Friday, April 19, 2002

Hanging with Mr. Mpls. Eagle 2002

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #180, April 19, 2002)

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 Wayne Butzer is doing some serious leather shopping at The Cockpit Project, a Minneapolis leather shop. With the help of some friends he has chosen the simpler harness over the more elaborate one (“Too much hardware,” says Cockpit owner Wil). He’s tried on a leather police shirt for the third time. And we’ve all decided that he shouldn’t wear tall boots because they will cover up the tattoo on his calf. The final item on his shopping list: he wants a leather bowler hat. I tell him I’ve never seen anyone wear one, but if he found one it would look good on him.

After shopping, it’s time for the interview. When I ask Butzer why he entered the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 contest in the first place, he tells me he did it for personal and spiritual reasons—to dispel messages that were instilled in him by the church during his growing-up years that sex was “bad and dirty and wrong. But if sex was only for the purpose of procreation, then why is it so much fun?” He smiles: “So I decided, as an action step for myself, for personal growth, I would stand up onstage in a jockstrap.”

Butzer comes from “a normal Minnesota suburban Lutheran family” (the youngest of three children, parents still happily married after all these years). “I’m out to my family. They know a lot of my friends. They know I have tattoos, although they don’t know that I own anything other than a leather jacket.”

After high school and some trade school, Butzer pursued a variety of creative endeavors. Two-and-a-half years ago he opened Vera’s Cafe, a popular local coffeeshop; what was supposed to be a sideline business quickly became his sole occupation. A homeowner, he has had the same address for eleven years; he likes cats and shares his home with two of them.

Butzer says the experience of competing in the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest was “more exhilarating, more exciting, and more motivating than I thought it would be. I think the adrenalin just picked up and started carrying me through it. And also, it was kind of ‘Well, I’m here now, it’s too late to go.’ As I walked up the steps to the stage the first time in the jockstrap I thought, ‘Well, all my friends are here, it’s the first time that they’ve seen my ass.’ ”

When he heard his name announced as the winner of the contest he was shocked. “I think part of it was that I didn’t do it for the purpose of winning. I did it for myself. But I definitely have the capacity to be a ham. And that’s okay—I have to admit that attention is okay or I wouldn’t be doing all the things with my life that I’m doing.”

Butzer evidently likes working for organizations that have the word “Project” in their names—his top three causes are MAP (Minnesota AIDS Project), YAP (Youth and AIDS Project) and the Aliveness Project. But the first thing he listed on his contest entry form was his recovery activities, and he says one of the things he is most proud of is the fact that he has been sober for over ten years. He sees no conflict, however, in representing a bar or in the fact that many leather events take place in bars: “I know I can’t drink, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to offend somebody who can drink recreationally—it isn’t about that. I have no problem with anybody doing any kind of drug if they can do it recreationally. If it’s destroying their lives, though, that’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Now that he holds the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 title, Butzer’s next competition is the International Mr. Leather (IML) 2002 contest in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. How is he preparing for it? “Lots of reading, watching videotapes of former competitions, talking to some former contestants. I’m working out twice a week with a weight trainer and I’m taking power yoga classes—which are pretty intense—and spinning classes.” Butzer says he’s doing them first and foremost to increase his self-confidence, because “When I feel better about myself I’m going to be able to stand taller. I’m only five-foot-seven, but I want to stand so that I’m six feet tall.

“I’m representing the Minneapolis Eagle, I’m representing Minneapolis, I’m representing myself and, to a degree, the business that I operate. No matter what the outcome [of IML] is, I want to do the best that I can. And I want to make sure that it’s fun—if this isn’t fun, why would any of us be doing any of this?”

