Friday, December 24, 2004

Leather Lens: The Atons Holiday Fundraiser

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #250, December 24, 2004)

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos The Atons 32nd annual Holiday Fundraiser, held at The Bolt Underground on Dec. 5, included both silent and live auctions, food provided by the Rooster Bar & Grill, on-site leather barber and bootblack, and photographer Paul Nixdorf taking photos of people sitting on Leather Santa’s knee.

The evening raised over $4,000 for beneficiaries The Aliveness Project and Open Arms of Minnesota. In addition, 591 pounds of food was collected for The Aliveness Project’s food shelf.


01.jpg: Greeting people at the door were Atons Associate Rex Gaskill, Atons Treasurer Paul Rozendaal, Atons President B.D. Chambers and Atons Associate Paul Nicholson.

02.jpg: The auction merchandise was hung in the dungeon with care.

03.jpg: A sling, a frame and a Vikings rug, all up for silent auction.

04.jpg, 05.jpg and 06.jpg: Atons Associate and barber Brian Preston gives Toby Trevis a trim.

07.jpg: Atons Associate David Page does a bootshine.

08.jpg: Leather Santa (and Mr. Mpls. Eagle 2004) Carl Byrd. This is what Santa does to bad boys.

09.jpg: Leather Santa (and Mr. Mpls. Eagle 2004) Carl Byrd. Sitting on Santa’s lap is Jim Randall, Road Captain for Minnesota Storm Patrol.

10.jpg: Andy Gallaher representing the Aliveness Project.

11.jpg: Kevin Winge, Executive Director of Open Arms of Minnesota.

12.jpg: Bill Hudack, manager of the Rooster Bar & Grill.

13.jpg: Atons President B.D. Chambers acting at the evening’s auctioneer.

14.jpg: Atons Associates Ron Joki and Jay Pearson.

15.jpg, 16.jpg and 17.jpg: Matt Wambach and Atons Associate Ed Skjaret.

18.jpg: David Coral and Vicki Knight, members of the Knights of Leather.

19.jpg: Mark Pavelka, Thom Trampf and Mark Cady.

20.jpg: Mark Sinclair, Lawrence Lawyer and Vern Mielke.

21.jpg: Michael Damon.

22.jpg: Heine Stanhope, Phil Persons and Tom Tighe.

23.jpg: Paul Amundson (owner of the Gay Black Hills Inn in South Dakota) and Dot Trevis.

24.jpg: Frank Bohlander and Mark Hall.

25.jpg: John Crandall and Thom Johnson.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Leather Christmas Letter: The Sequel

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #249, December 10, 2004)

Last year around this time I wrote a column called “The Christmas Letter I Can’t Send.” I received so many positive comments that—guess what—I’m doing it again. Here’s this year’s Leather Christmas Letter from your humble columnist.

Dear Friends,

It’s been a mixed year, as years always are. Spectacular highs, of which there have been many, have been mixed with crashing disappointments, of which fortunately there have been few. Join me now for a brief look at the past year:

After hibernating in January, it was off to Chicago in February (Valentine’s Day weekend) for the annual Pantheon of Leather Awards, where I was one of the presenters of the President’s Awards. I also had the privilege of standing in for my colleague Robert Davolt, in whose name I presented a $1,000 check to the Leather Archives & Museum; Robert had raised the money at the publication party for his new book, Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent & Unauthorized Manual for Leather/SM (published by Daedalus).

The Mr./Ms. Olympus Leather Contest is a part of the Pantheon weekend. One of the four contestants was Toni Pizanie, a charming woman from New Orleans. Since we were staying at the same motel, we had some nice chats over breakfast. It turns out she’s also a columnist—she writes “Sappho Psalm” for Ambush Magazine in New Orleans. (Check it out at <>.)

In mid-March I helped judge the Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2004 contest; the new titleholder, Carl Byrd, was selected from a field of six contestants.

April started off with another publication party for another book by another friend who’s an author (and a former Lavender colleague), Abigail Garner. Her book, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is (published by HarperCollins), is fascinating, thought-provoking and myth-exploding. With all the talk of “family values” being bandied about these days, this is a worthwhile read.

The day after Garner’s party I flew to New Orleans for the eighth annual Leather Leadership Conference (LLC), where I co-hosted a presentation on “International Leather Perspectives” with International Mr. Leather 2003 John Pendal. We both stayed in New Orleans an extra day after the conference, and I thoroughly enjoyed being John’s New Orleans tour guide. And I got together with Toni Pizanie again. (Because I was in New Orleans I had to miss the Black Guard’s Black Frost 27 run, which was held the same weekend.)

I was impressed enough with LLC in New Orleans that I came back to the Twin Cities carrying application materials to bring the conference to Minnesota in 2007. A group of amazing people has come together to work on this process; our bid has to be to the LLC board of directors by January 2005. If the bid is accepted there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities for anyone wishing to help with everything involved in putting on the conference. Stay tuned.

Partner Bill and I went to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend for the International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest. This was the eleventh IML I’ve attended and the tenth one I’ve covered for Lavender—and I still enjoy it immensely.

The weekend after IML, the Knights of Leather presented their “Sweet 16” Tournament run. It was a great weekend in the woods, and it was especially enjoyable this year because not once did I need to use mosquito repellent. But roughing it is not what it used to be—an increasing number of campers now use CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines while they’re sleeping. Next year the Knights might have to rent a generator to power them all.

