Friday, December 31, 1999

MN Olympus Leather 2000

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #120, December 31, 1999)

Because I was out of town (out of the country, actually) during the recent Minnesota Olympus Leather 2000 contest weekend, I’m turning over the reporting duties to guest columnist Dave Rhodes, editor of The Leather Journal. From the pictures I’ve seen and from what people have told me, it sounds like I missed quite a party.

David Coral and Hannah Miyamoto Take Minnesota Olympus Leather Titles

by Dave Rhodes, editor of The Leather Journal

David Coral became Mr. Minnesota Olympus Leather 2000 and Mistress Hannah was named Ms Minnesota Olympus Leather 2000 at the Saloon in Minneapolis, MN on Sunday night, December 12. The first runner-up in the Mr. competition was Scott Kelley.

A meet and greet was held at the Minneapolis Eagle on Friday night. A vendor fair on Saturday afternoon included Fit To A T Leather, erotic artists Mark DeBauch and Damon, Mr. Boots and Lugh’s Leather.

At Sunday evening’s contest, a judging panel headed by International Ms Olympus Leather 1999 Cori Ander (also Ms Minnesota Olympus Leather 1999), Mr. Minnesota Olympus Leather 1999 Greg Hausler, Mr. Minnesota Leather 1999 Joshua Smith, Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1999 David Page and Ms Minnesota Fantasy 1999 Miss Jennifer selected the winners in front of a crowd that included International Mr. Leather 1997 Kevin Cwayna and Mr. International Rubber 1999 Thomas Smith. Ms Minnesota Leather 1999 Mario served as emcee.

Contest producers PJ Knight and Vickie King of the Knights of Leather, along with Cori Ander, presented the Twin Cities Leather Community Service Award to Lavender Magazine columnist Steve Lenius, who was unable to be present. The plaque was accepted by Lavender founding editor George Holdgrafer.

Approximately $600, benefiting the winners’ travel fund, was raised through a Teddy Bear Auction that was divided between Friday night and Sunday night.

Coral and Hannah will compete for the Mr. and Ms Olympus Leather 2000 title on Saturday night, February 26 at the Le Petite Theatre in New Orleans.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, January 8

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Location and time to be determined
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Friday, December 17, 1999

The Real Drummerboy story: A Christmas Fantasy

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #119, December 17, 1999)

It’s that “Deck the Dungeon” time of year, and look what I found while I was hauling out the decorations. This holiday column first appeared on December 20, 1996, in Issue 41 of Lavender. Think of it as a Christmas fantasy performance in print. Whatever you celebrate, and however you celebrate it—Happy Holidays.

Many, many years ago, in a land far away, there was a young drummerboy named Willie. Willie played his drum at the temple, where he accompanied the temple dancers. He loved drumming, and he also loved the leather harness that he wore to carry the drum. It had been a gift from his Daddy, who had made it especially for him. He loved the harness so much that sometimes he wore it even when he wasn’t playing drums. His Daddy had a harness too (even though he didn’t play drums at all) and most of their other friends had harnesses and other leather clothing as well.

Playing the drum at the temple didn’t pay very well, but Willie didn’t mind. Shortly after he had attained manhood and left his parents’ house he had started living with his Daddy, an older gentleman who made a good living as a successful astrologer.

One winter night, Willie and his Daddy were lying in bed, cradled in each other’s arms. Willie, feeling very contented, looked out the window at the starry sky. Suddenly he saw one star grow brighter and brighter, until it blazed with a radiance he had never seen before. As he drifted off to sleep holding his Daddy, he thought to himself that the star could have symbolized the love he and his Daddy shared.

The next day Willie had just finished playing his drum when his Daddy suddenly appeared at the temple. “Willie, take your drum and come with me,” said his Daddy. “We’re going on a long journey.” The King had seen the same star that Willie and his Daddy had seen the night before, and had asked his Daddy’s company (Weisman, Weisman and Weisman Astrological Consultants P.A.) to investigate it.

Day and night, the star continued to blaze in the sky as Willie, his Daddy and his Daddy’s two partners followed it for twelve days. Finally, it led them to a tiny stable behind an inn in an obscure village. In the stable, among the animals and the stablehands, there was a young woman, Mary, sitting on a bale of hay nursing a baby! Willie had never seen such a sight before. But what was even more incredible was that his Daddy and his Daddy’s partners knelt down before the mother and child and presented them with rare and precious gifts. Willie didn’t understand at all what was happening.

Willie’s Daddy, seeing the look of puzzlement on his face, took him aside. He explained that he and his partners had all had a dream telling them that this child was the long-awaited Hebrew Moshiac, or Messiah, who was born to remind all people everywhere of the common humanity they share.

Willie was amazed to hear this. He understood how important this was, and he felt both honored to be in the presence of this child and ashamed that he had no gift to bring, as his Daddy had. He went over to Mary intending to apologize. But before he could say anything, Mary spoke to him. “Thank you for coming here, Willie. You honor my child with your presence. Your Daddy told me all about you.” “He did?” Willie suddenly felt uneasy; many people in that time didn’t approve of Daddy/boy relationships, or people who wore harnesses even when they didn’t need to. Mary, who was wise beyond her years, sensed his discomfort and said, “Yes, and don’t you ever worry or feel ashamed of who you are. You have every right to be part of this holy event; you are just as much a brother to this child as is any other person.

“This child was born to be brother and friend to everyone in the whole world, in each and every tribe. I know your tribe is working on brotherhood and sisterhood in your own way. You have an idea of what brotherhood and sisterhood are all about; many people in this world don’t.”

Willie listened, fascinated, as Mary foretold some of the events in the life of her child, Jesus. He would never condemn anyone, and in fact would associate with many classes of people whom the rest of society at the time considered untouchable. History would never record whether Jesus ever married or had children. But it would record that he had many followers, including a disciple named John who would be enigmatically referred to as “the disciple Jesus loved”; scholars would argue for centuries over the exact meaning of that phrase. And they would argue over whether or not Jesus was, in fact, Moshiac. What they wouldn’t argue about was that Jesus was destined to play the most famous crucifixion scene in history.

Willie found himself lost in the wonder of Mary’s predictions. Suddenly, he remembered what he had intended to tell her: “I’m sorry I have no gift to give your son.” As he said this, an idea came to him: “Perhaps I can play my drum for him, like I do in the temple.” Mary nodded and said, “I think that would be lovely.”

As his Daddy listened with pride, Willie played his drum softly, gently and skillfully, tapping into the primal rhythms of the wind, sky, ocean, birds and animals. As he played, Mary swayed and rocked Jesus gently to the rhythm of the drum.

As they left the stable, Willie turned to his Daddy and said, “Daddy, I think we just saw something very special.” “Yes,” said his Daddy, “I think we did.”

Friday, December 3, 1999

I Love a (Person) In Uniform

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #118, December 3, 1999)

PHOTO: Mountie uniform

Many members of the leather community are attracted to uniforms. Some folks like collecting and wearing them; other folks simply gaze approvingly when someone else is wearing one. Uniforms seem to be a gender-neutral attraction, enjoyed equally by both men and women.

It’s natural that uniforms should be a turn-on for this community, considering that the community was initiated in large part by servicemen and servicewomen returning from World War II. They had come from small-town America where they lived in isolation, often feeling like they were the only person alive with these unnatural urges toward members of their own sex. Suddenly they were in the military, in a same-sex barracks, and they typically found out quickly that there were many, many others like them. Friendships were made that continued long after the war was over. Uniforms, being a big part of their coming-out milieu, acquired powerful symbolism.

Today, military uniforms remain popular and have been joined by police uniforms, medical uniforms (especially in medical scenes), prison guard uniforms . . . and the list goes on. Firefighting uniforms, with their rubber coats and boots and their fire-protection facemasks, have a special crossover attraction to lovers of rubber and industrial gear (see last issue’s column—and see also the follow-up item below). And even to non-uniform lovers, a bright-red Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform turns heads.

All these uniforms remind us of military or paramilitary systems dependent on hierarchy, authority and subordination; that gets fantasies going for many people. (Think drill-sergeant or prison-guard scenes.) Uniforms represent a masculine, rugged look, a splendid display of machismo that is appreciated by both leathermen and leatherwomen on both leathermen and leatherwomen.

Uniforms can be procured at estate sales, second-hand shops and military surplus stores. Some people will feel fine wearing whatever uniform pieces they can find; other, more detail-oriented souls wouldn’t think of wearing an incomplete or non-regulation uniform themselves, and won’t understand how anyone else could either.

And then there’s a group of people who don’t need to search for uniforms: real servicemen and servicewomen, who wear them every day in the service of their country. Every year the Olympus Leather Contest/Pantheon of Leather ceremonies in New Orleans feature a tribute to those patriotic members of the leather community who have served or are currently serving in the various branches of the Armed Forces. I was in the audience for last year’s ceremonies, and it was an impressive sight: a line of sharp-looking, proud men and women in uniform stretching across the stage. I got some great pictures of it, and I only wish I could publish one of them. Unfortunately, I can’t; in this era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I wouldn’t want to inadvertently “out” anyone. But it was obvious that the tradition of gay men and lesbian women (and kinky ones at that) proudly serving their country continues to this day. Next year’s Olympus Leather Contest/Pantheon of Leather takes place February 25-27 in New Orleans. If you’re a present or former member of any country’s Armed Forces, go and be honored. (And, while we’re on the subject of the Olympus Leather Contest, remember that the Minnesota Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest weekend takes place December 10 at The Minneapolis Eagle and December 12 at The Saloon.)

Is it illegal to wear a uniform? The American Uniform Association is a nationwide group of uniform devotees, people “who share the pride, integrity, loyalty, and spirit that uniforms symbolize.” Here’s what they have to say about the topic: “AUA does not encourage illegal acts. Common sense dictates that the attitudes of law enforcement agencies be respected. But for the most part, collectors and enthusiasts are free to display what uniforms they choose. Laws vary from state to state and country to country. In some places owning certain uniform items is illegal. In others, the question in a confrontation with the law may come down to whether there is an intent to misrepresent. AUA encourages its members to be discreet.” The AUA has established a Legal Defense Fund to assist members who might be unfairly or unconstitutionally prosecuted.

