(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #341, June 20, 2008)
XXX: Roman numerals for 30—this year’s International Mr. Leather (IML) contest weekend was the thirtieth-anniversary event. (You thought XXX was the rating for the weekend’s activities? Pure coincidence.)
2,019: Number of rooms in the Chicago Hyatt Regency hotel. Setting a record, IML filled them all.
400: Approximate number of audience members for the first IML contest, 1979.
15,000 (or more): Approximate number of attendees for the IML weekend in 2008.
12: Number of contestants in the first IML contest, 1979.
51: Number of contestants this year.
23: Number of states represented by contestants. (Minnesota, alas, was not among them.)
7: Number of foreign countries represented this year (many by more than one contestant). It truly is an international event.
1,382: Number of contestants IML has seen in the last thirty years.
30: Number of years it took to have a contestant in a wheelchair roll across the IML stage: contestant number 33, Richard Hubley, Mr. Leather Ottawa 2008.
5: Number of International Mr. Bootblack contestants. Winner was Boot Dog, from Castro Valley, Calif., sponsored by Alameda County Leather Corps.
70,000: Square feet of space occupied by the Leather Market.
125: Number of vendors in the Leather Market.
$3,200: Price of IML 30 winner’s ring by Juan Ponce. White gold, black diamonds, white diamonds, Ceylon sapphires and a Burmese heart-shaped ruby. A very limited edition, but Ponce also makes a similar leather pride ring and has many other unique jewelry offerings. <www.jewelrybyponceportland.com>
160: Length in feet of the Hyatt Regency’s bar known as Big, centerpiece of what was, for the weekend anyway, the largest leather bar in the universe. (It’s the longest freestanding bar in North America. And trust me, the bar really is there behind all those people.)
11: IML titleholders from past years on hand for this year’s festivities (including outgoing IML 2007 Mikel Gerle, right).
47: Contestant number of the new IML, Gary Iriza (center), Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2008 (sponsored by PSLOD-Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert, The Barracks Bar and Gear). First runner up was contestant number 41, Bob Firth-Tessier (right), M. Cuir Montreal 2008 (sponsored by Priape of Montreal, Canada and Inseam Clothing of Boston, Mass.). Second runner up was contestant number 17, Scott Melton (left), Mr. Ramrod 2008 (sponsored by The Ramrod Bar of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).