It’s been a long time since an International Mr. Leather titleholder visited the Twin Cities—and then in June we hosted two of them. On June 10, IML 1998 Tony Mills presented an excellent seminar at The Saloon on men’s sexual health. Then John Pendal, no longer the current IML, visited the Twin Cities for a week during Minnesota Leather Pride.

This year’s Leather Pride celebration was the biggest yet, with well-attended events spread over a week and a half. In addition to Pendal, Cleo Dubois and Fakir Musafar were on hand to conduct several workshops. Leather’s visibility in Loring Park during the Pride Festival has never been higher—the cage next to the leather booth attracted a lot of attention.

In July I wished I could have figured out how to split myself three ways. I attended my sister’s wedding and consequently missed the International Ms. Leather contest in Omaha and the Atons Gopher XVI run. At times like this I remember what J.D. Laufman, my leather mentor, told me when I became a titleholder in 1993: “Just remember, you can’t cut every ribbon at every supermarket.”

This year’s hellos and goodbyes include a big “Hello!” to The Bolt Underground and the adjoining restaurant that opened as the “Rainbow Rooster” and is now simply the “Rooster Bar & Grill.” Two other newcomers I enjoy are Query Booksellers and Wilde Roast Cafe. And in March the community said a heartfelt “Goodbye, and thanks for everything” to Saloon General Manager and DJ Walter McLean.

After I wrote a column called “Give Bush the Boot,” I figured I’d better put my money (and my time) where my mouth was, and much of my autumn was spent doing political volunteering.

While I’m still dealing with the disappointment (putting it mildly) of the election results, there’s another loss to deal with. Add my voice to the chorus of outrage at the sale of WCAL-FM by St. Olaf College in Northfield to Minnesota Public Radio. WCAL was on the radio at our house literally from sun-up to sundown, and it will be impossible to replace. My thanks go to all who tried to save it.

Irons currently in the fire: Continuing to work in the advertising department of the local major national discount retailer; continuing to write this column; finishing a book of collected columns (I actually found some time to work on it this year!); helping to put in the bid to bring the Leather Leadership Conference to Minnesota; and quite probably another project about which I will say only two words now: “Leather Image.”

I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this past year and for all the people I’ve been privileged to meet and become friends with. I’m grateful for Bill, my loving and supportive partner, and for my wonderful family, both biological and family-by-choice. Thank you to everyone at Lavender for keeping the printing presses running and allowing me to write another column every two weeks.

And a big thanks as always to you, my readers. Whatever you celebrate this time of year, here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Recommended Reading: Books for reading and giving

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #248, November 26, 2004)

From the many excellent books on leather and/or BDSM that have been published over the years, here is a very arbitrary selection—many of them taken directly from your humble columnist’s bookshelf—that only scratches the surface (so to speak) of what’s available.

Almost any of these books would make excellent reading for those curious about, or just starting to explore, leather and/or BDSM.

Even if you’ve been in the scene awhile—whatever your age, gender, orientation, preference or experience level, you’ll find something appropriate and worthwhile among the following.

Urban Aboriginals: A Celebration of Leathersexuality by Geoff Mains (Daedalus)—A trail-blazing mid-80’s look at the development and then-current state of the gay men’s leather community. Also includes still-timely discussions of leather spirituality and explanations of leather’s appeal. Mains, who had a Ph.D. in biochemistry, introduced the notion of endorphins as a component of SM sexuality and was among the first to draw parallels between leather and other tribal cultures throughout history. Brilliant and timeless.

The Leatherman’s Handbook and The Leatherman’s Handbook II by Larry Townsend (L T Publications)—The first Handbook dates from the pre-AIDS 1970s; Handbook II is a mid-80s sequel incorporating safer-sex information (and is the first book that your humble columnist read when he was getting into leather). Both books alternate between fact-sharing and storytelling (Townsend is a master at writing erotic fiction), which for some will heighten the reading experience. The tone of both books is rawer and more macho than the other books discussed here; Handbook II, especially, describes some heavy scenes and practices in unflinching detail.

Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player and Leathersex Q&A: Questions about Leathersex and the Leather Lifestyle Answered by Joseph W. Bean (Daedalus)—Bean is one of leather’s best and most prolific writers. Leathersex is a well-organized, straightforward introduction to leather sexuality; in the sequel, Leathersex Q&A, Bean responds to actual letters he has received over the years. His sensitivity, wisdom, and caring shine through both books.

SM101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman (Greenery Press)—True to its name, this is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a textbook on SM—thorough, non-judgmental, suitable for all genders and all orientations. Many drawings and diagrams. Bonus: witty aphorisms (example: “That’s the thing I like about rope: One size fits all.”) that will have you thumbing through the entire book because you don’t want to miss any.

Chainmale 3SM: a unique view of leather culture by Don Bastian (Daedalus)—Totally unlike any other book discussed here, Bastian’s autobiographical masterpiece is risky, impressionistic, poetic, hot, intensely personal and eminently readable. An excellent right-brain introduction to leather.

Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice, Mark Thompson, Editor (Daedalus)—For beginners or for anyone interested in leather/SM spirituality, this is the ultimate compilation of essays on the topic by 25 brilliant writers.

Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent & Unauthorized Manual for Leather/SM by Robert Davolt (Daedalus)—A curmudgeon’s view of leather, this book is packed with priceless social and sociological commentary on how the leather community and its institutions work (or sometimes don’t). It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think—what more can one ask?