Not everyone enjoys uniforms—certain aspects of uniforms make some people uncomfortable. What is sexy, they ask, about a police uniform when there’s so much police hatred of, and brutality against, the GLBT community? Pacifists may feel uncomfortable with the militaristic, war-centric overtones of military uniforms. And certain types of uniforms and uniform scenes (for example, anything with a Nazi theme) are viewed by many members of the community as going too far, and meet with almost universal disfavor. Police scenes combined with race play (such as white cop/black criminal, or vice versa) are also not exactly politically correct. Of course, some people find excitement in being politically incorrect. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what’s appropriate and what’s beyond the pale in such matters; your humble columnist was planning to be a conscientious objector rather than fight the Vietnam (or any other) war, but he still finds something exciting about uniforms and about people wearing them.

If you find something exciting about uniforms and the people wearing them (or not wearing them, as the case may be), you’ll love a magazine called In Uniform. They’ve published thirteen quarterly issues so far and have produced two videos, all of which are available on their website: The website also features information about the American Uniform Association and a huge list of links to other uniform-related sites.

B.D. Chambers is First Runner-Up to Mr. International Rubber 2000

On Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Cell Block Bar in Chicago, Tom Kelly from New Jersey was awarded the title of Mr. International Rubber 2000,. Our own B.D. Chambers, who was interviewed for this column last issue, was 1st runner-up (Congratulations, B.D.!) and James Drew from San Mateo, California was 2nd runner-up. The contest was the subject of a live webcast on, and they’re thinking of rebroadcasting it—check their website for details. You can see photos of the contest and the Rubber Blowout weekend at the Cell Block’s website,

Atons Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction

Start your holiday season off with a bang at the Atons Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction this Sunday, Dec. 5 (5-10 PM) at The Saloon.

• Bring donations of food for the Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Program. Donations of food will make you eligible for special door prize drawings on merchandise or a gift certificate from Fit to a T Leather.

• Bring pennies (or other change) for Every Penny Counts. For every pound of change you bring, you’ll get a ticket for the grand door prize drawing—you might win a leather jacket from Trackstar Motorsports. The Saloon will generously match the amount of pennies up to $150, and First Bank of the Lakes will match the amount up to $100 (as well as counting all that change for free).

• Bid on over 35 Silent Auction items. If you haven’t already seen the auction catalog, you can check out the items on the Atons website at (Even if you can’t be there Sunday, you can still make a bid using the absentee bidding form—download it at

• It just wouldn’t be an Atons Holiday Fundraiser without bootblacking, photos with Leather Santa, food, and 75-cent tap beer and sodas. $5 at the door if you bring food to donate, $8 at the door if you don’t.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Sunday, December 5

Atons Holiday Fundraiser and Silent Auction
5-10 PM, The Saloon
Photos with Leather Santa, bootblacking, food, 75-cent tap beer and sodas. Bring donations of food and pennies, bid on silent-auction items. See “Leather Life” column, this issue, for details.

Friday, December 10

Minnesota Olympus Leather Meet & Greet
7-10 PM, The Minneapolis Eagle
Meet and greet the contestants and judges and see the teddy bears that will be auctioned off at the contest on Sunday. $2 cover includes drink specials.

Sunday, December 12

Mr./Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest
7-10 PM, The Saloon
Be there when Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Olympus 2000 are chosen. Contest features hot men, hot women, fantasy entertainment, and the presentation of the Leather Community Service Award. Bid on your favorite bear at the Leather Teddy Bear auction. $10 at the door. Call for further information or to be a contestant.

Friday, November 19, 1999

Rubberwear 101

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #117, November 19, 1999)

PHOTO: B.D. Chambers

Of all the Fabulous Fetish Fabrics on the scene today, rubber is second only to leather in popularity. By the time you read this, rubber enthusiasts from around the world will have gathered in Chicago for this year’s Rubber Blowout weekend and Mr. International Rubber 2000 contest, and Mr. International Rubber 1999 (and former Minneapolis resident) Thomas Smith will have passed the sash to his successor.

I recently talked with B.D. Chambers, who represented Minnesota in the competition to select Mr. International Rubber 2000. Chambers is a local rubber enthusiast who is also a past president of the Atons leather club of Minneapolis, and who in 1998 was the first Mr. Minnesota Olympus Leather. We started by defining our terms: Just what exactly is meant by saying someone is “into rubber”? According to Chambers, “Rubber, like leather, encompasses a broad range. There are people who are strictly into latex, and the more tight-fitting they can find the better. Other people are into industrial gear, hazardous-materials and other protective clothing, or diving suits. And some people do all of them. Basically it’s an interest in clothing that is form-fitting and makes you sweat.”

What’s the attraction of rubberwear? Chambers says it offers “overall body stimulation. Particularly if you get into tight latex pieces and you use a good silicone lube underneath when you put it on, it will slide over your skin and hug your body in a way that even leather cannot. It’s like getting a full-body massage as long as you’re wearing it. Industrial gear, rain gear, and gas masks summon strong, aggressive, masculine images such as that of an oil rigger up on his rig—or, if you’re into sludge play, the sewer worker down in the ground. There’s also the sensation of the lack of sensation—when you get into gas masks and chemical-handling suits, you are cut off from the outside world, so you have the effect of a portable isolation tank. It creates its own bondage.” (There’s quite a bit of crossover between those into rubber and those into bondage.)

Chambers muses that the appeal of rubberwear can be almost primal: “You begin to recapitulate the womb. It’s dark. It’s warm. It’s moist. It’s constricted movement. All your sensations come to you second- or third-hand. It strikes some deep chord, some half-memory, of the womb. Especially the whole diving bit—when you start playing in a pool of warm water, well, let’s just talk about rebuilding the womb right there! And if you’ve got a partner who’s working with you in a scene and whom you can trust, there’s a great sense of intimacy and trust, and feeling secure and safe.”

Latex, unfortunately, can be expensive. And it demands a commitment to care and maintenance as well. A latex garment can tear, at which time there are two choices: “Invest in a good tire repair kit and learn how to repair it, or be prepared to buy new every time it rips.” And, as we all know from condom seminars, oil (even skin oil) will eventually destroy latex. Therefore, steer clear of Crisco and other oil-based lubes, and wash and rinse your latex wear after you’ve worn it. Dishwashing detergent works well for the purpose, although Chambers speaks highly of Dr. Bronner’s soap, an almond-oil-based castille soap available at health-food stores—“It cleans off the skin oils and lubes very nicely, rinses cleanly and leaves no residue, and it’s a very neutral soap that’s nice to work with.”

What about body hair and rubberwear? The general assumption has been that if you have body hair you don’t wear rubber, or else you shave, but Chambers disputes this. “If you have body hair, talc or baby powder will help get the latex on comfortably. Getting it off can be a challenge—I recommend, and this is my general recommendation for wearing rubber products—silicone lubes. A lot of people like Eros, which is from Germany. Another good one is Colt. Wet Platinum is the one I recommend overall, first of all because it’s less expensive, and secondly because it adds Vitamin E—which is an oil, so you’ll want to rinse it off after you’re through using your rubber. But I’ve noticed that the strictly silicone lubes tend to evaporate, so you can get the rubber on, but to take it off you have to step into the shower. The Vitamin E in Wet Platinum keeps the silicone from evaporating, and it does wonderful things to moisturize your skin. Apply the lube to the garment and just slide it on, and when you’re done wearing it the garment slides right off—even with body hair.”

Because latex clothing must be form-fitting, shopping can be difficult. Stock items are made to standard sizes, and if they don’t fit properly the only option may be to have pieces custom-made. Some local stores stock rubberwear (for example: Fit To A Tee Leather, Lava Lounge, and Sex World), and rubberwear can also be ordered by mail or over the Net. For industrial and chemical-protection gear, check out army surplus stores and second-hand shops on a regular basis. You’ll probably find pieces that appeal to you at prices that won’t empty your wallet.

For a great introduction to the world of rubber, visit This entertaining, attractive, and well-written site contains pictures, stories, a Rubber Lovers Contact List, and links to vendors, clubs, and organizations all over the world.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, November 19

Atons Club Colors Night
7-10 PM, The Minneapolis Eagle
A fundraiser for next summer’s Gopher XIV run. Hors d’oeuvres, drink specials, door prizes, boot polishing available. $3 at the door. See the Atons website at or call for more information.

Friday, November 19

Sixteenth Annual Blue Moon Ball
7 PM, The Main Club, 1217 Tower Ave., Superior, WI
Formal wear is suggested.

Sunday, November 21

Black Guard Chili Feed
X-X PM, The Saloon
One of the Twin Cities’ longest-running leather traditions. $X at the door.

Friday, November 5, 1999

Our Autobodies, Ourselves

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #116, November 5, 1999)

PHOTO SUGGESTIONS: Need a picture of a hot rod to compare to a picture of a tattoo. You’ve got tattoo pictures from last issue, I’ll see what kind of hot rod pix I can come up with.

At the end of last issue’s column I asked the question: Why, after so many thousands of years of getting no respect, has body modification suddenly become so acceptable? What follows is certainly not the total answer to that question, but rather one facet of the answer.

When you were a kid, did you build model cars? I did. If you remember, most of these model cars came in kits that could be built in various ways: “stock” (as originally manufactured and seen on the dealer’s showroom floor), “custom” (customized with a different grill, wheels, taillights, etc.) or drag-racing (oversize slick tires, mag wheels, and a supercharger sticking out of a hole in the hood). And every model car kit came with a sheet of decals, so you could decorate it in your own unique way.

I always built mine stock and never used the decals—I wanted authenticity. One friend of mine, however, plastered the decals all over every car he built. For another friend, simply putting the model together and applying decals wasn’t enough—he had a heated X-acto knife with which he could cut plastic like butter. He did radical modifications to those kits and constructed some one-of-a-kind creations.

If the three of us guys got together today, and found we were all into “alternative sexualities,” I predict that the guy who loved applying decals would be tattooed from head to toe, and the guy with the hot knife would be into piercing/cutting/branding. And me? True to pattern, I have no piercings and no tattoos—not yet, anyway.

