Friday, February 18, 2005

Leather Lens: Black Frost 28

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #254, February 18, 2005)

The Black Guard of Minneapolis always puts on a fabulous show as part of their annual Black Frost run. This year’s 28th edition, produced by the fabulous Allison Brooks and starring the members of the Black Guard, was presented Saturday, Feb. 5 on the stage at the Brass Rail.

The all-lip-synching-all-the-time show’s soundtrack included numbers by Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli, Doris Day, Elaine Stritch, Counting Crows, Alan Jackson, Weird Al Yankovic, Barry Manilow, and even Tony Orlando and Dawn as well as numbers from Hairspray, Company and The Wiz.




Karl Keturi sings Counting Crows’ “Ordinary Superman.”


Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Caroline Knipple.





“You’re Timeless to Me,” a cute number from Hairspray that presented the dizzying spectacle of a man dressed as a woman lip-synching to the voice of a man dressed as a woman. That doesn’t often happen.


“Might as well face it, you’re addicted to spuds.”



Miss Caroline Knipple performs Eartha Kitt’s “I Want to be Evil.”


Ralph Schmitt: “Boop-boop-a-doop.”


Tom Weiland performs “Big Boy Toys,” Aaron Tippin’s hymn to trucks.



“Que Sera Sera”: Black Guard president Mike Delorme as Doris Day.




P2052020.jpg (I prefer this photo)

Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” with before-and-after Lolas.


Bruce Gohr getting friendly with the audience.






Ralph Schmitt performs “Ring Them Bells” from Liza With a Z.

P2052057.jpg—“I’d like to propose a toast.”

P2052058.jpg—“Here’s to the ladies who lunch/Everybody laugh.”


P2052063.jpg—“Does anyone still wear a hat?”




P2052070.jpg—“I’ll drink to that!” (or) “And one for Mahler!”

Miss Allison Brooks performs “The Ladies Who Lunch” by Elaine Stritch from Company.







Allison Brooks: “With my champagne tastes and your beer-bottle pocket . . .”







Ralph Schmitt, backed by the entire company, performs the inspirational “I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray.






“Believe in Yourself” and “Home” from The Wiz.



Everyone joins hands for Abba’s “The Way Old Friends Do,” the Black Guard’s traditional ending number.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2005

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #253, February 4, 2005)

Angel Rodriguez was named Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2005 at The Bold Underground on January 23. He took home the title after competing in three areas of competition: Keg Walk, Question and Answer, and Erotic Reading. Clint Hufstetler and Randy Ortiz were named First and Second Runners-up, respectively. Gregg White and Carl Byrd, both former titleholders themselves, were on hand to congratulate Rodriguez on his win.


Shann Carr Is Out For Laughs

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #253, February 4, 2005)

Shann Carr has had what she describes as a “dream career” as a gay comedienne for 21 years. She has never done a gig in the Twin Cities. But that will change when she entertains at The Bolt Underground on Sunday evening, February 13. The show starts at 9 p.m. ($5 cover).

Opening for Carract will be her longtime friend and fellow funnywoman, Miss Richfield 1981.

It’s appropriate that Carr will be performing at The Bolt Underground since she has a long history with the gay leather community. Like Miss Richfield 1981, Carr also has a title: International Ms Leather 1988.

As Carr quips, “I always say I was International Ms Leather 1922—which of course is not true, but now it almost seems like it. 1988 was a long time ago.”

Carr currently entertains at about eight to ten leather events a year. She also is a featured entertainer on Atlantis Cruises.

“Every single cruise for five years—that’s a lot of cruises,” Carr says. “I’m the token lesbian on crew—there has not been another lesbian entertainer in the five years I’ve been there.

“I keep getting described as ‘the gay man’s lesbian’ because 90% of my work has been deep inside the throes of a leather bar, a gay boat, a resort full of gay men—so the perspective seems to be that of the token lesbian in a gay man’s world.”

At press time, Carr and Miss Richfield 1981 are sailing the Caribbean as two of the entertainers on what Atlantis calls “the largest gay cruise in history.”

For such a special cruise, Carr came up with special material.

“On this cruise ship there’s actually an ice skating rink!” Carr chortles. “So I choreographed a comedy-on-ice number to perform in front of these 3,000 guys—on an ice rink—on a boat.”

This is the first time she has ever skated as a part of her act, “but until I was about 12 I skated with the Ice Follies as a child chorus member.”

Never one to rest on her rapier laurels, Carr is a filmmaker as well.

Through her company, Girlmoxie Productions, she produced a comedy film, Out For Laughs on the Ocean, using material filmed on several Atlantis cruises.

The film showcased several of her fellow entertainers—among them Miss Richfield 1981. A pilot for a proposed TV series, the film has been shown at film festivals and on several gay cable networks.

Carr’s comic style as a storyteller frequently is compared to both Bill Cosby and Garrison Keillor.

“I’m not a setup-punchline-setup-punchline kind of comedian—it’s all about taking you on a big, convoluted, fabulous ride. And it’s pretty much all reality-based, too, which has allowed me to have a pretty personal relationship with my audience.

A lot of them have been watching me for five and ten and fifteen and more years. So they get to feel like they know me, and they share stories with me afterwards that are equally as personal, which lets me get to know them. Pretty cool.”

