Friday, June 22, 2007

Mr. Los Angeles Leather wins International Mr. Leather 2007

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #315, June 22, 2007)

In 1979, about 400 gay leathermen gathered in Chicago for the first International Mr. Leather (IML) contest. Last year, the IML weekend attracted an estimated 15,000 visitors to Chicago, and this year’s weekend was even bigger.

Now in its 29th year, IML has become more than a contest. It also is a family reunion, a tribal council, and a shopping trip to the Leather Mall. The many different activities packed into one weekend, and the number of people who show up for those activities, make IML a rich and intense experience.

Host hotel for the weekend was Chicago’s famous Palmer House Hilton. The Palmer House currently is undergoing an extensive and meticulous refurbishing, but the construction barriers didn’t seem to impinge too much on the weekend’s festivities. In prior years the carpeting in the Palmer House’s grand lobby has been covered with plastic sheeting as the area was turned into the world’s largest leather bar. This year the carpeting had been removed, revealing the very nice terrazzo underneath. But the lack of carpeting and other sound-deadening materials in the lobby mixed with the booming voices of thousands of leathermen resulted in a low roar echoing throughout the lobby the entire weekend.

Official contest events started with the IML Opening Ceremonies on Thursday evening, May 24, at which this year’s 52 contestants were introduced. Contestants this year came from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United States.

The weekend’s nine judges spent Friday and Saturday conducting private interviews with the contestants. The array of other Friday and Saturday activities was overwhelming. There were gatherings for leatherwomen, leatherboys, neo-pagans, kink-friendly mental-health professionals, and members of the Leather Archives & Museum. Receptions included International Bootblacks, Ms/Mr. World Leather, Chicago Hellfire Club, Chicago Dragons rugby team and a People of Color Leather Leadership Forum. Leather 12-step recovery meetings were held throughout the weekend.

Evening events included the San Francisco, Michigan, Kentucky, Onyx, and Jocks, Boots & Booty parties. A gathering for pups and handlers was advertised as B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bowl).

And there was shopping at the IML Leather Market, celebrating its 20th year. Over 100 leather and fetish vendors, clubs and organizations were spread over four ballrooms and exhibition halls on two floors of the hotel. One area of the Leather Market was devoted to the five bootblacks competing in the International Mr. Bootblack contest, this year celebrating its 15th anniversary.

By Saturday evening the judges had finished their contestant interviews and it was time for the official IML Physique Prejudging, affectionately known as “Pecs and Personality.” Each contestant was asked a question based on his contestant application and had the opportunity to demonstrate by his answer that he could be witty while wearing as little as possible. A grand time was had by all.

The high point of the weekend, the IML contest and show, took place Sunday afternoon at the legendary Chicago Theater, on State Street just a few blocks north of the hotel. All 52 contestants were introduced, and then “Mr. Marcus” Hernandez (leather columnist for the Bay Area Reporter in San Francisco) announced the top 20 finalists. Each of the finalists made a 90-second speech and participated in another round of physique and leather-image judging.

While the tallymasters figured out the winner, the audience was entertained by actor and comedian Hal Sparks, who played Michael on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk”—although at times it almost seemed that Sparks was being entertained by the audience. (Mention must also be made of the evening’s earlier entertainment: Veniamin, the Human Slinky, direct from “The Late Show with David Letterman.” I’m not sure what it had to do with leather, but it was breathtaking nonetheless.)

The new International Mr. Bootblack 2007 is sponsored by Great Lakes Leather Alliance. International Mr. Leather second runner-up is Bill Hoeppner, Mr. Ramrod 2006, from Florida; first runner-up is Rob Grant, Mr. Washington State Leather 2006; and the new International Mr. Leather 2007 is Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2007, Mikel Gerle.

IML will reach a milestone in 2008 as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Host hotel will again be The Palmer House, which by then will be completely refurbished. Get all the details on this year’s contest, and plans for next year’s, at IML’s official website: <>.

PHOTO: IML 2007 winners (from left): First Runner-up Rob Grant, International Mr. Leather 2007 Mikel Gerle, and Second Runner-up Bill Hoeppner.

Friday, June 1, 2007

MN Leather Pride: Welcome to “The Hot Zone”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #314, June 1, 2007)

GRAPHIC: “Hot Zone” art

June will be extra hot this year. The theme of Minnesota Leather Pride 2007 is “The Hot Zone,” and there’s a full schedule of events starting June 9 and leading up to the Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival on June 23 and 24. This year’s Pride Parade will be a milestone: the tenth time the giant Rainbow and Leather Pride Flags have made their way up Hennepin Avenue.