Almost since automobiles, trucks and motorcycles were invented, the American male has been carrying on a love affair with them. Sometimes the vehicles themselves are the “mistress,” the object of desire, while at other times they serve as “chick magnets,” an advertisement and declaration of a man’s masculinity. Despite efforts by the major auto manufacturers to build cars which are seductive to women, car culture has for the most part remained a “guy thing” over the years.

Whether it’s young boys with model cars or grown men with real ones, many of us tend to project a lot of ourselves onto our vehicles, and we want our wheels to make a statement about who we are, or at least who we wish we could be. A recent ad for a new sports car challenges the reader to “be the person the chat room thinks you are.” The Jaguar XK-E and the Corvette Sting Ray are two of the most unabashedly phallic cars ever built. It’s no coincidence that the colloquial term for a customized, sporty car is a “hot rod.” We wash them, we polish them, we decorate them with flames coming out of the hood as an advertisement for the power that’s in there. Come to think of it, there’s not that much difference between the bulge of many car hoods of the 1950s and the bulge in a pair of briefs in a Calvin Klein ad.

Well, maybe there’s one difference. The automotive stylists of the 1950’s knew there was an element of sexuality in their designs—Cadillac was famous for “Dagmars,” bumper guards which looked like female breasts and which got their nickname from a buxom female beauty of the day. (And Freudian psychiatrists had a field day analyzing the myriad ways Detroit decorated the rear ends of its cars, especially the way the exhaust pipe openings were enshrined—can you say “anal compulsive”?) But it was all very furtive and very hetero. By contrast, the Calvin Klein ads are purposely and unabashedly erotic and, more specifically, homoerotic. And they feature a real, albeit covered, human body—they don’t displace their sexuality onto a motor vehicle.

For centuries western civilization has been an environment where the human body has been viewed simultanously as a temple (which must be kept pure) and as a cesspool (so dirty we’re ashamed of it). For most of that time the human body has been hidden from view under huge amounts of clothing. As Cole Porter wrote in the 1930’s, “In olden days a glimpse of stocking/Was looked on as something shocking.” Since it wasn’t proper to publicly acknowledge that we had bodies, or that those bodies had a sexual component, sexual feelings and imagery were projected elsewhere. A few examples: automobiles, airplanes, skyscrapers, and even space missiles and bombs.

Of course, the next two lines of that Cole Porter song are “But now God knows/Anything goes.” Nowadays it’s hard to think of anything of which a glimpse would be shocking. One popular countercultural motto from the 1960s was “Let it all hang out.” The free-thinking, pioneering members of the early leather/SM community took that idea and expanded it to include not only letting it all hang out but decorating it as well. Thanks to their efforts, it’s becoming more permissible to use our own bodies to make the statement that formerly had to be displaced onto our cars. Instead of resculpting the sheet metal on our vehicles using acetylene torches, arc welders and body putty, we remold ourselves using liposuction, weight lifting, and plastic surgery. Instead of decorating our motorcycles with custom pinstriping, we decorate ourselves with custom pinstriping. Instead of driving chrome-laden cars, today our brightwork is the body jewelry in our piercings.

Is this healthy? Unhealthy? It can be both. Increased body-consciousness can be liberating for one person and enslaving for another. But the leather community has always valued authenticity, and it seems to me admirably straightforward to make one’s personal statements using one’s person, rather than through more oblique means.

One of the characteristics of the Aquarian Age (1960s counterculture again) is that humanity won’t require mediators to make contact with divinity. Some people think of this as not needing popes or priests or shamans to act as middlemen between us and God. But perhaps, on a more mundane but practical level, it also means that we won’t need to go through the convolution of making our cars act as stand-ins for our real selves.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, November 5

Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest Fundraiser
7-10 PM, The Minneapolis Eagle
Fantasy entertainment, a leather auction and drink specials. $2 at the door.

Saturday, November 13

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Drinks at 7 PM, dinner at 7:30 PM, Backstage @ Bravo (9th & Hennepin, Minneapolis)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Friday, November 12

AIDS Ride Fundraiser—Leather/Levi Night at the Theatre
Enjoy “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead” at Theatre in the Round and help sponsor David Coral, representing the Leather/Levi/BDSM community in next summer’s Twin Cities-Wisconsin-Chicago AIDS Ride. (Coral plays the part of Guildenstern in TRP’s production of the show.) November 12 is Leather/Levi Night, but if you can’t make it that night you can attend any other performance of the show and benefit the AIDS Ride. Advance vouchers ($15) are required.

Friday, November 19

Atons Club Colors Night
7-10 PM, The Minneapolis Eagle
A fundraiser for next summer’s Gopher XIV run. Hors d’oeuvres, drink specials, door prizes, boot polishing available. $3 at the door. See the Atons website at or call for more information.

Friday, October 22, 1999

Modern Body Mod: The Past, Present and Future of Body Modification

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #115, October 22, 1999)

PHOTO SUGGESTIONS: On Wednesday I’ll be bringing in some photos of interesting and splashy tattoos.

Like VCRs, microwave ovens, PCs and cell phones, body modification (piercing, tattooing, etc.) has recently become commonplace in western culture. Unlike those newfangled devices, however, body modification is not even remotely new. In ancient Egypt a pierced ear was the mark of a slave, and for about five thousand years circumcision has been one of the world’s most popular body modifications. (I bet you never thought of it that way, did you? It qualifies.) But while circumcision has been accepted and even mandated by the Judeo-Christian culture, most other forms of body modification have been seen as sinful (defiling the temple, you know) and down through the years people who practiced body modification have been viewed with suspicion.

A few hundred years ago, the only men who either wore tattoos or had pierced ears were pirates. Such body modifications were the mark of outlaws and outcasts, someone who didn’t play by society’s rules. Pirates were feared and reviled; paradoxically, they were also romanticized at the same time. Oh, to be so swashbuckling and to live so dangerously! Women swooned and men were subtly envious.

Even in more recent times, tattoos still carried a less-than-savory reputation. The stereotype was that a tattoo was something drunken sailors (notice the nautical connection again) got while on shore leave, and when they sobered up they supposedly regretted it. They especially regretted it if they broke up with their girl after having her name tattooed on their arm. (Today’s drunken sailors can have their tattoos removed by laser technology, assuming they can come up with the money it costs.)

Body piercing got even less respect. While it was all right for a woman to have her ears pierced, it was still an outlaw thing for a man to wear an earring. As for piercing other parts of the body, for either sex it was completely unacceptable. If tattoos were the mark of an outlaw, body piercing was the mark of a savage. Certain American Indian tribes, notably the Nez Perce (which in French means “pierced nose”) had septum piercings, and certain African tribes did fascinating things with ear and lip piercings. But body piercing was something a “civilized” person simply wouldn’t think of doing.

Except, of course, for Prince Albert and his Prince Albert, which in Victorian times was known as a “dressing ring.” It was all strictly practical, of course—men of that era used dressing rings to keep their penis strapped tightly against their leg, thereby minimizing unsightly bulges in the fashionably tight trousers of the day. In Albert’s case the dressing ring offered a second benefit: supposedly he was uncircumcised, and by keeping his foreskin pulled back the dressing ring cut down on odor (wouldn’t want to offend the Queen, would we?)

Well, that was then. As the world’s odometer prepares to roll over to another big set of zeroes, body modifications like piercing (not just ears—anything and everything) and tattoos have become positively mainstream. Rather than being the mark of an outlaw, for some people they have almost become a statement of conformity. In today’s leather world your humble columnist, who has no piercings and no tattoos, finds himself becoming the nonconformist.

Why do people get tattooed or pierced anyway? The most frequent reason I hear is “It’s a way of asserting” (or “reclaiming”) “control over my body.” If someone is raped, or survives cancer, or gets out of a bad relationship, or comes out of the closet, they get a tattoo or a piercing as a symbol of celebration to themselves that they survived the ordeal, they’re still here, and now they’re in control. People also tell me they enjoy the natural high caused by the anticipation of getting the piercing or tattoo, and the excitement while it’s being done. That high can be quite addicting, leading people to do it again and again. Many people like the decorative and creative aspect of tattoos and piercings, and they can also be markers for what a person likes sexually. Having a nipple pierced, for example, can make it more sensitive, and the jewelry also draws amorous attention to the area.

If tattoos and piercings are becoming commonplace, what’s a person to do if they want to shock? The next hot thing in body modification—literally—is branding. Following the analogies above, branding goes beyond outlaw and beyond savage, all the way to animal. But I’m hearing more and more about it, and at least one advertiser in Lavender is already offering branding services. In ten years, will it be as ubiquitous as piercings and tattoos are today? Wait and see.

Scarification (cutting) is also becoming more popular. Cutting, knives, and blood sports in general seem to hold more attraction for women than for men. I never quite understood why until a local group of leatherwomen explained to me that women are forced by menstruation to become extremely familiar with blood—bleeding is a normal part of their life in a way that it isn’t for men.

If you’re contemplating some sort of body modification, use common sense. These procedures are not for amateurs; people have showed me tattoos they claimed they did themselves using a ballpoint pen, but this is not recommended procedure. And don’t try to experiment with branding by grabbing the rosette iron out of the kitchen drawer. Borrowing from the “this is your brain on drugs” frying-pan ads, consider what happens to an egg (or a hamburger) if you throw it in a cast-iron frying pan that isn’t hot enough, or that isn’t seasoned well. It sticks, and it’s a mess. Any questions?

Before you surrender to your passion, learn about what can go wrong (hepatitis from contaminated tattoo needles or ink, piercings that become infected or are rejected) and what can be done to avoid problems. That way you’ll be able to select a good practitioner instead of a questionable one. For all forms of body modification sterile procedure, expert technique, and scrupulous attention to detail are the essentials that make the difference between a fantastic, fulfulling experience and a tragic one.

Why, after so many thousands of years of getting no respect, has body modification suddenly become so acceptable? I have my own theories, as do many other folks, but we’ll save them for another column.

