Several years ago I wrote an article for “Turning Up The Heat,” a magazine put out by PSLOD for their annual Leather Pride Weekend. Several people have requested re-print rights and others have asked for it to be put on line so here it is, somewhat “bowdlerized” for the internet.
AN ACCIDENTAL DADDY
People often ask me how one becomes a Daddy, and a titled one at that. I assure you that in my case it wasn’t a conscious choice initially. In the very early eighties a friend took me to The Eagle in San Francisco. He was the first person to take me to such a bar, although I had previously visited one called The Falcon’s Lair in Hollywood on my own in the late sixties but left almost immediately. It really wasn’t my kind of bar at that time, in fact I found it somewhat menacing.
The Eagle was also somewhat menacing at first – all those men standing around in full leather glowering and not seeming sociable at all. But when my friend went to get a drink I noticed a couple actually talking to each other instead of just standing and modeling (the original S&M). I sidled up to them and stood close enough to overhear their conversation. There was nothing at all threatening about it, in fact they were discussing the performance of the soprano at the opera the previous evening! I was in my element! I joined in the conversation, since I’d also attended that performance. I met other people that evening also. I discovered that there were bike clubs, one of which was called the God Damn Independents, called GDI for short. Someone whispered to me that GDI really stood for "Get Into Drag Immediately." I can live with this crowd, I thought.
Soon I knew and was known by quite a few. However, I wasn’t identifying as anything special, certainly not a Daddy, and didn’t even have any leather at that time. So I took myself off to Mr. S Leather to buy myself some gear to wear on my bike and there I ran into the unforgettable Alan Selby, (the "S" in the business name). "Ello dear" was his very English greeting. He had a heavy British accent and in no time we were chatting away like long lost brothers. He guided me in my choice of biker jacket, chaps and so on. He also asked me what I was doing the following Sunday afternoon and said that if I was free I could help him at a beer-bust at The Eagle. So I turned up and was quickly put to work selling raffle tickets and pouring beer. This became a regular weekly event and as I became better known to Alan he began trusting me with the money (working the door and so on) and asking me to assist him with the acquisition of raffle prizes, auction items and production of events.
He began calling me "Daddy Don." I hadn’t thought of myself in those terms until then but as I became more comfortable and familiar in the community I began doing the things the other Daddies were doing. I set up a playroom at my home and things just took off. Alan Selby was at that time producing an astonishing number of events, all of which were fund-raisers for the AIDS Emergency Fund, which had been formed by Alan and others not long before to deal with the financial hardship being suffered by people who had contracted the new disease which we at first called GRID. There were countless contests with titles like Leather Daddy, Leather Daddy’s boy, Mr. Silver Fox, Mr. Eagle Leather, Mr. South of Market and so on. There were also other events which were inspired by certain days, for instance, Father’s Day became an excuse for a major event at The Eagle each year, produced by Alan and operated by the titled Leather Daddies. Other organizations also became beneficiaries. One of my favorites was The Godfather Service Fund, an organization whose motto was "People Helping People." We used to go to the AIDS ward of SF General Hospital on Saturdays and visit all the patients there and take them gifts like toiletries and so on to make them feel more presentable. Bathrobes, teddy bears and so on. It was difficult work in a way, because one would get attached to some of the patients, often still relatively young boys, and two or three weeks later their beds were empty and we all knew where they had gone. Alan was so overwhelmed with events and hospital visits that I began co-producing events with him to relieve him of some work and eventually took over several of them as Alan gradually withdrew. They included the world famous Fetish and Fantasy Ball and some of the contests.
One day I went to a Leather Daddy contest prepared to work and asked Alan Selby my usual "What do you want me to do?"
"Be a contestant!" he said.
"Me, I queried. But surely I don’t know enough for that? And I’m not a hunk."
"Oh, you won’t win," he told me, "I just need more bodies on the stage." I later found out he said exactly the same thing to Steve Gaynes a couple of years later when Steve entered and won.
So assured that I was just filling up space I entered the contest, prepared to just have fun with it.
Contestants were asked by the judges what they had done in the fund-raising field. Some had done nothing, of course. When it was my turn, the question was not "Have you done anything in the fund-raising field?" it was "Of all the fund raisers that you’ve done, which was your favorite?"
I was stumped for a moment and people began shouting out names of fundraisers from the floor. I wondered if this might be a put up job. Too late. I became Leather Daddy VIII. (They are now up to number XXVIII). They weren’t looking for a hunk or an icon, they were just looking for somebody who was prepared to work and knew what to do.
Of course, with a title I did become an icon in a way, I really wish I had known of organizations like Avatar that could have helped me with my progress, since I was sort of an accidental daddy. However, I met many members of the Fifteen Association and learned all kinds of interesting things. The learning never stops, does it? There is always something. Becoming a mentor to others is one of the most difficult; integrity and reliability are very important in a Daddy, which is why words like trust, honor and respect are so important. A boy must be able to trust , honor and respect his Daddy but that can only happen if a Daddy trust, honors and respects his boy in return. And now eighteen years later, we have the boy movement and bys are trusted and respected in ways that they did not used to be. Maybe we should start a Daddy contest here in Palm Springs. I’ll Help!
Having written for various magazines over the yeas, Spectrum and the Bay Times in SF, The Desert Daily Guide, "TALK," and now "LIVE" in Palm Springs, I am going to put a few of the recent columns below for your info.