The Toybag Guide to Dungeon Emergencies and Supplies by Jay Wiseman (Greenery Press)—Wiseman, a former ambulance paramedic, has packed a wealth of emergency medical knowledge and common sense into a very small, very portable book without which no toy bag should be considered complete. Useful when emergencies rise, it’s even better if you’ve read it before you need it.

International Mr. Leather: 25 Years of Champions, compiled, edited and written by Joseph W. Bean (Leather Archives & Museum)—Don’t buy it just because it will look great on your coffee table. Packed with rare photos and fascinating interviews and memoirs, this epic book is not just a history of the International Mr. Leather Contest, it documents the last quarter-century of the leather community in general. Twenty-five years in the making, I doubt we’ll see its like for at least another 25.

Here are some other time-tested leather/BDSM books to consider:

The Lesbian S/m Safety Manual by Pat (now Patrick) Califia (Lace Publications). Out of print, but you still might find a copy if you search.

Ties That Bind: SM/Leather/Fetish Erotic Style: Issues, Commentaries and Advice by Guy Baldwin (Daedalus)

Learning the Ropes by Race Bannon (Daedalus).

The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (Greenery Press)

The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (Greenery Press)

Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon (Mystic Rose Books)

Different Loving: A Complete Exploration of the World of Sexual Dominance and Submission by William Brame, Gloria Brame and Jon Jacobs (Villard).

The Master’s Manual and The Compleat Slave by Jack Rinella (Daedalus).

Publisher and Shopping Information

Publishers of books listed above:

Daedalus Publishing Company:

Greenery Press:

L T Publications:

Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M): (Support the Leather Archives and Museum! Visit their online gift shop for books and other merchandise suitable for holiday gift-giving.)

Mystic Rose Books:

Villard, an imprint of Random House:

Twin Cities Shopping Information

Many of these titles are either in stock or can be ordered at Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis ( or Query Booksellers (

You might also find some of these titles, and many more holiday gift items, at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar on Saturday, Dec. 11, noon to 7 PM at Trikkx Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul (free admission).

Friday, November 12, 2004

Time Capsule: The Prescient Susie Shepherd

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #247, November 12, 2004)

Fifteen years ago, in October 1989, the men’s and women’s leather communities in Minnesota gathered together for the first Minnesota Leather Encounter (MLE) weekend. Part of the weekend was the first Mr. Minnesota Leather contest.

One of the judges of that contest was International Ms Leather 1989 Susie Shepherd. The following is an excerpt from the speech she gave that weekend. I present it here to show that fifteen years later, some things have changed but many have not. Shepherd’s message still resonates today.

Never when I won the International Ms Leather contest last year did I think I was going to the Twin Cities and have both my tits pierced and play bingo, all on the same day!” (Jim Ward, master piercer from The Gauntlet, was another judge for the weekend.)

I was real involved in politics for a long time, and because of that I kept myself in the leather closet.

I figured, if I’m busy lining up testimony—people to go over to the state legislature and people to come with me and talk to groups of psychiatrists and convince them that gay people are like everybody else— if I let them know I got all these kinky fantasies, they’re gonna think I’m really weird, and it’s gonna undo all the work I’m doing.

So I didn’t do that, and for a long time I found myself dying in this closet.

What I want to tell you is, if there’s anybody here who doesn’t know—and I think everybody does to some degree—closets kill!

And if there’s anybody here tonight who’s in any kind of a closet—take the fuckin’ knob off, kick the door out, and come out and be who you are!

I almost died in the leather closet even though I was the best little lesbian in the state of Oregon.

It doesn’t matter what kind of a closet it is, it’s gonna kill you. It’s gonna stifle you. It’s gonna suffocate you. It’s gonna be a long, slow, painful death.

We were trying to get a civil rights bill for gay people through the state of Oregon. I was behind a table with another lesbian at the University of Oregon in Eugene having people sign postcards to send to their state legislators.

This one man came up to us, and he had an umbrella in his hand, and he said, “You know what I think they ought to do with all those gay people? I think we ought to take them all, and line them up against a wall . . . .” and then he picks up his umbrella and uses it like a machine gun.

And I said, “Well, that really bothers me because I’m gay, and I don’t like that idea.”

And he said, “Well, I didn’t mean anything personal.”

There’s a Supreme Court out there that wants to tell low-income women what to do with their bodies. If those people want to tell heterosexual procreative women what to do with their bodies, imagine what they want to tell a bunch of kinky gay people!

Now, we’ve got the power to undo a lot of what they can do. Number one, organizing at the local level, we can get involved in judicial campaigns and we can help elect judges who are going to make the kinds of decisions that stand up when they go before the Supreme Court.

We also have the power in this room to hold fundraisers like what’s going on tonigh. so that if cases involving our people get to the court, we can hire good attorneys who can defend our people, so that if it does go to the Supreme Court we can be well represented, and have a much better chance of convincing the law of who’s right.

We are only as powerless as we let ourselves be. And as an SM leather dyke, I’m a botto, but the way that I do that is, I consensually exchange my power with whoever is topping me.

Out there in the political realm, that can be a real non-consensual exchange of power.