This year’s collectible “Hot Zone” Leather Pride dog tag gets you discounts at some 2007 Minnesota Leather Pride events. Get yours for $5 (before June 23) at Cockpit Project, Gray’s Leather, Rainbow Road or Smitten Kitten (ask them about 2007 Minnesota Leather Pride discounts). Or buy your dog tag from members of the Minnesota Leather Pride committee at upcoming club meetings and munches and at all 2007 Minnesota Leather Pride events. (After June 23, dog tags will be available for $7 at the Minnesota Leather Pride booth in Loring Park during the Pride Festival.)

Organizational sponsors for this year’s Minnesota Leather Pride celebration are Athenor, Atons of Minneapolis, Erotic Deviance, Knights of Leather, Masters And slaves Together (MAsT)-Twin Cities, MinKY (Minnesota Kinky Youth), MN Bondage, Minnesota Storm Patrol, MPX (Minnesota Power Exchange), MSDB (Minnesota Stocks, Debentures & Bonds) and Wicked Vixen.

Information listed below is subject to change—updates will be posted at <>.

Saturday, June 9

• Kick off Leather Pride at the Minnesota Storm Patrol Beer Bust at The Minneapolis Eagle, 5-8 P.M. Free admission, $5 for beer/soda bust. All tips benefit Camp Heartland.

Friday, June 15

• Leather Roundtable Discussion: Fanning the Leather Fire. Leather Leadership Conference XI. The Mayhem Party. The MAUL Party. Three landmark events in one watershed weekend. What’s next? How do we build on the experience and take it to the next level? Come join the discussion at Pi Bar and Restaurant, 2532 25th Ave. S. in Minneapolis, 7-9 P.M. Free admission. Great food, spectacular desserts and full bar service will be available.

Saturday, June 16

• A full day of Minnesota Leather Pride events starts with the Leather Smorgasbord, an afternoon of workshops on fireplay, electrical play and the joys of wax. Patrick’s Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Ave. S., Minneapolis, 12:30-4:30 P.M. $10 admission (or $7 with your 2007 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag).

• After the Smorgasbord, the monthly Atons Leather/Levi Dinner is located conveniently around the corner from Patrick’s Cabaret at the Town Talk Diner, 2707 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. Seating is at 5:15 P.M. Reservations strongly encouraged—reserve online at <> or call the Atons Hotline and leave a message.

• After dinner, head to the patio of The Minneapolis Eagle for the Dog and Pony Show (human division), where you can meet the human animals and their trainers. Come find out who wins Best of Show. 10 P.M.-midnight and beyond. Free admission.

Sunday, June 17

• Workshop: Household Hot Zones. Learn about the sensual and erotic uses of spices from the kitchen, deep-heating rubs from the medicine cabinet and even, or especially, raw ginger from the vegetable crisper. Patrick’s Cabaret, 2-5 P.M. $7 admission (or $5 with your 2007 Minnesota Leather Pride dog tag).

Monday, June 18

• Kinky Poetry Reading. A retrospective of the best of five years of the Minnesota Kinky Poetry Anthology. Smitten Kitten, 3010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. 7-9 P.M. Free admission, but space is limited and only those on the guest list will be admitted. RSVP by calling.

Thursday, June 21

• Leather/Fetish Smokeout. A smokin’ cigar/pipe social on the patio of The Minneapolis Eagle, 9 P.M.-midnight. Free admission. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em.

Friday, June 22

• Floggapalooza. It’s back, and better than ever. Bolt Underground, 8-10 P.M. Free admission. Then stick around as the Eagle presents live music by “Mythology” 11 P.M.-close.

Saturday, June 23

• GLBT Pride Festival in Loring Park. Visit, or hang out at, the Leather Pride booth (the one with the giant cage). 10 A.M.-6 P.M. Free admission. Buy your dog tag at the booth if you don’t have one yet ($7).

Sunday, June 24

• Pride Parade. Help carry the giant Leather Pride flag on its tenth appearance in the parade! Meet at 2nd 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.

Also during Pride Weekend, The Minneapolis Eagle will be presenting Scorch Fireball VIII. Saturday night is Bear Night 7-10 P.M., and Chi-Chi LaRue will be appearing with porn stars Tyler Riggs and Tommy Blade, 10 P.M.-close. Sunday evening there’s live music by Boogie Wonderland 6-8 P.M.

And after Pride . . .

• June 29-July 1: North Star Gay Rodeo at Dead Broke Arena in Hugo, Minn. <>.

• July 20-22: Atons Campout, a laid-back weekend in the woods. <>