Mark Your Calendars

On Friday, November 5, a fundraiser will be held for the Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Olympus Leather Contest. The event will be at The Minneapolis Eagle, 7-10 PM. (While you’re marking that on your calendar, also mark that the contest itself will be held on December 10 and 12.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, October 29

Minneapolis Eagle Halloween Weekend Party: Trick or Treat (Guaranteed)
For details visit The Minneapolis Eagle’s website at

Saturday, October 30

Minneapolis Eagle Halloween Weekend Party: Uniform Contest
Whether you like to wear ’em or watch ’em, come on down! For details visit The Minneapolis Eagle’s website at

Sunday, October 31

Minneapolis Eagle Halloween Weekend Party: Costume Contest
For details visit The Minneapolis Eagle’s website at

PHOTOS: A gallery of tattoos: Porn star Steve Cannon, Mr. Wisconsin Leatherman 1999 Andrew Sagan, and Ashley Rukes, perennial organizer of the Twin Cities Pride Parade. (Rukes’ tattoo is based on a design by your humble columnist.)

EDITOR: The picture of Steve Cannon is the one that also has me, but I was thinking you would just show Cannon’s arm and nipple piercing by putting another photo over my face and his crotch. That way this image would be shaped like an upside-down “L.” The guy with the boot tattooed on his back is Andrew Sagan, and the “Pride=Power” logo is Ashley Rukes.

I am giving you the picture of Steve Cannon as a second choice--the picture I really wanted to use is one of International Mr. Leather 1996 Joe Gallagher, who has a fabulous tattoo on his back. Every time he has his shirt off and turns his back on the crowd, they go wild! I was sure I had a photo of it somewhere, but I’ve not been able to find it. So I e-mailed Joe and asked him if he had one in electronic form, suitable for printing in a magazine, that he could send me. If I get it, I’ll forward it on to you. If all this happens, the caption should read as follows:

A gallery of tattoos: International Mr. Leather 1996 Joe Gallagher, Mr. Wisconsin Leatherman 1999 Andrew Sagan, and Ashley Rukes, perennial organizer of the Twin Cities Pride Parade. (Rukes’ tattoo is based on a design by your humble columnist.)

PHOTO CREDIT: You can still credit Sagan and Rukes to me. I’ll supply information about the Gallagher photo when I get it.

Friday, October 8, 1999

Drummer Magazine: End of an Era

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #114, October 8, 1999)

But the Mr. Drummer Beat Goes On

PHOTO: Recently chosen in San Francisco are, left, new International Mr. Drummer Fraser Picard and, right, new International Drummerboy Woodie Barnes. Both are from the Mid-Atlantic region. (Many thanks to Mister Marcus, legendary San Francisco leather columnist, for supplying this photo.)

PHOTO CREDIT: “Mister” Marcus Hernandez

San Francisco recently held its annual leather bash which culminated in the International Mr. Drummer contest on Saturday, Sept. 25, and the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, Sept. 26. By all reports this year’s contest was a rousing success; it was a crowd-pleaser and, according to Drummer Magazine editor Robert Davolt, the basket auction raised $7,000 for the winners’ travel fund. But even as the new International Mr. Drummer and Drummerboy (see accompanying photo) were being chosen, the magazine that started the contest, and gave it its name, was nearing the end of its run.

Publication of Drummer has been sporadic for some time now; the magazine has been for sale, but no buyers have come forward. The International Drummer contest has been sold to Mike Zuhl of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and at this writing negotiations for the other Drummer assets are continuing, but the outcome of it all will probably be that Drummer Magazine will no longer be published in its current form. It seems to me a rather ignominious end to what was once the leather magazine against which all others were measured.

Leather publications (and, to a certain extent, all gay publications and all publications in general) have been experiencing lean times recently. But how can a leather institution like Drummer, which has been around for years and which has been so instrumental in shaping our whole concept and culture of leather, be on the brink of extinction?

Here’s a history lesson about a seemingly unrelated topic: At the dawn of the 20th century most homes had pianos in the parlor, and people bought sheet music at the local five-and-dime store so they could play the popular songs of the day. The music industry made money from the sales of sheet music, and a song’s popularity was measured by how many copies of the sheet music were sold. Then the phonograph became commonplace, and the popularity of a song was measured by how many phonograph records were sold; sheet music sales took a nosedive from which they’ve never recovered. Along came radio, and (for awhile, anyway) record sales suffered—why buy the music when you can hear it for free? Today, of course, the music industry is again in turmoil over the same idea, only this time it’s MP3 files over the internet cutting into CD sales.

Could it be that Drummer and other leather publications are the sheet music of the 1990s? Much as Playboy proclaims itself “entertainment for men” (or for some men, anyway), leather magazines are entertainment for the leather community—as are leather contests, leather events, even leather bars. All these forms of entertainment are being affected by the brave new internet-driven world, but right now magazines like Drummer are being hit especially hard.

What people used to get from magazines—pictures, articles, one-handed fiction, personal ads—is now available for free (or at least for the yearly cost of AdultChek) on the Web. Davolt also points out that the internet is basically unregulated (i.e. uncensored) with respect to both content and geographic distribution—internet data can be sent almost anywhere and show almost anything. Meanwhile, Drummer and other publications must operate within a straitjacket of local, state, federal and postal regulations that limit both what they can include in their magazines and where they can or cannot sell them.

Drummer has been a magnificent invalid for several years now; in 1997 alone it posted major business losses. Davolt was named editor in January 1998, and during his 21 months at the helm the balance sheets improved dramatically, but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

Maybe it’s good that leather has embraced the Web. Maybe all that information flowing so freely will allow more people to follow their instincts, to learn, to participate, to enjoy, to build a stronger community. I hope so. But it’s sad that Drummer won’t be along for the ride.

Mr. International Rubber 2000/Rubber Blowout Weekend

Mr. International Rubber 1999 and former Twin Cities resident Thomas Smith invites everyone to Chicago the weekend of November 12-14 for the Mr. International Rubber Contest and Rubber Blowout Weekend ‘99. The contest begins at 8:30 PM on Saturday, November 13, with Khris Franis as emcee. Weekend packages include a welcome cocktail party, Rubber Buddies brunch, rubber swap and market, contest and show, Rubber Ball Beer Bust, and a T-shirt and poster. For weekend registration or contest application send your name, address, phone number and email address to Mr. International Rubber, Inc., Chicago, IL. (Rumor has it that at least one contestant will be from the Twin Cities area.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, October 9

Atons Leather/Levi Night
7 PM, Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter, 8930 Lofton Ave. N. (3 miles north of Hwy. 36 on County Rd. 15), Stillwater
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Friday, September 24, 1999

What Are Fantasies? Leather Theater.

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #113, September 24, 1999)

Regular readers of this column have often seen the words “fantasy” or “fantasy presentation” used in connection with leather contests or events. If you’ve ever wondered “What the heck is a fantasy?”—wonder no more.

A psychologist friend of mine is fond of pointing out that whatever our differences, and no matter what community (or communities) we belong to, “we’re all socialized the same.” Hence, the Miss America Pageant has the “talent competition,” drag queens have drag shows—and the leather community has “fantasy presentations.” This weekend, in San Francisco, Gary O’Neill will represent the Great Plains region (which includes Minnesota) at the International Mr. Drummer/Drummerboy Contest in San Francisco—the contest which annually presents the most stupendous fantasies of the leather year. (The only major leather contest which does not feature fantasy presentations is International Mr. Leather.)

Fantasies may take many forms, from simple (your basic flogging scene) to grand (anything by Ron Athey or, closer to home, a Michael deLeon extravaganza featuring the Ballet of the Dolls). I’ve heard fantasies described as “erotic skits,” but for me that’s too simplistic a definition. Fantasies are the leather/SM community’s form of theatrical expression. (If you have ever been onstage as part of a fantasy, you can legitimately impress people by telling them you have done performance art.) Over the years certain fantasy performances have become legendary—for instance, anyone who has ever seen one of Joey Kraly’s Bugs Bunny/Loony Tunes fantasies will never forget it.

A good fantasy a) makes you laugh, b) makes you think, or c) gets you, uh, “aroused.” A fantasy that does one of these three things is good, but two out of three is better and all three is a knockout.

A good fantasy has honesty and authenticity going for it. If I’m not into flogging, but I decide to present a flogging fantasy because that’s what I think my audience will like, it probably won’t work. If I’m really into flogging, on the other hand, I can present a fantasy that communicates my passion to the audience even if not every audience member is into flogging.

Like all theater, there are certain basic practical rules of stagecraft that can make or break a fantasy presentation, and staging skills gained during prior theatrical experience (high school, college, community, or professional) can be used to advantage. I’ve seen countless flogging fantasies where both flogger and floggee spend the entire fantasy with their backs to the audience; I was always taught that this is bad form, theatrically speaking. There’s also the question of who is the “hero,” or most important character, in the fantasy. Usually in a contest setting, the contestant should be the one to shine onstage, yet I’ve seen fantasies where the contestant simply lies there while various accomplices perform all the action (and get all the attention).

Just as Broadway has been overtaken with the spectacle of life-size helicopters on stage and crystal chandeliers which crash to the floor nightly, fantasies in recent years have fallen victim to what I call the “Biggest Prop Wins” phenomenon. I’ve seen a fantasy with a gallows that was eleven feet high, and I’ve seen one with a spider web (made of rope) that was eight feet in diameter—and which revolved. While those fantasies worked well, I’ve also seen fantasies that connected with the audience while using almost no props. Personally, I think that’s a greater (and certainly rarer) accomplishment. And it certainly makes it easier to “take the show on the road.”

If, after reading this, you’d like to try your hand at presenting a fantasy, let me encourage you. Maybe you could compete in a leather contest, or maybe you could present a fantasy in a noncompetitive atmosphere, such as a leather event or fundraiser. However you decide to do it, you’ll find an eager audience waiting to, as Chanel’s ads used to put it, “share the fantasy.”

PHOTO: Gary O’Neill, shown here in his Mr. Minnesota Drummer fantasy performance, will be representing the Great Plains region this weekend in the 1999 International Mr. Drummer competition in San Francisco.