But if I get myself involved politically, then I’ve got the power to negotiate. And by doing that, I’m getting consensually involved in the exchange of power that guarantees me, as the American citizen, my right to be here on this earth.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Barebacking, BDSM, and Bicycle Helmets

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #245, October 15, 2004)

It seems there are so many things lately I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to see George Bush re-elected president.

I don’t understand reality TV.

I don’t understand rap music.

And I don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would bareback.

Please understand that your humble columnist is an excellent example of someone who in financial circles is known as “risk-averse.” Given the choice between a high-risk mutual fund with the potential of big returns and a low-risk money market fund that pays a pittance, I’ll take the money-market fund every time. (I drive my broker crazy.)

I always wear my seat belt when I drive.

I look both ways when crossing the street—even on one-way streets.

And I was using condoms even before they were fashionable, because even before AIDS there were plenty of other venereal diseases I didn’t want to catch.

“So, Mr. Risk-Averse,” I hear you saying, “How does that square with writing a leather column? Here you are, writing about high-risk activities like SM sex and riding motorcycles.”

Yes, you’re right. And the contradictions get worse: I don’t ride a motorcycle, but I do ride a bicycle. And when I ride it, Mr. Risk-Averse doesn’t wear a helmet.

And why don’t I wear a helmet? Not because it’s too hot or too uncomfortable—not even because it might mess my hair. I don’t wear a bicycle helmet because I think bicycle helmets look dorky. I refuse to look like I’m wearing Darth Vader’s face mask, upside down and backwards, on top of my head.

And when I get on my bike without a helmet, do I get a rebel thrill because I’m cheating death? No. On the contrary, I try not to think about the risk. When I’m on my bike I’m in denial.

Sound familiar? “I don’t want to wear this condom. It’s uncomfortable. It’s confining. It interrupts the action while I put it on.” Or “I don’t want him to wear a condom. I don’t want to feel latex, I want to feel the intimacy of his skin.” How many people, all the while they’re having unprotected sex, are in denial that they’re doing anything risky?

Wearing a helmet, of course, has no effect on whether or not I will encounter an unsafe situation. I may encounter one or I may not. But if I do encounter an unsafe situation, I will be safer if I am wearing a helmet. Except for very rare, fluke occurrences, I will not be less safe with protection than without it.

There’s more to safety than simply wearing a helmet, however. Whether for biking, motorcycling or SM, another big safety factor is education and training: knowing safe ways to operate a bike, a motorcycle or a flogger simultaneously increases enjoyment and reduces risk.

Unprotected sex, or barebacking, is different from these other activities. It is inherently risky, and no amount of education, training or technique can mitigate that risk. The best way to make it less risky is just the same as with bicycles and motorcycles: Wear A Helmet.

But then, of course, it isn’t barebacking anymore. Barebacking’s aficionados would say that this advice is tantamount to saying the safest way to own a motorcycle is not to ride it.

There are only two circumstances of which I am aware in which barebacking can be considered to meet the definition of “safe” in the sense of the BDSM community’s “Safe, Sane, Consensual” mantra: a) two HIV-negative partners who are monogamous; or b) two HIV-positive partners who undergo medical testing, determine that they are both infected with the same strain of the HIV virus, and are thereafter monogamous.

Other than in these two rare and tenuous circumstances, barebacking is worse than riding without a helmet. It’s skydiving without a parachute.

The ethic of the leather/BDSM community is that we all look out for, and take care of, each other. If an activity is not safe, sane and consensual, it is abusive and should not be tolerated. Even in a situation where barebacking might unfortunately and perversely meet the consensuality test, it still fails the test of safety and, I would argue, sanity.

Why would anyone consent to an activity that will probably be (eventually) lethal, and will at the very least make life much more complicated and much less pleasant?

I suppose there are as many reasons to bareback as there are barebackers. Some think it’s romantic to be Mimi in “La Boheme.” Some think that becoming positive will bestow on them a life of sympathy and insurance benefits. Some think it’s intimate and romantic to share the virus with the one you love or to have them share the virus with you. Some are angry at being infected and want to infect as many other people as they can before they check out.

Some are fatalistic and figure it will happen to them eventually, so they might as well get it over with. Some take the opposite tack—AIDS will never happen to them because they are somehow invulnerable. (I would note here that there’s a great difference between saying, “It will never happen to me because I won’t let it—I will take action, every time, to protect myself” and saying “It won’t happen to me because I’m magically immune, and therefore I can do whatever I want and don’t have to worry about protection.” And yes, I know, that second instance is what I’m saying to myself as I ride my bike without a helmet.)

That’s what some people who bareback may be thinking. But the reality is that once someone seroconverts, there’s no going back. Life will either be very short or else will be filled with doctor visits, strict treatment schedules and an ongoing regimen of expensive drugs with major and unpleasant side effects.

There was a time when we didn’t know what caused AIDS and didn’t know how to stop it from spreading. An unconscionable number of people died as a result, and that was tragic. Now we know how to stop the spread of the virus, but in spite of this some people are intentionally helping to spread it. That’s still tragic, but it’s also perverse.

There are plenty of other, safer ways one can still enjoy sex—and perhaps even enjoy it more because one’s horizons have been widened. Be adventurous! Try something new (and, incidentally, safer).

I have no illusions that I can singlehandedly stop people from barebacking, any more than anyone can make me wear a helmet when I ride my bike. But I can at least say, “Stop and think about what you’re doing if you bareback. Realize the consequences.”

