Friday, June 23, 2006

Do Bears Dance in the Woods? Minnesota Bear Ball Debuts

Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #289, June 23, 2006)

PHOTO: DJ Corliss will be in Minneapolis for the Minnesota Bear Ball weekend.

During the weekend of July 7-9, the number of bear sightings in downtown Minneapolis will rise markedly. Bears from all over will be in town for the first-ever Minnesota Bear Ball. (For the uninitiated, the “bears” being discussed here are members of a gay subcommunity of easy-going and often furry men.)

A local bear group, North Country Bears, maintains a full calendar of monthly events and routinely attracts 150-200 bears (and their admirers) to its Bear Bar Night at Trikkx in St. Paul on the fourth Friday of each month.

In past years, North Country Bears also presented a summer Bear Camp, but last year’s event was cancelled, leaving an open spot on their calendar. This year that spot is being filled with the MN Bear Ball weekend.

Event organizer Chris Gores is working with the board of North Country Bears to organize the MN Bear Ball events. Gores has attended other bear events such as Chicago’s annual Bear Pride celebration, the International Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco, and Chumley’s Bear Cruises. The idea occurred to him that Minnesota should host this kind of event. “We have fun with the local crowd,” says Gores, “but we wanted to attract bears from other cities.”

The weekend’s events start Friday evening with an Italian Bear Lasagna Dinner. Friday night’s private UnderBear Ball at The Bolt (next door to The Minneapolis Eagle) will feature DJ Corliss playing “real music for real men.” Corliss Resor, who formerly lived in Minneapolis and won the “Mr. Bear Minnesota” title in the mid-90s, now lives in Las Vegas and is the proprietor of Personal Pop, his own custom DJ service.

Imagine a gay circuit party, but with bears on the dance floor instead of (or in addition to) circuit boys, and you’ll have an idea of the kind of atmosphere Resor intends to create. “Sometimes it’s a challenge to get bears on the dance floor,” Resor says, so he’ll be playing “more masculine music with more male vocals, more tribal and more sexual than the usual cookie-cutter dance music.”

Saturday’s events include a Wet Fur Pool Party. This event will be held at a private residence and swimwear will be optional.

The bear watching will be especially interesting Sunday afternoon during Bears-on-a-Stick—three hours of touring the Minneapolis riverfront riding a Segway scooter. The tour also includes refreshments at the Mill City Museum. Other Sunday activities are a Cigar and Boxer Barbecue at the Minneapolis Eagle or a Bear Salmon Run at Nami Sushi.

All proceeds from MN Bear Ball events (and a silent auction to be held as part of the weekend) will benefit Outfront Minnesota and the Minnesota AIDS Project.

For more information about events and pricing, or to register online for either the weekend package for individual events, visit <>.

Host hotel for the weekend is The Residence Inn at the Depot (425 S. 2nd St.). The hotel is within walking distance of most of the weekend’s venues. Rooms include free breakfast and free high-speed internet. Contact the hotel for room rates and availability.

The board of North Country Bears is assisting with the MN Bear Ball both by helping sponsor the weekend and by helping to provide volunteers for the event. If you would like to volunteer, please contact <>.

International Mr. Leather 2006: Oh, Canada!

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #289, June 23, 2006)

Want proof that the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest is truly international? Canada swept the competition this year, winning both the International Mr. Leather medal and the International Mr. Bootblack trophy.

This year’s IML host hotel was Chicago’s famous Palmer House, which gave the contest a different feel after three years at the Chicago Hyatt Regency. The Palmer House is old, massive and elegant as opposed to the Hyatt being modern, sleek and elegant.

And while the Hyatt had one massive exhibition space for IML’s Leather Market, at the Palmer House the Leather Market sprawled from elegant ballroom to elegant ballroom over two floors. The shopping was still great, however. (There were over 100 vendors including, from the Twin Cities, Gear Essentials and Marc Debauch Erotic Art.)

At Thursday’s opening ceremonies, the IML contestants (this year there were 51) were introduced alphabetically and drew numbers to determine their order of competition for the rest of the weekend. One other event of note (or, more accurately, notoriety) took place Thursday evening: IML 2005 Michael Egdes’ step-aside speech.

