Friday, March 2, 2007

That’s Mr. Leather to You

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #307, March 2, 2007)


The world of contemporary leather contests has been captured in Mr. Leather, a sexy, humorous, touching and ultimately inspiring film by Jason Garrett. I caught a screening of the film, which documents the 2003 Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest, at the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago during the annual Pantheon of Leather Awards weekend.

Why a documentary about the Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest? First, because it’s Los Angeles, where they have the movie-industry infrastructure in place for both creating and promoting documentaries such as this. But Los Angeles also has a gay men’s leather community that is large enough to support nine feeder (i.e. bar-title) contests to produce the nine contestants in the Mr. Los Angeles Leather Contest.

In a sense, the story of Mr. L.A. Leather 2003 is the story of almost every leather contest nowadays. Mr. Leather shows us this part of the GLBT leather subculture in ways that wouldn’t be possible in a film about a larger contest such as International Mr. Leather or Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather.

Because there are nine contestants, a fair amount of time can be spent telling each contestant’s story and showing his personal world.

The film begins with the thrill of victory: each of the contestants winning their respective feeder bar contests, thereby becoming eligible to compete in Mr. L.A. Leather. During their introductions in the film we discover they’re a good group of basically nice, happy guys. They cover a wide range of personality, intellect, and physique, but they all have leather in common.

The nine contestants tell us why they’re leathermen and why they’ve decided to get involved in the community by holding a leather title. They share their hopes, dreams and kink preferences. We meet friends, neighbors, partners and pets, and get glimpses of their daily lives, from the mundane to the esoteric.

In addition to the wide sweep and excitement of the contest as it approaches, the film also shows deliciously memorable, intimate moments such as the scene in which one contestant, aided by his partner, fumbles with and tries to zip his chaps (“Stop! You’re hurting me!”). We’ve all been there, but has it ever before been so nicely captured on film?

Filmmaker Garrett also captures small but telling details such as the fact that one contestant’s pickup truck is adorned with a studded-leather steering-wheel cover. (Where did he get it? I want one!)

As the contest date draws nearer we see the men preparing for competition—studying leather history, hitting the gym, polishing their leathers and doing some last-minute shopping. We hear them talking about their own chances, and those of their fellow contestants. Then it’s showtime, and we witness the thrills and heartbreaks, the personal victories and disappointments common to every leather competition.

Entertaining background commentary about leather, contests and the leather community is provided by Guy Baldwin and Tony Mills, M.D. (International Mr. Leather for 1989 and 1998, respectively). And it is marvelous to behold the screen presence that Daddy Don Anspauch, Mr. L.A. Leather 2002, projects as he looks back on his title year and prepares to sash his successor.

Presented by Here! Films and Regent Releasing, Mr. Leather has already appeared on the Here! premium GLBT cable-television network and will be available on DVD in May, 2007. Distribution plans also call for theatrical showings in 2007. (Clips of the film can be viewed at <>.)

This is a film to be cherished within our community and to be shared with our allies.

Leather Comes to Chicago for Pantheon/Olympus Weekend

The leather world converged on Chicago the weekend of February 16-18 for the annual Pantheon of Leather weekend.

PHOTO: The Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards were presented Saturday afternoon, Feb. 17, at the Leather Archives & Museum. A total of 34 crystal trophies were awarded in 29 categories. Here Dean Ogren, at the microphone, and John Prather accept their award for Couple of the Year.

PHOTO: Sunday evening, Feb. 18, Sir Jeff of Florida and Angela Albert of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, were named Mr. and Ms Olympus Leather 2007. The contest took place in the auditorium of the Chicago Eagle.

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