Friday, December 19, 1997

Holiday Potpourri

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #67, December 19, 1997)

In the style of Charles Dickens' ghosts, this column concerns itself with Leather Past, Leather Present, and Leather Future.

Leather Past: Black Guard and Atons host successful events

The Twin Cities leather/SM community has been treated to some exceptional events lately. The Black Guard's recently presented their twenty-first annual Chili Feed, and they showed that after doing it that many times they know how to do it right. This event marked the inauguration of the Tropix back room as a leather space, and it seemed to work very well on most counts. (Parts of their upcoming Black Frost run will be held in the same space; let's hope that by then there's a better sound system available.) Sizzling fantasy entertainment was provided by some very talented leathermen including current Mr. Minnesota Leather Roger Gregg; current Mr. Minnesota Leather Runner-Up Steve Eue; and J. Martin Ellis, current Mr. Southeast Drummer (who has recently relocated to the Twin Cities from Atlanta).

Two weeks later, the Atons held their annual Holiday Fundraiser at the Saloon, and both attendance and food donations were greater than last year's event. Holiday spirit was in abundance as partygoers posed for photos with International Mr. Santa Kevin Cwayna. A raffle collected food and cash benefitting the Aliveness Project, and the door proceeds of approximately $850 were donated to Every Penny Counts.

Leather Present: Greetings of the Season

Two years ago in this column I wrote: "Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or none of the above . . . it doesn't matter what other people think about how you celebrate the holiday. What matters is that it be uplifting and meaningful for you . . . whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it." That's still my holiday wish for all my readers.

Peter Semotink, 1955-1997

PHOTO: Peter Semotink (self-portrait)

Peter Semotink, a prominent member of the local leather/SM community, died on December 4, 1997. Funeral services, held December 9, were attended by members of the leather/SM community as well as a large number of relatives, friends, and the community at large. Semotink had been struggling with AIDS for several years; his death followed a stroke-induced coma. He was preceded in death by his partner of approximately five years, Tim Newman, who died of complications due to AIDS on December 7, 1994.

Semotink was an active member of the Atons for 10 years; he served two terms as club Treasurer and one term as club President (1993-94). Together with club members, he shepherded the Atons through three successful runs: the Egyptian, the Roman and the Renaissance. He was instrumental in launching the annual Leather Pride celebration as an adjunct to the Twin Cities Festival of Pride. He and Newman were active associate members of the Chicago Hellfire Club.

Born July 8, 1955 in St. Paul, Semotink at an early age discovered an interest in computers and technology; he turned this aptitude into a successful career working for many of the area's largest companies, culminating in a management position with supercomputer-manufacturer Cray Research. He was also an accomplished photographer whose work was seen in, among other places, Drummer Tough Customers #10.

In the words of fellow Aton Sam Carlisle, "Peter was a person who, no matter how difficult his situation was, would find a way to help someone who needed it."

Leather Future: Mark Your Calendar . . .

Jan. 23-24, 1998: Mr. and Ms. Olympus Leather Contest at the Metro Underground. The Olympus Leather Contest showcases a positive image of leather life and represents the entire diverse range of our community, from motorcycle and leather/levi clubs to heavy SM players and everyone in between. Call for contestant, hotel and ticket information. Produced by Back in Black Leather Productions. (Winners represent Minnesota in the Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest in New Orleans February 13-16, 1998.)

February 13-15, 1998: The Black Guard present Black Frost ’98, their 21st annual run, at the Midway Days Inn. All run registrations and requests for information are being handled by phone through The Travel Company. (Ask for the "Black Frost Desk.") VISA and MasterCard accepted! So pick up the phone and register now, and encourage your far-flung friends to do likewise—airfare discounts are 5% until January 10. Rates for the run package itself go up after February 1.

May 29-31, 1998: The Knights of Leather present Knights Tournament 10. The site, a private camp within a 16,000-acre wooded state park, includes cabins with military bunks. Weekend events include workshops, demonstrations, fantasies and a tenth-anniversary Birthday Party! Dungeon space is available all weekend. Bring a new participant and receive a 10% discount on your application fee. Or get early sign-up prices if you register before March 23, 1998. For more information or an application form call or write Knights of Leather, Minneapolis, MN.

Friday, December 5, 1997

Dialogue: Genelle Moore, IMsL ’97

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #66, December 5, 1997)

PHOTO: Genelle Moore, International Ms. Leather 1997

Current International Ms. Leather (IMsL) Genelle Moore is a real-life police officer in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she lives with her sash widow Kathy Tejcka. International leather titles seem to run in Moore’s family — her older brother, Ronald Moore, was International Mr. Leather 1984. The focus for her year as IMsL is summed up by the motto that appears on her notecards: “With participation there’s education and growth.”

As International Ms. Leather 1997, you will spend your title year representing the ideals of the women’s leather community. What are some of those ideals?

When I think back on the women who have been mentors in the community as far as lesbians are concerned, one of the names that always comes to mind is Dr. Gayle Rubin. She was one of our founding mothers — she was working side by side with leathermen when I was a teenager. I think a perfect leatherwoman would be a woman like her, who thinks beyond today, who thinks about where we’re going to be twenty or thirty years from now. She definitely has a commitment to the legacy for new leatherwomen who are coming up, and she has a commitment to maintaining the history of what leathermen and leatherwomen have done. She’s not necessarily the type who’s in this for show, I think she’s in it because she’s committed to this life.

Let’s talk about similarities and differences between leatherwomen and leathermen. First of all, what differences are there?

I think women learn differently from men, and we as leatherwomen need to keep that in mind when we’re trying to teach other women about leather. I don’t think women jump right in. Women like to talk about things, conceptualize it, and then they do it. I’ve talked to women who are interested in leather but are a little intimidated, and I think it’s because they’ve been to leather events where it’s more “in your face.” That’s where women’s leather clubs come into play, because we can sit and talk about it, let people feel comfortable with it, and when they’re able to conceptualize what they want to do, then we do it.

What do leatherwomen and leathermen have in common?

Well, we’re still fighting the AIDS epidemic, and I think that’s a common issue. And I think we have a common commitment to maintaining the history of the leather culture. As far as leather is concerned and the philosophies and teachings behind it, I think the men’s and women’s communities can walk hand in hand and learn from each other. We need to work together and we need to remember that the common goal is “safe, sane and consensual” and that’s what we’re trying to perpetuate.

What is it like being a leatherwoman in the minority among leathermen?

I guess for myself, I feel like I fit into any environment. I enjoy men, so I don’t mind being around leathermen. My brother was a leatherman, so I can relate. But I can understand that some leatherwomen are very uncomfortable being around leathermen, just as some leathermen are uncomfortable being around leatherwomen. I don’t know that it’s a difference of philosophy, I think what’s happening is that leatherwomen, or even women in general, are going through another stage of the evolution of their development. Maybe what leatherwomen need to start developing is the spiritual part of living in leather; maybe that’s the part of our community that’s been missing. Women have always been very spiritual in any culture, and I think that’s what’s happening here. We’re going through some growing pains, not quite understanding where we fit in the whole leather scene, with all the definitions of tops and bottoms and daddies and boys and so on. Women are still jostling with where and how we fit in and how we’re to carry our piece of the community. I think it goes a lot deeper than the play, I think we need to start developing the spirituality that’s involved in living in leather.

(Information about Moore is available at many sites on the World Wide Web. She is featured on IMsL’s web page at; you can find more web sites with information about her by doing a Web search for her name.)

Upcoming Leather Events

TIES presents Snowbound ’97, an all-day BDSM seminar
Saturday, December 6, Laughing Cup Auditorium (1811 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls.)

Doors open at 11 am, presentations start at noon

Unfortunately, this event sold out soon after I got the press release. But what an event it will be! Topics include negotiation and consensuality, flogging techniques and safety, sensation play, toy making and care, slave training and rope bondage — followed by an attendees-only play party where people can practice newly-acquired skills under the supervision of experienced Dungeon Masters. This seminar hopes to provide new insights for both beginners and experienced players and, as are all TIES events, will be pansexual (GLBT, het, kink). If this sounds interesting, TIES is planning a larger seminar, SunStroke, next June, and they have a full calendar of monthly and quarterly events. For more information: TIES, Minneapolis MN or e-mail: (By the way, TIES stands for Tremendously Intense Erotic Situations.)

Atons Holiday Fundraiser
Sunday, December 7, 6-10 pm,The Saloon
A great way to kick off the holiday season. $5 at the door (benefitting Every Penny Counts); free food, drink specials including tap beer or non-alcoholic drinks for 75 cents. Also, food is being collected for The Aliveness Project; for every pound of food you bring, you get an entry in a drawing for a pair of leather pants donated by Back in Black Leather.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Jan. 23-24, 1998: Mr. and Ms. Olympus Leather Contest at the Metro Underground. The Olympus Leather Contest showcases a positive image of leather life and represents the entire diverse range of our community, from motorcycle and leather/levi clubs to heavy SM players and everyone in between. Call for contestant, hotel and ticket information. Produced by Back in Black Leather Productions. (Winners represent Minnesota in the Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest in New Orleans February 13-16, 1998.)

SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE: For inclusion in Letters to the Editor:

To the Editor:

Issue 65 of Lavender contained two Letters to the Editor about my column in Issue 63 on electrical SM play. I thank the writers for taking the time to express their views and feel that they, and the community, deserve a response from me.

I don’t choose topics for the “Leather Life” column to “boost my readership”; I choose them based on questions and comments I hear from the community. I try to include things the community either wants to know or needs to know. Here’s what sparked (excuse the pun) the electricity column: I was talking with a gentleman at a party recently, and the topic of conversation turned to electrical play. I mentioned the “never above the waist” rule — a rule with which this gentleman was unacquainted. His response was that gee, it sure was a good thing we talked about this because he had been considering experimenting with a car battery and jumper cables — one clamp to one nipple, one clamp to the other. I told him that was not a safe thing to do, and thought to myself “Well, there’s a column that needs to be written.”