Friday, September 10, 1999

Fantasy Becomes Reality (Barely)

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #112, September 10, 1999)

John Tatum, Mr. Michigan Fantasy 1999, was elevated to International Mr. Fantasy 1999 during the International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest held August 21 at the Guthrie Lab Theater in Minneapolis. Yes, against incredible odds and despite many major setbacks, the contest actually did take place as scheduled.

With all the strikes against it (almost no nationwide publicity, and no venue until very late in the game), the easiest thing would have been to cancel the entire weekend. Credit must be given to Wolf Productions and many other members of the Twin Cities leather community for sheer tenacity—they said there would be a contest, and there was. And in spite of the weekend’s events not being nearly as big as first envisioned, those in attendance seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Fantasy Weekend was started in 1989 in Omaha, Nebraska by Dustin Logan and Bob Ewing. It started as a “family reunion,” a gathering of past and present (and future) titleholders and other members of the leather/SM tribe. The whole idea of the weekend, in the spirit of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney (“Let’s put on a show!”), was to raise money for charity by presenting an entertaining evening of fantasy performances in a non-competitive atmosphere (as opposed to the competitive atmosphere of a leather contest). With the exception of one year, the event was always held in Omaha.

In 1995 the weekend was refocused and became the International Mr. Fantasy Contest, which was envisioned as less political and more “fun” than International Mr. Leather. Competitors for International Mr. Fantasy, one per state, have tended to number around ten per year and have tended to be from the midwestern states (and Canadian provinces). For last year’s tenth-anniversary weekend, the “old-style” non-competitive Fantasy Show was held on Friday night, with the International Mr. Fantasy Contest taking place Saturday night.

Starting in 1999, Logan and Ewing decided to let the International Fantasy Weekend travel to a different city each year (as does the International Ms. Leather Contest, also based in Omaha), and the Twin Cities were the first stop on the tour. Wolf Productions, who had just made a spectacular showing with the Mr./Ms. Minnesota Fantasy Contest, seemed primed to do it again, only this time for a national audience.

So why did this year’s contest attract only two male contestants (and no female contestants) and very few audience members from out of town? Putting together this year’s International Fantasy Weekend presented problems that took much too long to solve, and which in turn created other problems. Basic arrangements, like where to hold the contest or what hotel would host the weekend, proved to be extremely time-consuming and fraught with problems. Not knowing the contest venue or host hotel makes it difficult to attract contestants or do any nationwide publicity. By the time those arrangements were made, it was less than three weeks until the contest. Media deadlines had long since passed, and prospective contestants and audience members would have flown to the Twin Cities on very expensive airline tickets.

For all the storm and turmoil leading up to it, the actual weekend was a pleasant surprise. Whether it was Friday night’s motorcoach bar crawl, Saturday night’s contest at the magnificient Guthrie Lab Theater, the Saturday night after-party, or Sunday’s barbecue picnic by the Mississippi, all the events had one thing in common: those in attendance were having a good time.

The contest itself was a good one, and a close one. Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1999 David Page presented an elaborate airport-security fantasy, while Tatum’s fantasy told the story of a kinky pansexual birthday party. Emcee for the evening was Gary O’Neill, who was also the contest organizer and who can now turn his attentions to competing in this year’s International Mr. Drummer Contest as Great Plains Mr. Drummer 1999. Judges for the weekend were Cori Ander, the current International Ms. Olympus Leather; International Mr. Fantasy 1996 Ariq Robinson, who is also the current Mr. Ebony Leather; Ms. Minnesota Leather 1991 P.J. Knight; and your humble columnist, who is also Great Lakes Mr. Drummer 1994.

Ms. Minnesota Leather Contest to be rescheduled

First it was the Mr. Minnesota Leather Contest being cancelled (see last issue’s announcement). Now it’s the Ms. Minnesota Leather Contest—not cancelled, but postponed. Ms. Minnesota Leather was originally scheduled for the weekend of September 26-28, at which time it would have conflicted with the International Mr. Drummer Contest and Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. I was recently told by event organizer Renee Indehar that it will not happen that weekend but will be rescheduled. More information will, I assume, be forthcoming.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, September 11

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Time and location to be announced—call the Atons Hotline for details
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Friday, August 27, 1999

Transgender Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #111, August 27, 1999)

Okay, so you’re a proud member of the leather/BDSM community. If you’re reading this column, the probability is highest that you’re a gay white male (as is your humble columnist). But you, like your humble columnist, understand that something as wonderful as leathersex must be open to everyone regardless of age, race, sex, orientation, and so on. So you try to be open-minded and accepting, even of women at the Minneapolis Eagle or heterosexuals in a dungeon. (See previous columns on leatherwomen and het queers.)

You’re even trying to be open-minded about transgendered people in the leather/BDSM community. Here you may fall into one of two categories: either “I don’t know any, but of course they would certainly be welcome” or “My goodness, they’re everywhere—where are they all coming from?” Billy Lane was in last year’s International Mr. Leather competition, and he did very well, thank you. One of the judges at this year’s International Ms. Leather contest was Kate Bornstein, author of many books on gender issues including “My Gender Workbook.” You’ve seen transgendered people onstage assisting or competing in local leather contests, too, and sometimes winning them.

That’s fine, you say, it can be their community too. (How very generous of you.) I know people who espouse this line of reasoning, and follow it in the next breath with this disclaimer: “But of course I would never play with one.”

My first response to this is, why not? My second response is, how do you know you haven’t? Considering that much SM play is non-genital in nature, how can you be absolutely, positively sure that the person who flogged you last night (or the person whom you flogged) was not a trans person? Have you checked the chromosomes of everyone you’ve ever played with to be sure they matched the person’s outward appearance?

Suppose you found out the next day (or next month, or next year) that the person you played with last night was a trannie. Would you feel differently about the experience? About the person? Why or why not?

If you feel comfortable with trans people, congratulations—you can skip the next part of this column. If you don’t feel comfortable having trans people around, however, let me say this as gently as I can: Get Over It. Here are two different (and somewhat opposing) viewpoints to consider that may help you adjust your attitude:

Viewpoint #1: Think of a transgender orientation as a special asset instead of a liability. Consider that trans people are an interesting and diverse group. I seem to be getting to know more and more of them, so I say this from personal experience: They’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, and they have the stories to prove it. Their experiences at questioning something about themselves that most of us take for granted tends to give them a special insight into themselves (and others, and society in general) that can be refreshing to be around.

Viewpoint #2: The words “transgender” and “transsexual” are labels. People aren’t labels; if I look at a person and all I see is a label, I’m not really seeing that person. Instead of thinking of a transgender orientation as a special asset (as described above), don’t think about it at all. Focus on a trans person as simply a person, and try relating to them as you would with any other human being. You might be pleasantly surprised. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. You might even play together. Who knows what chemistry you’ll find once you get that pesky label out of the way?

One final note: Earlier I mentioned a book by Kate Bornstein titled “My Gender Workbook.” It is recommended reading if you are at all curious about gender issues—perhaps your own, or perhaps in order to better understand a newfound transgender friend. Before seeing this book I thought gender was basically either male or female, and transgender people either went from female to male or male to female. (And they always used hormones and surgery to make the transition). I now realize that it’s not that simple. Here’s just one example of a “nontraditional” transgender person: Joe knows he is male, in spite of the fact that he was born with a female’s body. Joe is so sure he is male, in fact, that he sees no need to bother with hormones and surgery. So just have respect for his gender choice—call him Joe, and call him “him,” and he’s satisfied.

Gender comes in many different flavors, and it will be a lovely day when people can taste them all and choose their favorite with no apologies, shame or stigma.

Mr. Minnesota Leather Contest cancelled

Late-breaking news: The Mr. Minnesota Leather Contest, which was scheduled for Labor Day weekend, will not be happening. According to Minnesota Leather Productions spokesman Colin Spriestersbach, “Minnesota Leather Productions will not be holding the event this year due to [a] lack of interest in the Leather community.”

Friday, August 13, 1999

Pam Meyer is IMsL 1999

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #110, August 13, 1999)

PHOTO: IMsL 1999 First Runner-up Crickett Watkins; IMsL 1999 Pam Meyer; IMsL 1999 Second Runner-up Peggy aka “O”.

This year’s International Ms. Leather (IMsL) Contest was held July 16-18 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was there, and had a great time. Being a veteran of many International Mr. Leather (IML) contests but never having attended IMsL before, I was struck by both the similarities and the differences between the two contest weekends. I even prepared a handy chart (accompanying this column) to compare the two.

The first IMsL contest was held in San Francisco in 1987, as were the next seven yearly contests. Now it travels to a different city each year; next year’s contest will be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

IMsL has become a full-weekend event for the entire leather/SM/fetish community—all sexes, genders and orientations are welcome and were in evidence at this year’s contest. In the words of producer (and IMsL 1993) Amy Marie Meek, the contest “chooses a woman to represent the international leather/SM/fetish community to the public, and provides a venue that allows ALL participating leatherwomen to present their positive vision of a positive leather image.”

New this year was the International Ms. Bootblack title competition, held concurrently with IMsL. This is the first year for this title which, along with the new International Mr. Bootblack title, replaces the old International Bootblack title which was instituted in 1993. For the past six years the International Bootblack competition has been part of the IML weekend and contestants have included male, female and transgendered bootblacks. A joint statement issued by Meek and IML producer Chuck Renslow says, “We believe that, by creating two titles, we will encourage more women to learn the art of bootblacking and the womens’ community to support to support women bootblacks.”

The weekend started Friday night with a Basket Auction—each contestant brought a themed “goodie basket” filled with items representing the leather/SM community in her geographical region. Bidding was fast, furious and often contentious, but when it was finished the Basket Auction raised over $10,000 for the new IMsL’s travel fund.

I spent some time Saturday at the Vendor Fair, where many of the vendors were new to me. Saturday’s schedule also included many workshops and seminars and a Laura Antoniu Book Reading. A special “Telling Our Stories” reception was a celebration of women telling their personal stories about claiming their place in the leather world; written and electronically recorded histories were accepted by the Leather Archives and Museum. (You can still submit your own story to

Saturday night’s contest featured fourteen contestants, including Ms. Minnesota Leather 1999 Mario. Speeches were spoken and fantasies were performed, the judges judged, and outgoing IMsL Megan DeJarlais turned her sash over to new IMsL Pam Meyer from San Francisco. First IMsL Runner-up was Crickett Watkins of Chula Vista, California (who also won the contest’s equivalent of Ms. Congeniality); second IMsL Runner-up was Peggy aka “O” of New York City. The first-ever International Ms. Bootblack title went to Leslie Anderson, of Bosque Farms, New Mexico.

