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.

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