One letter writer chastises me for “advising people to play with bondage or electricity . . . without proper training.” That was most certainly not the intent of the column. Some others may have read only the headline and deduced that I was telling people not to play with electricity at all, ever. That also was not the intent of the column.

I have always tried to make “Leather Life” sex-positive and SM-positive, within the bounds of intelligence, common sense and good taste. The message of the electricity column was not “Don’t play with electricity.” It was “Don’t kill yourself or someone else while you’re doing it.” In this context, I consider the descriptions of other electrical phenomena involving the human body very relevant in establishing a healthy respect for electricity and illustrating the importance of approaching electrical play in an intelligent manner.

When “Leather Life” started two-and-a-half years ago, a decision was made that it would not be a “how-to” column, since that kind of information is available elsewhere. Coverage of SM in this column has either been concerned with reinforcing awareness of the community’s “safe, sane, consensual” motto or has been targeted to those who are new to the community and who have questions. Similarly, the intent of this particular article was not to set myself up as a master “electrician,” but rather to emphasize the importance of seeking out those in our community who are experts at electrical play and learning from them.

Now, about violet wands and auras: I clearly presented it as my opinion (to which I am entitled), and in the next sentence I gave the reader permission to hold their own opinion on this matter. Metaphysics being the indeterminate science that it is, I thought that was fair. But I do thank Robert Johnson for making the quite valid point in his letter that violet wands should not be used around the eyes, and I also thank him for citing Checkpoint and DungeonMaster as learning resources.

Your humble columnist,
Steve Lenius

Friday, November 21, 1997

Steve Kelso: What’s New?

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #65, November 21, 1997)

PHOTO: Steve Kelso and one of his many admirers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Fleisher

Male icon Steve Kelso paid a return visit to The Town House recently to raise money for the Aliveness Project's Holiday Basket Program. That gave me a chance to update the interview that appeared in these pages a year ago:

What have you been doing since you were in the Twin Cities last year?

We did the calendar last year, which ended up raising over $45,000 for different AIDS organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada. I've been real proud of that, raising a lot of money for different organizations. I'm also real excited about how the calendar is being perceived — I want to change that whole thing about porn celebrities just doing it for the cash. I wish more people in the industry would get involved with their communities, I'd like to see more of that being done.

Last year you were talking about doing a second video. Have you?

This year it's gonna be a go. We're gonna start on it probably in about two months. Last year it was difficult. With all the traveling around we just could not find time.

What can you tell us about the new video?

Not real sure yet. I know it's probably going to be filmed in California somewhere, probably Palm Springs. And we're going to do it all-digital to keep the quality high.

What else are you doing these days? Still working at the club [The Den in Somerset, New Jersey]?

I'm there four days a week, but now that it's travel season promoting the calendar I've cut down quite a bit.

Do people walk in not expecting to see you, and then their mouths drop open when they see who's behind the bar?

I can tell right away when they've recognized me. But I also get a lot of phone calls to the club, people wanting to come in and meet me. A lot of people from out of town—they know I work there because of articles they've read. The best thing I can say is, make sure you call the club to make sure that I'm there and not out on the road. We've got it down this year to, like, maybe every two weeks or so I'm home for a two-week span, which is a lot better than coming and going every day or every other day. Last year I never knew when I was going to be home.

Have you got any other projects that you're either working on or that have come out?

Yes, we're going to start doing other calendars of different guys, putting together a "New Faces" type calendar, and make it the same type of vehicle for raising money for AIDS organizations.

Where are you finding the faces?

I find them as I travel around. Last year we were in forty cities, maybe more, and we meet people. And if anyone's interested, they can forward their picture to me (Eagle Studios, Inc., Lakewood, NJ). We're looking for good midwestern stock, your normal "Joe."

If somebody should hit the jackpot by having their photo selected, what can they expect?

I hope they take my job traveling around the country so I can stay home for awhile.

Do you think it could get that far?

I'm sure. I mean, if I can do it . . . .

(By the way, Steve has recently upgraded his site on the World Wide Web. His new web address is Take a look.)

Upcoming Leather Events

Black Guard 21st Annual Chili Feed
Sunday, November 23, 5-10 pm (or later), Rear Entry at Tropix, 3rd Ave. N. at 4th Street)
From North Washington Ave., turn west onto 3rd Avenue N. Park in back of the building (limited) or at the 4th St. Ramp. Go to the back of the building and follow the lighted fire escape. $8 at the door includes free beer, chili and door prizes. Specials on drinks, including soft drinks and water (which is a nice way of saying soft drinks, unlike beer, aren't free). Advance word is that fantasies will be presented by titleholders and other guys who really know how to present them. Special raffle with prizes including a run packet to Black Frost ’98 (see below). Leather/Levi dress code will be in effect.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Sunday, December 7: Atons Holiday Fundraiser at The Saloon (details next issue).

February 13-15, 1998: The Black Guard present Black Frost ’98, their 21st annual run, at the Midway Days Inn. Thursday night pre-party is at Club Metro Underground; Saturday night banquet and show is at Tropix/Rear Entry; Sunday wind-down party (and new-officer installation) is at the Brass Rail, with a post-wind-down party at The Saloon. The theme this year is “Come Fly With Us!” In keeping with that theme, registering for the run is just like buying an airline ticket: all run registrations and requests for information are being handled by phone through The Travel Company. (Ask for the "Black Frost Desk.") Out-of-towners can make other travel arrangements at the same time: plane, train, bus, rent-a-car, extended hotel stay, etc. And this is the first run anywhere to take VISA and MasterCard! So pick up the phone and register now, and encourage your far-flung friends to do likewise—airfare discounts are 10% until December 10 and 5% until January 10. Rates for the run package itself go up after February 1.

Friday, November 7, 1997

Celebrating Tom of Finland

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #64, November 7, 1997)

The year was 1957 when the pioneering “bodybuilder magazine” Physique Pictorial became the first American publication to print the work of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen. Editor Bob Mizer assumed no one in this country would ever be able to remember such an unusual name so he decided, in a stroke of unintended genius, to call the artist Tom of Finland.

From that one magazine cover, the art and archetypes of Tom of Finland have gone on to profoundly influence gay male culture and, by extension, society at large. Tom’s men, still arresting and arousing today, were absolutely revolutionary at the time he started drawing them. He was creating positive masculine role models for himself, and for the rest of the emerging gay culture, where none had existed before. In contrast to the prevailing image of male homosexuals as either tormented, self-loathing souls or “sissies” (as documented in the movie The Celluloid Closet), Tom’s men were both rugged and beautiful at the same time, and they reveled joyously in their masculinity and their same-sex sexuality. The men in Tom’s world were free of guilt, shame and angst at a time when men in the real world were still struggling with that concept.

As gay male culture has grown freer and more comfortable with itself, Tom’s Men have become cultural icons. We are drawn to the look—we want to associate with these men, we want to become these men. And we do. From The Village People to real people in the Village, on Castro Street and in The Tank on Sunday nights, Tom of Finland’s pictures continue, forty years later, to define, mirror and inspire our community.

This 40th-anniversary year of Tom's first publication in America has been marked by three significant events: the publication of the Tom of Finland Retrospective III, containing many examples of Tom’s drawings that have never before been published in book form; the publication of The Complete Physique Pictorial 1951-1990, a complete reprint in three volumes of the magazine that introduced Tom’s art to America; and the introduction of a line of Tom of Finland clothing taken directly from Tom’s drawings. The clothing collection features high-quality, moderately-priced items such as flannel shirts, leatherwear, tank tops, swimwear, vests and “Tom Fit” jeans. So far, of course, you can’t buy them in the Twin Cities; evidently merchandise buyers for local stores don’t think we can handle clothes with that much testosterone.

You’ll be able to see the clothes (and let the folks from Tom of Finland see you) at the Tom of Finland “Manhunt,” an educational/promotional event which is currently touring the country and which will be in Minneapolis on Thursday, November 13 from 9 pm to 3 am. It’s called a “Manhunt” because they are looking for real men to model their clothes in advertisements in major fashion magazines. (No, they are not looking for pumped/steroid bodies. They are looking for men of all types, sizes, shapes, ages and colors, who share the attitude of Tom’s men in that they are confident and comfortable with their sexuality.) You’ll learn about the Tom of Finland Foundation’s mission, accomplishments, and upcoming events nationwide. You may even get lucky and win some of the books and clothing that will be given away. (Or you may just get lucky, if you know what I mean.)

As a warm-up for this event, you might consider renting a copy of Daddy and the Muscle Academy, Tom's filmed autobiography/documentary in which Tom himself (in Finnish, with eloquent subtitles) tells his own story and the story of his art. You’ll gain an appreciation of what makes Tom’s art so extraordinary and so enduring. (While you’re at it, make it a double bill with The Celluloid Closet.)

Yes, It’s At the 90’s. Go To It Anyway.

So far this column has stayed neutral on the subject of the Gay 90’s — I have publicized events at the Gay 90’s in the same fashion as events at other places. This column has never discriminated against establishments that cater to leather only on certain nights of the week, and it will not discriminate against establishments that cater to a gay clientele only on certain nights of the week (such as Tropix). If anyone is having an event that is of interest to the leather community, you’ll find it here (assuming I am made aware of it, of course).

The Tom of Finland Manhunt has three strikes against it: 1) It's Thursday night, which means people have to work the next day. 2) It's cosponsored by Camel cigarettes, which might be offensive to those obsessed with political correctness. And 3) It’s at the 90’s. I urge you to ignore all three of these reasons, and go anyway. Don't say “no” because it’s at the 90’s. Say “yes” because it’s Tom of Finland, an important part of both gay male culture and leather culture which deserves to be supported and celebrated. And you might even enjoy it.

Upcoming Leather Events

Tom of Finland Manhunt
Thursday, November 13, 9 pm-3 am, Gay 90’s Dance Annex
(See accompanying article for details.)

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Sunday, November 23: The Black Guard’s annual Chili Feed at Tropix, 400 3rd Ave. N., Minneapolis. (Details next issue.)