It’s not too early to start thinking about getting a hotel room in Toronto for next year’s IMsL. For more coverage of this year’s contest and information about next year’s, visit IMsL’s website at

International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest Weekend

This issue’s Out & About Calendar is filled with activities that are part of this year’s International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest Weekend (August 20-22). Take a look, then call Wolf Productions to order Weekend Packages ($45) or admission to individual Fantasy Weekend events. Host hotel is Quality Inn Downtown Minneapolis, 41 N. 10th St. (formerly the Regency Plaza); call for reservation information.

Mpls. Eagle Calendar Model Search

The Minneapolis Eagle is creating a calendar called “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” A different individual will be featured each month, and profits from the calendar will be donated to two charities chosen by the people featured in the calendar. Two contests will be held to select 10 men (Saturday, August 14 at 9 PM and Sunday, August 22 at 8 PM) and one contest will be held to select two women (Wednesday, August 18 at 9 PM).

Each contestant will receive a $10 bar tab just for entering the contest; if a contestant is selected by the judges for the calendar, the calendar model will receive a cash prize of $50. Contestants will be judged in leather/uniform/rubber wear, knowledge of the leather community, and a question-and-answer category. Contest applications are available at The Minneapolis Eagle, or you can register at their website (

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, August 14

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Cocktails at 7 PM at The Saloon (patio), dinner at 7:45 PM at Café DiNapoli (816 Hennepin Ave.)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Saturday, August 14

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 1
9 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Five men will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Sunday, August 15

9 PM, The Town House, St. Paul
Hosted by guest bartender and Mr. Minnesota Drummer 1999 Gary O’Neill. This will be an ongoing event, every Sunday night at 9 PM.

Wednesday, August 18

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 2
9 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Two women will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Welcome Party
6 PM, Quality Inn Downtown (41 N. 10th St., Mpls.)

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Party Bus Bar Cruise
7 PM, Leaves from The Saloon
Visit The Brass Rail, Over The Rainbow, Trikkx, The Town House, and The Minneapolis Eagle. Returns to The Saloon about 11 PM.

Friday, August 20

International Fantasy Weekend Reception/Dance Party
10 PM, The Saloon
Meet the contestants and judges. Vocal entertainment by Erin Schwab. Door prizes.

Saturday, August 21

International Fantasy Weekend Vendor Fair and Workshops
Noon to 5 PM, Quality Inn Downtown (41 N. 10th St., Mpls.)

Saturday, August 21

International Mr./Ms. Fantasy Contest
9 PM (Doors open at 8:30 PM), Guthrie Lab Theater (700 N. 1st St., Mpls.)
Contestants will be judged in fantasy wear, question-and-answer, fantasy presentation and the ever-popular Mystery category. Other entertainment will include Ava Monet as Marilyn Monroe.

Sunday, August 22

International Fantasy Weekend Beach Party
2-7 PM, Minneapolis Riverfront Beach
Featuring volleyball, a cookout, and tap beer—all presented in the clean, wholesome, family-friendly atmosphere of the Minneapolis River Flats.

Sunday, August 22

International Fantasy Weekend “End-Up” Party
9 PM, The Town House, St. Paul

Sunday, August 22

Minneapolis Eagle Calendar Contest Part 3
8 PM, Minneapolis Eagle
Five men will be selected to appear in “Bodies for the Millennium: The Men and Womyn of the Minneapolis Eagle.” Come cheer for your favorite contestant. (See entry details in this issue’s “Leather Life” column.)

Wednesday, August 25

TIES Munch
7:30 PM, Legends Café, 825 E. Hennepin Ave.
Ongoing monthly social gathering of around 150 kinky people of all descriptions—het, bi, trans, and an increasing number of lesbians and gay men.

Friday, July 30, 1999

Gerry Schmidt: “The Bar”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #109, July 30, 1999)

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus (TCGMC) recently presented a concert called “Out Takes: Our Stories, Our Lives.” It was a wonderful mix of music by the chorus and spoken word presentations by individual chorus members. Gerry Schmidt sings in the chorus and is also the director of Vox, one of TCGMC’s subgroups. When I heard Schmidt read his story, “The Bar,” my immediate thought was that it needed to be in this column. The audience at the concert certainly enjoyed it, and I hope you will too.

PHOTO: Gerry Schmidt

“The Bar,” by guest columnist Gerry Schmidt

Welcome to Boston. It is early fall, just before the leaves start to turn, and it’s 1986. The air is cool and crisp, and I am full of excitement and anticipation. You see, I came out as a gay man just two months ago, in July, and I’m getting ready to make my first trip to a gay bar. I’m still kind of new to Boston, so I picked THIS bar because I know how to find the street it’s on!

A look in the mirror tells me I’m ready. My Dockers are smartly pressed. My Izod polo is brand new, and the collar is flipped up just enough to be trendy. I’m wearing the requisite L.L. Bean boat shoes with tasteful argyle socks, and if you pass just close enough, you’ll catch a whiff of Calvin Klein’s Obsession.

I climb into my little orange VW bug, windows cracked just enough to give me some air without mussing the hairdo, Whitney Houston singing to me. (Ooo, I really DO wanna dance with somebody!) Twenty minutes later I’m on Tremont Street driving by where I think the bar is supposed to be. All I see is a very dark looking building, with the doors painted black and the windows too (at least I think it has windows). So I circle the block twice and finally decide to park and walk up to the place, hoping the street address is just hard to see.

As I approach the door I finally see the street number (it’s painted black too). I can hear music inside, so this must be the place. My heart is racing. I quickly check my hair and the flip in my collar, grab the door and enter—THE EAGLE!!!!

It’s a little dark, but that’s OK, it heightens the intrigue, so I walk up to the bar to order something to drink. The bartender, a rather scruffy looking guy with his shirt unbuttoned down to there, looks at me, does a double take and then heads my way. Was I just cruised? It must be the ensemble! I order a drink appropriate for the occasion and venue—a White Russian! Again, he gives me a double take (he must really be attracted to me) and after digging out his cocktail recipes book, brings me my drink.

I stand there sipping my cocktail, overwhelmed that I’m actually here, and finally take time to check out the bar. There’s a pool table and a couple of pinball machines and a few barstools over by the wall. That’s about it. So where are all the patrons? I mean hey, it’s already 9:30, for Pete’s sake!

About that time the front door opens and I freak out. In walk these two guys, each of them about 6’5”, and they’re dressed in leather! I mean FULL leather. They’ve got biker boots, chaps, something I’ve since learned is called a harness, a vest, dark sunglasses, biker’s cap, they’re smoking the biggest, nastiest cigars I’ve ever smelled, and laughing as they enter! I’m terrified, so I quickly turn around and start studying my drink intensely. Maybe they didn’t see me, or better still, maybe THEY’RE in the wrong bar and they’ll just turn around and leave. But noooooo! They walk right up to the bar and stand—on either side of me!!! I’m convinced they’re going to do unspeakable things to me, things that happen only in jail, or so I am told, and am quickly bargaining with god for my life. The beers they ordered arrive and they turn to talk to each other as if I didn’t even exist between them. And here’s how the conversation started:

“Oh, you should see those new curtains I made for the piano room! They’re just faaabulous!”

I’ve met a lot of gay men and lesbians since that night 13 years ago, and one of the discoveries I’ve made is that drag comes in many shapes and forms. It’s not just heels and a dress, but it’s leather, or Levis and flannel, or cowboy boots and a 10-gallon hat. It’s the insistence on wearing only designer labels, or even wearing a tuxedo. It is an opportunity to be who we are in our most comfortable environment. And to this day, my friends and I laugh when we think that my appreciation of such things got a great start thanks to a couple of gay men in leather, talking about curtains!

Friday, July 16, 1999

New Book about Black Men in Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #108, July 16, 1999)

What does it mean to be a person of color in the leather community?

PHOTO: Book cover

If you’re reading this column on a printed page, and you live in the midwestern United States, the overwhelming odds are that you are of white European ethnic extraction. If you’re reading it in a city outside the midwest, or you’re reading it on the Web, the odds may be less overwhelming, but “white European” is still a pretty safe guess.

The ideal image of the leather community (at least as it’s held in the minds of those of white European ethnic origin) is that everyone is welcome, regardless of sex, gender, sexual preference, kink preference, or any of the other politically-correct things people aren’t supposed to discriminate against these days. That theoretically includes race.

Look around at any local, regional, national or international leather event in the United States, however, and you might notice that you see a rainbow of faces, but you see a lot more of some colors than of others. Black people, Asian people, Latin-Americans, native Americans—each of these groups constitutes a minority (ethnic group) within a minority (leather/SM community) within a minority (GLBT community). Females or trans-people can add another level of minority to that list. As a white male, I think that I and the community are pretty accepting. But how do members of these various subminorities feel about that statement? If I stood in their boots, would I feel accepted? Not accepted? Patronized? Tokenized?

Cain Berlinger, long-time leather community member, writer and activist, has recently published Black Men In Leather: A Perspective. In this landmark book, Berlinger explores how black men fit into the leather/SM community—or how they don’t. He also addresses the issues that black leatherwomen and Asian leathermen may have with the leather community.

In the words of the author, “I was anxious to see the Leather Community through the eyes of people of color in gay America.” The book is the result of several thousand surveys which Berlinger distributed to people of color both in the leather community and outside it; the book therefore rings not only with author Berlinger’s voice, but with the diverse voices of many other people who responded to his survey.

I stopped counting the number of subjects dealt with in this book that until now have seemed to be off-limits in leather literature. Take interracial partnerships, for example: If a black man looks for a white partner because a white man is more liable to be skilled in SM practices, is that bad, good, or neutral? How about if the black man wants a white partner as a “trophy wife”?

