to put myself in a situation where I otherwise might not be able to be, and then I can use that opportunity to make a change in even one person’s life—then I’ve done my job. Then, in my own mind, I’ll have been a successful IML.

Friday, October 4, 2002

Interview with Stephen Weber, International Mr. Leather 2002, Part 1

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #192, October 4, 2002)

Stephen Weber’s speech at this year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) contest started with the words “Have you ever lost something?” In his case, it was 80 pounds. Even before winning the International Mr. Leather 2002 title, that dramatic physical transformation made him a role model for other folks who want to slim down (including your humble columnist). So when I had the chance to interview Weber recently, that was where the conversation started.

Let’s start at the beginning of your journey as a titleholder: Before winning the International Mr. Leather contest this year you were Mr. Texas Leather 2002—why did you enter that contest?

Well, I was about 280 pounds and had just tried to put on a pair of jeans and it was a 40 waist, and I decided that was unacceptable at 35 years old. So I decided to lose weight. I’d been out in the European leather community for several years, and one of the objectives that I wrote down when I started losing the weight was that I wanted to enter a leather contest. And the reason is, entering a contest would be an indication that I had enough confidence in myself to get up in front of a group of people without my shirt on. It was as simple as that. I had never been in front of a group of people—or never been in front of anyone—without my shirt, not even at the swimming pool or anything.

You wore your shirt at the swimming pool?

I would. I was that self-conscious about my weight.

Were you heavy as a kid too?

I felt that I was, and it’s one of those things that if you feel you are, you are—perception is reality. My whole family has a history of weight issues, which was something that my mother would always caution me about, and it got really out of hand. I tried to keep it in check for a long time, but then I got married. And during my marriage I stopped working out so I started to really gain weight, and it was after I was divorced that I found myself at 280 pounds.

Actually, there were a couple of reasons for losing the weight. I was starting to have some very severe lower-back problems, and I was also having a lot of other health problems. My mother had just recently had a stroke, which took a lot of her speech and the use of her right hand. I looked at my father, who had just retired and was in great health, and I thought about my parents having to survive on their own—if I didn’t keep myself healthy I was not going to be around to help them. And if something were to happen to me I knew they would be devastated.

When I told people that I was going to be losing weight, I wanted to make sure they knew the whole story. I told them I’m not doing this because I wanna be thin and I wanna be pretty—that wasn’t the point at all. The reason I was doing it was because I was so uncomfortable because I had gotten so heavy that I had health problems, and guess what, I wanted to be around to take care of my mom and dad.

So anyway, I started losing weight, getting physically fit, working with weights, that sort of thing. At the time I was living in Austin [Texas], and my goal was as simple as running for Mr. Chain Drive [an Austin-area leather bar]. Well, I had shared that goal of entering a leather contest with a lot of people, and as I was losing the weight people started to take notice and say things like, “Oh, we think you could probably do really well in one of the bigger leather contests.”

Then shortly after I lost all the weight I went to IML 2001 and got a lot of notice, a lot of comments. I had people pull me aside to do photo shoots. I did several photo shoots at IML—fully clothed—and that, to me, was another sign that, okay, I guess I’ve made enough progress that I can run for a bigger contest. So that’s why I decided to run for Mr. Texas Leather instead of Mr. Chain Drive.

What’s your image of your body now? Do you still think of yourself as fat? Are you surprised when you look in the mirror, or have you adjusted?

I still think of myself as a heavy person. I constantly strive to get better and to work on my body. A lot of it now is just—have you heard about the Adonis complex? Maybe I’m a victim of that, where now I just strive for that perfection of the body, and I don’t think I will ever achieve it, but I have to keep working at it.

And people come up to me very frequently now, and they just kinda go off on how I look, or they woof, stuff like that. And I just—

Do the woofs take you by surprise sometimes?

They do. Even now they do. I’m just not used to it yet.

(This interview will continue in the next issue of Lavender, when I’ll talk with Weber about how his experiences following his dramatic physical transformation shaped his time as Mr. Texas Leather, and continue to influence the themes of his IML title year.)

Friday, September 20, 2002

Motorcycles and Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #191, September 20, 2002)

Why do motorcycles have such a hold on the imagination of the leather tribe? Why did last year’s International Mr. Drummer contestants make their entrances on bikes? Why are the Dykes on Bikes such crowd-pleasers at Pride parades? Because motorcycles are butch—they are probably the butchest form of transportation available to the average person without access to a tank, Stealth bomber or Humvee.

A romance (a very butch romance, mind you) is connected with the image of bikes, bikers and biker culture that was a seminal influence on the early leather scene (and that continues to influence leather culture to this day).

In post-WWII America, bikers were gangs of modern-day cowboys on their internal-combustion-powered stallions following the lure of the open road, independent souls who lived life as they pleased, adventurous rebels who followed their own rules rather than conform to society’s norms.

