Friday, September 5, 2003

An Evening at The Minneapolis Eagle

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #216, September 5, 2003)

Lavender Magazine’s OutStanding Bar to Meet Men

Since The Minneapolis Eagle opened five years ago, I’ve heard many men say something like this: “Well, I’ve tiptoed up to the Eagle and stuck my nose in, but I could never actually go in there!” Evidently, quite a few Lavender Magazine readers have actually “gone in there,” and they liked it so much they chose The Minneapolis Eagle as “OutStanding Bar to Meet Men.”

If you’re in a major city and want to find the place where leathermen, bears, and other masculine gay men congregate, you go to The (insert city here) Eagle. The various Eagles are not members of a chain; each is independently owned and run and each has its own unique flavor. Here’s a description of the flavor of The Minneapolis Eagle on one recent Friday night.

9:45 PM: Things are just getting going. The music is lively but not overwhelming. Sean the bartender greets me with a friendly nod (he’s the man for May in the 2003 “Men of the Eagle” calendar). Leather Cellar manager Bruce Gohr is setting up the leather vending area by the front door. Two guys sitting on one barstool are sucking face, oblivious to the rest of the world around them. And two other guys leave—they must have hooked up early.

The lighting, both from the art-deco fixtures behind the bar and the utility lamps hanging overhead, is almost all red. Two TVs are showing a tape of the 1996 International Mr. Leather contest, while a third shows a continuing series of what appear to be photos harvested from the internet.

The Atons leather/levi club of Minneapolis are having their monthly fetish night, this month’s theme being rubber and latex. Bruce Chambers, president of the Atons, is sitting at a table with a pair of waders on which he is brushing layer after layer of liquid latex. He was supposed to be having the liquid latex brushed on him, but he had an unfortunate depilatory accident which left his skin unfit for the exercise.

10:45 PM: Next door to The Minneapolis Eagle is another bar, The Bolt. Ed Hopkins is the proprietor of both bars and they’re connected by a roll-up door that’s open most of the time. But the roll-up door is closed now, and the bootshine area is set up in front of it. Fridays and Saturdays after 9 PM, when The Eagle’s dress code is enforced, the only way to get from The Eagle to The Bolt is either from the street or through the outdoor patio in back that is shared by both bars. (For details of the dress code visit The Minneapolis Eagle’s website at <>.)

I go back to the patio to check out what’s happening there, but it’s a sultry evening and the crowd on the patio is small. I return to The Eagle, and suddenly I’m struck by the fact that there is very little traditional cruising going on here. The crowd is not lining the walls, quietly staring at every man who passes by. Everyone is engaged in conversation in groups of two, three or more, scattered gloriously helter-skelter around the bar. I also notice that the music is kept low enough that conversation is possible.

11 PM: It’s hard to move. It’s crowded—there are men everywhere. An intense game of pool is going on; several people are leaning against the back wall, watching and commenting. One of them is Mark Cady, Mr. Minnesota Leather 1990 (the very first), who is watching his husband Hubert Trimble (“Yes,” says Cady, “we’re both husbands”) shooting pool. The line of quarters on the edge of the pool table indicates that it will be busy all night. Another gentleman leans against the back wall, watches the pool game, and smokes a cigar—“a Butera, with a B,” he says when I ask him what kind of cigar it is.

I notice the club colors of the Atons and Black Guard decorating the back wall, along with posters from other leather bars, some of them long-gone. It’s comforting to see our history on display. On a shelf toward the ceiling are many trophies and plaques for various Minneapolis Eagle softball teams.

11:30 PM: I make my way to the front of the bar to see what’s going on there. There are now two guys manning the leather shop area, helping a customer try on a leather vest. The on-site ATM is busy—a bearish guy in a sleeveless flannel shirt, cutoff jeans, a Van Dyke and a hardhat gets money while another guy stands in line watching him.

Midnight: It’s even harder to move in the bar now than it was earlier. A buff gentleman with a shaved head and no shirt bumps into me. In the butchest of voices and without a trace of campiness, he very politely apologizes by saying, “Excuse me, dear.” Chivalry is not dead.

I notice many non-white faces. It’s about time. I also notice that everyone is interacting with everyone else rather than maintaining skin-color cliques. It’s about time for that, too.

1:30 PM: One gentleman has stripped down to bare-ass chaps. The patio is jammed. The sound system is playing “Believe” by Cher (she’s in town tonight).

This evening I’ve seen camo fatigues and I’ve seen a very impressive chain harness. Some guys have been wearing leather, some have been bearish, some have straddled both categories and some haven’t fit into either. But regardless of what they’re wearing, for the most part each man here has at least one thing in common—as one man puts it, “There’s a little more maturity here than you find at some other places.”

The Eagle stays active until 2:30 AM, but I don’t. On the way to the door I see a gentleman wearing a t-shirt that says, in large type, “This place isn’t for everyone.” In smaller type it says “(Thank God.)” He tells me the shirt is from a bar called The Temple in Detroit, but I think the sentiment fits The Minneapolis Eagle as well. It isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for an OutStanding Bar to Meet Men, The Minneapolis Eagle might be for you.

Minneapolis Eagle Plans 5th-Anniversary Celebration

Has it really been five years since The Minneapolis Eagle opened? It has, and during those five years the bar has featured many recurring weekly, monthly and annual events. Currently, the bar hosts a Bear night the second Thursday of each month, an Atons of Minneapolis club/fetish night the third Friday of each month, and a Minnesota Storm Patrol beer bust the second Saturday of each month. Annual events include leather-pride festival events in June, the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle contest, a uniform contest as part of the bar’s Halloween festivities, the “Men of the Eagle” Calendar contests, and a variety of sports fundraisers throughout the softball season.

And mark your calendar now: The Minneapolis Eagle’s 5th-Anniversary Celebration will be happening the weekend of September 26-28. More details to come.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, September 13

10 AM-2PM: Dante’s Inferno. Interested in learning bullwhip technique? Come to a demonstration/workshop with whipmaster Robert Dante, presented by MSDB and Whipsters. To purchase tickets or for event info: e-mail For more info on Dante: <>.

Saturday, September 20,

Black Guard Fundraiser. Benefit for Clinic 42’s Top Shelf program. Bring donations of bath, bed, kitchen and cleaning supplies (must be new). 6-10 PM. The 19 Bar.

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