How about “snow queens” (black men who like white men), “dinge queens” (white men who like black men), and “rice queens” (men who like Asian men)—does a preference for a particular ethnic group constitute racism, or is it just another fetish?

Then there’s the extremely sensitive topic of race play. Is it okay within the context of a scene for a white man playing a plantation owner to “punish” a black man taking the part of the slave? What about a black “plantation owner” punishing a white “slave”? What about scenes involving white “cops” and black “criminals,” or vice versa?

Especially up here in the northland, if we’re white we’re not used to thinking about issues like these. We’d rather believe the politically correct and comfortable notion that we live in a colorblind community where we’ve transcended the issue of race. This is a book that’s concerned with neither political correctness nor comfort—it’s more concerned with being a reality check, and as such it pulls no punches. It doesn’t pretend to offer easy solutions (of which there are none), but it does an excellent job of describing and illuminating the many complex issues regarding race and the leather community. I found it thought provoking, fascinating, sometimes disturbing, but ultimately mind-expanding.

Berlinger has self-published this book ($19.95 plus $3 shipping/handling). As is the case with many self-published works, there are a few technical rough edges that a commercial publisher would have smoothed out. Let’s hope those rough edges won’t stand in the way of the message of this book, however. As the world gets smaller, and as people become more interconnected through travel opportunities and the internet, these issues need to be thought about and dealt with. Whatever your ethnic background, reading this book is a good way to start. (For more information on this and other books by Cain Berlinger visit his website:

Waxing Demonstration to be presented

On Saturday, July 31, Chicago’s Daddy Beth and her boy dusty will travel to Minneapolis to present a demonstration of the art and skill involved in hot wax play. It is hoped that this will be the first in a series of educational presentations. Doors will open at 7 PM, with the demonstration beginning at 8 PM. Tickets are $10 each, prepaid admission only, and ticket quantities will be limited. So if you’re interested, act now: e-mail for more information.

Best of luck to Ms. Minnesota Leather 1999 Mario, who represents Minnesota in the International Ms. Leather Contest this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Sunday, July 25

Black Guard Fundraiser
Location and time to be determined

Friday, July 2, 1999

Great Plains Drummer: Great Entertainment

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #107, July 2, 1999)

PHOTO: Left: New Great Plains Mr. Drummer Gary O’Neill. Right: Great Plains Mr. Drummer runner-up Joe Welch.

PHOTO: Men Out Loud performing at the Great Plains Regional Drummer contest. Left to right: Steve Steinberg, Joseph Pearce, Rob McElroy and Santo Ragno.

PHOTO: Gary Aldrich singing “One Common Heartbeat,” a leather anthem.

The Great Plains Regional Drummer Contest was held Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19 at Club Metro in St. Paul. In an extremely close contest, Mr. Minnesota Drummer Gary O’Neill took the sash, with Mr. Kansas City Drummer Joe Welch taking runner-up honors. If you are one of the many who weren’t there, here’s what you missed.

Friday night’s Meet & Greet was combined with the erotic-wear portion of the contest. O’Neill looked great in traditional black leather while Welch struck a more military note with a camouflage-patterned leather jock strap. In addition to those entertainments, the (unfortunately rather small) crowd heard a stirring performance of “One Common Heartbeat,” the leather anthem commissioned for the 1998 International Mr. Leather contest. It was powerfully sung by Gary Aldrich, one of the anthem’s creators (and also one of the judges for this weekend’s contest). There was also an impromptu performance by Men Out Loud, a Los-Angeles-based group of four gay male close-harmony singers and dancers. They gave a preview of their Saturday-night performance as they wowed the crowd with their rendition of “Good Love.”

Saturday night’s contest and show started with an encore performance by Aldrich of “One Common Heartbeat,” which was followed by the contestants’ fantasy performances. O’Neill donned a welder’s helmet and overalls for his fantasy and had an entire welding shop set up on stage. While impressive-looking sparks flew out from the metal he was welding, a slide projector showed pictures of men in a cage—the cage O’Neill was in the process of building. Of course, welding can be a hot and sweaty business, so it was only natural that as the fantasy progressed O’Neill shucked more and more of his clothes.

Welch’s fantasy started with various children’s books set up at the edge of the stage; if you looked closely, you could see that all the books had double-entendre titles. The opening music was the theme from “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” and the show’s host (Welch) made an entrance in a conservative white shirt and necktie. He quickly transformed into a black-leather top who had his way with a boy (Dean Galloway) who wandered onto the set and was looking through the various books.

Both contestants made short but heartfelt speeches, and were then presented one last time for the leather image/pop question category. Then it was time to tally the judges’ scores and announce the winner. Judges for the weekend, in addition to Gary Aldrich, were current Ms. Olympus Leather Cori Ander, current International Drummerboy Ryan Goldner, and your humble columnist.

While the judges’ scores were tallied, Men Out Loud took the stage for a full hour of close-harmony song and high-energy dance. The group is composed of bass Steve Steinberg, baritone Rob McElroy, second tenor Joseph Pearce and first tenor Santo Ragno. To say these guys are talented is an understatement. Here are four great voices that blend into one spectacular sound, no matter who’s taking the lead and who’s harmonizing. Some of the songs (“Sweet enuf 2 eat,” “Only Want to Give You Love”) had a heavy-bass instrumental backing which I’m sure makes them more commercially appealing. But I liked their a capella numbers best (“Good Love,” “Express Yourself”)—who needs a backup band when these four voices can magically become an entire orchestra?

It doesn’t hurt that all four are drop-dead gorgeous (I hear that one of them has appeared under another name in various skin mags), and it doesn’t hurt that they all know how to move to the music and have a great choreographer (Steinberg, who is also the group’s manager). As far as I’m concerned, they can come back to Minnesota and perform any time they want (there is a possibility that they will perform at next year’s Twin Cities Festival of Pride). Until then, if you want to find out more about them, hear samples of their music, order their CDs (they’re on the Mercury Records label) or just send them fan mail, you can visit their website (

And while we’re on the subject of CDs—a CD of “One Common Heartbeat” is now available through the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago. For more details call them, write them in Chicago, or visit their website at (And while you’re at their website, check out the art gallery.)

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, July 10

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Cocktails at 7 PM, dinner at 7:30 PM, Fabulous Fern’s Bar & Grill, 400 Selby Avenue, St. Paul
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Friday, June 18, 1999

International Mr. Leather 1999: Big Weekend—Small World

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #106, June 18, 1999)

PHOTO: Left to right: IML ’99 first runner-up Sean Reilly; International Mr. Leather 1999 Bruce Chopnik; and IML ’99 second runner-up Mike Hargiss.

According to the City of Chicago, the International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest attracts 7,500 people to Chicago every year and pumps $20 million into the city’s economy. Every year I contribute a small share of that $20 million, and every year I feel like I get my money’s worth and then some. This year was no different. The lobby of the Congress Hotel, headquarters for the weekend, became the world’s biggest and best leather (and cigar) bar, and the rest of the hotel was also quite active.

The action started Friday night when the audience and judges saw all 52 contestants for the first time. They were introduced by the weekend’s emcees, Frank Nowicki and Queen Cougar. Saturday night was the physique pre-judging, in which the contestants wore as little as possible as creatively as possible—two contestants came out brandishing cans of Crisco, and one hopped out on stage mummified in a leather pride flag made of Saran Wrap.

The main event, Sunday night’s contest, saw all 52 contestants parade proudly across the stage before the twenty semi-finalists were announced. (Congratulations to Mr. Minnesota Leather Joshua Smith for being one of them!) These twenty semi-finalists each presented a 90-second speech and went through another round of physique judging (also known as the “jock walk”). Then IML 1998 Tony Mills took the stage for one last time before passing the sash to his successor.

While the judges’ scores were being tallied the crowd was entertained by Erin Hamilton, a talented singer whose mother is actress/comedienne Carol Burnett. Ms. Hamilton, appropriately dressed in a skin-tight latex dress, started with her new high-energy dance single, “Satisfied,” and also performed her first hit, “Dream Weaver.” The crowd loved her and was very definitely “satisfied.”

When Tony Mills won the IML title in 1998 it hearkened back to the 1997 IML contest when Minnesota’s own Kevin Cwayna won the title—both Cwayna and Mills are medical doctors. This year’s contest also hearkened back to 1997 in two ways. That year the first runner-up, Mark Malan, was sponsored by Piston’s Bar in Long Beach, California. This year’s first runner up, Sean Reilly, was sponsored by the same bar. (This year’s second runner-up, Mike Hargiss, is from San Diego.)

Another coincidence: in 1997, Cwayna’s speech ran long and his microphone was turned off in mid-sentence, which in prior years would have ruined his chances of winning. Cwayna won the IML title anyway. This year Mr. Rocky Mountain Leather Bruce Chopnik told an enthralled audience where he was the day of the Columbine school shootings—he was working with the mayor of Denver and 475 other people at a conference of mayors from around the nation. In mid-speech, just as he was getting to the good part, he ran over 90 seconds and the microphone went dead. But, again, it didn’t matter—Bruce Chopnik is the new International Mr. Leather.

More coincidences: Second runner-up Hargiss previously lived in Denver and therefore knew winner Chopnik prior to the contest weekend. And Chopnik previously lived in Long Beach, where he was friends with first runner-up Reilly (they both enjoyed country dancing at a bar in Long Beach called Floyd’s). Small world, isn’t it?

And it gets even smaller. If you live in the Twin Cities and think this guy Chopnik looks familiar, it might be because he lived here in 1994 and 1995. He was director of operations for RSVP Cruises and was fond of two-stepping at The Town House. (He sends his regards to “Charlie Rounds and the boys at RSVP.”)

This year’s judges were Chief Judge Thom Dombkowski; outgoing IML Tony Mills; leather writer and titleholder Don Bastian; legendary whipmaster Fred Katz; International Mr. Drummer 1993 Graylin Thornton; International slave 1995 Tom Stice; award-winning leather columnist “Mr. Marcus” Hernandez; Seattle attorney Spencer Bergstedt (who in a past life won the title of International Ms. Leather 1994); and noted writer and publisher Tony DeBlase, who ten years ago created the leather pride flag. As part of Sunday night’s contest proceedings DeBlase donated the original prototype leather pride flag to the Leather Archives & Museum (all together now: “located in Chicago and serving the world.”)

