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.

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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!)

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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.”

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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.

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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.