Friday, October 24, 1997

Roger Gregg is Mr. MN Leather ’98 (and a Few Word about Electrical Play)

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #63, October 24, 1997)

PHOTO: Roger Gregg, Mr. Minnesota Leather 1998

In an extremely close contest, Roger Gregg took the sash at the 1998 Mr. Minnesota Leather competition held Saturday, October 4 at Club Metro Underground. Other competitors were George Vuckovic, Karl Keturi  and Steve Eue, who captured the runner-up spot.

Saturday’s contest was preceded by a Thursday-night warm-up at the Brass Rail and a Friday-night “lights-out” party at Club Metro Underground which was quite dark and quite festive. These two events were well-attended, and Saturday night drew the biggest audience for a contest in recent memory.

The crowd was not disappointed. The four contestants looked great on stage and gave interesting, heartfelt speeches. The evening's fantasy performances displayed a creativity and a degree of showmanship not often seen at local contests. Epitomizing this was Roger Gregg’s “cast of thousands” extravaganza with the largest and most diverse cast I’ve ever seen in a fantasy—anywhere.

The judging panel included not one but two current international titleholders—International Mr. Leather (and outgoing Mr. Minnesota Leather) Kevin Cwayna and International Mr. Fantasy Ariq Robinson. Also judging were current Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather Mike Siemer, current Mr. Minnesota Drummer Jack Maynard, Gary O’Neill of Wolf Productions, and your humble columnist.

Gregg will compete at next year’s 20th-anniversary International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago, where he will try to bring the International Mr. Leather sash home to Minnesota for the second year in a row.

Electricity: Please Don’t “Die-Hard”

To anyone out there who is considering exploring electricity from an SM perspective, a request: Learn about Mr. Kilowatt before you play with him. There's a lot to learn—much more than this column can go into, so I'll only touch on a few of the basics here.

For SM purposes there are two kinds of electricity: electricity that moves along the surface of human tissue, and electricity that penetrates human tissue and moves through it. Violet wands are of the former type; most other electrical toys are of the latter.

Violet wands were originally sold as medical devices but are now widely recognized as medically worthless. In SM situations, however, they provide both an interesting tactile sensation and an impressive visual image. (However, I don’t play with them because my instincts tell me that they burn holes in one’s aura. Your instincts may tell you something else, and that’s fine.)

Now, as to the other kind of electricity: Think of the various interactions between electrical current and the human body in non-SM situations. Downed power lines and hairdryers in bathtubs can be lethal. Electric chairs are designed to be lethal. Some non-lethal uses of electricity applied to the human body include torturing political prisoners and using “stun guns” to subdue attackers. And there's the legendary convention-time prank involving male conventioneers using cattle prods on female showgirls—all in good fun, of course (or so the men think).

Medical science uses electricity with somewhat loftier intentions. Electricity to the head (electroshock therapy) has been used for decades to treat mental illness and depression, but even after all these years there are still some major side effects to deal with. And in emergency rooms, electric “paddles” are used on the chest to jump-start a heart that has stopped beating. If you've ever watched “St. Elsewhere” or “ER” you know the strength of the jolt the paddles deliver.

Conversely, an electric shock can stop a beating heart. Years ago I learned from a TV repairman that when he was messing around inside a TV set he always kept one hand in his pocket. That way if he got a shock it would only go up one finger and down the other; if he had both hands inside the TV the shock could go up one arm, through the heart, and out the other arm—possibly killing him in the process.

So, since we don’t want electricity around the heart or the brain, the mantra for everyone involved in electrical play is (repeat after me): “Never above the waist.” One major manufacturer of electrical toys for SM play feels this is such an important rule that they've incorporated that slogan into their logo.

If the idea of electrical play intrigues you, don’t just buy a cattle prod at Fleet Farm and start experimenting, and don't try to see what else you can do with a car battery and jumper cables. Before you actually do anything with electricity, learn about electrical play by reading about it and/or by talking with others who have some experience in this field.

Leatherwomen: Contestants Wanted

W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is accepting applications for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition (see previous issue for contestant requirements.) Contact W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc.. (W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is the Official Representative for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition.)

Friday, October 10, 1997

Of Magic and Mountaintops—Reflections on the Atons 25th-Anniversary Run

(Published in International Leatherman, Issue #17, February-March, 1998)

The Atons of Minneapolis recently celebrated their 25th anniversary with a run themed, appropriately, “A Renaissance—Renewing the Ties that Bind.” This Atons run was unusual in several ways. Normally, the Atons hold a run only during even-numbered years; odd-numbered years feature a smaller, informal campout instead of a run. Atons runs and campouts are usually held in the middle of summer at a campground in outstate Minnesota. The 25th-anniversary run was a magnificent exception to those rules. It was a full-fledged run in an odd-numbered year. It was held in autumn, which meant cooler nights which were perfect for wearing leather. And it was held at the Minneapolis Regal hotel in downtown Minneapolis, a first-class facility which made a very comfortable base of operations for the run and its 139 participants.

The run kicked off Friday night with registration and dinner in the hotel’s top-floor banquet room and geodesic-domed lounge with spectacular views of the Minneapolis night skyline. Participants then had a choice of a Bar Crawl to The Saloon, conveniently located a few blocks from the hotel, or two play parties (one bondage, one watersports). After-hours cocktail parties at the hotel completed the evening.

Saturday’s major activity, in keeping with the theme of the run, was a trip to the 27th annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, Minnesota. This 22-acre re-creation of a medieval kingdom has for years been a gathering place for artisans and entertainers who bring the village streets to life with food, drink, continuous entertainment, games, and the atmosphere of an authentic marketplace featuring a wide variety of crafts. As if that weren’t enough, the Atons added their own special events including an Enduro which took participants on a tour of the entire festival grounds gathering pieces of information to solve a puzzle.

Saturday night’s 25th-anniversary banquet featured an appearance by leather lesbian Lynn Lavner and entertainment by members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. After the banquet were two more play parties (one bondage, one fisting).

The run concluded Sunday with a breakfast buffet during which the weekend’s awards were handed out and charter member Jim Courtney was recognized with a rousing round of applause for being the last remaining fully-active charter member. A Sunday-afternoon wind-down party at The Saloon was available for those who didn’t have to immediately drive or catch a plane back home. And the Atons, who had been planning this event for over a year, could relax and enjoy the afterglow of another well-done run.

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #62, October 10, 1997)

The Atons of Minneapolis held their 25-year anniversary run, “A Renaissance—Renewing the Ties that Bind,” at the Minneapolis Regal Hotel from Friday, September 26 to Sunday, September 28. Following is the text of some remarks I made at the Sunday morning closing ceremonies.

“This has been a magic weekend for me, and I hope for you all as well. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my experiences this weekend, and offer you a few things to think about during your drive or flight home.

“Of course I knew that this weekend was going to be a magical event, and that the Atons’ 25-year anniversary was historic. But I didn’t really appreciate how historic until I spent some time Friday night talking to a gentleman who is here for the weekend from Chicago. He is a professional librarian, and among other things he is currently the head librarian at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. He gave me a new appreciation of how far back in the community the Atons’ roots really go, and how amazing it is that out of all the clubs that were started years ago, and all the clubs that have come and gone in the meantime—and there have been many—this club has lasted 25 years and is still here, strong and vital. That really is worth celebrating.

“And celebrate we have. Yesterday many of us went to the Renaissance Festival. I had a wonderful time. I’ve been there many times before—years ago, when I was in high school, I worked it—but being there yesterday as part of this group, and at every turn seeing someone in leather, made the day magical. And yes, the evenings and nights have been pretty magical too.

“And then I woke up this morning and I realized something. This is the last weekend of the Renaissance Festival for this year. Just like the mythical Scottish town of Brigadoon, which sprang to life for only one day each century before vanishing into the Highland mists for another hundred years (you Broadway queens out there know what I’m talking about here), the Renaissance Festival is gone after today until next year. And so is this Run. The Atons will have other runs, but there will never be another run quite like this 25th-anniversary run. It’s about to disappear into the mists of history, and we’ll only be able to call back our experiences of this weekend in our dreams and in our memories. All the while we’ve been celebrating 25 years of the Atons’ history this weekend, we’ve been a part of making the history that our leather descendants—and some of us, I hope—will be remembering in 25 years at the Atons’ 50-year anniversary run.

“I had another thought when I woke up this morning, and was thinking how magical this weekend has been. It’s the same thought I have at the end of every leather event I attend, and I imagine some of you have had the same thought: I don’t want this to end. Even for the Atons, who have been planning this for a year-and-a-half and are probably READY to have this end, I bet some of you are feeling the same thing I felt this morning: Life should always be like this. I want life to always be this magical, to always be surrounded by my tribe and feel the sense of comradery, caring and community I always feel at events like this. Like Moses, I find myself wanting to live the rest of my life at the top of the mountain, in the presence of what I consider holy.

“But life isn’t like that. We have to come down off our mountain tops, and go back out into that everyday, ’normal’ world that often doesn’t understand us, doesn’t always let us be who we truly are, and sometimes makes us feel out of place. Why does this have to be, I was asking myself this morning. And the answer came back—because there are people out in that world who want what we have, who want what we have been enjoying this weekend—and don’t know how to find it. We have to go out there and let them know that they can be a part of this—they can be a part of us— if that’s what they want. They won’t be able to find it by themselves, and we won’t be able to maintain it by ourselves. But by joining together with them, and letting them join together with us—just as a bunch of guys joined together 25 years ago and created a club called the Atons—we’ll ensure that our tribe continues and grows, and that for years to come we’ll always have places and times like this weekend, when we can come together and be who we truly are, and celebrate.”

Leatherwomen: Contestants Wanted

W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is now accepting applications for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition. Requirements: Must be a resident of Minnesota, a woman 21 years or older, friendly, gracious, knowledgeable in leather, and ready to work equally with the men’s and women’s communities. Eager to educate, support, and listen to the newcomers entering the leather scene locally and abroad. Must possess strong leadership skills with the ability to organize and speak in public forums. You must be financially capable of supporting the expenses attached to holding this title and must compete at the 1998 International Ms. Leather competition. For more information or to receive an application, contact W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc., Brooklyn Center MN. (W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions Inc. is the Official Representative for the 1998 Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition.)

