Friday, March 22, 2002

Lint Life (and other Lavender Lampoon items)

(“Ponder the Origin” column published in special Lavender Lampoon edition of Lavender Magazine, Issue #178, March 22, 2002)

by Steve Lenius posing as Julie Dafydd

Some people have big mouths. Or big noses or big feet or big hands or big—well, you get the idea. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about having a big navel. So I guess I’ll have to talk about it.

I didn’t used to think my navel was anything special or out-of-the-ordinary. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that not everybody had a navel that could hold a Volkswagen. I am the world’s biggest “innie.” I used to be glad I wasn’t an “outie,” because I thought they looked funny. But now I’m not so sure, because “outies” probably don’t have to deal with navel lint.

Let me tell you about navel lint.

I’m not talking about the lint that you get on your tongue when you unbutton all fifteen buttons on a sailor’s pants with your teeth (yes, there really are fifteen buttons, although for some reason the Navy only officially recognizes thirteen of them). What I’m talking about is also known as belly button lint, belly button fuzz, or navel fuzz—as opposed to a Fuzzy Navel, which is peach schnapps and orange juice over ice, which you probably already knew. But I digress.

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand it when people talked about lint in their belly buttons. How could a belly button collect lint, I wondered? Mine never seemed to. Why in the world would it want to?

Then suddenly one day, about ten years ago, I was drying off after my bath and realized there was this dark-colored something poking out of my navel. Well, of course I was concerned. Was my life turning into a B-movie? Had my body been taken over by an alien creature growing in my stomach, now fully developed and about to burst forth? I tried (unsuccessfully) to remain calm, and gingerly got a tweezers to try to extract whatever this thing was.

Unbeknownst to me, for all the preceding years my belly button had been collecting lint. Talk about a navel reserve! And it was so navel-retentive it hadn’t even had the decency to tell me.

You know how lint is—it doesn’t hold together very well. When I tugged with the tweezers at what was sticking out of my belly button, it just separated from the rest of the lint that remained comfortably lodged. I stuck the tweezers into my navel and pulled out a few more shreds of lint, and then a few more and yet a few more. I finally lost the tweezers.

I tried fishing around for the tweezers with a Q-tip and lost it too. Things were not going well. I had visions of my gluttonous belly button swallowing the towel, the bathroom, and finally the whole world, myself included. And then where would I be? Up a creek without a paddle, up a tree without a ladder, up an asshole without a rubber glove. But I digress.

Somehow I became obsessed with the idea my belly button was rebelling (rebellying?) because I hadn’t kept it clean, and that if I got all the lint out of it the universe would be safe again. Here, in order, are the methods I tried: a) a vacuum cleaner; b) Drano; c) dynamite. It was the first time my trusty Electrolux ever failed me, and the Drano also wimped out. But the dynamite actually helped. My navel wasn’t really clear, though, until I called the friendly Roto-Rooter man. When he left, my navel was clean as a whistle, and when I bent down and hollered into it I could hear an echo. I thought that was a good sign.

Since then I have tried to maintain scrupulous navel cleanliness. I thought about calling a well-drilling company and having it capped, but reconsidered when I realized that all that cement might be kind of heavy, and therefore tiring to lug around all day.

Having a navel as deep as the Homestake Mine makes for some interesting situations. Shortly after I got it cleaned out I found myself in an intimate situation with a very handsome gentleman who offered to introduce me to the esoteric and obscure practice of navel fisting. He gazed longingly at my navel and said, “You could make me and about a hundred other guys happy, all at the same time.”

The prospect of hosting my very own navel invasion was intriguing, but ultimately I decided against letting the fleet sail in. I told him I was greatly flattered and thanked him but demurred.

At that time I was not yet into all the kinky stuff I’m into now. So, hey, just ponder the origin—even if this phrase is actually just a non sequitur.

