Friday, October 23, 2009

Legendary San Francisco Leather Columnist Marcus Hernandez, 1938-2009

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #376, October 23, 2009)


Sad news from San Francisco: a leather legend has left us.

Longtime San Francisco leather columnist Marcus Hernandez, also known as Mr. Marcus and Marcus the Merciless, died Thursday, October 8 in Pacifica, California. His weekly column of “leather and dish” in the Bay Area Reporter started in 1971 and ran for 38 years.

The column was filled with news of the leather community in the Bay area, across the United States and around the world, both what had happened that week and what events were coming up. If San Francisco has some well-known leather institutions and personalities, Marcus’ column is one of the reasons.

Over the years Marcus attended, and often judged, more local, regional and national leather contests and events than anyone else. He was about as omnipresent as anyone in leather could be, pretty much right up to the end, even at the age of 77.

For many years he was a judge (later judge emeritus) at the International Mr. Leather (IML) contest in Chicago, and every year he had the honor of announcing IML’s “Top 20” semifinalists. It was only fitting, because he knew so many of them—in many instances he had been there when they won the local or regional contest that sent them to IML.

In addition to his leather activities, in 1972 Marcus also was the first Emperor of the Imperial Court of San Francisco. He used both his leather column and his Imperial Court involvement to help many charitable organizations of all kinds.

Marcus’ brand of journalism was personal. If he liked you, or something you did, he would sing your praises. But if someone got out of line, Marcus was “merciless” at calling them out in print. He could be bitchy and biting, but it was always clear how much he cared about leather and the leather community.

Marcus was my mentor, my colleague in leather journalism and my friend. I will greatly miss seeing him at leather events and sharing information and photos for our columns. He leaves behind a grieving biological family, a close-knit leather family that took care of him during his last days, and a leather community that starts in San Francisco and extends throughout the rest of the world—the community that he did so much to help build for so long, and that will now have to get along without him.

(To read an 1996 interview of Mr. Marcus conducted by Chicago leather columnist Jack Rinella, visit <>.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kink in the Mainstream Media

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #375, October 9, 2009)

Some places, it’s just another part of the conversation

Not too long ago, on those rare occasions when mainstream media outlets mentioned kink, it was talked about with a mixture of shock and disgust. Now, at least for some media outlets, it has become just another part of the conversation. Two examples of this phenomenon are radio’s The Stephanie Miller Show and a blog named The Rude Pundit.

How does one describe the “crunchy audio goodness” (her term) that is The Stephanie Miller Show? It’s a morning drive-time talk-radio show originating in Los Angeles and heard in the Twin Cities 8-11 A.M. weekdays on KTNF (AM 950). The show is an irreverently manic mix of progressive politics and low but sophisticated humor.

Worked into that humor are occasional references to items and situations with which readers of this column might be familiar: ball gags, Astroglide, golden showers (albeit inadvertent), and insinuations about someone tied to a bed, to name just a few. For awhile there was even a running gag about conservative media personalities Bill O’Reilly’s and Geraldo Rivera’s (fictional) sex dungeon (complete with whip-crack sound effect), where the safeword is “Mizrahi.”

This is remarkable for two reasons:

1) This is not niche-media satellite, cable or Internet-radio programming. This is mainstream media—a syndicated broadcast radio show appearing on over 60 stations across the U.S.

2) These kink references are simply part of the on-air banter. No special attention is called to them and no explanations or definitions are given. Miller, her producer Chris Lavoie, and “voice deity” (impressionist) Jim Ward simply assume that the show’s audience already knows about such things and will therefore get the joke.

One of The Stephanie Miller Show’s occasional guests is Lee Papa, who has been blogging for six years as The Rude Pundit <>. Because the blogosphere is not yet subject to anything like traditional broadcasting’s “standards and practices” rules, leather and kink imagery has become common in many bloggers’ postings.

The Rude Pundit attracted quite a bit of notice and comment for posting a series of blog entries telling the (fictional) story of a gay leather dungeon in the basement of the Bush White House populated by figures from that former administration. It was gay leather/SM porn imagery used as metaphor and commentary on then-current politics. And, again, the assumption was made that the reader knew enough about gay leathersex to get the point of the article. More recently, The Rude Pundit compared the Bush and Obama administrations using the concept of scrotal infusions.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if the image of Karl Rove topping his leather slave represents progress for our community. Or not.