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

“Boots & Butts” Atons Bar Night at The Minneapolis Eagle
Friday evening, April 19; The Minneapolis Eagle
Another event to get everyone warmed up for the Atons 30th-anniversary run, coming this July. Call the Atons HotLine for more information.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

The Leather Life Interview: Mikel Gerle, International Mr. Leather 2008

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #336, April 11, 2008)


It’s been ten months since Mike Gerle became International Mr. Leather 2007. He recently let me interview him by telephone from his office in West Hollywood, Calif. (Although he likes the way his given name, “Mikel,” is written, he prefers to be called “Mike.”)

Before you became IML, did you have any ideas of what it would be like?

I always say I’m not superstitious, but I wouldn’t let myself fantasize about being IML, because I didn’t want to be devastated when I most likely wouldn’t win.

You didn’t think you’d win?

I thought I would be a good IML, but I didn’t think I looked the part. I thought some of my ideas were a little too non-conventional. So I didn’t expect to win.

What has your title year been like so far?

It’s been amazing. I feel like I’m in mile 23 of the 26-mile marathon, and it’s a wild place to be. At first the avalanche and the pace was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe how many decisions I was being asked to make on a regular basis, and things to prepare for, and things to weigh in on. And I have a full-time job, too.

And that job is:

I’m called a Management Specialist for the City Manager of West Hollywood, California. I’m his boy, is the best way to describe it. I’m the gatekeeper—I generally redirect traffic and handle problems, and I allow him to handle the big-picture things with the city council, and political and strategic issues that come with running a city. And I do lots of other things, like helping the mayor with the gay men’s forum.

During this year my personality seems to have shifted in a way that they really like at work, and so they want to give me more stuff to do. So I’ve gotten used to living in this constant state of demands on my time. I’m not the most flexible person, and the year has taught me to be flexible. Everything in my closet is usually organized and color-coded and things are binned and categorized, and I’ve learned this year that the world keeps going if that’s not the way it is.

Are you ready for your year to end?

I really am, because there’s so much I want to do that I can’t because I’m constantly packing and unpacking and going somewhere.

Have you made plans for what you’re going to do after your successor is sashed?

I will enjoy having the freedom to take advantage of all the contacts that I’ve made and all the ideas that have popped up into my head and actually do something. There’s so much to do in Southern California—there’s so much rich leather and gay history out here that needs to be captured, soon. We’ve got a lot of senior members of the tribe, and we need to find out everything they know and get it on video.

And then there’s fostering the youth. I’m convinced after my year that we are very far away from fading into nothingness—we’re on the verge of exploding into this diverse eruption of fetish and kink. Leather will always be part of that, and leather will always be the father or mother of that entire thing. But it’s gonna be so much bigger and more fascinating. I’ve seen some real energy in some young people. And—one of these young guys is not interested in anything other than black leather, preferably Tom of Finland style, what we like to call old school. That’s the only thing he’s interested in. So we don’t need to worry about it going away.

We’ve gone through a generation where people died off and there wasn’t an orderly handing-over of the reins. But now we have people who are alive and getting older and they’re just going to have to make a conscious effort to pass it on to the next generation.

The good news is, we have tons of young people willing to do a lot of the heavy lifting. We just have to take our white-knuckle grip off some of the things that we’re holding onto and give them pieces that they can do.

At IML, you’ll be on the other side of the judging table this year. What do you think that will be like?

I’ve judged so many contests by now—the first three or four I would get really nervous, and now I don’t. Although IML will be different because it has dominated my headspace, so I think I’ll be very emotionally tied into that. It’ll be an interesting experience to sit in on all those interviews—I’m both dreading and really looking forward to being able to get to know so many men on that level.

And you’ll be giving your IML stepdown speech, too.

My goal for my stepdown is, one, for you to remember what I talked about, not how long it was, and, two, for you to go “That’s it? I want more.”

(Visit Gerle’s website at <>.)

Friday, April 5, 2002

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #179, April 5, 2002)

Wayne Butzer, owner of popular uptown coffeehouse Vera’s Cafe, recently won the title of Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 in an extremely close competition that finally needed a tie-breaker to determine the winner.