It’s all fun and games until someone gets infected.

Barebacking: Just Don’t Do It.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Hot for Teacher

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #244, October 1, 2004)

Graphic: MSDB patch

Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds (MSDB)—the name makes it sound like a financial services company. It isn’t—read the initials backwards and you’ll understand.

MSDB is “a Minnesota-based organization for people who are actively involved or seriously interested in BDSM lifestyles and activities.” It was started in 1999 and currently has about 120 dues-paying members. Membership is open to adults 18 or older, regardless of sexual or gender orientation or identification, religious belief, ethnic origin, or physical ability. The organization has become Minnesota’s leading presenter of BDSM education seminars and events.

MSDB’s educational offerings have included BDSM etiquette panel discussions; fireplay demonstrations; erotic writing seminars hosted by San Francisco-based writer and editor M. Christian; knife-play workshops led by noted knife expert Cristo; and several workshops on a variety of topics led by Cleo Dubois and/or Fakir Musafar. Also popular are MSDB’s kink-friendly first-aid and CPR classes (see below).

MSDB’s social offerings include monthly munches in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn. and a Twin Cities-area Newbie munch for those new to BDSM, or involved in BDSM but new to the Twin Cities. (In BDSM parlance, a munch is a non-play social event, usually in a public place, at which kinky folks eat, drink and converse.)

The Minneapolis munch is the second Thursday of each month (the next one will be October 14) starting at 5:30 P.M. at Kieran’s Irish Pub, 330 2nd Ave. S. For more information e-mail <>.

The Rochester munch is the third Thursday of each month (the next one will be October 21) starting at 7 P.M. at Beetles Bar and Grill on 2nd St. S.W. E-mail <> for more information.

The Newbie munch is held at various Twin City locations on the second Saturday of each month and usually starts at 1 P.M. For more information e-mail <>.

Appropriate attire for all munches is street clothing (not fetishwear). There is no charge for any of the munches other than your own food and drink purchases (and a reasonable tip, of course). Everyone age 18 and older is welcome.

In addition to the activities it does on its own, MSDB has combined forces with other area leather/BDSM clubs and organizations for larger events like Minnesota’s annual Leather Pride celebration; it is also participating in efforts now underway to attract the annual Leather Leadership Conference to Minnesota in 2007.

For several years MSDB has been instrumental in coordinating a kink-friendly hotel floor in conjunction with the annual CONvergence Science Fiction Convention. At the present time it is working on becoming a partner organization with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF).

The MDSB website (<>) continues the organization’s educational theme by including a wealth of BDSM-related information, including a BDSM glossary, a FAQ (frequently-asked questions) list, an “Alphabet Soup” guide to BDSM- and internet-specific acronyms, and a link to a “Deviant’s Dictionary” of BDSM-related terms (also referred to as an “encyclopervia”). There also are tips for newcomers to BDSM and for submissives, and information about BDSM etiquette, safer sex, and other health and safety topics.

On the social side of things, the MSDB website contains comprehensive listings of both MSDB and non-MSDB events such as munches and gatherings, links to other leather/BDSM groups and vendors, and a “scrapbook” list of events the organization has presented.

One of MSDB’s goals for the future is to continue growing in order to be able to do even more. It currently has three to four education presentations a year but eventually would like to offer monthly educational seminars. At present MSDB has events planned for October, November and December.

The October MSDB offering will be a seminar on “Predicament Bondage” presented by Mistress Amanda Wildefyre (of “Confessions of a Lesbian Dominatrix” fame). According to Wildefyre, “In predicament bondage, the subject is tied so that any movement on his part increases the restriction on intimate parts of his body—which is amusing to me, and quite frustrating to my victim. Fun for masochists and bondagers alike! And what could be more erotic than a slave who tortures himself? Your own subjects will find out just exactly how they can become their own worst enemy.”

The seminar, which will be a mixture of instruction and live demonstrations, will take place at Patrick’s Cabaret (3010 Minnehaha Ave. S., Minneapolis) on Saturday, Oct. 23, 1-4 P.M. Advance tickets are $12 for MSDB members or $20 for non-members; tickets at the door are $25 for both members and non-members. Ticket purchase information is available on MSDB’s website.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, MSDB will be sponsoring its eleventh semi-annual safety class. In the class, participants receive instruction from a certified teacher from the American Red Cross. The morning class will be CPR for adults and the afternoon class will be general First Aid. The instructor is kink-friendly. Upon completion of the two classes, participants will receive certification from the Minnesota Chapter of the Red Cross.

The classes run from 9 A.M.-6 P.M. (CPR, 9 A.M.-1 P.M.; Lunch break, 1-2 P.M.; First Aid, 2-6 P.M.) Cost for both classes is $30 for MSDB members and $50 for non-members. Those who need to be recertified on only CPR can attend just the morning session, and those who need recertification on only First Aid can attend just the afternoon session; single-session fees are $20 for MSDB members and $30 for non-members.

An application form for the CPR/First Aid classes is available on MSDB’s website. Paid reservations must be received by Friday, Oct. 29.

This year’s version of MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11. Plans are to bring back many of last year’s vendors as well as some new ones. The Bizarre Bazaar is a great place to do your holiday shopping for the kinky folks on your list. More details will be forthcoming.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Dress Codes

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #243, September 17, 2004)

I just used Google to search on the web for “Leather Dress Code” and found that out of 218 results, the #1 hit was The Minneapolis Eagle’s website. Nice going, guys! (IML 2003 John Pendal’s “Guide to London’s Leather, Bear & SM Scene” was #6.)

