Friday, January 25, 2002

Music Review: Liza with a “Hmmm . . .”

(CD review published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #174, January 25, 2002)

Liza Minnelli Ultimate Collection, Hip-O Records (A Universal Music Company) 314 556 504-2

Some day a record company will come out with a fabulous Liza Minnelli compilation that will do her justice. This isn’t it, although none of the currently-available Minnelli compilations are much better. Two tracks from her early years on Capitol are historically interesting: “Try to Remember” from her 1964 debut album and “Together (Wherever We Go),” a duet with her mother, Saint Judy Garland. A few of the thirteen tracks from her pre-Cabaret years on the A&M label are pleasant; my favorite of these is “Love Story” by Randy Newman, and “Simon,” by Liza’s husband-at-the-time Peter Allen, is here available on CD for the first time. But seven tracks, one-third of this CD, are from Minnelli’s New Feelin’ album from 1970, in which not even Liza could save standards like “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Stormy Weather” and “Love For Sale” from being ruined by Rex Kramer’s cheesy, embarrassing rock arrangements.

The remaining six tracks are the Liza we all know and love (among them “Liza with a Z,” “Ring Them Bells,” “The Singer,” and one track erroneously listed in the CD booklet as “Theme from New York, New York, New York”). But where’s “It Was a Good Time”? Where’s “The World Goes ’Round”? And where’s anything after 1989’s Pet Shop Boys-produced “Losing My Mind”? A great talent like Liza’s deserves better than this. Can we have a nice multi-disc boxed set, please?

Local Leather News Roundup

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #174, January 25, 2002)

Atons Officer (Re-)Installation

On January 12 the Atons held their annual Officer Installation ceremonies, this year in conjunction with the January L&L (Leather & Levi) Night. Sworn in were Sam Carlisle, president; B.D. Chambers, vice-president; Keith Cheetham, secretary; and Paul Rozendaal, treasurer. If those names sound familiar it might be due to the fact that this year’s slate of officers is a repeat of last year’s. But hey, when something’s working well, why change?

Oscar®, Emmy, Tony, Grammy—and now Sadie

Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds (MSDB) announces the creation of the Sadie Awards, an interesting twist of the whole concept of community awards. Starting with the MSDB Fire Play class on November 17 of last year, the club has been accepting nominations for awards in various categories. Over a six-month period, a panel of judges will review various scenes, organizations, events and other lifestyle activities. Then MSDB, who with tongue firmly in cheek calls itself “the newest academy in town,” will be awarding prizes to folks who stand out for their contributions to the local scene. Recognition will be given for most memorable scenes, most creative costuming, theme, party; outstanding event, most informative demo and other categories to be determined.

MSDB’s mission with these awards is “to promote creativity and joy of BDSM. This is most assuredly NOT a popularity contest, but rather an honest desire to acknowledge and stimulate talent and artistry in our community.” MSDB is seeking input from the community—any suggestions for award criteria, nominations for judges or entries for the various categories should be forwarded to ladytek@hotmail.com. Nominations for judges should be for members in good standing from their club who attend other organizations’ events. Criteria suggestions are welcome from any and all interested parties.

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Contest and Mr./Ms. MN Olympus Leather Contest looking for competitors

The fourth annual Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest will be held in February. Prizes: first place $100, second place $75, third place $50. First-place winner represents The Minneapolis Eagle and the Twin Cities leather community in this year’s International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend, with their airfare and hotel expenses paid by the Minneapolis Eagle and its sponsors. For more information, or if you’re interested in competing, talk to a bartender at the Eagle.

This year’s Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather contest, held in conjunction with the Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards, takes place in Chicago the weekend of Feb. 15-17. Although Minnesota claims two national Olympus Leather titleholders from prior years, at this writing it appears Minnesota will not be represented among this year’s competitors. The organizers of the Minnesota branch of this contest are looking for contestants from whom to choose a Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather to represent the state in next year’s national contest; anyone interested in competing should contact dcoral@hotmail.com.

New Director at Leather Archives & Museum

The Leather Archives & Museum (all together now: “Located in Chicago, Serving the World!”) is getting a new director. Joseph W. Bean, who will be retiring from the Executive Director position at the end of January and who created that “Located in Chicago . . .” line, became Executive Director of the LA&M in 1997. Under his leadership the Archives was able to move from a storefront on North Clark St. to its own (much larger) building at 6418 Greenview Avenue.

Rick Storer will take over as Executive Director at the beginning of March. Storer is a Chicago resident who has worked as a volunteer for both the LA&M and the International Mr. Leather contest. He is also actively involved in Masters and Slaves Together.