That reputation was splashed all over the silver screen in 1954 when Marlon Brando appeared in The Wild Ones wearing black leather and leading a motorcycle gang that terrorized a small town. The gang/rogue imagery was a bit intimidating and off-putting to most Americans.

This reaction was so pervasive at the time that motorcycle sales suffered as a result. Honda tried to counter that image by running ads full of clean-scrubbed, Ivy-League riders and non-threatening, upbeat Beach Boys-style voices singing “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

Homosexual men returning from military service in World War II, however, embraced the rebel image—which fit their feelings of being rebels and outcasts from the rest of society. They used this image to build their own culture.

Gay male leather clubs like The Atons and The Black Guard in the Twin Cities grew out of gay motorcycle clubs like The Satyrs, founded in Los Angeles in 1954 and now the oldest continuously operating gay organization in the country. (News flash: a gay motorcycle club has formed in the Twin Cities—see below for details.)

Although most of heterosexual society was too polite to mention it, or was perhaps too repressed to even notice, the erotic appeal of bikes and bikers was not lost on gay men. The image of the biker represented masculinity and power (“My, look at that big powerful machine between your legs!”). A biker’s chaps were a perfect frame for interesting areas of the body both fore and aft. The experience of riding with a buddy, holding on to him or having him hold on to you, was a permissible public intimacy. One attraction of a bike couldn’t really be seen but could certainly be felt: the vibration of the engine on the areas framed by the chaps.

When I was just getting into leather, one of the most impressive sights I remember seeing on a visit to San Francisco was the long row of bikes parked outside the San Francisco Eagle. At closing time I stood in front of the bar and watched as each bike was mounted (notice the imagery) by one or maybe two men who proceeded to ride off into the night. The image fascinated me then and still fascinates me today.

No matter how fascinating motorcycles are, though, there’s no escaping the fact that they are not always the most practical method of transportation. One almost has to be something of a rebel and an outlaw, or at least stubborn, to ride a machine that has so many disadvantages.

Downside: Motorcycles are not cheap transportation—the bike itself can cost as much as a car, and then there are the accessories: helmet, saddlebags, and all that leather riding apparel. If you want cheap transportation, buy a used Hyundai. Upside: Bikes are cheap to operate, although few Americans riders care. In Europe people ride motorcycles or motor scooters because the streets are narrow and gasoline is much more expensive. In America, land of wide-open spaces and relatively cheap gasoline, those aren’t major considerations.

Downside: Motorycles offer no heating, no air conditioning and no weather shielding. That makes them spectacularly unsuited for places like Minnesota, where good days for riding are vastly outnumbered by bad ones. Winter is too cold and icy, and black leather can get awfully hot and sticky on a sweltering summer day. If it happens to rain while you’re riding, you have a choice: duck under a freeway overpass and get out the rain poncho (which is even hotter and more stifling than your riding leathers), or keep going and get soaking wet. Possible erotic upside: If the leathers, and you, are rain-soaked (or perhaps better yet, sweat-soaked) when you get home, perhaps there’s someone waiting there who will sensuously peel all that wet leather and other clothing off you.

Downside: A motorcycle actually produces more exhaust emissions than a car—if you really want to be environmentally friendly, ride a bicycle. Upside: Because there are so relatively few motorcycles on the road, the total emissions produced by motorcycles are basically insignificant in the overall air-pollution picture. Currently the government is more concerned with emissions from power lawn equipment and outboard motors.

Downside: Motorcycles obviously aren’t as safe as automobiles. Riding leathers and helmets offer some protection, but in a contest between the driver of a car (or an SUV or an eighteen-wheeler) and a motorcyclist, guess who’s going to get hurt worse? Upside: Of course, in some cases that very danger is part of the excitement and thrill of riding; in that sense, cycles can be looked at as another form of edge play.

Automobiles and motorcycles have been around for about the same length of time, but there are practical advantages to automobiles that have allowed them to become the basic form of personal transportation in this country. Motorcycles, meanwhile, are transportation that’s anything but basic. They’re fun, and they make any journey an adventure. Oh, and—did I already say this?—they’re butch, too.

Twin City Riders, a New Gay Motorcycle Club

A new gay motorcycle club called Twin City Riders is in the process of forming. They currently have five members and three bikes, and are looking for more of both. If you’re interested, e-mail

Friday, September 6, 2002

Bears Come Out of Hibernation at Trikkx

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #190, September 6, 2002)

It’s the Fourth Friday of the month, and that means it’s time for the North Country Bears’ monthly Bar Night at Trikkx in St. Paul. Officially things start at 7 PM, but by then the place is already reasonably full. People keep filtering in all evening, and by 8:30 the place is packed with both bears (masculine men with facial and/or body hair) and guys who aren’t bears themselves but who like their men masculine and furry. Average monthly attendance is 150.