Bye for now,

Fist Fist

Lavender Lampoon Calendar item

Monday, April 1, 7-10PM

Walker Art Center presents “Play Fair is About Turn,” a very special After Hours event. Art appreciators will be exposed to a whole fabulous new side of the Walker’s collection as selected paintings from the Permanent Collection will be hung with the back of the canvas showing. (Will anyone be able to tell the difference? Will anyone care? Has After Hours ever been about the art anyway?) Martini of the month: “The April Fool” (no gin, no vermouth, just tap water and an olive).

Lavender Live Wire item

HRC Disbands: “Mission Accomplished”

The community formerly known as GLBT officially ushered in the post-gay era as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) officially closed its doors last week. According to Elizabeth Birch, HRC Executive Director, “It’s over. Quite simply, we won. We’ve achieved what we set out to do. The HRC is in the happy position of having caused its own obsolescence.”

Birch noted that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender “no longer carries any kind of stigma at all, anywhere in America. From big cities to small towns, sexual and gender preferences have become non-issues and GLBT folks can rest secure in the knowledge that they won’t be treated any differently than anyone else. We are no longer subject to the discrimination, harassment, violence and hate crimes of yesteryear.”

Birch concluded the announcement of HRC’s closing by saying, “This victory has come at a high price. Some people have died for this cause and many others have worked very hard, over many years, to bring this day about. Thanks to their efforts, a new day of freedom has finally dawned in America.”

When asked about her personal plans for the future after stepping down as HRC’s Executive Director, Birch replied, “I haven’t really thought about it. Right now I’m just going to go home and pop in a ‘Queer as Folk’ DVD.”

In related developments and for similar reasons, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition/PUSH also announced they were ceasing operations.

Friday, March 8, 2002


(Item for “Whatever!” column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #177, March 8, 2002)

’Twas the night before Valentine’s, and there was something for nearly everyone at House of Vagabondage’s “Erotogenic v.3” party at First Avenue. Among the thoroughly mixed and gloriously twisted crowd in attendance, traditional distinctions of gay/lesbian/bi/trans/cross-dresser/het/kink seemed to lose all meaning and relevance. Somebody must sit us down and explain the whole “Goth” thing, though. Hot dungeon scenes were plentiful. Bonus points: At least in the VIP Room, aka the dungeon, the evening’s sound designers kept the music’s volume level loud enough to be interesting but low enough to be manageable. Now if they could just do something about the smoke.

Pantheon/Olympus 2002 Finds New Home in Chicago

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #177, March 8, 2002)

Chicago hosted yet another nationwide leather event as the 2002 Pantheon of Leather/Olympus Leather Contest weekend took place Feb. 15-17 at various Chicago locations. That same weekend also saw two other leather/BDSM events: the Cell Block Bar’s Leatherfest weekend and Mr. Cell Block Leather 2002 contest; and My Vicious Valentine 5, a pansexual/BDSM event that roused the ire of the Concerned Women for America, a radical-Christian-right group, and created quite a media stir (see the Lavender Wire item below for more details).

For the last several years the Pantheon/Olympus Leather weekend has been held in New Orleans during the first week of Mardi Gras. But, in an unforeseen chain of events, the Sept. 11 attacks last year caused a one-week delay in the National Football League Schedule, which meant that the Super Bowl, originally slated for January 27 in New Orleans, moved to February 3—the same weekend as Pantheon/Olympus Leather. Room rates for the weekend tripled overnight, and the decision was made to move the Pantheon/Olympus Leather weekend rather than try to compete with the NFL. Chicago was selected because many of the people who help present the weekend are based in Chicago and also work on the International Mr. Leather contest.

There were concerns that the change from New Orleans to Chicago might hurt the event, but attendance was actually up from last year and Mother Nature, while not exactly sending a New Orleans climate to Chicago that weekend, at least kept the weather pleasantly and unseasonably temperate.

