Don Thompson
April 5, 2006


Itís "the big enchilada," the one contest and title that every leatherman knows about and wants to be a part of in some way, whether as a spectator/participant or contestant. The world's hottest leathermen will come together to compete for the title of International Mr. Leather 2006, as IML celebrates its 28th Anniversary, Thursday, May 25 through Monday, May 29, 2006 (Memorial Day Weekend) in Chicago. Some people go every year without fail; they have such a good time. There are even some people I know who go every year who donít attend a single event of the weekend, they just go to cruise the crowd and have fun (and sex).

Since 1979 the event has grown to be an annual tradition for thousands in the leather community - drawing contestants and attendees from around the globe. Once an event for "hardcore" leathermen, IML has expanded in recent years to include a more diverse crowd - from the experienced to the curious.

The weekend begins on Thursday with registration for the $150 package, which includes admission to everything and the bar loop bus service that shuttles people from bar to bar after the official events each night. That night sees the opening ceremonies, the introduction of judges and contestants and a drawing for contestant numbers, - whoíll go on in what order. On Friday the Leather Market opens, and itís in operation all weekend from noon to 7pm. The market really is THE place to see and be seen and itís huge, everybody visits it several times and thereís lots of good stuff to buy or at least to try on and model!

On Saturday evening itís time for one of the favorites, the "Pecs and Personality."

This is when the guys do their jockstrap appearance while their resumes are being read. Thereís lots of applause from each contestantís home crowd who are there supporting him. Also that day and evening there are various parties going on. Thereís always a big San Francisco party and in 2003 there was a big official Palm Springs party also but there isnít one this year because itís not feasible economically (it costs a lot to rent a big room and supply food and booze) and weíre not the large wealthy community that some are. The best party by far is the one put on by ONYX of Chicago.

The IML contest itself takes place in the huge Chicago Theatre on Sunday, followed at 11pm in the Palmer House Grand Ballroom by the introduction of the 2006 winners and a parade of colors featuring leather clubs and organizations from around the globe. As if all this wasnít enough, thereíll be an IML Victory Celebration Party at the House of Blues in North Dearborn, after the contest Ďtill 4am. Finally on Monday the Leather Market is still open till 4pm for those last minute purchases, thereíll be an IML winnersí press conference for all accredited journalists and that night the IML Black and Blue Ball, the traditional IML "final blow out high-energy grand-daddy of all sweat discos," as the IML press release calls it, from 8m till 4am.

The host hotel, the Palmer House Hilton, is probably all sold out by now but there are other hotels in the neighborhood which still have vacancies. And if you plan on flying there, DONíT fly American. Several very aggrieved people from the desert have reservations on American and their flight schedule has been changed three times already! Originally they were scheduled to leave in the morning and get to Chicago in plenty of time to check in and grab a meal before the first event. Now they donít get there till 8pm., which means they wonít even get to the hotel till 9pm. And the return flight, originally planned to leave there at 4pm. on Tuesday now leaves at 11am., which means being out of the hotel by about eight am., which will really put a crimp on enjoying the Black and Blue ball the night before. Unacceptable really, but American is totally uncooperative -no changes, no refunds. Try United instead.