Friday, July 28, 2000

Tony DeBlase, 1942-2000

(Transitions article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #135, July 28, 2000)

By Joseph W. Bean

PHOTO: Tony DeBlase

Tony DeBlase, creator of the Leather Pride Flag, died peacefully in Portland, Oregon, on July 21, 2000, after an extended illness. Dr. DeBlase—a mammalogist, specializing in the biology of bats—was one of the most active lecturers, demonstrators, writers, editors, publishers, instructors and philosophers of leathersex in the latter third of the 20th Century. (He was also a renowned gourmet cook.)

In 1982, as “Fledermaus,” DeBlase wrote a collection of stories titled The Fledermaus Anthology, many of which have become classics of the genre. As the founding publisher of DungeonMaster magazine, DeBlase pioneered the field of SM technique publishing. In 1986 DeBlase purchased the Drummer family of magazines, which reached their peak in power and influence by the time they were sold in 1992. DeBlase helped found The Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) and served as Vice President of the Board of Directors from 1992 until 2000.

Among the many honors and awards given to DeBlase were NLA’s Man of the Year award in 1987, Pantheon of Leather’s Business Person of the Year Award in 1990, its Lifetime Achievement award in 1994 and the Forebear Award in 1997. The honor DeBlase said he treasured most was the coveted Caligula Award from Chicago Hellfire Club for his service to the club in the development of Inferno.

DeBlase’s most widely celebrated achievement is the Leather Pride Flag which he presented to the world as a “proposed design idea” in 1989. Deconstructions and recompositions of the flag’s familiar black, blue and white stripes with a red accent—originally a heart—are common, but the design itself was accepted worldwide as introduced.

A private memorial was held in Portland, and plans are underway for a major memorial celebration of DeBlase’s life during International Mr. Leather 2001. Cards and condolences may be sent to Tony’s surviving partner, Dr. Andrew Charles, in care of The Leather Archives & Museum, 6418 N. Greenview Ave., Chicago IL 60626. Memorial donations to the Leather Archives & Museum will be accepted.

Bootblacks: Unsung Leather Community Heroes

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #135, July 28, 2000)

PHOTO: 2057.JPG Contestants for International Mr. Bootblack 2000.

PHOTO: 2042.JPG The new International Mr. Bootblack 2000, David Hawks.

Where would we in the leather community be without bootblacks? We’d be in scuffed, dull-looking boots, that’s where. Bootblacks are too often among the leather community’s unsung heroes. Even though they have their own titleholders (International Mr. Bootblack and International Ms. Bootblack), their contests are held in conjunction with (and are usually overshadowed by) the International Mr. Leather and International Ms. Leather contests. Most of the bootblacks I know don’t mind being overshadowed, though, and that humility is one of the reasons they tend to be such nice people.

The Contest

This year marked the eighth annual bootblack competition held in conjunction with the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest in Chicago. Until last year the title was International Bootblack and the contest was open to all genders, but with last year’s establishment of the International Ms. Bootblack contest as part of the International Ms. Leather (IMsL) competition, the IML bootblack competition was renamed International Mr. Bootblack.

The presentation of this year’s Bootblack awards was emceed by International Mr. Bootblack 1999 Robert Ehrlich. Before presenting the award he announced that the Mid-Atlantic Bootblack competition (held in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend in January 2000) was the first bootblack contest to combine ballots and judging. (Traditionally bootblack competitions have been based on ballots alone—the winner is the bootblack who shines the most boots and therefore gets the most votes.) For Mid-Atlantic Bootblack 2000 some of the finest bootblacks in the country were judges, including International Mr. Bootblack 1998 Matthew Duncan, International Ms. Bootblack 1999 Leslie Anderson, and Mid-Atlantic Bootblack 1999 Ms. Tracy Black. The judging was done in four categories, including physical skills, social skills, general knowledge and presentation. Ehrlich said the contest was received very well by everyone, most importantly by the bootblack contestants themselves. Ehrlich further stated that starting in 2001, International Mr. Bootblack and International Ms. Bootblack will be incorporating a new system including ballots and judging.

