Friday, March 8, 2002

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

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