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.