Out of the Closet and Into the Museum(s)

The Leather Archives & Museum isn’t the only organization interested in documenting and preserving our leather heritage. Our very own Minnesota Historical Society, located in the shadow of the State Capitol in St. Paul, has a large collection of documents and artifacts related to the history of GLBT folks in Minnesota. And they want more—they want us, the leather community! One of their themes for this year, “Out of the Closet and Into the Museum,” highlights their drive to enlarge their GLBT collection in certain areas which are now under-represented—such as the leather community, especially representative leather garments.

The aim of this project is to get local individuals, clubs and organizations involved in funneling as much of our history as possible, in all forms, to both the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago and to the Minnesota Historical Society here at home. (I’ll bet there’s enough history to go around.) You’ll hear more about this as the year goes on; until then, if this sounds interesting and you’d like to be involved, please contact me through the Lavender Magazine website (www.lavendermagazine.com).

Friday, January 11, 2002

Bottoming to God

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #173, January 11, 2002)

So what were you doing in the dungeon last night? However you might answer that question, I submit that although you might not have been consciously aware of it you were also studying philosophy, theology and the humanities. You were experiencing and studying an allegory of the human condition.

As human beings, we’re all submissives and we’re all bottoming to—God? The Devil? Fate? Life? If we’re the slaves, who’s the Master? And who’s the DM (Dungeon Master), the person who’s supposed to be watching to make sure things don’t get out of control?

Many cultures down through the centuries have had a lot to say about those questions and the whole idea of submission, and sometimes the images they create are quite striking to modern BDSM eyes. Example: I recently saw a photo of a large group of Muslim men kneeling during prayer, bowed down about as flat to the ground as they could get. Was there ever a more perfect image of submission? The word “Islam” literally translates to “submission,” in this case to the will of Allah (which translates to “God” and is in fact the same God around which Judeo-Christian religions are built). The word “Muslim” translates as “one who submits.”

Good Lutherans everywhere confess their sins by acknowledging in unison that “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” (I guess that would be bottoming to the devil.)

That same sentiment has led to a variety of religious and spiritual people throughout history who have beat themselves as part of their penance or to induce mystical visions. A wonderful overview of masochistic submission throughout history can be found in a fascinating article entitled “Masochism as a Spiritual Path” at www.sexuality.org/l/bdsm/masasp.html.

Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, based on secular 13th-century German poetry, opens and closes with “Fortune, Empress of the World.” The song, which bemoans (in Latin) the fact that everyone must submit to the vicissitudes of Fortune and fate, includes these lines that ring true with BDSM players everywhere: “Now through the game/I bring my bare back/to your villainy.”

Unlike a BDSM scene, our lives don’t come with a safeword. If the car is going hopelessly out of control or I’ve just been told the tumor is malignant, I can yell “RED!” all I want and it won’t make any difference. Life is often not safe, not sane and doesn’t seem to ask for our consent before dishing out pain. Life can seem downright abusive sometimes.

BDSM play can be a way of coming to terms with the seeming randomness and abusiveness of life and the human condition, a way of safely, sanely and consensually exploring concepts of submission, dominance and power. For some of us who have been through situations where life went totally beyond our control (a few examples: rape, childhood or domestic abuse, major illness, alcoholism or other addictions), BDSM play can be a way of both becoming comfortable with our powerlessness and paradoxically reclaiming our own personal power.

Because we engage in BDSM play, one of the names we have for ourselves is “players.” Shakespeare famously said that “All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely”—here’s that word—“players.” He said this, appropriately enough, in As You Like It, which could be the motto of dominants everywhere.

Perhaps we could make a word substitution and say “All the world’s a dungeon, and all the men and women merely players.” In that spirit, here’s something to contemplate as the holidays recede and a new year starts: a BDSM Prayer, a Prayer for Players.

Master,

As I have entered this dungeon called Life,
Here with all Your other submissives,
Teach me the value of submission.
May I strive to do as You command,
Realizing that You will nothing for me that I do not will for myself.
Brand Your name on my heart,
Put Your chain around my neck,
Lock it with Your “Master”-emblazoned lock,
Put me on Your leash,
And lead me where You would have me go.
May I submit to every other Master You send me,
And teach me to be a wise Master to other submissives of whom You put me in charge.
From both may I learn much, and teach as much as I learn.
Help me to remember not only that there can be pleasure in pain
But that there is often pain hidden in pleasure.
And when my time in the dungeon is through,
Lead me,
Still with Your chain around my neck,
Out of the dungeon,
And take me home with You.


Glory be to the Master,
And to His Boy,
And to the Chain that is the Holy Spirit,
Binding me to You.
Amen.


Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Dinner and Installation of Officers
Saturday evening, Jan. 12; It’s Greek to Me (626 W. Lake St., Minneapolis)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Drinks at 7 PM in the bar, dinner at 7:30 PM in the downstairs banquet room. Call the Atons HotLine for reservations or more information.