Friday, December 21, 2007

Leather Celebrates the Holidays: Atons Holiday Fundraiser 2007

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #328, December 21, 2007)

Continuing a long-standing tradition, The Atons of Minneapolis held their annual Holiday Fundraiser Sunday, December 2, at the Bolt Underground in Minneapolis. A food drive collected food for The Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Program, which was also the beneficiary of the door proceeds. Silent and live auctions benefited Open Arms of Minnesota.

The Atons gave this year’s fundraiser a carnival atmosphere. Tickets could be used for a haircut, a photo with Leather Santa, getting your boots shined, a session in a latex vacuum bed, or to bid on varied and plentiful silent-auction items.

Enjoy the photos, and—whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it—Happy Holidays from Leather Life!

PHOTOS: Two Zip files of high-res photos have been uploaded to Lavender’s server.


Brian Spence inspecting some Silent Auction merchandise.


B.D. Chambers getting his boots shined by bootblack Pup.

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Keith Cheetham getting his boots shined by bootblack Pup.

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Leather barber Brian Preston gives John Warner a haircut.


Randy Hornstine of The Aliveness Project doing his best Vanna imitation.

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Some of the food and other items donated for The Aliveness Project’s Holiday Basket Program.

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Dan Porter posing for a photo with Leather Santa (Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007 Dan Beach).

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Photographer Andrew Bertke (with camera in hand) and photo stylist Angel Rodriguez made sure all the photos with Leather Santa were top-notch.


Rick Burgess, left, and Mark Christ, right, flank Leather Santa (Mr. Minneapolis Eagle 2007 Dan Beach).


What’s a carnival without a thrill ride? Overheard: “Nothing says ‘holidays’ like a latex vacuum bondage bed.”


The evening’s auctioneer, B.D. Chambers, getting ready to sell a leather harness.


The evening’s auctioneer, B.D. Chambers, taking bids on a leather tank top.

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Caterers for the evening, John Christensen (left) and Tim Forte (right), flank Bob Fischer, the evening’s bartender.


Representing The Aliveness Project at the event: Board chair Bill Schlichting, left, and Development Director Tim Marburger, right.


David Coral, Mark Gibson and Donavan Cummings of the Knights of Leather.


John Hustad and Ed Skjaret.


Atons pledge Rick Burgess showing off his pledge vest.


Atons pledge Rick Burgess.


Jon Sipe in seasonally appropriate red leather.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Getting into Leather, 1993

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #323, December 7, 2007)

Tales Around the Holiday Fire

The holidays are a time for gathering around a warm, glowing fire and telling stories—not just holiday stories, but also family stories, stories of times gone by.

So gather around whatever fire you currently are near, be it a roaring fireplace or the glow of fifty-six candles in the dungeon just waiting for a hot-wax scene, and let your humble columnist tell you of some of his experiences in leather before he became your humble columnist—in 1993, when he was as fresh and as green as your Christmas tree.

When I came out as a gay man in 1974 the idea of leathersex intrigued me. In the ensuing years I thumbed through the leather magazines at Shinder’s, but I never went so far as to actually buy any. Over the years, though, the sense of intrigue only got stronger, and by 1993 I was ready at least to explore the idea of being a leatherman.

I bought my first piece of leather, a black biker vest, on a Saturday afternoon in August and wore it that evening to a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at Orchestra Hall. (Leather and show tunes—some things haven’t changed after all these years.)

The leather community I started hanging out with consisted primarily of gay men. There was a community of lesbian leatherwomen, too, and the community issue of the time was getting the men and women to feel comfortable with each other socially and politically. Occasionally I saw straight-but-not-narrow heterosexual individuals or couples at leather events, and they were certainly welcome. But at that time the local pansexual leather community was still several years in the future.

Much of the community’s life then was centered around The Gay 90’s and its various bar areas. The evening hangout was The Men’s Room Bar, but events such as fundraisers and contests were often held in other parts of the 90’s, such as the Dance Annex or the upstairs Casablanca Show Lounge.

The first Atons Leather/Levi Dinner I ever attended was a banquet held on a Saturday evening in September in the Men’s Room bar. I went with a friend and we showed up early. (I have never been early to a Leather/Levi dinner since.) We were met at the door by our host for the evening, a gentleman in black leather pants, a white formal dress shirt and wide black leather wristbands. He was very gracious and made us feel welcome. How could one resist such charm? One couldn’t.

The first leather contest I remember seeing was the 1993 Minnesota Leather Encounter (MLE) weekend, which included contests for the 1994 Mr. Minnesota Leather and Ms Minnesota Leather titles (which were awarded to Raymond LeBrun and Nikie Boswell). The ticket package for the weekend, which cost all of $30, included a Thursday evening kickoff at The Saloon, Friday evening meet-and-greet at the Gay 90’s Men’s Room Bar, a Saturday Fantasy Afternoon followed by dinner and cocktails in the Gay 90’s Dance Annex, and the contest and show Saturday evening in the Gay 90’s Casablanca Show Lounge.

Several notable guests came from out of town for the weekend: International Mr. Leather 1992 Lenny Broberg (who became Officer Broberg of the San Francisco Police Department); Amy Marie Meek, International Ms Leather 1993 (who went on to become Amy Marie Meek-DeJarlais and to produce the International Ms Leather contest for many years); and Kay Hallanger, International Ms Leather 1991.

The weekend ended with Sunday afternoon brunch at the Town House in St. Paul (then called Town House Country). One of my most indelible memories of that weekend is seeing Broberg at the brunch after a Minnesota welcome (?) ceremony: dressed in a hard hat and blaze-orange vest (because Minnesota always has a lot of road construction) with a frozen walleye (or was it a carp?) fastened to his chest with good ol’ Minnesota duct tape. I thought he handled it all rather well.

After experiencing that contest weekend, I was inspired (with prodding and encouragement from friends) to compete in my first leather contest. I was one of six or seven contestants in the Mr. Gay 90’s Leather contest, which was part of the bar’s annual Halloween festivities.

Wearing boots, Levi 501s and my leather vest, I was excited about my (literal) moment in the (literal) spotlight until the contestant before me, who turned out to be a budding porn star and the evening’s winner, got up on the platform in the Men’s Room Bar and doused himself and his leather with silver body paint. How does one follow an act like that? One doesn’t—one is just careful not to slip on the still-wet body paint on the platform.

Ah, memories. Some time I’ll have to tell you about 1994. In the meantime, I hope your holidays, whatever and however you celebrate, are magical.