The awards for International Mr. Bootblack 2000 were presented by the first-ever International Ms. Bootblack, Leslie Anderson. The contestants were Gregory Yort of Decatur, IL (sponsored by the Flashback Lounge); Boo-Boo of Cleveland, OH (sponsored by Laws Leather/The Tool Shed); David Hawks of Richmond, VA (sponsored by Centaur MC of Washington, DC and the Richmond Leather Club); Gregory Hansord of Taylor, MI (sponsored by R&R Saloon and Mr. Leather Michigan); and Eric Leiff of Philadelphia, PA (sponsored by Fetishes Boutique).

The first award presented was the Bootblack Brotherhood Award; the winner was chosen by the contestants themselves and went to the contestant who best represented the spirit of brotherhood. It was awarded to David Hawks. Presentation of this award was followed by the announcement and presentation of the International Mr. Bootblack awards: second runner-up, Eric Leiff; first runner-up: Boo-Boo; and the new International Mr. Bootblack 2000, David Hawks.

Meet David Hawks, International Mr. Bootblack 2000

Here’s what Hawks had to say the next day about why he is a bootblack and what he hopes to accomplish with his title:

“I polish boots mainly for myself. It reminds me of my place, and helps keep me in focus on what’s important in life. When I polish boots, people open up to me in a way that they typically don’t when they stand in a bar and stare at each other, wanting to talk but don’t, and I meet people on a deeper level. So in my way, I hope to affect everyone I touch and help them see the important things in life—that all we really have are the people in our lives.

“Traditionally bootblacks are around, but they’ve been little-noticed. We’re in a dark corner of a bar, and we do our thing. [Some] people that get into it get up in our chair and have a good time, and everyone else goes on about their evening. [But] it’s much more than just getting a boot shine. My job is to go out there and try to get people to see that—to stop just walking by, and to actually meet some of us and see what we do and why we do it.

“I have already as Mid-Atlantic Bootblack been doing that. I give demonstrations and lectures and am quite overwhelmed at the number of groups that have come to me wanting [lectures or demonstrations]. The first one that approached me, in all honesty I thought “What a lame evening, they’re going to watch someone polish boots all night.” But they truly enjoyed it, and I was barraged by e-mail. So I will keep personally going out and trying to reach the community. I’m available to anyone who needs me for any event. I never charge for my services.

“That’s what I’m going to do—keep shining boots.”

Event Updates: International Drummer (St. Petersburg, FL) and Folsom Street Fair (San Francisco, CA)

Autumn used to be a time for leatherfolk to travel to San Francisco to experience two amazing events in one weekend: the International Drummer Contest and the Folsom Street Fair. This fall the two events are in different cities and on different weekends.

International Drummer/drummerboy 2000 is taking place September 14-17 at the Suncoast Resort in St. Petersburg, FL. At this writing the Suncoast is completely sold out; three other hotels are being used for Drummer accommodations, so you should still be able to find a room for the weekend—but make your reservations soon. For more information visit

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, this year’s Folsom Street Fair is Sunday, Sept. 24 and represents the finale of San Francisco’s Leather Pride Week. The week-long celebration begins Sunday, Sept. 17 with the annual Leather Pride Walk and continues with leather-themed events every night of the week including, this year, the International Mr. and Ms. Deaf Leather Contest on Saturday, Sept. 23. If you plan to be there and don’t already have reservations you should make them immediately. For more information visit

Friday, July 14, 2000

Meet the IML 2000 Team

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #134, July 14, 2000)

Welcome to everyone attending the Atons’ Gopher XIV Run: The Legend of Paul Bunyan, (July 21-23) and a special welcome to you if you’re from out of town. Have a great weekend. Remember, safety first as you’re chopping that wood.

Here are the top three finishers at this year’s International Mr. Leather contest. International Mr. Leather 2000 Mike Taylor will spend his title year representing the Leather/SM community, assisted by his first and second runners-up, Scott Bloom and Bob “Puppy” Pedder.

This year’s IML team, it turns out, is something of a family affair. At the press conference the day after the contest, new IML Taylor was asked, “Who’s the first person you called when you found out you won?” His response: “I didn’t have to call anybody. They were all there.” Turning to second runner-up Pedder, he continued, “And Puppy was right there beside me. Puppy and I are from the same leather family.” Pedder chimed in: “And we’ve adopted Scott!”

