Thursday, June 20, 2013

Andy Cross is International Mr. Leather 2013

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #471, June 20, 2013)

Fifty-one contestants from six countries competed in the 2013 International Mr. Leather (IML) contest held Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. Branded as “IML XXX5,” this year was the 35th annual contest (and the twentieth year your humble columnist has attended). This year’s IML contest and related events were attended by an estimated 18,000 guests.

This year’s IML weekend had a new host hotel in a new neighborhood: the Chicago Marriott Downtown/Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Because the host hotel sold out quickly, IML also made arrangements with three other adjacent hotels.

But it appeared that most of the weekend’s socializing revolved around the host hotel’s lobby bar, ironically named “Rush.” (Yes, “Rush” is the street outside the hotel, but it’s also a famous brand of poppers—I mean, room odorizer.) The Twin Cities’ own Miss Richfield made an appearance on the bar’s video screens, courtesy of travel website

The weekend-long IML Leather Market featured 120 leather and fetish vendors, clubs and organizations. The market was on both the fifth and seventh floors of the host hotel, and there was express escalator service between the two floors. With up to 6,000 visitors every day, the Market was packed.

Friday evening’s Opening Ceremonies and Saturday evening’s Physique Prejudging (also known as the “Pecs & Personality” event) were held at The Vic Theatre, which was the venue for the IML contest several times in the late 1980s (and which reminded old-timers of The Congress Theater, the contest’s venue from 1994 to 2004 and again in 2010). Sunday evening’s Contest and Show event returned to The Harris Theater in Millennium Park, a venue also used for the Contest and Show in 2011.

(Bus transportation, a formidable responsibility with so many events not at the host hotel as in some previous years, was ably coordinated this year by Twin Cities resident Jason Bribitzer-Stull.)

Master of ceremonies for all three weekend events was Lenny Broberg, the IML titleholder from 1992. Also seen during the weekend were previous IML titleholders from 1994, 1996, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010 and, of course, Woody Woodruff, the outgoing International Mr. Leather 2012.

Chuck Renslow, IML founder and Executive Producer, was around during the weekend in spite of some recent health challenges. Renslow had triple-bypass heart surgery in January; while recovering from that he fell out of bed, broke three ribs, and subsequently developed pneumonia. IML coordinator Jon Krongaard handled Renslow’s speaking duties at the Friday and Saturday evening events, but on Sunday evening Renslow both welcomed the crowd to the Contest and Show and announced the winners at the end of the contest.

Competing this year from Minnesota were Ryan Brown, Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2013 (who placed as a top-20 semifinalist), and Kyle Truss, Mr. Twin Cities Leather 2013. Also competing from Minnesota in the 21st annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition (held concurrently with the International Mr. Leather Contest) was Bootblack Mike, who finished the bootblack contest as First Runner-up.

Entertainment at Sunday evening’s Contest and Show was a one-woman performance by singer Beverly McClellan, as seen on NBC’s “The Voice”—and boy, does she have one (a voice, that is). Combine Janis Joplin, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, and Melissa Etheridge—and then multiply by ten. She plays a mean guitar and a soulful piano, too.

After McClellan’s performance it was time to announce the outcome of the contest: Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Leather 2013, was named International Mr. Leather 2013. First runner-up was Thib Guicherd-Callin, Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2012; second runner-up was Robert Miller, Mr. Leatherman Toronto 2013.

(Cross becomes the sixth IML titleholder from San Francisco and the second with the title of Mr. San Francisco Leather. The first? Well, that would be this year’s master of ceremonies, Lenny Broberg—Mr. San Francisco Leather 1992, who became IML 1992.)

Named as the new International Mr. Bootblack was Sammy, from Portland, Oregon. The Jeffrey Payne Lifetime Achievement Award, a relatively new addition to the IML weekend, was presented this year to Rick Storer, Executive Director of the Leather Archives & Museum.

Next year’s IML weekend will be held May 23-26, 2014, and the Chicago Marriott Downtown/Magnificent Mile will again be the host hotel. Rooms may be reserved starting on June 20, 2013—book early by visiting <>.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Minnesota Leather Pride 2013 features appearance by Hardy Haberman

This year’s theme: “Perfect Union/Coming Together”

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #470, June 6, 2013)

Hardy Haberman
Internationally known author, filmmaker, leatherman and gay activist Hardy Haberman will be making a speaking appearance in the Twin Cities as part of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration. Haberman’s appearance is just one of many events taking place June 14-30, 2013.