Upcoming Leather Events

Steve Kelso Appearance benefiting The Aliveness Project
Friday, October 24, The Town House (St. Paul)
Doors open at 6 pm; $10 admission includes a buffet supper at 6:30 pm; Kelso’s appearance starts at 9 pm. Buy a calendar, poster or video and he’ll autograph it for you (Christmas is coming—great gift ideas). Music is by DJ Damon. All proceeds benefit The Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Project.

Friday, September 26, 1997

Leather Community News

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #61, September 26, 1997)

Welcome Leather Visitors

This is the weekend of the long-awaited Atons of Minneapolis 25th Anniversary Run. Congratulations to the Atons and welcome to everyone attending, and a special welcome to you if you’re from out of town. Have a great weekend—play safe but play hard. If you like the way we party in the Twin Cities, please note that there are some upcoming events (listed at the end of this column) that we hope will inspire you to pay a return visit.

Sober Leather Organization Holds First Event

The newly forming Sober Leather organization held its first-ever fundraiser Sunday, September 14 at the Saloon—and what a party it was! With help from the Atons, Black Guard, and Imperial Sovereign Court of the Ice Castle, there was almost always something happening on stage: raffles, auctions, demonstrations, speakers, two sets by local gay comedy group Hot Dish, and an appearance by newly-sashed International Ms. Leather Genelle Moore. In one memorable bit, some members of Sober Leather put a new and twisted spin on Patty Page’s “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” As if that weren’t enough, the dance floor was ringed with many vendor booths and displays. (And the food, courtesy of the Saloon’s kitchen, was absolutely delightful.)

For many in attendance, the theme of the evening was not necessarily “Welcome to the Community” but rather “Welcome Back to the Community.” One wonderful comment I kept hearing all evening was: “Where did all these new leathermen come from? I’ve never seen them before!” A lot of them aren’t “new” leathermen; as many of the demonstrations showed (and as I can personally attest) they’re no strangers to the leather/SM scene. The formation of Sober Leather gives them a chance to be active in the community once again, and it gives the rest of us the benefit of their years of leather experience and insight.

There was one point of confusion about the evening: Yes, alcoholic drinks were being served to those who wanted them. This was not a Twelve-Step meeting, and Sober Leather is not a recovery organization. Some of its members are in recovery from alcohol or other substance abuse. Others simply choose not to drink or use drugs. Others may indulge on occasion but respect the importance of not engaging in SM play while under the influence. Sober Leather’s mission is not to exclude anyone. Their mission, like that of the leather community in general, is to respectfully include anyone and everyone who wants to be included. For further information, write to them at P.O. Box 581114, Minneapolis, MN 55458.

Upcoming Leather Events

1997 Mr. Minnesota Leather Weekend
Thursday-Sunday, October 2-5, various locations

Join International Mr. Leather 1997 Kevin Cwayna as he passes his Mr. Minnesota Leather title sash to his successor. (If you want a chance to be that successor, you can enter the contest.)

The action starts Thursday night as the Brass Rail Goes Leather (Brass Rail, 9 pm-1 am).

Friday night is Tuff-N-Buff In The Dark (Club Metro Underground, St. Paul, 9 pm-1 am). $6 cover include one drink. According to contest publicity, there will be “No Lights, No Rules,” so this should be an interesting way to meet all those contestants and judges.

Saturday is the Contest and Dance (Club Metro Underground, doors open at 8 pm). Admission is $15 at the door or $10 presale (Friday night only). The sash will be presented to Mr. Minnesota Leather 1998 at midnight.

Winding up the weekend on Sunday will be Boots & Boxers Night (Saloon, 6-10 pm), with a $5 cover and Best Boxers, Best Look and Best Body contests.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Friday, October 24: Yes, mark this date on the Steve Kelso calendar that you bought last year—because it’s your chance to see him again and buy your next Steve Kelso calendar! Kelso returns to the Town House Bar and Piano Lounge in St. Paul for another Aliveness Project fundraiser. Doors open at 6 pm; $10 admission includes a buffet supper. Kelso’s appearance starts at 9 pm. Buy a calendar, poster or video and he’ll autograph it for you (Christmas is coming—here are some great gift ideas). Music is by DJ Damon, the leather artist whose Kelso drawings were auctioned off last year (and who may do some more this year.) All proceeds benefit The Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Project.

Friday, September 12, 1997

“They Paved The Leather Roads We Walk On Now”: Preserving Our Leather History

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #60, September 12, 1997)

Where did leather come from? How did the leather community evolve? If you’ve ever wondered about that, there is an establishment in Chicago that can enlighten you. The Leather Archives and Museum is devoted to collecting, preserving and displaying our heritage. The 1997 International Mr. Leather souvenir booklet featured an article on the Leather Archives and Museum, from which I quote with permission:

“The Leather/SM/Fetish community as we know it dates from at least the early 1940’s, although many aspects of it date from hundreds or thousands of years earlier. But these aspects of our lifestyles have always been hidden from public view. They have not been written about with any real candor. Information about them has not been preserved in libraries and the artifacts of our existence have not been gathered into museums.

“New members of a sexual minority cannot go to the family attic and find Uncle Henry’s horde of Rigid Bondage Roster, Aunt Viola’s tit clamp collection or the home movies of grandma and grandpa having an absolutely wonderful experience with bondage and corsetry! The items of significance in our sexual lifestyle are not added to the biological family’s collection of treasured remembrances. Instead they are consigned to dumpsters and trash cans, either by our own anxieties or by our survivors’ disinterest or outright revulsion.

“Every generation of leathermen and leatherwomen has had to reinvent itself or base its community knowledge on the remembrances of living individuals. The Leather Archives and Museum is dedicated to preserving a record of our lifestyle, our communities, our achievements and our history for present and future generations.

“In 1992, Chuck Renslow (creator of our nation’s first leather bar, Chicago’s Gold Coast, and the Executive Producer of the International Mr. Leather Contest) asked several leatherman and women to join him in forming the Leather Archives and Museum. In 1993, LA&M presented its first exhibition of leather artifacts in a conference room at the Congress Hotel during the International Mr. Leather weekend. These exhibits were repeated in 1994 and 1995.

“In November of 1996, the LA&M moved into new headquarters at 5007 North Clark Street and opened its first permanent public exhibit space. The new space also houses the archival and research collections and allowed them to be accessible to serious students, who immediately came to use them from institutions ranging from the Chicago Art Institute to the Kinsey Institute for Sexual Research at Indiana University.”

During the recent International Mr. Leather contest, International Ms. Leather 1996 Jill Carter spoke from the stage at the Congress Theater about the importance of preserving our heritage: “Those individuals paved the leather roads we all walk on now.” She also discussed ways the community can assist the Leather Archives & Museum in its mission:

“See what piece of memorabilia your community can donate to the Leather Archives. Is your club’s history on file for all to read? Are your club colors on record? Has each state or region recorded its traditions to be saved for the future? Has the oral history of your community’s elders been recorded? If the answer is yes . . . does the Archives have a copy? If the answer is no . . . what are you waiting for? An invitation? Well, consider it given!”

The LA&M collects and preserves books, newsletters, magazines, photographs, letters, videotapes, organizational minutes and files, club and business logos, catalogs, posters, fliers, brochures, tickets, programs, club colors, patches, banners, buttons, run pins, original artwork, sketches, sculptures, dungeon/playrooms designs and plans, equipment designs, photos and sketches, and titleholder sashes, medals and trophies. If you are aware of items that should be preserved, do what you can to see that the current owner knows about the Archives and what they are trying to accomplish. The Leather Archives & Museum is a tax-exempt charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Tax Code. This means that all donations to LA&M are deductible from federal income taxes. Memberships are available, and monetary donations can be made above and beyond membership. (The silent auction during the 1997 IML weekend raised over $3200 for the Archives.)

Next time you’re in Chicago, visit them (5007 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640, telephone 773/275-1570). Once you’ve been there, you’ll wear your hide with more pride. In the words of Jill Carter: “Who we are—what we stand for—and where we are going must never again end up as landfill. Our memories are far too precious for that.”

Upcoming Leather Events

One Sunday afternoon, two events. At least they’re within walking distance of each other.

WOOF . . . Welcome to the Community
Sunday, September 14, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
You’ve read about them in this column. Now come welcome the Sober Leather organization to the local leather community. Featured: food, drink specials, fantasies, entertainment, demonstrations, vendor booths, a raffle and maybe a silent auction. $5 at the door.

2nd Annual Leather/Levi “Fun” Raiser
Sunday, September 14, 5-9 pm, Gay 90’s
Hosted by the Rainbow Cloggers. They’ll perform, as will Borderline. Proceeds benefit NSGRA rodeo contestants and royalty at the upcoming Washington D.C. and IGRA Finals rodeos. $10 includes beer and food.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

September 26-28: The Atons 25th Anniversary Run. See the related article in this issue, then register if you haven’t already. For a registration form e-mail, or visit their web site:

Friday, August 29, 1997

International Mr. Leather: Winning and Beyond

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #59, August 29, 1997)

Part 3 of the Lavender Interview with Kevin Cwayna

You went to IML and “made the cut”—you were one of the top 20 leathermen. Now you were going to compete in the jockwalk and speech segments of the contest. How did it feel once you got out on stage and started working the crowd?

It felt great. With both the jockwalk and the speech, as soon as I knew the light was turned on me and it was my turn, I always felt great. All the audience is doing is waiting for somebody to come out and be a little bit fun. They were an easy crowd to play with because they're waiting for it, that's what they're there for. So under those circumstances there was no intimidation factor.

What was it like to hear your name announced as the winner?

It was an incredible emotional orgasm. It was a huge vote of confidence. It was like yeah, I did plan this right, I did think about this right, it did work, and I do know what I'm doing. It was all that, it hit me all at once.

What did you do the rest of that evening, after the crowd left?