This year’s Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Contest, held Sunday night, March 3, was the finale to a weekend of events at the Eagle. On Friday night all the previous Mr. Minneapolis Eagle titleholders presented an event to raise funds to provide this year’s titleholder with a new leather title vest, and on Saturday afternoon the judges had their private interviews with the contestants. Saturday evening’s meet-and-greet was a chance for the community to interact with the contestants, and for the judges to observe how well they interacted. (The four judges for this year’s contest were Sam Carlisle, president of the Atons; Rik Stokes, president of the Black Guard; outgoing Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Steven Due; and your humble columnist.)

Sunday evening’s contest attracted seven fine contestants (Butzer, Scott Kelley, Andrew Bertke, Paul Finer, John Rankin, Ross Cascio, and Ryan Douglas) and an audience that was ready to enjoy watching the competition and cheering for their favorite contestant. Dan Bergman, who did such a great job emceeing the contest last year, was back again and kept things moving at a good pace.

The evening’s first judging event was the traditional “keg walk,” in which each of the contestants got a chance to show off their physique by carrying a beer keg through the audience to the stage, where they were then introduced. The questions-and-answers judging segment was next, with each contestant being asked the same serious question (“Who is the leather community?”) but a different humorous question. Some of the more memorable responses:

• Kelley’s humorous question was “Which Republican would you like to get into a dungeon and why?” His answer: “G.W. Bush—to prove he’s queer.”

• Butzer answered his question, “What is the most unusual place you’ve ever had sex?”, by describing an encounter in the back seat of a red Chevette—with the other gentleman’s girlfriend in the front seat, watching.

• When Douglas was asked which Disney character he thought he most resembled, he answered without missing a beat: “Pinocchio—and I’ll let you figure out why.”

In the final judging event of the contest, the Erotic Reading, seduction tales seemed to be the order of the evening. Bertke read a story about a seductive car-washing episode, and Finer presented an Olympic athlete seduction scene. Butzer shared his experiences the first time he attended a party hosted by the Atons of Minneapolis. Douglas played with the audience as he presented a truck-breakdown fantasy, which somehow gave him the opportunity to spray the audience with a very large squirtgun. No one seemed to mind getting wet.

When the final scores were tallied, Minneapolis Eagle owner Ed Hopkins and the judges got a shocking surprise: there was a tie for first place. With four judges, four judging events, and seven contestants it didn’t seem possible, but there it was. A tie-breaker round of scoring was conducted among the four judges, and after those scores were tallied the winners were announced: Bertke took second-runner-up honors, Douglas was first runner-up, and Butzer became the new Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002. He now goes on to represent Minnesota’s leather community at the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend.

To everyone attending Black Frost 25 This Weekend: Welcome to the Twin Cities

And Congratulations to the Black Guard of Minneapolis on their 25th Anniversary!

A toast to The Black Guard of Minneapolis: “Then . . . Now . . . And Forever.” Make it a great weekend—and a safe one.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Dinner
Saturday evening, April 13; location and time still to be determined
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Call the Atons HotLine for reservations or more information.

Atons Bar Night at The Minneapolis Eagle
Friday evening, April 19; The Minneapolis Eagle
Another event to get everyone warmed up for the Atons 30th-anniversary run, coming this July. Call the Atons HotLine for more information.

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New Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Wayne Butzer and Minneapolis Eagle owner Ed Hopkins.

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Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 Wayne Butzer.

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New Mr. Minneapolis Eagle Wayne Butzer, center, flanked by second runner-up Andrew Bertke (left) and first runner-up Ryan Douglas (right).

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Contestant Andrew Bertke presenting his erotic reading as part of the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 contest.

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Contestant Scott Kelley presenting his erotic reading as part of the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 contest.

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Contestant Ross Cascio greets the crowd during the “keg walk” segment of the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 contest.

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Contestant John Rankin during the “keg walk” segment of the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 contest.