Minnesota’s Leather Pride celebration has been bringing Minnesota’s leather/BDSM/fetish community together since the mid-1990s. The celebration started as a single-afternoon, post-Pride Parade get-together at the Gay 90s in Minneapolis. Within a few years, however, it had grown to its present form: a multi-event celebration spread over several weeks in June, culminating in the annual Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade up Hennepin Avenue and the Twin Cities Pride Festival in Loring Park.

This year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration mixes perennial favorite events like Floggapalooza with new events including rope and electrical play demonstrations and a Leather Pride bicycle ride to complement the traditional Leather Pride motorcycle ride. Also new this year is a Recovery in the Lifestyle twelve-step meeting and an “Adventures in Fetish” leather/fetish fashion show (followed by “FUNdRaver! 2,” a rave dance party).

One of the goals of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride (MNLP) planning committee is to encourage more involvement by local leather/BDSM/fetish community members in planning the theme and events for this year’s celebration. MNLP representatives attended many community events, parties and meetings last December and January to gather community input. Community members were given a chance to vote for one of three proposed themes, either with a paper ballot or online, and were asked to suggest ideas for new MNLP events.

Besides new events, the board also has added new venues for Minnesota Leather Pride events. New venues The Southern Theater, In The Heart of the Beast Theater and Clare House join returning venues Camp Bar, Patrick’s Cabaret, Smitten Kitten, The Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt/Bolt Underground complex, and Loring Park.

The Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag for 2013, the latest in a long and distinguished line, looks great and also provides discounts at certain Minnesota Leather Pride events (see sidebar). Get yours while supplies last at participating businesses (see for details) and at Minnesota Leather Pride events.

The theme of this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration, “Perfect Union/Coming Together,” was chosen to show Minnesota Leather Pride’s support for marriage equality in Minnesota. Now that marriage equality is the law in Minnesota, this year’s theme can signify celebration of that fact.

Minnesota Leather Pride 2013 Events

Reminder: Visit <> for full details and the latest updates.

Friday, June 14: Electrical play demonstration presented by the Electrical Play Group. 8-10 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul.

Saturday, June 15: Recovery in the Lifestyle (RITL) meeting. Open to anyone living the leather/BDSM/fetish lifestyle in any Twelve-Step Recovery program. 7-9 P.M. Clare House, 3105 23rd Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 16: Unity Through Rope demonstration presented by MSDB. 2-5 P.M. Patrick’s Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Ave. S., Minneapolis. $10; discounts with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag and for MSDB members. If desired, BYOR (bring your own rope).

Friday, June 21: Twin Cities Leather “Adventures in Fetish” fashion show and bootblack party. 7:30-9:30 P.M. Followed by FUNdRaver! 2 rave dance party, 10 P.M.-2 A.M. Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis. $10 for each event; discount with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag or with combination admission to both events.

Saturday, June 22: Guest speaker Hardy Haberman presented by Leather Journey. 1-4 P.M. In The Heart of the Beast Theater, 1500 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. $10; discount with 2013 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag.

Sunday, June 23: Leather Pride Motorcycle Ride presented by Knights of Leather. 10 A.M. departure; meet at 1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 23: Leather Pride Bicycle Ride presented by PEPRMNT. 10 A.M. departure; meet on Midtown Greenway in front of Freewheel Bike/Midtown Bike Center, 2834 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Monday, June 24: BDSM Creative Collective presents readings from its 2013 Leather Pride Anthology of Art, Poetry, Photography, and Short Fiction. 7-9 P.M. Smitten Kitten, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Tuesday, June 25: Leather Pride Swap Meet presented by MAsT Twin Cities. 6:30-9:30 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul. No charge to shop; $5 to vend.

Thursday, June 27: Cigar and Pipe Smoker presented by Atons of Minneapolis. 8-11 P.M. On the patio of the Minneapolis Eagle/Bolt/Bolt Underground complex, 515 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Friday, June 28: Floggapalooza presented by Knights of Leather. 9-11 P.M. Camp Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul.

Saturday, June 29: Visit the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. 9 A.M.-5 P.M. Loring Park, Minneapolis.

Sunday, June 30: March with the Minnesota leather/BDSM/fetish community contingent, and help carry the giant leather pride flag, in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. Meet at 10 A.M. at 3rd St. and Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Parade steps off at 11 A.M. Also, visit the Minnesota Leather Pride booth at the Twin Cities Pride Festival. 9 A.M.-5 P.M. Loring Park, Minneapolis.