The atmosphere is laid-back and mellow rather than boisterous. The noise level is low enough that conversation is actually possible, and the banter among the men is easy-going, friendly and familiar. There’s a pleasant lack of competitiveness and attitude. The pool table is busy all evening. There’s surprisingly little smoke in the air. For five dollars you get all the beer or soda you can drink, but the evening will end without anyone getting loud or obnoxious. The Trikkx kitchen is open and food is available; I order a burger and settle down to watch the action.

Trikkx owner Molly Kauffman is on hand looking relaxed and happy, glad to see that her guests are having a good time. She says of the Bears, “They’re just the nicest group we’ve ever hosted on a long-term basis. How could you not love such a cuddly bunch of guys?” Lars, president of the North Country Bears, returns the affection for Molly and the staff at Trikkx: “We just love ’em—they take very good care of us.” Lars especially compliments the Trikkx kitchen and says that the food at the North Country Bears’ upcoming holiday dinner is fabulous and not to be missed.

Who are these bears, anyway? According to Richard Bulger, original publisher of Bear Magazine, a bear is “a gay man whose disposition is rooted in contemporary male culture (decidedly not contemporary gay male culture) that emphasizes and celebrates secondary male characteristics such as beard and body hair.” Sure enough, a scan of the crowd reveals that most men have some sort of facial hair, and furry arms, legs, and chests are on display.

Some people might think that part of being a bear is being overweight and sloppy, but the crowd tonight disproves this. An entire range of bear body shapes is present, from short to tall and from reed-thin to portly—and there’s not a sloppy one in the bunch. (There are a lot of sexy ones, however.)

Specialized categories of bears include “cubs” (maybe youngish, maybe older, but definitely cuddly); larger, huskier, more mature men known as “grizzlies”; and striking white- or gray-haired “polar bears.” These categories were explained to me by Buck Bongard, who was wearing a black leather vest emblazoned on the back with “T.B.R.U. Polar Bear 2002.” “T.B.R.U.” stands for Texas Bear Round-Up—like the leather community, bear groups have yearly gatherings that include contests and titleholders. Many bears also participate in other gay male subcultures such as leather, rodeo, and country/western dancing.

What does a bear wear? Comfortable, casual, unremarkable guy stuff: the crowd sports mostly t-shirts (with a few polo or sport shirts) and jeans or jean shorts. Footwear is athletic shoes or hiking boots, and many of the guys wear baseball caps. Everything is clean and neat and no one is mixing stripes with plaids, but as long-time bear Gary Gimmestad points out, “It’s almost anti-fashion, or at least non-fashion.”

It’s also anti-drag, whether drag is construed as swishy and feminine (i.e. Radical Faeries) or hypermasculine and super-macho (i.e. leather), according to Peter Hennen. In his doctoral dissertation (“Gendered Sexuality in the Age of AIDS”), which deals with gay leathermen, Radical Faeries and bears, Hennen says that bear culture is about gay men “reconnecting with their regular-guy status.” Most bears could easily pass as straight guys, good ol’ boys, rednecks—except for the fact that bears generally dress and groom themselves better.

This ties in with another point Hennen makes: being a bear “is also a way for larger and hairier men to eroticize their bodies and to reclaim pride in them.” Bear culture is a reaction against the image of the shaved twink that prevails in so much of gay male culture, a declaration that it’s possible to be sexy even if you’re not young or totally smooth or don’t happen to have a swimmer’s build.

According to Hennen, the earliest account of gay men identifying as bears comes from Los Angeles in 1966, followed by loosely-organized bear groups in Dallas and Miami in the 1970s. But Gimmestad notes that in the 1980s bear culture “really went from 0-60” and became a recognized subculture because of the pre-Web internet and other forms of electronic communication, such as the old Outlines BBS in the Twin Cities. The image of the bear has now spread around the world, with bear groups in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and even Turkey.

Bears are very social animals. In addition to their monthly bar night at Trikkx, the North Country Bears’ calendar is full of many other activities, including a weekly Bears Coffee Night and Bears Dinner, both on Wednesday evenings. Check out the calendar and subscribe to their e-mail newsletter at, or call the North Country Bears Info-Line.

Share a Bear with Kids in Crisis

In October and November the North Country Bears are holding their annual Teddy Bear Roundup. The Bears will be accepting donations of new or slightly used teddy bears (or other stuffed animals of any size). These bears will be delivered in the name of the North Country Bears to the County Sheriff’s Patrol “Crisis Bears” program. As the Sheriff’s Patrol responds to emergency calls, they will have the bears available to be given to children in crisis.

Lars of the North Country Bears recalls being very moved when the teddy bears from last year’s Teddy Bear Roundup were donated to the Sheriff’s Patrol: “The guy who showed up from the Sheriff’s Patrol was just overwhelmed! It was so touching I almost cried. We helped make life better for a lot of kids.”

Teddy bears can be donated at the Bear Bar Nights at Trikkx on October 25 and November 22. Further information is available by contacting Arthur Finnell at

PHOTO: Buck Bongard (left) and Jack Erickson at a recent North Country Bears bar night at Trikkx.