Love, Leather-Style

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #253, February 4, 2005)

After Christmas, the next holiday on the calendar of the nation’s retailers is Valentine’s Day. February 14 soon will be upon us, which means it’s time to talk about love, sweet love. It’s time for romance, hearts and flowers, and candy—lots of candy. Especially chocolate, which famously contains the “love-chemical” phenylethylamine and several other mood-enhancing substances.

Leathersex aficionados certainly enjoy Valentine’s Day as much as anyone else. Of course we love to celebrate love—why else would a red heart be part of the Leather Pride flag? But is the concept of “love” in a leather context different from “love” anyplace else?

Being a preacher’s kid, I remember hearing my father preach many sermons on love. (I guess the fact that I still remember them this many years later shows they were good sermons.) Usually he talked about the fact that the English language only has one word for love, and that one word has to cover many bases.

But the Greek language (you will recall, I’m sure, that Western civilization is based heavily on thought and philosophical systems of the ancient Greeks) has different words for different kinds of love, four of which are eros, philia, storge and agape.

While the popular public perception of the leather community may be that it revolves around eros, I think leather culture has a lot to teach the rest of the culture about all four of these words.

Eros is the Greek word for physical love (i.e. sex). Eros was the Greek god of love, desire and passion (Cupid was his Roman equivalent). Both are commonly pictured with a bow and arrow, and it was thought that when Cupid’s (or Eros’) gold-tipped arrow hit someone, they were inflamed with love, passion and desire. It’s interesting to note that to the Greeks these passions were sometimes enjoyable but were sometimes considered a torment, a burning itch that simply had to be scratched no matter what the cost.

Today eros sometimes is translated erroneously as “romance.” The Greeks didn’t have a word for romance because romance had not yet been invented. The concept of courtly love, and the necessity of a man winning a woman’s admiration and adoration through heroic feats, would have been meaningless to them considering the extreme subordination of women in Greek society.

The English word “erotic” is derived from eros. Sometimes Eros was worshipped as the plural Erotes. The pluralization symbolized all the various kinds of attractions Eros inspired—including both heterosexual and homosexual ones. The Greeks thought of eros as strictly a physical, biological urge; they therefore didn’t imbue it with the psychological baggage with which sex today is so often burdened. 

Eros and the erotic have for a long time had a bad reputation, at least in sex-negative circles, as dirty, shameful and immoral. Leather, on the other hand, proudly and joyfully celebrates sex. Entered into with the proper mindset, sex is for adults what play is for kids—it’s a fun, enjoyable activity that can lead to personal growth and to bonding with and closeness to other people. In other words, eros can lead to philia.

Philia is the Greek word for friendship. Modern-day Americans will recognize the word in Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.” I think it’s telling, however, that in the English language “philia” has become a suffix for words denoting feelings that generally are considered far from noble, and even far from normal; pedophilia, necrophilia, and other assorted paraphilias (sexualization of things “normal” people don’t sexualize) are examples. In some circles almost everything in leather culture is considered a paraphilia, starting with the leather itself. (Many kink-friendly psychologists and other mental-health professionals have spent many years trying to change this situation.)

In my opinion, though, the noble aspect of the original Greek usage of philia is evident at leather gatherings everywhere. “Friendship” seems too pale a word for the sense of bonding and community that goes with leather. The sense of brotherhood and sisterhood often seems almost familial—which brings us to storge.

Storge is the Greek word for familial love, as in the love of parent for child. It may be trite to say “In leather we are family,” but there’s a lot of truth in that statement nonetheless. For some people who have been cut off from their biological family because of their leather proclivities, their leather family is their only family. And how much more familial can we get than daddy/boy (or boi) relationships? Is that storge or what?

Agape is the Greek word for selfless love and caring for humanity. Unlike the other types of love discussed above, which are conditional, agape is unconditional. Outside of Agape Home and Agape Dos, two assisted-living residences in Minneapolis for people with AIDS, I very rarely hear this word outside of conservative Christian circles, who seem to have claimed it for their own.

But the principle of agape, if not the word, is well known in leather culture, as demonstrated by the amount of money raised by the community and the volunteer hours donated by community members. I also see the principles of agape in one of leather’s most basic principles: respect for oneself and for others.

So there they are: four kinds of love, all intensely—and, to a great extent, intentionally—present in leather, there for the rest of the world to see if it cares to look. If one thinks about it, this intense way of loving should come as no surprise—leather’s extreme sexuality needs to be practiced with extreme love, caring and respect. Selfishness in vanilla sexual relationships leads to emotional pain and unfulfilling relationships (and more material for stand-up comics, TV sitcoms and country-western songs). Selfishness in leather relationships can lead to physical injury.

Selfishness run rampant would lead to the end of leather. This is why it is not well tolerated by the community—and why people who value leather tend to cultivate values, attitudes and practices that build up the culture and the community rather than tear it down.

Here’s one more Greek word for one more kind of love: mania, which literally translated means “madness.” Mania is the over-the-top, out-of-control love that made teenage girls scream when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Mania is what made grown women throw their panties or hotel-room keys at performers like Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck.

For some reason, leather culture has never developed a good sense of mania. It’s not that we don’t try, of course; the concept of leather contests and titleholders have been in the community for years. But whenever a leather contest reaches its peak and the new titleholder is sashed, the only people who rush the stage are the press. I have yet to see a single leather jock or hotel-room key thrown onstage. We, as a community, will have to work on that one.

Or maybe not.