Friday, September 2, 2005

The Leather Life Interview: Michael Egdes, International Mr. Leather 2005

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #268, September 2, 2005)

PHOTO: Michael Egdes

For Michael Egdes, serving as International Mr. Leather 2005 is just the latest chapter in a very intriguing life.

Born and raised in Santon, South Africa (just north of Johannesburg), he moved to New York in his mid-20s, where he worked in advertising and discovered leather bars.

In 1990 he moved to Ft. Lauderdale, where for five years he ran a five-star South African restaurant with his partner James. They now are both in the real estate business.

Egdes is now blessed with two partners—two years ago, he and James added Todd to their relationship.

What was it like growing up in South Africa?

I came out shortly after my eighteenth birthday. I was serving in the South African military at the time. The atmosphere in South Africa was very conservative, but even during my time in the military I was openly gay.

My leather journey has not been well defined in the sense that I can’t tell you really where it began. I can tell you I tied up a school friend when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t know that I was gay at the time, but he was staying over for the night, and it seemed like a fun thing to do.

I went through a very authoritarian type of school system. It was not uncommon, when homework wasn’t completed correctly or for any other minor infraction, to be sent to the headmaster’s office for caning. I’m not sure I particularly enjoyed it then, but looking back this might have been my true introduction to S&M.

Talk about your restaurant. What does a South African restaurant serve?

South African cuisine is truly a fusion cuisine. There are eleven or twelve indigenous tribes who cook tribal recipes. When the Dutch East India company settled in the country in the mid-1600s they brought with them their Dutch cuisine, and many of those ships had chefs from Indonesia or Malaysia. Subsequently the French Huguenots arrived in South Africa and brought with them the vineyards, and a very strong French influence in the cooking. When South Africa was under British Colonial rule, a lot of the traditional British dishes became integrated into South African cuisine. South Africa also has the largest population of Indians outside of India. So it’s a hybrid cuisine.

What kind of real estate do you sell?

Primarily residential real estate, single-family homes and condominiums. When I’m traveling I’m still involved with the business on an ongoing basis, either by phone or by laptop. My partner James is physically present to deal with the clients, and show the properties and get the signatures on the contracts.

Has your head stopped spinning yet since winning IML?

It’s still in a little bit of a fog. James, Todd and I live a very busy life—we work seven days a week. We try to get to the gym five days a week when we can. We’re involved in producing a weekly event, a leather tea-dance for the leather curious, on Sunday evenings at a bar called Elements in Ft. Lauderdale. And on top of that, to try to get up-to-date on all the e-mails I received since IML, and the invitations, and book the travel, and plan my calendar and get my web site up and running—it’s taken an extraordinary amount of time. Right now free time and sleep are rare commodities.

But I’m very blessed, you know. I have two partners, and they’re both exceptionally supportive. James has taken over a portion of my workload, and Todd has picked up some more of the household tasks and errands, and has worked on my web site [<>]. So, that affords me a little more time to focus on my IML duties.

Can you talk a little bit about your trio relationship?

I met James almost fourteen years ago. For the first eight or nine years of our relationship we were entirely exclusive and monogamous. We were very vanilla. Out of the blue one morning, an acquaintance called and asked if we had ever had a threesome. He said he had wanted to try one, but wanted to do it with somebody he knew. James and I discussed it and decided we would give it a try. We thought there would be jealousies, but in fact it was quite a turn-on for both of us. So, very slowly we began to open our relationship to a minor extent. But we certainly weren’t looking to add anyone to our relationship.

One day James was showing some properties at a new townhouse development. Todd arrived and wanted to see some units there, but he wasn’t with a realtor and he didn’t have an appointment. So James said, “Well, if you like, you’re welcome to tag along with us.” Todd was very newly out of the closet, so James said to him, “If you like we’ll introduce you to our group of friends, and we’ll show you around.” So he and Todd stayed in touch.

Sometime later James called Todd to say that we would be going out dancing on Saturday night, and invited him to join us. Within five minutes of meeting him I knew he was going to be a very significant part of our lives—there was instantaneous chemistry between the three of us. I’m very cautious in what I say and who I say it to, but five minutes after I met him I said to him, “You know, if we were ever to expand our relationship and include another person, it would be someone just like you.”

He came home with us that night and has been with us ever since.

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