Actually, the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) had a pretty good weekend, raising over $60,000 from donations at the contest, and from a silent auction and a sale of pre-viewed porn videos. Just in time, too, because at Sunday night’s contest an announcement was made regarding the possibility of purchasing a building to give the LA&M proper display space. (Interesting sidenote, presented without comment: Somebody told me the building they’re considering has been previously used as a church.)

The International Mr. Leather contest was not the only contest of the weekend. Ariq Robinson, who was International Mr. Fantasy 1997, won the title of Mr. Ebony in Leather 1999. This year’s International Mr. Bootblack competition was won by Robert Ehrlich Jr.; first runner-up was Fred Michmershuizen and second runner-up was Paul Eugen Frazier III.

At the conclusion of the weekend, IML Executive Producer Chuck Renslow announced plans for upgraded IML host hotels in future years: in 2001 IML’s host hotel will be Chicago’s famous Palmer House, and the host hotel for 2002 is the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Next year’s IML 2000 weekend will therefore be the last (at least for awhile) to be headquartered at the Congress Hotel. Listen up: Right now is not too early to make room and contest package reservations for next year. You can see more coverage of this year’s weekend, as well as details about next year’s, at

Minnesota Leather Pride Booth at Twin Cities Festival of Pride

On Saturday and Sunday, June 26 and 27, be sure to visit the Leather Community booth while you’re at the Twin Cities Festival of Pride in Loring Park. You’ll find representatives from local leather organizations, and maybe even a titleholder or two, as well as informational literature. Check this issue’s Out & About Calendar for information on all the other 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride events.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Friday, June 18

Regional Drummer Contest Meet & Greet Party
8:30 PM-3 AM (no liquor after 1 AM), Club Metro, St. Paul
Tonight, in addition to the meet & greet, will be the opening comments and erotic-wear competition. $7 at the door. Call for more information call.

Saturday, June 19

Capitol City Pride Motorcycle Run
Arriving at Mears Park in St. Paul around 3 PM
If you’re at Capitol City Pride and you hear a sudden roar of motorcycle engines, you know the bikers have arrived. Come on over and say hello.

Saturday, June 19

Regional Drummer Contest & Show
Doors open 8 PM, Contest at 9 PM, Club Metro, St. Paul
Tonight: Contestant speeches and fantasy presentations. Entertainment by Mercury Records recording artists Men Out Loud and Gary Aldrich of the Metropolitan Opera Company. $10 at the door. Call for more information.

Friday, June 25

Minnesota Leather Pride/NSGRA Beer Bust
8-11 PM, The Town House, St. Paul
The kickoff event for Minnesota Leather Pride 1999. All proceeds benefit the North Star Gay Rodeo Association (NSGRA). Free beer and sodas, bootblacking available. $5 at the door. This is your first chance to get your 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride dogtag ($5, or $4 if you’re wearing a 1999 Twin Cities Festival of Pride button). Dogtags will be available at all Minnesota Leather Pride events and are good for reduced admission to other 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride events.

Friday, June 25

Minnesota Leather Pride DJ Dance Party
9 PM-closing, under the Big Top at The Minneapolis Eagle
The Big Top returns! Big Top cover $5 ($3 with 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride dogtag).

Saturday, June 26

Minnesota Leather Pride DJ Dance Party
9 PM-closing, under the Big Top at The Minneapolis Eagle
Haircuts by Vince, bootblack on duty. Big Top cover $7 ($5 with 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride dogtag).

Sunday, June 27

Twin Cities Festival of Pride Parade
Assemble at 3rd St. and Portland Ave., downtown Minneapolis, between 9:30 and 10 AM. Parade steps off at 11 AM.
All clubs, club members, titleholders past and present, and GDI’s in the Upper Midwest are invited (bring your club colors and regalia). Help carry the largest Leather Pride flag ever built in the U.S. (50’ x 75’).

Sunday, June 27

Minnesota Leather Pride Barbeque
4-9 PM, under the Big Top at The Minneapolis Eagle
All-you-can-eat barbeque ($7, or $5 with 1999 Minnesota Leather Pride dogtag). Optional beer bust ($7). Bullwhip demo and game—see a master crack the whip, then try it yourself. Titleholder dunk tank. Bootblack on duty. The place to be after marching in the Pride Parade.

Friday, June 4, 1999

Leatherwomen Speak Out

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #105, June 4, 1999)

What Leathermen Need To Know About Leatherwomen

The Knights of Leather, a local women’s leather group, recently presented their eleventh annual Tournament run. It was attended by a diverse crowd, half women and half men. (Historically, men outnumber women at Tournament, even though it’s presented by a women’s leather group.)

I spent a good part of the weekend asking this question of the women in attendance: What do leathermen need to know about leatherwomen? I got a broad spectrum of responses which ranged from “I never thought about wishing that the guys knew anything about us” and “I don’t define myself by what men think of me” to “I’ve been waiting years for someone to ask me that question!” Presented here is a very small sampling of the opinions voiced during the weekend. We’ll start with one leatherwoman’s laundry list of things she wants leathermen to know:

“I’m tired of leathermen being afraid of leatherwomen. I’m tired of walking into a dungeon and having the dungeon clear out. I’m tired of not being included in men’s events. I’m tired of not having equality between men and women. I’m tired of having Mr. Eagle contests and not Ms. Eagle contests. I’m tired of being an afterthought. I would like to be included on a more regular basis.

“A lot of women don’t even think of going to men’s leather events because we don’t feel welcome. I’ve been to men’s leather events where there were only two women there. And we’re always asked, ‘Where are the women?’ Well, all the advertising is geared toward men. There’s nothing there to make women feel welcome, so why would we go to your event? I don’t want people to ask ‘Where are the women?’ anymore. We’re here, we’re loud and we’re proud—we’re just over here, as segregated as you want us to be.”

Many leatherwomen don’t feel terribly welcome in leather bars, either. “I remember I was at the Eagle when they started Wednesday night women’s space. There were guys at the bar who said, ‘What are they doing here? This is our bar.’ I said, ‘This is women’s night.’ And they said, ‘We’re out of here. This is a men’s bar, this is a leather bar, and we don’t want women around us.’ What I’d like to ask leathermen who don’t want women around is ‘Why not?’ I don’t get it.” Another woman chimed in: “It’s like the Little Rascals, the He-Man Woman-Haters Club.”

Some leatherwomen have problems with leather contests: “Some contests should be open to either sex. I identify as a boy. I would love to enter a Drummerboy contest, but just because I’m anatomically female, I can’t do it. I don’t have a dick—my dick is in the drawer at home, but I don’t have one physically attached to me. So I can’t enter the contest. And I know some guys who identify as girls, and we don’t even have a contest for them.” Another woman said, with a devilish gleam in her eye: “I know we’re going to have some woman run for Mr. Minnesota Leather one of these days, and it’s going to cause a big stir. And I’ll be glad.”

Many women wanted more mixed play spaces: “We don’t have as much money as men do, so we can’t set up a dungeon. Especially in a town like this, where there aren’t public play spaces, we end up with not as many places to play.” The woman standing next to her agreed: “The gender-division thing kinda sucks. I like watching men play. You need to let women come and watch you. We’re voyeurs too.” While we’re on the subject of play: “One thing that pisses me off is that guys think women can’t play as hard or as raw as they can. I have a pussy, but I’m not a pussy.”

On sharing play spaces: “The problem I have is that I want to respect men’s choices, but I also don’t want to be excluded. And balancing those two is really difficult. I think that it’s not a bad thing to have a Tuesday night men’s night in a bar, and a Wednesday night women’s night. It’s a level-of-comfort thing—that’s what we’re used to, it’s what we accept—but I think we should strive to have a Thursday night ‘together’ night. It’s valid to have men-only play space and women-only play space, but have a common play space, too. That way you have the opportunity to watch both genders play. You have the feeling of camaraderie that comes with the mix, and it’s a hell of an education. That’s part of the way to knock the barriers down.”

Another way to knock the barriers down is to learn to trust each other and to focus on what leatherwomen and leathermen have in common: “We both want to embrace who we are, and to be okay with being different. But it’s hard to cross those bridges and break down those walls because they’ve been there for so long. As a young dyke I didn’t trust men because at that time, in the seventies, women were jealous because men had more power, more freedom, more privileges. But after feeling that way for a certain amount of time, you get tired of it. As I became more secure with myself it didn’t matter so much what other people had. I felt free to be myself and to let others be themselves.”

Leatherwomen don’t want to be patronized: “Don’t give me the line about ‘brotherhood’ and ‘sisterhood.’ Don’t feed me the line—show me that you are actually practicing what you preach.”

Leathermen aren’t the only group that leatherwomen would like to talk with: “The question about what dialogue we would have with gay leathermen is not as pressing to me as, maybe, what dialogue do we want to have with vanilla dykes? Not to say this isn’t something we need to talk about, but when we start talking we have more in common with leathermen than we do with vanilla queer women.”

A postscript: In other areas of the country this topic might not be as relevant as it is here. A visitor from the eastern U.S. said, “I find this whole conversation odd. When I first came into the community I had a mistress in Washington, D.C. and the first place she took me was The Playhouse in Baltimore, which is generally pansexual. So that’s my norm.”

New! Kink-Friendly AA/Al-Anon Group

The “Twisted Twelve,” a kink-friendly AA/Al-Anon Twelve Step Recovery group, has recently formed and is meeting at 7 PM Wednesdays at the Walker Community Library, 2880 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. All genders and orientations are welcome.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Sunday, June 6

Black Guard Social
6-9 PM, Brass Rail
No cover charge, free food, socializing and fun. Call for more information.

Saturday, June 12

Leather/Levi Dinner
Location and time to be announced
Presented by the Atons, open to all. For information and reservations call the Atons Hotline.

Saturday, June 12

North Star Gay Rodeo Association Road Trip
The Main Club, Superior, Wisconsin
Beer bust, guest bartenders, silent auction, NSGRA royalty will perform. For more information call.