I could have stood on that stage after the contest for two more hours, I don't think people left me alone. But then they said we have a limo, and we have places to go, and we went to the Victory Party at the House of Blues.

Earlier in the evening, backstage, I had seen the comedian, Scott Thompson [the contest’s headline entertainer, of “Kids in the Hall” fame] standing all alone, looking nervous. So I went up to him and said, “I think you're great, I like what you do.” And he said, “Oh, thank you.” Well, at the party at House of Blues I saw him again, and I said “I was the guy who came up to you, and, uh, by the way, I won.” And he said, “Oh, you know, I was going to tell them to vote for you when I got out there on stage.” He was going to use that as a joke: “Vote for contestant number 39, he just sucked up to me.”

What do you want to accomplish by the time you step down?

I want to raise the leather community's pride by giving them tangible, clear things to be proud of—so they can really grasp onto things and say, “This is why I love this community.” I also want to bring that outside of the commmunity, so that there is a greater respect for leather outside the leather community. I think there's a power in being respected. I want the gay community to say, “Wow, the leather community's really interesting, there's a lot to learn there.” I would love that to be in the consciousness of the mainstream gay community, because there's so much wisdom and inspiration that's lost within our community because we're marginalized.

To take just one aspect: I think there's incredible wisdom, creativity and courageousness in the leather community about the creation of families. Parts of the mainstream gay culture are caught up in assimilation and in modeling after the straight community. The leather community says, “Why don't we create what we want instead of chasing after something somebody else has?” I think that's a much more dignified, respectable, intelligent approach. And that's just one example of the kinds of things I think the leather community has to offer.

The leather community is one of the least ageist communities around, and they also know how to talk about sex better than anyone I know. And they also are the only community I know that admits sex is about power. I think these are invaluable, brilliant, hopeful, and inspiring things about the leather community, and I'm going to get those messages out wherever I can.

International Mr. Fantasy ’97

PICTURE: From left: Steve Waldren; Eric Robinson; Michael deLeon.

Eric Robinson of Michigan captured the sash in the 1997 International Mr. Fantasy contest, held August 16 in Omaha. Our own Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1997 Michael deLeon was first runner-up and Mr. Texas Fantasy 1997 Steve Waldren was second runner-up.

In this third year for Fantasy Weekend as a contest, the contestants and staff produced a fast-paced and entertaining evening show. Next year marks Fantasy Weekend’s tenth anniversary, and in addition to the contest an “old-style” Fantasy show will be presented: present and former titleholders raising money for charity by presenting fantasies and other entertainment in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Mark your calendars now: August 21-23, 1998. It will be spectacular.

Upcoming Leather Events

“Work Your Fetish, Belabor Your Kinks”
Sunday, August 31, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
The Atons present a Labor Day Weekend event. Featuring drink specials, free food from 6-9 pm, door prizes and your last chance to win an Atons 25 Run Package. $5 at the door.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Sunday, September 14: WOOF, a party welcoming the Sober Leather Organization to the Twin Cities leather community.

September 26-28: The Atons 25th Anniversary Run. For a registration form call e-mail, or visit their web site:

Friday, August 15, 1997

International Mr. Leather: Making the Cut

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #58, August 15, 1997)

Part 2 of the Lavender Interview with Kevin Cwayna

“I looked around and said, I know I can make the top 20, so I’m gonna go for it.”

PHOTOS: Kevin Cwayna

You competed in the International Mr. Leather contest as Mr. Minnesota Leather. What provoked you to enter the Mr. Minnesota Leather contest?

Well, I'd been down to the International Mr. Leather contest for a few years, and I thought, wow, first of all what a beautiful group of men, and second of all it would be really exciting to be part of that. I didn't know if I was of the caliber that would ever be able to make it as a contestant, but I thought you could really get to know a lot of beautiful, interesting people if you could get into that contest. I also entered because I thought being in a contest might expose me to some people who don't go out as much. It might give me another point of connection with the community other than showing up in a bar once in a while.

What was going through your mind as they announced you had won Mr. Minnesota Leather?

I was very proud. It was a big confidence booster—I can connect with an audience, I can be real on stage. It felt good. It almost felt as big as IML—I think because it was the first one, and it was the riskiest. Once you've won contests, it's like, okay, I know I can do these things. But that was the first test: can I really impress a panel of judges and an audience?

I felt a lot of community support, which gave me a lot of confidence. The community had a belief in me that I did not have at all. People would take me aside and say, “You know you're going to do really well at this—do you realize that?" And I was like, "No, I don't, and I don't believe you, but thanks for telling me."

What did you do to prepare for the IML contest?

Most of the preparation was mental. I mean, I knew that visually you had to look as good as you could onstage, so I grew my goatee, worked on my body, got tanned, and did all that stuff. But really, it was a mental game that went on the whole weekend of the contest. I took care of myself over the weekend. There were a lot of contestants who didn't know if they wanted to win, and they wanted to have a good time, too, so they stayed up all night. I was as clean and dry and well-rested as any of the contestants could be, and I knew that was the secret to doing well on stage.

Did you go into it saying, "I want to win"?

I was a little scared as to what winning would mean. I thought, I don't know the beginnings of the depths of this commitment. But I realized that it was more than a beauty contest—I knew they were looking for some qualities that I really respected. So, when I got down there and looked around—you know, the first thing you want to do is check out the competition and say, do I have a chance, and then base your effort on whether you think you have a chance or not—I looked around and said, I know I can make the top 20, so I'm gonna go for it.

What kinds of questions did the judges ask you in your interview?

One of the judges wanted to really know that I really wanted to win. So he said, "Look me in the eye and tell me that you want to win." And I didn't say yes—I said, "I really hope you decide that I'm the winner." That let them know that I wanted to win, but it also let them know that I wanted to win if they wanted me to win. It was like saying, “I want to win with you as a team. It's not just I want to win.”

What was it like backstage during the first part of the contest?

Everyone was kind of nervous but we were all supportive of each other. It wasn't catty like I had imagined it would be. Out of the nine people in my dressing room, I was the only one who made the cut [the top 20 semifinalists]. That was a hard moment when I had to go back to the dressing room, because if you didn’t make the cut you were supposed to immediately get all your stuff, pack it up, and leave. And that's what was going on when I got back to the room. People were obviously bummed out and quiet. A few people who figured out that I'd made the cut wished me luck. Nobody was nasty to me.

How did you feel when you made the cut?

I was ecstatic. I was pretty mad that they waited until #19 to call my name, because it really messed with me. I was very sure that I had made the cut.


PHOTO: Michael deLeon

Good luck and best wishes this weekend to Michael deLeon, Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1997, as he competes in the International Mr. Fantasy contest in Omaha.

Friday, August 1, 1997

International Mr. Leather: The Formative Years

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #57, August 1, 1997)

Part 1 of the Lavender Interview with Kevin Cwayna

PHOTO: Kevin Cwayna, International Mr. Leather 1997

Stepping into Kevin Cwayna’s living room, the first thing you see is a cluster of three vintage Philco Predicta televisions by the door. There are more vintage televisions in every corner of the living room, dining room, and office. ("And there are 50 more in the basement," Cwayna confides.) In the dining room, his International Mr. Leather sash hangs on a black-draped department-store mannequin. Collectible kitchen appliances are spotted among the TVs.

I settle into a blond wood rocker with arms like tailfins, while Cwayna relaxes on the dark green mohair sofa, and the interview begins.

Let's go back to your formative years. . .

Oh dear. . .

What was it that led to 50 TVs in the basement and the IML sash on a mannequin?

My, I'm not sure if I can explain any of that. I was definitely a gay teenager. I knew I was interested in boys as early as twelve or thirteen. I knew that my sexual interests were about love, but they were also about wrestling and playing around with each other and power games. But I didn't really know what to call that stuff.

Do you think life would have been different if there had been things like District 202 when you were growing up?

Definitely. I grew up in a very homophobic world, and I was desperate for information about anything gay. I remember going to libraries, going to the gay section, pulling out a book, running to the other side of the library, and pretending to read something else while I read it. Then I wouldn't have the courage to turn it in or check it out, so I would just hide it.

Do you remember any of those books?

One of them was "Young, Gay and Proud." It actually went into detail about sex between men. But there wasn't the kind of information that I wanted, which was statistics on how common it is, and something that let me know that maybe life as a gay adult would be okay. I remember a gay article in Time or Newsweek that mentioned Hennepin Avenue and Loring Park. It said, "This is where the gay people go in Minneapolis," so I was always dying to get to Hennepin Avenue and Loring Park. But I was a young kid from Edina, and I didn't have the know-how or resources to get there.

I felt very isolated and scared about what it meant if I continued to fall in love with boys. I thought it was probably going to lead to disaster, and I had different dates that I thought, "Well, if I'm still like this at 18 I better kill myself, because life won't be any good as an adult like this. But I'll give it until 18 to go away." And then at 18 I thought,"Well, maybe we'll wait a little bit longer." And then at 19, when I met my first boyfriend, who I was with for three years, I thought, "Well, this is actually okay. In fact, this could be good, and I'm not going to hate myself anymore."

(. . . to be continued next issue.)

Maynard and Zeller win Mr. MN Drummer/Drummerboy

PHOTO: Jack Maynard, Mr. Minnesota Drummer 1997; Stephen Zeller, Minnesota drummerboy 1997

On Saturday night, July 19, at the Club Metro Underground in St. Paul, Jack Maynard captured the title of Mr. Minnesota Drummer 1997, with runner-up honors going to Michael Zambori. Stephen Zeller was named Minnesota Drummerboy 1997. Maynard and Zeller are proud members of the recently-formed Sober Leather group, and many other sober leatherfolk were in the audience cheering them on.

The judges were current International Mr. Drummer Kyle Brandon, current Great Lakes Mr. Drummer (and International Mr. Drummer runner-up) Jerry Leigh, Mr. Iowa Leather ’97 Kevin Kirgis, Mr. Cellblock Leather-Chicago ’97 Brian-Mark Conover, and Mr. Charlie’s Leather-Chicago ’97 David Ritchie. In an unusual turn of events, there was no local representation on the judging panel.