The weekend’s events were hosted by various bars and other leather venues. Friday evening’s Welcome Reception was held at The Cell Block, which also hosted the weekend’s leather flea market/leather swap and Sunday afternoon’s workshops. Saturday’s Leather Brunch was hosted by Buddies; the Pantheon Awards ceremony took place Saturday afternoon at the Leather Archives and Museum, with a Post-Awards Victory Buffet at Touché, just around the corner from the Archives. On Saturday evening, in addition to the Mr. Cell Block Leatherman contest at The Cell Block, the Chicago Hellfire Club hosted a private dungeon party at their clubhouse. Sunday’s Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather contest was held at The Chicago Eagle.

This year marked the twelfth time that Pantheon of Leather has presented awards to leatherfolk around the world for distinguished community service and contributions to the leather/SM/fetish community and culture. This year, from a record 300-plus nominations, 25 award winners were selected in 24 categories (there was one tie), and three people were also honored with President’s Awards. This year over half the award winners were present to claim their awards in person. The awards ceremony traditionally starts with “To Those Who Served,” a salute to members of the community presently or formerly in the armed forces. In light of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, this year’s salute was especially poignant—instead of just one person standing onstage and singing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” this year the whole audience joined in.

Sunday night’s Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather contest was a fine climax to the weekend. The Olympus Leather contest and titles differentiate themselves from other leather titles by representing and celebrating pansexual SM play, and the evening’s fantasy were presented with that scene in mind. Mistress Kendra, Ms. Indiana Olympus Leather (also vice president/treasurer of the Midwest Bearpack of Indianapolis) presented the first fantasy of the evening: a charming and funny story of a little girl and her toys. She was ably assisted by International Mr. Drummer 2000 Dan Clark.

Sasha von Häner, Ms. Georgia Olympus Leather, showed a perky smile and smooth choreography as she asserted her right to be kinky to the accompaniment of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made For Walking” while Mr. Alabama Olympus Leather Sam (just “Sam”) got into a spanking scene set to Madonna’s “Hanky Panky.” Mr. Georgia Olympus Leather Reggie Harris transformed himself onstage from leather wannabe to leatherman, although the transformation was slowed a bit by some chaps that wouldn’t cooperate. (Don’t you hate when that happens?) In the final fantasy of the evening, Mr. Louisiana Olympus Leather Butch Arnold portrayed a fisting scene that went comically awry. At the end of the evening the judges selected Arnold and von Häner as the new Mr. and Ms Olympus Leather 2002.

I take with me two other memories from this year’s Pantheon/Olympus weekend. First, there were no official host hotels for this year’s event, but I stayed at the Heart o’ Chicago Motel and it turned out to be a most appropriate lodging choice—it is the only motel I’ve ever seen that has taken its exterior color scheme and signage directly from the Leather Pride flag.

Second, every year each Olympus Leather contestant brings a “goodie basket” which is auctioned off to raise money for the winners’ travel fund. This year contestant Sam’s basket had everything including the kitchen sink—literally. It was a nice, new stainless steel double-bowl sink, and it was even, umm, self-rimming.

All I can say is, it’s a good thing my car has a big trunk.

Lavender Wire: “Vicious Valentine” Event Defeats Best Efforts of Radical Right

“My Vicious Valentine 5,” a Chicago-area pansexual BDSM event, took place the weekend of Feb. 15-17 in spite of a campaign against it by the Concerned Women for America (CFWA), a radical-right fringe group. Originally booked into Chicago’s Radisson Hotel O’Hare, the event was threatened when the Radisson bowed to CFWA’s pressure tactics and decided not to honor its contract with the Vicious Valentine organizers.

The event was moved at the last minute to the Ramada Plaza Hotel O’Hare. CWFA then unsuccessfully tried the same pressure tactics against the new host hotel, including a fax campaign that reportedly monopolized the Ramada’s fax machine for over 40 minutes with diatribes against the event.

