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