Leather dress codes are a perennial topic of discussion among both those who are into leather and those who are not. Some people resent being kept out of a popular gathering place because they aren’t wearing the proper attire. It is their belief that this is America, and dress codes are an infringement upon their God-given right to go to any bar they damn well please. Others point to the regimented sameness of the attire and dismiss those inside as “clones.”

Then there are those of us who are grateful for our leather community’s spaces, such as The Minneapolis Eagle. We appreciate the effort that goes into creating the leatherspace and into formulating, maintaining and enforcing the dress code.

As dress codes at leather bars go, The Minneapolis Eagle’s is pretty typical. You can find it at <>, but I’ll save you the trouble. Headlined “because we said so,” here it is as presented on their website:

• Leather Jackets, Pants, Vests, Straps, Chaps, Dresses, Skirts, Shorts and Accessories
• Rubber, Vinyl, Latex and Plastic
• Law Enforcement and Fire Protection
• Military Uniform
• Construction Gear
• Western Wear
• You can also gain entry with a solid black, grey or white t-shirt, denim jeans (black or blue) and black leather boots.

• Dress Shirts, Sweaters or Polo Shirts
• Dress Pants or Khakis
• Dress Shoes or Loafers
• Sandals or Tennis Shoes
• Suits & Ties or Tuxedos
• Disco Wear”

The Minneapolis Eagle’s dress code is enforced Fridays and Saturdays after 9 p.m. and is encouraged but optional Sunday through Thursday nights. (Even if you are not wearing appropriate attire, if you are already in the bar when the dress code takes effect you will be allowed to remain—you will not be asked to leave. But see below.)

I’ve been thinking about the topic of dress codes quite a bit lately because the company for which I work (no, not Lavender—my other job, the one with a major national discount retailer) recently dropped their “Business Casual” code and ratcheted things up a notch to simply “Business.” That means that Monday through Thursday I have to wear either a sport coat or a tie, neither of which I have heretofore normally worn at work. For many years I was able to state proudly that my regular, day-to-day style of dress was such that at any given moment I could have met the dress code at any leather bar. One of the concessions I made when I started working at the major national discount retailer was to start wearing Dockers and polo shirts.

Under the new dress policy, should I someday show up at work without either a sport coat or a tie I can be “sent home to change.” To me that’s the same thing as being denied admission to the Eagle because I’m wearing dress slacks. I might not like it, but them’s the rules.

As one might expect, the change in the dress code has sparked a certain amount of grumbling among my coworkers. I even contributed to the grumbling—before heading off to the-department-store-that-was-recently-sold-by-the-major-national-discount-retailer-for-which-I-work and buying up a storm. If government statistics show that the nation’s economy improved in August, I’m the reason.

And why did I spend so much money to comply with the new dress code? Because I want to continue working there. That, and because I was able to take advantage of some really good discounts.

Why do I have a closet full of leather and related apparel? Because sometimes I like to hang out at the Eagle. That, and because I like wearing leather. I also like being around other people who are wearing leather. And I don’t like feeling like a tourist. (In leather parlance, a “tourist” is someone in a leather bar who sticks out because he or she is not wearing leather or other appropriate attire. If you are not appropriately attired and you stay at the Eagle when the dress code takes effect at 9 p.m. on Friday or Saturday, you risk being branded a tourist.)

Actually, now that I’ve been sensitized to the issue, I see that dress codes, both spoken and unspoken, are more pervasive than I ever realized. Just today, as I was walking from the parking ramp to my office at the major national discount retailer’s corporate headquarters, I passed a construction site. There, in big, bold letters, was the following proclamation, a “dress code” of sorts: “100% Hard Hat Area/100% Protective Eyewear/100% Fall Protection.” I was wondering what constituted Fall Protection, and what made Fall Protection different from Summer Protection or Winter Protection, until I realized that they probably meant “protection against falling”—like cables and harnesses, for instance. (Hmmm . . . construction workers . . . cables . . . harnesses . . . .)

But I digress. In a heavy construction area there are good reasons—like health, safety and protection— to mandate what workers wear. Mandating dress elsewhere, whether in a corporate setting or a leather bar, is done for other reasons—primarily to create an atmosphere that represents and reflects what is most appropriate for what takes place in that atmosphere.

After years of too often being inappropriate (and suffering the consequences), I have learned the value of appropriateness.

So if the management and customers of The Minneapolis Eagle support the idea of a leather dress code, I will wear appropriate dress to the Eagle. And I will be rewarded by being surrounded by leather, uniforms, and other butch attire.

And if the major national discount retailer decides that it wants to project a Fashion Forward image, I will appropriately spiff up my act. My reward will be that everyone else will spiff up their act, too, and I will be working in an upscale atmosphere with people who are nicely dressed.

On the other hand, thank goodness they’re keeping “Casual Fridays” so I can wear my 501s to work at least one day a week.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Give Bush the Boot! A Leather Life look at this year’s elections

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #242, September 3, 2004)

We interrupt this leather column to bring you an important emergency announcement. It’s time to Give Bush the Boot! I hope this phrase becomes a rallying cry throughout the leather community as Election Day draws near.