Maynard’s next competition will be in Columbus, Ohio on August 23 for the Great Lakes Mr. Drummer title. Zeller will go directly to the drummerboy competition at the International Mr. Drummer contest, held August 30 in San Francisco.

Masters/slaves: Let’s Be Careful Out There

Of all the types of relationships in the leather/SM community, the Master/slave relationship is among the most intense. The relationship can only be considered safe, sane and consensual if both Master and slave are familiar with themselves, their partner, and the unique dynamics of this type of relationship. It’s certainly not for everyone. At its best, it can fulfill both partners in a way nothing else can. At its worst, it can be horrifyingly—and criminally—abusive.

It was not long ago that a man in Duluth decided he wanted to be a master and have a slave. He picked someone up, brought him home, drugged him, and locked him in a closet, thinking this would be a peachy way to break the man’s will and turn him into a slave. After two days, he checked on his slave and found him dead. This is an extreme example of the tragic consequences of someone trying to play master without knowing the first thing about it.

The Master/slave relationship is about love and fulfillment, not exploitation and abuse. A Master’s main responsibility is to do everything within His power to help his slave grow and develop. A Master is responsible for every aspect of his slave’s well-being, including his physical and emotional safety. (In the era of AIDS, this is an especially important consideration.) That can become an awesome responsibility that very few are able to shoulder.

A slave’s primary function is to please and serve his or her Master. A slave’s primary function is not to serve as a whipping-boy upon which the Master takes out his frustrations. (And a Master’s function is not to punish a slave who, because of feelings of low self-esteem, feels a need to be tortured or humiliated.) A slave also has a responsibility to communicate to his Master what he needs to take care of himself—if he doesn’t take care of himself, what will he have left to offer his Master? (Again, this is especially important if the slave is HIV-positive or has AIDS.)

Neither Master nor slave should enter into their relationship lightly. A novice Master can inflict horrible abuse on his unwitting slave; a novice slave, who has no knowledge of what makes a good Master, can be taken advantage of and and suffer gross mistreatment at the hands of a Master who is only in it to get his own jollies and who doesn’t take proper care of his slave. When this happens, it makes the institution of Master/slave relationships look bad, and gives a black eye to the entire leather/SM community as well.

Remember, Master/slave relationships still fall under the leather/SM community’s rallying cry of “Safe, Sane, Consensual.” If it doesn’t meet all three of those criteria, it constitutes abuse.

For more on safe/sane/consensual Master/slave relationships, including an excellent essay entitled “When Your slave Has AIDS,” visit the Masters And slaves Together web page at

Upcoming Leather Events

The Atons present Sweaty, Sleazy Sunday at the Saloon
Sunday, August 3, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
Featuring drink specials and a best butt/best chest contest.  $5 at the door.

August 15-17: International Mr. Fantasy weekend, Omaha, Nebraska. Come cheer for Mr. Minnesota Fantasy ’97 Michael deLeon. Weekend package is $35. FFI: Fantasy Productions, Inc., Omaha NE. Host hotel is Radisson-Redick, 1504 Harney St., Omaha NE.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

It looks like we have a conflict here. It’s worth noting that the Atons had these dates first;  the Folsom Street Fair folks created the conflict by changing their dates.
September 26-28, Minneapolis: The Atons 25th Anniversary Run. The theme is “A Renaissance—Renewing the Ties That Bind,” and in keeping with that theme there will be a trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival on Saturday. Other attractions: a Saturday banquet and a variety of play parties both Friday and Saturday night. An event like this only happens once every twenty-five years; if you haven’t already registered, what are you waiting for? For a registration form call, e-mail, or visit their web site:

September 22-28, San Francisco: Leather Pride Week, including the Fetish & Fantasy Ball on Friday, Sept. 26; the 19th annual International Mr. Drummer contest on Saturday, Sept. 27; and the 14th annual Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, Sept. 28. Contest tickets are $65 for VIP seating or $25 for general admission; reserve by calling the box office (have your credit card ready). Drummer’s e-mail address is No official host hotel; the San Francisco Hotel Reservation Hotline is 1-800-677-1500 (or

Friday, July 18, 1997

Lots of Leather at the Pride Parade

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #56, July 18, 1997)

The Minnesota leather community turned out in force for the 1997 Twin Cities Pride Parade — this years’s parade featured more leather-related contingents than ever before. The parade started, of course, with the ever-popular Dykes on Bikes, and the rest of the leatherfolk weren’t far behind.

International Mr. Leather 1997 Kevin Cwayna was on hand, riding in a black Camaro convertible. Cwayna was followed by about 25 members of the local leather community riding on the Leather Pride float (provided again this year by Transcorp owners Rand Haglund, John Audette, and family). Next in the parade were about 15 members of the recently-formed Sober Leather group, including Roger Gregg, who will be a candidate for Mr. Minnesota Leather this fall, and Steven Zeller, who will be a candidate for Mr. Minnesota Drummerboy this very weekend. (More about this group later in the column.)

After the Lavender Magazine car (the only local publication featuring leather coverage in every issue) came leatherman and boot aficionado Bob Jansen representing the newly-reopened Main Club in Superior, Wisconsin, where you’ll often find members of Duluth/Superior’s leather community. Jansen was followed by the folks who wear brown leather, the North Star Gay Rodeo Association, and by the leather community’s hirsute cousins, the MNBears.

Later in the parade was the final leather installment: the Wolf Productions float, featuring several leathermen including Mr. Minnesota Fantasy ’97 Michael deLeon. Easily the tallest leather-related parade unit, it featured some formidable-looking metal cages and live demonstrations of the heavy-duty bondage gear for which Wolf Productions is fast becoming famous.

After the parade, the annual Twin Cities Leather Pride celebration was held at the Gay 90’s. Presented by the Atons, Black Guard, Knights of Leather, North Star Gay Rodeo Association, and MNBears, the event featured a roll-call of past and present titleholders. The last name to be called was IML ’97 Kevin Cwayna, who presented a short keynote address (and said a few of the things he didn’t get a chance to say at the IML contest in Chicago). Country line-dance group Borderline performed several numbers, and fund-raising activities throughout the evening raised more than $1,000 for the Adult Foster Care Coalition, an AIDS-service organization.

Sober Leather Group Forms

After being talked about for the last few years, a Sober Leather club has recently been formed in the Twin Cities. Please note that this is not a leather twelve-step recovery group, and participation in recovery is not a membership requirement. This is a group of men and women who have come together to promote the idea of safe, sane, consensual, sober leather sex, free of alcohol and chemical use. This non-profit organization plans to hold alcohol- and chemical-free social events and educational seminars about sober leather which are open to the entire leather community. The club also plans to become part of a network of sober leatherfolk and clubs around the world. Currently engaged in start-up fundraising and organizing, the Sober Leather club welcomes input from new and prospective members and the community at large. A web page is currently under construction; for now, the best way to contact the club is to write: Sober Leather, Minneapolis MN.

Upcoming Leather Events

PHOTO: Kyle Brandon, International Mr. Drummer 1996

Mr. Minnesota Drummer/Drummerboy Trash Party
Friday, July 18, 9 pm, Club Metro Underground
Mr. Minnesota Drummer/Drummerboy Contest
Saturday, July 19, Doors open at 7 pm, Club Metro Underground
On Friday night you can meet the contestants, judges, and special guest International Mr. Drummer ’96 Kyle Brandon. Admission $5. Saturday night’s contest features Drummer-style men, boys and fantasy performances. Contest admission is $10 if you buy your ticket Friday night or $15 at the door Saturday. Door prizes and raffles both nights; net proceeds to charity. Hosted by the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Ice Castle and the Black Guard in conjunction with Minnesota Leather Productions.

Main Club Grand Opening Celebration
Friday/Saturday, July 25-26 (open until 2:30 am)
The New Main Club, 1217 Tower Avenue, Superior, Wisconsin
They’re back, and Twice As Big! For more information call (715) 392-1756.

Mr. Minnesota Fantasy Send-Off Party
Sunday, July 27, 5-10 pm, The Saloon
About a year ago, Michael deLeon, as Mr. Minnesota Leather, presented an IML send-off party that was one of the most spectacular fundraisers I’ve ever experienced. He’s doing it again (this time as Mr. Minnesota Fantasy), and you won’t want to miss it. $6 at the door, portion donated to an AIDS-related charity.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

August 15-17: International Mr. Fantasy weekend, Omaha, Nebraska. Come cheer for Mr. Minnesota Fantasy ’97 Michael deLeon. Weekend package $30 ($35 after August 1). FFI: Fantasy Productions, Inc., Omaha NE. Host hotel is Radisson-Redick, 1504 Harney St., Omaha NE.

Friday, July 4, 1997

Pride and Privilege

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #55, July 4, 1997)

During the past couple months I’ve been on a Pride binge. I think it started at the International Mr. Leather contest; this year’s gathering of the tribe had an even more profound impact on me than usual. I felt proud to be among these people and privileged to be at this event. When Savage Aural Hotbed played and when the new International Mr. Leather was announced I was extremely proud to be from Minnesota. Those feelings continued through Capital City Pride, the Twin Cities Pride Festival, the Pride Parade, and the Leather Pride celebration. I was proud to be there; I felt lucky to be there.

Now it’s Fourth of July weekend, which I’ve come to think of as “USA Pride.” This is the weekend when the (non-GLBT) rest of the country finally gets to engage in the kind of celebratory activity that we GLBT and leather types have recently been enjoying. And isn’t it grand that we get to enjoy the fireworks right along with them? We are, after all, just as much a part of this country as anyone else. And although our country, our politics, and our society are far from perfect, I feel proud and privileged to be a citizen of the USA.

