Friday, May 17, 2002

International Mr. Leather: The Beginning (Interview with IML 1979 David Kloss)

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #182, May 17, 2002)

This year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) contest will be happening in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. Best of luck to Wayne Butzer, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002, as he represents the bar and the local leather community in the contest. (Your humble columnist will be seeing IML from a different angle this year as one of the contest’s judges.)

The next International Mr. Leather will take his place in a line stretching back to David Kloss (pronounced “Close”), the first man ever to hold the title. Here, in his own words, is the story of the first International Mr. Leather contest in 1979. (You can read the full-length interview at <>.)

In 1979, the notice came out from Chuck Renslow [IML’s founder and producer] to the leather community: “We are holding an international leather competition.” At that time, nobody knew what that meant, but we all thought, hey, we’ll get some people and put together a situation and send representatives.

There were a number of leather bars in San Francisco at that time, but the only bar that responded was The Brig. They got a situation going where for eight weeks, I think, every Wednesday they would have a number of contestants, usually five, six or seven, get up there on a stack of beer cases. The bar would be packed, and the audience would participate by selecting the man to be the contestant for the final selection after all eight weeks were finished.

One week I entered the contest. Friends said go ahead, you can do it. And I figured, well, what the hey, I will. So I did—I got up there, and I won. I was surprised—I mean, it’s not one of those things I went after saying “I am going to be a titleholder.” But it was a wonderful experience. Of course then I had to get by the next step, eight weeks later, and go through the final with the “chosen ones” from each of the previous weeks. When the final night came, I was chosen overwhelmingly by the patrons of The Brig to become the first Mr. Leather San Francisco, and therefore to go on to Chicago to compete in the first IML in 1979. The bar supported me, sent me there, paid for it. My lover at the time was very, very supportive.

So I arrive in Chicago at the beginning of IML. Nobody really knows what to expect. There is no history, there’s no infrastructure. One minute there’s no contest, and the next minute there is. We arrive, all twelve of us, from across the country. It wasn’t truly international—we were supposed to have someone from Canada, but they backed out at the last minute. It was a very strange mixture of people from different parts of the country involved in leather.

So here I am, sort of a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed guy with a big ol’ mustache, big smile, and my leather which I had acquired over the years, a piece here and there—I didn’t just go out and buy it all at once, you know—and I got up there on the stage at the Radisson Hotel on Michigan Avenue with a group of other men to compete for this contest..

It wasn’t as extravagant a production as it is today, but it was the hotel’s grand ballroom and there were thousands of people in the audience. The energy level was good because it was in the days before major political movements and before AIDS. Everybody talks about gay life in the 1970s, and it really was a time of great celebration. Even though we didn’t have as many civil protections, we were really feeling our oats and getting out there and feeling strong, and every day was a celebration of life. So the whole crowd was just really, really enthusiastic.

The contest itself was pretty traditional—I think in those days they had swimwear, optional jockstrap. They were modeling it more after a traditional pageant, so to speak—I hate to use that word—but it was heartfelt, and the participation was fun. I enjoyed the people I was with, made friends with a few of them. You had to make a speech—I can’t tell you today what I said. All I was told is, what I said they reacted to very positively, and when I walked down the runway the smile that I gave the crowd was apparently what won, the image that I portrayed was what they wanted. And as contestant #12 of 12, I was highly honored to be chosen International Mr. Leather 1979.

David Coral is American Leatherman 2002 First Runner-Up


David Coral a/k/a Jazz Thomas captured first runner-up honors for the American Leatherman 2002 title at the recent American Brotherhood Weekend in Washington, D.C. Coral, one of our local theater luminaries, also holds the national Mr. Olympus Leather 2000 title and is a member of the Knights of Leather. Details at <>.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2002 IML Send-Off Party
Saturday, May 18, The Minneapolis Eagle, 10 P.M.
Stop by and wish Mr. Mpls. Eagle 2002 Wayne Butzer “good luck” as he journeys to Chicago to compete for the title of International Mr. Leather 2002.

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