A groundwork of legal research done more than four years ago proved useful in allowing Vicious Valentine 5 to be held in spite of the CWFA’s false claims about health concerns and the illegality of the event. Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (, fielded press calls while the organizers and the new host hotel worked through potential security issues and police concerns.

The CWFA is a fringe group that favors the elimination of the separation of church and state and opposes hate crime bills, domestic partnership legislation, fathers’ rights to custody, and sex education (including education about sexually transmitted diseases) in public schools. The group has even attacked a Chicago-area public health center for offering Hepatitis A and B vaccinations free of charge.

Examples of press coverage of the event, from both mainstream media and the radical right, can be found at

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Ms. Manners Meets Marquis de Sade
Saturday, March 16, 2:15 to 4:45 PM, Patrick’s Cabaret (3010 Minnehaha Ave. S., Mpls.)
An encore presentation of a workshop on BDSM play party etiquette. Sponsored by MSDB. For further information, visit

Good-Looking 25-Year-Old: Saloon Celebrates Its Silver Anniversary

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #177, March 8, 2002)

It opened as the “Sundown Saloon.” Then it was the “Y’All Come Back Saloon.” (Officially, that’s still its name). For a time it advertised as “Saloon Electric”. But for 25 years people have been calling it The Saloon—or sometimes, affectionately, “The Salon”. And for 25 years, while other venues have come and gone, The Saloon has been a constant fixture of the Twin Cities gay bar scene and is now the longest running disco/dance club in the Twin Cities and perhaps in the entire upper midwest. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s certainly given owners John Moore and Jim “Andy” Anderson many good stories to tell.

The bar opened in March of 1977 as the Sundown Saloon, a western-themed disco; the back area of the bar was called the “Rear Entry.” The crowd was leather/Levi, young, gay and all-male—women and heterosexuals were not allowed. This policy, along with other internal management problems, led to a community boycott which culminated in a mutiny and employee walkout in the autumn of 1977. Moore and Anderson, who were tending bar there at the time, were part of that walkout.

The bar reopened (with the same staff but a different manager) as the “Y’All Come Back Saloon,” partly because of the Oak Ridge Boys’ hit of the same name. According to Anderson, “Dolly Parton was big at the time, and we really did play Western music, and we always finished the night off with that song” (a tradition which continued into the early 1990s). But the bar’s new name was also commentary on the politics of its relation with the community, and a new door policy meant that everyone was now welcome, including women and heterosexuals. That’s the way it’s been ever since.

Moore and Anderson became business partners when they bought the bar in 1980, but they’ve known each other since age 18. They were roommates at the University of Minnesota (both English majors), and got involved in the gay-lib politics of the time. “We were at the first meeting of F.R.E.E. (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression),” said Moore, “and we went to the first dance at Coffman Union with the NBC Television cameras there, and the Anita Bryant marches, all that stuff.” Both men are still politically active.

Moore and Anderson were the first openly gay men in Minneapolis to attempt to buy a gay bar and, says Anderson, “The city didn’t want us as gay bar owners. We had a hard time getting the license past the City Council for a couple years because we were gay, and we had to fight with our attorneys, with City Hall, with the Health Department, with the bank to open an account, with the Fire Department.” The license wasn’t transferred officially until December 21, 1981.

Little did they know the problems that were ahead. “I think when we first opened the bar, the sky seemed the limit—there seemed to be all kinds of possibilities,” said Anderson. “And then we weren’t even wet behind the ears in terms of running a business when we were confronted with the AIDS epidemic. I think that’s why the expansion of new bars stopped and people retrenched a little bit. I know there were many years when I felt that we would be fortunate just to hang on, and we put most of our energy and effort into just keeping the place open.