In 2000 I wrote some humorous columns looking at the last presidential-election campaign season from a leatherman’s point of view. Now it’s four years later and time to elect another President of the United States. This time I’m not laughing. I’m infuriated. So this column features me as a leather Paul Revere. My proclamation: The country has been hijacked, and in November we have a chance to get it back. To arms! To arms! Or, more accurately for the current situation: To the polls! To the polls!

I am not a terribly political person, although I am a consistent voter at election time. But prior to this year I had never attended a precinct caucus. Prior to this year I had never made a contribution to a presidential election campaign. This year I have done both. If there ever was a time to become politically active, this is the year. And the most important way to be politically active, and one of the easiest as well, is to vote.

Chuck Renslow, founder and Executive Producer of the International Mr. Leather contest, got a 30-second ovation when he proclaimed from the stage of this year’s contest: “We must defeat George Bush!” Here are some excerpts from that speech:

“When it comes to helping one another in times of crisis, our community has set the standards. We developed them by necessity, as we fought AIDS that devastated our community—without any government help. We learned to unify. We built our own institutions, with our own money. We learned to fight for our lives. And we learned compassion.

“Four years ago, George Bush told us that he was a compassionate conservative. The horrors of 9/11 notwithstanding, as we approach another election we’ve seen a fistful of conservativism, but compassion barely drips from his lips. Through the politics of fear, the politics of hate, using blame and division, this administration has one purpose: to impose George Bush and his views of democracy on the rest of the world.

“We are under attack, my friends. At stake is our very lives. As gay men and lesbians, our lives are meaningless to [this administration]—even moreso as leathermen and leatherwomen. The man proposed constitutional amendments to divide gays and lesbians from the rest of the nation.

“George Bush doesn’t know us. He has no idea how we banded together to fight AIDS for the common good. He has no idea how much energy we put into electing officials who aren’t afraid to say “gay” instead of “homosexual.” And apparently, he has no idea that he wasn’t elected with a mandate. He wasn’t even elected!

“Tonight I stand here to tell you that once again you must fight, and once again you must fight for your very lives. For the future of what it means to be gay in the United States of America, and as a result in the entire world, you have a duty to defeat George Bush. Much more, you have a duty to go back to your communities and convince more people how vital and important it is to defeat George Bush. In this election, the leather community must spread the word to the entire gay community, to the lesbian community, to the transgender community, to the bisexuals, and to every corner of the straight community. It’s time to unify, and it’s time, for the common good, to defeat George Bush!”

Well said, Mr. Renslow, and thank you for saying it. But it goes further—the presidency, while important, is only one part of the picture this election year.

Right now in this country the political landscape appears to be split almost right down the middle. Republicans have a president in power who actually lost the popular vote, a slight margin of control in the House of Representatives and a very slight margin of control in the Senate. (In Minnesota, Republicans control the governor’s office and the state House of Representatives). To echo Mr. Renslow, the Republicans have been acting and governing as if they had a lot more public support than they actually do.

This year, in addition to the presidency, every single seat in the United States House of Representatives is up for election, as are 34 seats in the United States Senate. Without a change to a significant Democratic majority in both the House and Senate it will be much more difficult for a newly-elected President Kerry to clean up the mess that’s been made of the country and the world in the last four years. So voting is especially important this year in this area, too.

And then there’s the matter of appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. We can all be grateful that Bush has not had a chance to make any Supreme Court appointments so far, because the other federal court judges he has appointed have been almost uniformly far to the right, politically speaking, which makes them disasters for groups like women, minorities—and us.

In the next four years, however, Supreme Court justice appointments will very likely be necessary. Whoever is president therefore will make decisions that will continue to affect our lives for years after he has left office. We cannot afford to let George Bush make those appointments. On the other hand, the more I hear of Kerry the more I like him, and at this point I would definitely trust him to make those appointments.

Then, closer to home, there’s the matter of elections for state legislature seats and, in some states, executive offices. They too are extremely important, considering the current economic and political climate.

It’s time for a change, and what’s really needed is a big change. When the two sides of the political equation are seemingly so evenly matched, every vote becomes that much more important because each vote has the potential to break the deadlock, shift the balance and make the two sides not so evenly matched. If we don’t like the direction in which the country has been going, we must speak loudly and clearly with our votes to offer a real mandate for doing things differently.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the country’s future, the world’s future, and your and my future all depend on the outcome of this election. It’s also not an exaggeration to say that Lavender readers, and other people like us, potentially represent a significant voting bloc. Between the supposed 10% of the population that’s GLBT, and the seemingly-increasing percentage of the population getting in touch with their inner kinkster, we represent a lot of potential power—but only if we actually use it!

So—please—vote to Give Bush the Boot! Get registered to vote if you aren’t already. (Now would not be too soon to register.) If you’re going to be traveling on election day, make arrangements for an absentee ballot. None of this is difficult, and it’s worth the effort. For information on voting, registration and absentee ballots in Minnesota visit <>.

A postscript: if you are a member of the GLBT or kink communities who for some inexplicable reason supports Bush and his cronies (it’s amazing, but there are a few)—please examine your motives and priorities here. An an example, perhaps you feel you have benefited from the current administration’s economic policies—but is that worth giving up civil liberties? If you admire Bush because you think he’s “tough on terrorists”—in some right-wing corners, members of the GLBT and kink communities are seen as equally terrifying and threatening. What happens if you and people like you are the next target in the “war on terror”? When you consider the chilling possibilities you might find yourself reconsidering who you support.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Hey, Mr. Producer! (I’m Talking to You, Sir!