Many people today see patriotism and civic pride as maudlin anachronisms. Many others see them as the property of the religious right, and therefore want nothing to do with them. We in the leather community, on the other hand, have our own style of patriotism and civic pride. We appreciate the good things about our society and this country. We also recognize our society’s problems and are committed to making them better by getting involved. That fosters a realistic, practical patriotism, as opposed to a starry-eyed, my-country-right-or-wrong view of things. To anyone who doubts the American leather community’s pride in their country: I wish you could have heard the assembled leather crowd’s stirring and heartfelt rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of the introduction ceremony for this year’s International Mr. Leather contestants. If the Promise Keepers could have heard it, they would have been mightily impressed.

So I have three flags on my figurative flagpole: the Stars & Stripes, the Rainbow, and the Leather Pride flag. And I’m proud of all of ’em.

* * * * *

Daddy’s Day a hit: The recent Daddy’s Day celebration presented by the Atons at The Saloon was well-attended and quite enjoyable. The Daddy-Boy contest, done like an episode of the old “Newlywed Game,” was a crowd-pleaser. International Mr. Leather 1997 (and ultimate Daddy) Kevin Cwayna was given a rousing welcome-back ceremony. I spent much of the evening on the Saloon’s patio, where the atmosphere is very close to that of the San Francisco Eagle’s patio (one of my all-time favorite leatherspaces). The Tank was so tightly packed that the bouncers were pressed into service as human ramp-meters, letting one person in for each person who left. (If this keeps up, we’re gonna need more space.) The Saloon continues to prove that it can be as leathery as it wants to be.

One final note: This was the first weekend I saw men wearing a clever visual pun, tank-tops with local leather artist Damon Thrift’s “Tank” logo on them; I guess that makes them “Tank tanks.”

Upcoming Leather Events

North Star Gay Rodeo Association presents The Great Northern Shindig
July 11-13, Radisson St. Paul and Washington County Fairgrounds, Lake Elmo
Check out the 20-page souvenir Rodeo program (prepared in large part by your humble leather columnist) in the current issue of—dare I say it?—Q Monthly. Then get your Shindig Weekend packets at Town House Country and Rainbow Road; events are also priced individually. (Both black and brown leather are apropos.) For further information, call the Shindig Hotline or check out the NSGRA web site:

Mark Your Calendar . . .

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. Special guest appearance by current International Mr. Drummer Kyle Brandon. Still room for more contestants; if you want to compete, call Colin Spriestersbach.

July 25-26: Grand Opening Celebration at the new Main Club in Superior, WI (which opened for business June 5).

August 15-17: International Mr. Fantasy weekend, Omaha, Nebraska. Always a hot and fun weekend, and easy to get to. Come cheer for Mr. Minnesota Fantasy ’97 Michael deLeon. Weekend event package is $30 ($35 after August 1). FFI: Fantasy Productions, Inc., Omaha NE. Host hotel is Radisson-Redick, 1504 Harney St., Omaha NE 68102.

Friday, June 20, 1997

Love! Valour! Compassion! Pride!

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #54, June 20, 1997)

If you haven’t yet seen the film version of Terrance McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” may I suggest that you make it part of your Gay Pride experience this year. Gay Pride is, after all, what made a film like this possible. I saw it shortly before writing this column, and I felt the same way watching it as I felt watching the coming-out episodes of “Ellen”: What was on the screen seemed so — normal, so true-to-life. I’ve lived that movie; I’ve known people like that and spent weekends like the ones depicted in the film. It’s about time we got to see ourselves portrayed in mainstream entertainment not as the funny uncle, not as the comic relief, not as the villain, but just as — us.

I couldn’t help drawing comparisons with another film that involved eight gay friends: “The Boys in the Band.” In 1968, when the play was staged (the movie version came along in 1970), it was history-making because it was one of the first-ever unflinching, unapologetic portrayals on stage or film of gay men. But they were all caught in a tragic web of self-loathing whose manifestations ranged from alcoholism and drug abuse to devastating bitchiness.

Toward the end of the screenplay was this uplifting line of dialogue, spoken between wrenching sobs by a character named Michael: “If we could just not hate ourselves so much. (More sobs) That’s it, you know. If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.” Another character, trying to comfort him, replies: “Yeah, I know.”

“The Boys in the Band” was then. “Love! Valour! Compassion!” is now. And Gay Pride is what made the difference — starting with the Stonewall rebellion (which happened a year after “The Boys in the Band”) and continuing with Gay Pride celebrations across the country and around the world.

Hats off to everyone responsible for “Love! Valour! Compassion!” Now how long will it be before we see a film that treats leather culture with the same kind of respect?

Leather and SM are occasionally seen on the big screen, but Hollywood has yet to do our community any favors. Here’s what Blockbuster’s Guide to Movies and Videos has to say about 1980’s “Cruising”: “Dishonest, offensive thriller with [Al] Pacino as homophobic undercover cop decked out in chains and leather to attract killer of homosexuals. Fails on all levels, regardless of viewers’ politics.” Two years later Hollywood tried the same formula again with “Partners.” From Blockbuster: “Straight cop [Ryan] O’Neal pretending to be gay in undercover murder investigation takes pointers from homosexual partner [John] Hurt. Witless.”

Don’t even get me started on The Village People’s “Can’t Stop The Music” from 1980. That one I did see, unfortunately. Even the SM scene in “Love! Valour! Compassion!” was (for me, anyway) a throwback to the bitchy and hurtful mind games of “Boys in the Band.” So I guess it’s not our time yet.

Maybe after a few more years of Leather Pride celebrations, some director (who might also happen to be a member of the leather community) will get a major Hollywood studio to green-light a film that treats our community with sensitivity and integrity. That will be a great day.

Upcoming Leather Events

Twin Cities Festival of Pride Parade
Sunday, June 29, intersection of Spruce Place and Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. Parade steps off at Noon sharp, so be there by 11:45 a.m.
Remember, the parade route is different from years past, which necessitates different line-up procedures. Start at Spruce Place and Hennepin and follow the parade back until you find the leather contingent’s position (all positions will be clearly marked along the staging area). For more information and a map of the parade route, see page 63 of this year’s Pride Guide.

Minnesota Leather Pride Celebration
Sunday, June 29, 4-9 pm, Gay 90’s Dance Annex and Men’s Room
Free keg beer, sodas and food; door prizes and boot black. Help welcome home International Mr. Leather 1997, our own Kevin Cwayna. Admission $7, or $5 with 1997 Pride button. A collaborative effort of the Atons, Black Guard, MNBears, Knights of Leather and North Star Gay Rodeo Association.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

July 11-13: Great Northern Shindig and North Star Regional (Gay) Rodeo. Pride Special: Order your Rodeo package by Pride and save $3..

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. If you want to compete, call Colin Spriestersbach.

July 25-26: Grand Opening Celebration at the new Main Club in Superior, WI (which opened for business June 5).

Friday, June 6, 1997

He Did It! Kevin Cwayna Brings IML Sash Home To Minnesota

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #53, June 6, 1997)

PHOTO: Kevin Cwayna, International Mr. Leather ’97
PHOTO CREDIT): Photo by Ken Binder

On Sunday, May 25, at the Congress Theater in Chicago, Mr. Minnesota Leather Kevin Cwayna became Minnesota’s first-ever international leather titleholder as he was named International Mr. Leather 1997. For those who, like me, doubted it would ever happen here — it just did. The adventure begins.

This year’s contest was the nineteenth and the biggest in the event’s history — more attendees (an estimated 5,000), more hotel rooms (in a record seven hotels), more vendors at the Leather Market. This year’s Internet simulcast added video streaming; web-surfers and news reporters from 26 countries connected and were able to converse live with judges, celebrities, and IML personnel. The British Broadcasting Corporation even sent a camera crew to cover the event for their “Gaytime” series. (Just for good measure, they also talked to two other groups that were spending the weekend in Chicago: the Bears and the conservative-Christian men’s group known as the Promise Keepers.)

The weekend’s events started Friday night with the introduction of judges, dignitaries, and 53 contestants from four countries and 24 states. It was your humble columnist’s perception that, when he was introduced, Cwayna received perhaps the best audience reaction of the evening — in much the same way that Joe Gallagher, International Mr. Leather 1996, seemed to be the audience favorite last year. I chalked it up to wishful thinking on my part. Everybody knows that the winners of these contests are usually from the East or West Coasts, and have the support of large sponsoring organizations who maneuver behind the scenes to make sure their guy wins. We have no such “grooming” organization in Minnesota, so we haven’t got a chance, right?

Wrong. Contestants are first judged on the basis of a private interview with the judges, and Cwayna evidently had a strong interview — strong enough that he was one of twenty finalists selected from the field of 53 contestants to advance to the next level of competition: speech, leather image, and the ever-popular “jock walk.”

At the contest on Sunday night the crowd roared its approval as Cwayna appeared in the “jock walk” portion of the contest. His speech connected with the audience better than any other contestant’s. Unfortunately, audience applause made his speech run over the 90-second time limit; the microphone was turned off and he didn’t get a chance to finish.

While the judges’ scores were being tabulated, comic Scott Thompson (as “Kids in the Hall” character Buddy Cole) entertained the crowd with musings on Gay Pride, relationships and AIDS testing. The best line of the evening was this bittersweet comeback directed at people (like the Promise Keepers, perhaps?) who would prefer to see gay people eradicated: “Let ’em try. After 15 years of AIDS, we’re tougher than cockroaches!”

(On the subject of entertainment: Earlier in the evening, Minnesota’s own Savage Aural Hotbed stunned the audience with their trademark brand of sparks-flying, drum-thumping, bass-booming music. When they finished, the audience sat a moment in incredulous silence before breaking into wild applause.)

It was time to announce the winners. Third place: Paul Zinser, sponsored by The L.U.R.E. Bar of New York City. Second place: an overjoyed Mr. Pistons Leather Mark Malan of Long Beach, California (who found out he would be competing three days before the contest!)

Then Cwayna was announced as the new International Mr. Leather, and the stage was engulfed in pandemonium. All three winners were besieged by a swarm of reporters, photographers and well-wishers. Cwayna’s beaming smile could probably be seen by ships on Lake Michigan. A BBC reporter respectfully shoved a microphone in his face and asked for his reaction, which was simply: “I’m truly surprised.”