Egdes eloquently described the state of the leather nation and all the issues currently facing us, and throughout the speech he was constantly interrupted by enthusiastic applause from the audience.

But the speech went a bit long—some said it ran 51 minutes, others 57 minutes—and the near-record length of the speech ended up being a topic of conversation (and good-natured kidding) for the rest of the weekend.

To his credit, as Leather Journal publisher Dave Rhodes observed, Egdes’ speech “was filled with good content, did not trash anyone in the leather community and he mercifully did not sing.”

Friday evening started on a melancholy note with a ceremony of remembrance for the late Thom Dombkowski, who for many years was IML’s Chief Judge. Tears were then dried and claws sharpened in order to roast outgoing IML Michael Egdes. Other Friday evening events included the International Bootblack, Don’t Mess with Texas and Florida parties, as well as a first-ever SmokingHOT Guys party held in the Palmer House’s Windsor Lounge (the only smoking area in the hotel).

The International Mr. Leather weekend has grown to be about networking as much as contests. On Saturday the following workshops and gatherings were available if one could tear oneself away from the Leather Market: a Leather Archives & Museum general membership meeting; IML Boy Gathering; Mental Health Professionals discussion group; People of Color leather leadership forum; Chicago Hellfire Club party; a neo-pagan workshop and ritual presented by Brotherhood of the Phoenix; a Positive Force Chicago Meet & Greet for HIV-positive men; a(nother) cigar party; the International Ms Leather party; the BLUF party for men who enjoy wearing breeches, leather and other uniforms; and the San Francisco party.

IML’s physique prejudging, affectionately known as “Pecs and Personality,” was presented Saturday evening in the Grand Ballroom at the Palmer House. Each IML contestant got a chance to show off both his pecs (and in most instances almost everything else) and his personality by answering a humorous question posed by the emcee of the weekend’s events, Brad Balof.

Then it was time for more parties—I mean networking—including Canada’s Maple Leaf Party, the Onyx dance party, the Puppy Party and the Leather Archives & Museum’s 15th-anniversary celebration.

The City of Chicago’s official Memorial Day Parade had marched on State Street, right in front of the Palmer House, on Saturday. On Sunday there was a second parade on State Street—except this time all the marchers were wearing leather, and they were marching to the International Mr. Leather Contest at the legendary Chicago Theater, conveniently located a few blocks from the Palmer House. Last year the contest was at Navy Pier, this year at the Chicago Theater—after all these years, IML has definitely hit the big time.

This year’s contest was the shortest in recent memory, and maybe the shortest ever. After all the contestants had been introduced, “Mr. Marcus” Hernandez (leather columnist for the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco) had the honor of announcing IML’s top 20 finalists. In announcing Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2006 Mark Beckler as a finalist, Hernandez paid Beckler a special compliment when he said, “If it was up to me to marry one of these guys, this would be him.”

At the end of the evening, when the competition was over and while the tallymasters figured out the winner, the audience was entertained by the legendary Bruce Vilanch. He ended his comedy routine by inviting the audience to join with him in shouting one of the legendary punch lines he wrote for Bette Midler as Sophie Tucker (all together now): “Ernie, get off my back!”

And with that, it was time to announce the winners: The new International Mr. Bootblack is Benjamin Palmer from Vancouver. For International Mr. Leather: Second runner-up is Philippe Lepine, Mr. Fetish Switzerland 2006-2007; first runner-up is Larry Golubski, Mr. Long Beach Leather 2005; and the new International Mr. Leather 2006 is Mr. Leather Montreal 2006 Bo Ladashevska.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Minnesota Leather Pride: “100% Leather”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #288, June 9, 2006)

PHOTO: Supplied now: Graphic of 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride Dog Tag art. Available on Wednesday, if that’s not too late: Photo of 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride Dog Tag on neck chain.

ART OR It’s June—time again for Minnesota Leather Pride. Dovetailing with this year’s Twin Cities GLBT Pride theme (“100% Pride, 0% Prejudice”), this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride theme is “100% Leather.”