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #241, August 20, 2004)

What do you get when you cross a leatherman and a show-tune queen? You get your humble columnist. Sometimes I view the world through leather-colored glasses and sometimes through the lens of musical theater. When I combine these two ways of seeing the world, things can get interesting.

I’ve seen (or been part of) some really good leather fantasies over the years. (Just to remind you, the word “fantasy” in a leather context connotes an erotic skit—see last issue’s column). But I’d like to see the concept taken to the next level. I’m talking about more than skits here—I’m talking about a full-blown leather musical revue.

This stage production I’m proposing was inspired by “Fantasy,” the Omaha-based festival of fantasies that was created and produced for several years by Dustin Logan and Bob Ewing. “Fantasy” was a revolutionary idea for its time: an evening of fantasy performances for the sole purpose of entertainment, not as part of a competition.

“Fantasy” was thoroughly enjoyable, and I miss it. Hence the desire to not only bring it back, but to take the concept and make it big, and accessible to a broader audience as well. I have had this idea for a long time. For now it’s just a closet (you should pardon the expression) musical revue, but I dream that one day I’ll actually see it on stage. Read, and fantasize along with me.

The show starts with a big opening number in which the cast of characters invites the audience into their somewhat dark but fascinating world. What follows touches on as many different fetishes and scenes as can be crammed into an evening in the theater.

After the opening the show dives right into “It’s Raining Men,” a watersports number for the yellow-hankie crowd—simulated, of course (wink wink).

“Electrician Blues,” performed to the classic naughty blues song of the same name, includes both TENS-unit and violet-wand play (on a dim or dark stage to enhance the spectacle). The same performer later sings “Dentist Blues,” as made famous by Bette Midler: “You thrill me/When you drill me/And I don’t need no Novocaine today!”

“The Teddy Bear Picnic” is sung and danced sweetly and innocently by a stage full of hunky, furry bears. Here’s a sample of the lyric: “Beneath the trees where nobody sees/They’ll hide and seek as long as they please/’Cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.”

A tango number: A spotlight shines on the bare back of a man wearing black leather pants and a harness. He starts to slowly revolve to face the audience, and we see that it’s—Dan Chouinard! (His accordion is attached to the harness.) Chouinard plays “Kiss of Fire” (including the lyrics “If I’m a slave, then it’s a slave I want to be!”) while a couple performs a combination of tango and fireplay. (Chouinard and the dancers are brought back later for Tom Lehrer’s “The Masochism Tango.”)

A comic number: “I Want To Be Happy (But I Won’t Be Happy/’Til I Make You Happy Too),” from No, No, Nanette!, sung by an eager-to-please top to a jaded bottom. Following this is a non-comic dance interlude to the same song, featuring something I’ve always wanted to see onstage: an all-male synchronized dance line in full black leather and boots with taps on them. (Which leather company will get all the publicity that will come from supplying the leathers for the dance line?)

Whipmaster Robert Dante shows off his amazing whipping skill and technique, including his famous black-light whipping.

“Treat Me Rough,” originally a mapcap comic number from “Girl Crazy” by the Gershwins, is reworked with slight changes to the lyrics to be a sensual, sultry number in the style of 1930s Berlin.

A gay-male version of the 1964 hit by the Shangri-las, “Leader of the Pack,” is sung and dramatized by a male doo-wop group in black leather.

Another amazing dance number: synchronized flogging, combining flogging with tap dancing or Irish or American clog dancing (clogging while flogging!). Then the lights go down for something I recently saw at a run: flaming floggers, a combination of flogging and fireplay.

No revue is complete without a tear-jerker. In this case it’s Al Jolson’s classic “Sonny Boy,” reworked for the continuing age of AIDS (including a safe-sex message, of course).

Sung by either a boy or a slave, Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” includes the formerly-censored lines following “My Daddy, he treats it so well”: “He treats it, and treats it, and then he repeats it.”

And finally, the big finish (known in the trade as the “eleven-o’clock number”): “Leatherella,” in which our hero wants to go to the run but is forced by his Wicked Daddy and Stepbrothers to stay at home—after polishing all their leathers and boots. Fairy GodDaddy appears and produces a complete leather outfit and a Harley to go to the run. After meeting the Handsome Titleholder, Leatherella is forced to make a quick getaway on the Harley, which at the stroke of midnight turns into a unicycle (or a Segway—whichever would get more laughs). Next day the Handsome Titleholder comes calling with the boot that Leatherella left behind. You can figure out the rest.

Where to find the people to make this dream a reality? To quote a Stephen Sondheim lyric from Follies (with added leather emphasis): “Hey Mr. Producer/I’m talking to you, SIR!” You don’t suppose there are any theater producers in the leather community, do you? Or directors, choreographers, actors, dancers, technicians, set designers, costume designers, etc.? Or any angels/backers out there to finance it?

I can see it now—it opens in the Twin Cities and goes on to play Chicago (with an excerpt as the opening number at IML), Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York before becoming a Las Vegas perennial at the newly-opened Caesar’s Dungeon (built just for the show).

For now, it’s just my fantasy. Could it be a reality someday? To paraphrase Bloody Mary in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific: “You got to have a fantasy/If you no have a fantasy/How you gonna have a fantasy come true?”