International Mr. Leather 2000 Mike Taylor

PHOTO: Taylor.tif—Mike Taylor

International Mr. Leather 2000 Mike Taylor also holds the title of Mr. Heartland Leather 2000. His sponsor is Heartland Leather Productions and TriState Leather of Columbus, OH. He is a resident of Cincinnati, OH and works for Procter & Gamble in marketing. He regularly schedules and participates in frequent fundraising events for the Leather Archives & Museum and has helped develop the “S&M Reform School,” a teaching event hosted by the Serpent Bar in Cincinnati that reaches out to those less familiar with leather through live demonstrations and discussions.

Asked about his priorities for the coming year, Taylor responded: “Continuing passing of the knowledge down to the next generation. We’ll use the labels of old guard and new guard, that’s what we’ve chosen, but to continue to figure out ways to make connections through learning, play, training, and through community events like IML—to continue the momentum of bringing all our different groups together.” He also plans to continue to raise funds to pay off the mortgage on the Leather Archives & Museum’s new home.

Taylor is an articulate and passionate speaker, and when asked about reaching out to the broader GLBT communities, his response was quotable: “This community has always been outlaw, and it’s always been a leader. That means it stands alone, and it’s always gonna be that way, and don’t kid yourself. Yes, we will make bonds with our other brothers and sisters, and I hope they sometime realize when the right wing puts us in a camp, it’s not gonna matter if you’re in Banana Republic khakis, or if you’re in leather—we’re all going into the camp.”

The text of the speech Taylor delivered during the IML contest is available on the web at

IML 2000 First Runner-up Scott Bloom

PHOTO: Bloom.tif—Scott Bloom

IML 2000 First Runner-up Scott Bloom is a television editor from the Long Beach, CA area. He follows in the footsteps of Sean Reilly, IML 1999 First Runner-up, and Mark Malan, IML 1998 First Runner-up, all of whom were sponsored by Pistons Bar of Long Beach. When I asked him why contestants from Pistons keep doing so well in IML, Bloom attributed it at least partly to the fact that Pistons has a large and very diverse clientele from all areas of the gay, leather and bear communities, and this diversity produces titleholders who are well-rounded and familiar with all areas of the community.

Bloom is involved with Leather Archives & Museum and is working on a documentary history of the motorcycle club to which he belongs. Other than that, when asked about his plans for the coming year, he simply says, “Like I said in my speech, I’m gonna work.”

IML 2000 Second Runner-up Bob “Puppy” Pedder

PHOTO: Pedder.tif—Puppy

Bob “Puppy” Pedder, Mr. Boston Leather 2000, comes from the same leather family as new IML Mike Taylor, and Taylor refers to Pedder as his “evil brother.” Pedder is an event marketing specialist and fundraiser by profession, and one of the things he envisions is putting together large fundraisers benefiting both the Leather Archives & Museum and local charities.

Pedder is HIV-positive and legally blind. At the IML press conference he gave details: “I lost 80% of my vision from CMV (cytomegalovirus) and I’ve been legally blind since October, 1996. A lot of my vision is almost like looking through some of that fog that you saw coming up on the stage at the contest. There’s no focus. I can’t tell if a lot of you are wearing a shirt or a t-shirt—I can’t really tell if you’re sticking your tongue out at me.”

At the contest the night before, Pedder started his speech by saying, “I was with Judy Collins a few weeks ago—she sends her best. She was receiving a lifetime achievement award for battling cancer, and I had a chance to talk with her about my battle with AIDS, losing my vision, being a puppy, and coming to Chicago for IML.” Pedder said Collins told him what she enjoyed most about his story was “seeing the pride in your face.” Pedder continued, “Our community has accomplished so much, and we have much to be proud of. And although I can’t see the pride in your face, I feel it. So I’d like to honor that pride by singing a song Judy recorded in 1971. Please hum along.”

He then sang “Amazing Grace”: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me/I once was lost but now I’m found/Was blind but now I see.” He later told me it was appropriate both literally and metaphorically—it touched not only on his vision loss, but also on “what it’s like to come into the leather community lost, and be taken under someone’s wing or a group of people’s wings.” He also said he very much appreciated “all of the contestants and the folks at IML” being so compassionate and helpful during the weekend.

Pedder said he is also very pleased with the choice of Scott Bloom as first runner-up. Bloom “was one of the first contestants I met at contestant registration, and from the very start he continued to come up to me and remind me who he was. So I got to know him probably a little bit better than a lot of the other contestants.”

There has never been another IML contestant with a vision impairment. Several years ago a vision-impaired contestant from Iowa registered for the contest but wasn’t able to actually come to Chicago to compete.