The collectible 2006 edition of the Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag boldly proclaims this year’s theme, and it also gets you reduced admission prices at certain 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride events. Get yours for $5, while supplies last, at Cockpit Project, Dreamhaven Books, Gray’s Leather, Query Booksellers, Rainbow Road or Smitten Kitten (ask merchants about 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride discounts). Or buy your dog tag from members of the Minnesota Leather Pride committee at upcoming meetings and munches and at all 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride events.

Or maybe you’d like a free dog tag? During June, purchase a $99 early-bird registration package for next year’s Minnesota-hosted Leather Leadership Conference XI (April 20-22, 2007 at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis) and get a free 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag. You’ll also get free admission to the Leather Smorgasbord on June 17 and the Temporary Piercing Workshop on June 18. All told, that’s a $22 value free when you register now for next year’s Leather Leadership Conference XI. Registration forms will be available at meetings, munches and all Minnesota Leather Pride events; visit <> for more details.

This year’s Minnesota Leather Pride events are listed below. Information was current at my deadline but is subject to change. Updates will be posted at <>.

Saturday, June 10: 100% Ready! This year’s Minnesota Leather Pride kicks off with the Minnesota Storm Patrol Beer Bust at The Minneapolis Eagle, 5-8 P.M. Free admission, $5 for beer/soda bust. Designated charity is Camp Heartland.

Friday, June 16: Leather Roundtable Discussion: What Gets You High? A discussion of positive energy forces in the leather community—and those that should not be there. Over the Rainbow Bar, St. Paul, 7-9:30 P.M. Free admission. After this event, head to Atons Fetish Night at The Minneapolis Eagle. Fetish-of-the-month: Biker gear. 10 P.M. to midnight. Free admission.

Saturday, June 17: Leather Smorgasbord, an afternoon of workshops on humiliation, water sports and positions of submission—a little something for everybody. Patrick’s Cabaret, Noon-4 P.M. $10 admission (or $7 with your 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag).

Sunday, June 18: Temporary Piercing Workshop led by Dr. Fiendish. Patrick’s Cabaret, 1-3 P.M. $7 admission (or $5 with your 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag).

Monday, June 19: Fifth Annual Kinky Poetry Reading at Smitten Kitten. 7-9 P.M. Free admission.

Thursday, June 22: Leather/Fetish Swap Meet. Clean out your closet, then fill it up again! Plans also call for entertainment, in the form of demonstrations, while you shop. Over the Rainbow Bar, St. Paul, 7-10 P.M. Free admission.

Friday, June 23: Fetish Ball. Wear your best leather/fetish gear. Featuring the ever-popular Floggapalooza and introducing the new and exciting Cane-o-rama! Saloon, 9-11 P.M. Free admission.

Saturday, June 24: GLBT Pride in Loring Park. Visit (or hang out at) the Leather Pride booth. 9 A.M.-6 P.M. Free admission. Or, for something 100% Sensible, and a bargain as well: MSDB CPR/First Aid Classes are kink-friendly and include Red Cross certification. 9 A.M.-6 P.M. (CPR 9 A.M.-1 P.M., First Aid 2-6 P.M.) $50 tuition (or $30 for MSDB members or with your 2006 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag). Classes are also available separately. Advance reservation required, visit <> for full details. (Payment must be received by June 15.)

Sunday, June 25: Pride March. March with the Leather Pride flag. Meet at 3rd St. and Hennepin Ave. at 10 A.M.—parade steps off at 11 A.M. Then spend the day in Loring Park, and be sure to drop by the Leather Pride booth. Free admission.

Organizational sponsors for this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration are Athenor, Atons of Minneapolis, Erotic Deviance, Knights of Leather, Leather Leadership Conference XI, MiN-KY (Minnesota Kinky Youth), Minnesota Bondage, Minnesota Storm Patrol, MPX (Minnesota Power Exchange), MSDB (Minnesota Stocks, Debentures & Bonds), NSGRA (North Star Gay Rodeo Association), TIES and Whipsters.

Also during Pride Weekend The Minneapolis Eagle will be presenting Scorch Fireball VII—“Confessions on a Parking Lot.” The beer garden opens on Friday, June 23 and closes at 2 a.m. on Monday, June 26. Pansy Division performs at 8 P.M. Saturday evening. On Sunday evening Brat Pack Radio warms up the audience at 6 P.M., followed by an encore performance by Pansy Division at 8 P.M.