You may get to see that historic moment, and lots of others, if and when PBS picks up the “Gaytime” series from the BBC. If you don’t want to wait that long, check out the contest’s web site: It may or may not have video clips available, but it certainly will feature some hot photos.

Sashless in Chicago

When the time came for IML ’96 Joe Gallagher to “pass the sash” to the new IML, there was one problem: nobody backstage knew where the sash was. Gallagher put the IML medal around Cwayna’s neck instead, and the festivities continued. (The sash has since been found.)

The lost sash was only one of many nasty little problems that seemed to plague the weekend. Gallagher’s last hurrah, Saturday night’s “Hometown Party,” was scheduled for 9:00 pm at a bar called “Fusion” (the former “Vortex”). At 11:00 pm, Gallagher himself finally announced that the microphones weren’t working properly and the event would therefore happen back in the lobby of the Congress Hotel. It was after midnight before the crowd had reassembled at the hotel and the roast got underway.

Other problems ranged from inadequate shuttle-bus service to 12-step recovery meetings that didn’t happen as scheduled. Don’t get me wrong: It was still a spectacular weekend and an impressive achievement for the organizers and volunteers who made it happen. The problems were more irritating than catastrophic. Some of them even struck me as humorous — but then, I wasn’t one of the people backstage frantically trying to find that sash.

The point is this: the weekend hasn’t had these kinds of problems before, or at least not as many. IML has generally run pretty smoothly. Some attendees were heard wondering if the contest has grown too big to be manageable. Let’s hope that’s not the case, and that next year’s 20th-anniversary contest is even bigger and has even fewer problems.

What Does It All Mean?

For Kevin Cwayna, it means a busy year ahead, and it means more frequent flier miles than he’ll know what to do with. Beyond that, it’s his choice. Cwayna has just been handed an international title; he must now figure out what he wants to do with it.

The same can be said for Minnesota’s leather community. In a sense, we’ve been handed a great opportunity for increased exposure and visibility. For the next year, the rest of the leather world will be focusing a certain amount of attention on Cwayna, and by extension on the rest of us here in Minnesota. We, as a community, need to figure out how we want to use this year, what we want to accomplish and how to make it happen.

What does it mean for the rest of us? Whatever we want it to mean. Think about that and, in the words of Mr. Cwayna, “Get proactive about what you want.”

Upcoming Leather Events

The Atons present “Daddy’s Day”
Sunday, June 15, 6-10 pm, The Saloon

Bring your daddy, bring your boy, bring your bear or cub! $6 cover includes free keg beer & sodas. Live appearance by porn star Logan Reed. Picnic lunch on the patio. And — for one time only, at this event — sign up for the Atons’ 25th-anniversary run and receive a $10 discount. For further information call the Atons.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Sunday, June 29: Leather Pride celebration at the Gay 90’s. Complete details next issue. BE THERE!

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. If you want to compete, call Colin Spriestersbach.

Friday, May 23, 1997

Big Minnesota Presence at IML ’97

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #52, May 23, 1997)

PHOTO: Kevin Cwayna, Mr. Minnesota Leather ’97

PHOTO: Spriestersbach, Mr. Northwoods Leather ’96-’97

PHOTO: Thomas Smith, Mr. Kentucky Leather ’97
PHOTO CREDIT: Ron Volanti, Jr.

The International Mr. Leather contest happens this weekend in Chicago, and Minnesota will be represented as never before. This year’s show will see a record three contestants who live in the Twin Cities. In addition, Savage Aural Hotbed, the Twin Cities group whose music is a cross between percussion and power tools, will be a prominent part of the show’s entertainment. They’re inventive, they’re showy, they’re LOUD! And this weekend, Minnesota gets to share them with the entire leather world.

There are more than 50 contestants this year from all across the United States and Canada, and from Italy, France and England. Minnesota can lay claim to three: Mr. Minnesota Leather ’97 Kevin Cwayna, Mr. Northwoods Leather ’96-’97 Colin Spriestersbach, and (surprise!) Mr. Kentucky Leather ’97 Thomas Smith (who divides his time between Minneapolis and Elizabethtown, Kentucky). Incidentally, both Spriestersbach and Smith are members of the same leather club: the Black Guard.

The International Mr. Leather contest is now in its 19th year, and this year’s is by far the biggest yet. According to Bruce Barnes, IML’s logistics coordinator, the host hotel (the Congress) sold out in January; a record six overflow hotels have also sold out since then. The number of vendors in the Leather Mart has doubled from last year. (One of those vendors will be another Minnesota original, Wolf Productions, sellings “stocks and bondage” to the masses.) Expected attendance for the weekend is between 5,000 and 6,000.

In recent years other groups, most notably the Bears with their Bear Pride celebration, have met in Chicago concurrent with IML and there has been a certain amount of crossover. This year, while the leather community takes over the Congress Hotel and the Congress Theater, up to 125,000 members of the evangelical-fundamentalist Christian men’s group known as the Promise Keepers will be taking over Soldiers Field. (Various feminist groups will also be in town to picket and protest against the Promise Keepers.) There probably won’t be a lot of crossover happening here, but if it happens it will definitely be interesting.

* * * * *

Bravo Eros: An arousing time was had by all at the Atons’ recent “Eros: The Rites of Spring” party. If you weren’t there you missed a great time; if you were there, you’re probably looking forward eagerly to the Atons’ Halloween party. (Only five months to go!)

* * * * *

Non-competition Clause: W.I.L.L.O.W. Productions regretfully announces that, due to illness, Ms. Minnesota Leather ’97 Aalan Cameron will not be competing in the upcoming International Ms. Leather contest. According to the announcement, “All proceeds which have been raised will be donated to a charitable organization within the community.”

* * * * *

PHOTO: Milo Smith (19XX photo)

Passing: Milo Smith, formerly of the Twin Cities, died April 13, 1997 in Warsaw, Missouri due to complications of AIDS. Smith was an active member of the community: Black Swan Prince of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Ice Castle, a founder of the Cavern Dwellers Association, member of the Atons and Minnesota Leather Encounter, and a volunteer with the Leather Pride Committee. He was also a former member of MAFIA (Mid-America Fists In Action), Chicago. He is survived by his lover of 13 years, Greg Speak.

Upcoming Leather Events

The Atons present “In The Navy”
Sunday, May 25, 5-9 pm, Gay 90’s Men’s Room Bar

In honor of Memorial Day weekend. $8 admission ($5 with military attire) includes beer and sodas; “Bargain American Lunch” for an additional $2. Announced entertainment feature: “War Games.”

Knights of Leather present Knights Tournament Nine
Friday, May 30-Sunday, June 1

Uniforms are the theme of this year’s Tournament, and registrations are still being accepted. For more information: write Knights of Leather, Minneapolis MN.

Mark Your Calendar . . .

Sunday, June 15:
Atons Daddy’s Day celebration at The Saloon.

Sunday, June 29: Leather Pride celebration at the Gay 90’s.

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. If you want to compete, call Colin Spriestersbach.

Friday, May 9, 1997

Respectful Rebellion

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #51, May 9, 1997)

The recent Lavender Forum session dealing with SM attracted people from many different, and often overlapping, communities: leather and non-leather, BD/SM and non-BD/SM, transsexual, bisexual, feminist. Such a diverse group representing so many points of view could have made for a contentious evening, but for the most part the atmosphere around the table was respectful and educational instead of confrontational.

Consciousness was raised on several BD/SM community issues, one of which had to do with consensuality and boundaries. Negotiating a scene is more than the bottom telling the top, “I want you to do this, and you may do this, but you may not do that.” Sometimes it’s assumed that the top will do anything the bottom wants done; if not, s/he is a bad top. The point was made (and I think it bears repeating in this space) that tops are also allowed to set boundaries of their own. If a top doesn’t feel comfortable doing something, it is perfectly within his/her rights to speak up about it.

The discussion also took the concept of consent and boundaries to a society-wide level: specifically, what issues are involved when BD/SM and non-BD/SM people share public spaces? The assertion was made that some people outside the BD/SM community are offended by representations of BD/SM culture, and that a few people in the BD/SM community seem to take delight in offending people outside the community. On the other hand, leather/BD/SM is by definition a rebellion against some aspects of “normal” society’s sexual codes. When are members of the BD/SM community just being themselves, and when do they cross the line and become inappropriate? Who has the privilege of defining what “inappropriate” means?

The response of several people in leather was that our community is for the most part self-policing; if a community member is acting inappropriately, other community members will generally take them aside and tell them to clean up their act. The respect around which SM revolves should extend to the larger non/SM community (even if that respect is sometimes not reciprocated).

In closing, here’s a very respectful “thank-you” to everyone who attended the forum.

* * * * *

Larry Everett suffers burns in house fire

PHOTO: Larry Everett, International Mr. Leather ’95

International Mr. Leather ’95 Larry Everett, of Oklahoma City, recently suffered second- and third-degree burns in a recent early-morning electrical fire that also destroyed most of his home and personal possessions. At this writing I have been unable to contact him personally for more information, but according to The Leather Journal he will be unable to work for a considerable period of time. At the time of the fire he had no home or medical insurance.

In true leather-community fashion, across the country a massive ad hoc fundraising campaign started almost overnight; to date, several thousand dollars have been raised. (Contributions—of whatever size—can be sent to Larry.) To Larry Everett, who did a great job as IML ’95 and continues to be active in the community: best wishes from this columnist for a speedy recovery!

Upcoming Leather Events

May 30-June 1:
The Knights of Leather present Knights Tournament Nine. This year’s theme: uniforms! The site, a private camp within a 16,000 acre wooded state park, includes cabins with military bunks. Weekend events include opening ceremonies, presentation of colors, workshops, demonstrations, fantasies and a “uniform banquet fit for officers.” Dungeon space is available all weekend. For more information: write Knights of Leather, Minneapolis MN.

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. Current International Mr. Drummer Kyle Brandon will be here as well as management from Drummer Magazine in San Francisco. If you want to compete, call, Colin Spriestersbach.