“Our major concern was to keep a gay space open while all of this went on, because who knew where it was going? There was a lot of fear, and a lot of difficulties, and of course a lot of funerals.” The Saloon’s first manager died of AIDS in 1984. Anderson continued, “One of the major reasons we own the Brass Rail” (purchased by Moore and Anderson in 1986) “is the fear of AIDS and declining revenues—the owner wanted out before there was nothing left. I think there were many years when we didn’t see a lot of upgrade in the bar business, we saw the other places closing. So I think we’re fortunate to still be here.”

The space that makes up The Saloon has been constantly changing over the years, and according to Moore, “Almost everything, even the music venues, has been in response to customer requests.” The patio was opened in the late 1980s, and the country/western motif gave way to the current “distressed” look in the early 1990s. In 1993 the former Tourist Hotel, located above The Saloon and also owned by Moore and Anderson, began catering to a gay clientele as the Hotel Amsterdam.

Walter McLean, who had been DJ’ing for the club for many years, became the club’s general manager in 1994; he has been responsible for many innovations including Hard Mondays, a weekly Goth scene complete with BDSM demonstrations and the occasional live band. March 9, 1997, saw the unveiling of The Tank, an alternative Sunday-night only leather space at the back of the bar. Other recent changes have included the glass-block bar and a revamped men’s room.

Upcoming improvements include adding windows to the 9th Street side of the building and a general exterior sprucing-up. But not to worry: “We always make changes carefully and respectfully,” says Moore, “because it really isn’t our bar. It’s really the customers’ bar, and we want to make sure improvements are done with great respect to this place that’s been here 25 years and is such a sacred space to a lot of people.”

That focus on the customer is what has kept people coming back to the Saloon for 25 years. Anderson explained his and Moore’s philosophy: “It’s not our party, we’re giving the party. We tell our staff we’re caretakers—we come in and clean the place up every day, and we throw a party every night, and basically we’re taking care of this space for the community as long as they want it as their space. If that’s how we approach it, I think we’re on the right track. I think we’re on the wrong track when we become more important than the customer, and it starts to become about our needs or our staff’s needs.”

Anderson has high praise for the bar’s staff: “They’ve stayed with us. We have staff that have been with us for twenty years or better. And it’s not just the loyalty of the staff—these are skilled men and women. They’ve got sharp minds and they’ve connected with the customer. They know the customer’s names, they know what they drink, they known something about them. Doc (Steve Johnson) works five nights a week and has for over twenty years, and I think for twenty years people have said he’s the best bartender in town.”

When they first bought The Saloon, Moore and Anderson had a goal of being open for five years, and according to Moore, “We were pretty much counting the years up to 1985 or 1986.” Anderson concurred: “It seemed like a tremendous mountain to climb, just to be open five years, but I felt that initially if we could accomplish that we could say, ‘Job well done.’ Then if somebody came in and opened a bigger, better place and they were where the customers wanted to be, at least we could say we had the good fortune of being the hosts for the community for five years. And the truth of the matter is, it’s been a lot longer than that! So we’ve had a lot of good times and a lot of good memories and been very fortunate.”

A Saloon timeline

March, 1977: Saloon opens as “Sundown Saloon” (back area is “Rear Entry”)

Fall, 1977: Community boycotts the new bar and staff walks out. Reopens as “Y’All Come Back Saloon” with different manager and same staff.

1980: Saloon bartenders John Moore and Jim “Andy” Anderson buy the bar. (Ownership is officially transferred on December 21, 1981.)

June, 1984: Saloon’s first manager dies of AIDS.

1986: Moore and Anderson become owners of The Brass Rail.

Late 1980s: Patio opens.

Early 1990s: Country/western motif gives way to current “distressed” look.

1993: Non-gay Tourist Hotel above The Saloon becomes the Hotel Amsterdam

1994: Walter McLean becomes general manager

June, 1996: Hard Mondays debuts

March 9, 1997: The Saloon unveils “The Tank,” its Sunday-only leatherspace, with an appearance by porn star Donnie Russo.

March, 2002: The Saloon celebrates 25 years!