Many things of interest to the kink community have happened
since the last time this “blog” was updated. First of all and most important –
the future. Are you going to IML? I hope so, but if so you had better book your
rooms as quickly as you can via the IML website. It came as a major shock to
realize that the room I had booked in the Palmer House Hilton was no longer
located where the event was to be held and if you are a new reader and one of
the few people in the whole world who doesn’t know this, the host hotel has been
changed to the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 East Wacker Drive. Tel 312-565-1234 or
888-421-1442. Fortunately I booked my room as soon as I found out. I’ll really
miss that superb lobby in the Palmer House! If you haven’t booked your flight
yet you will have to move quickly, most flights are already booked up. Southwest
has the cheapest fare from Southern California but their flights for that period
are not yet available. On Nov 8 you will be able to find out when the flights
for IML will be available and call good and early that day. This next year will
be the big anniversary, the thirtieth year and I imagine that the biggest crowd
of all will be there so don’t miss it. Thursday, May 22 through Monday, May
26, 2008 (Memorial Day Weekend) in Chicago.
IML 2008 Weekend Event Packages start at $150 with special upgraded seating packages available. All packages include: admission to the International Mr. Leather 2008 competition, admission to all other official IML events (Opening Ceremonies, Physique Competition, - Closing Ceremonies, IML Victory Celebration Party and the Black and Blue Ball), free admission to the Leather Market, free shuttle bus service, an official IML 2008 t-shirt plus special promotional offers and gifts.
IML Weekend Packages can be purchased online at www.imrl.com or at www.boxofficetickets.com; by calling (800) 494-8497 or (503) 715-1114; or via facsimile at (800) FAX-TIXS or (80) 329-8497. Weekend Packages should be picked up at The Hyatt beginning Thursday, May 22 in the afternoon through Sunday, May 27. Cancellations are subject to a $25 processing fee. There will be no cancellations after April 30th, 2008. Special seating accommodations for persons requiring wheelchair access or those who are hearing impaired can be requested through Box Office Tickets.
International Mr. Leather 2008 will include the following main events:
16th Annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition sponsored by Bootwerks of Fort Lauderdale, Friday, May 23 through Sunday, May 27
IML Opening Ceremonies presented by Recon in the Grand Ballroom.
The introduction of contestants and judges, and drawing for contestant order of appearance. Thursday, May 22 at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)
Friday May 23, 12-7pm in the Exhibition Halls. The world famous Leather Market, celebrating its 25th year! The world’s best collection of leather and fetish vendors. Also the start of the International Mr. Bootblack contest. Saturday, May 24 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday, May 25 from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Monday, May 26 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday May 24, 8-11pm. Pecs & Personality (Physique Competition). IML contestants are judged on their appearance and stage presence.
Sunday May 25, International Mr. Leather Contest, 6 - 9pm in the Grand Ballroom. Presented by Miller Beer.
8pm – 4am. IML Victory Celebration at the House of Blues
Monday, May 26 - Black and Blue Ball at Excalibur
632 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago
Tickets to individual IML 2008 events are available at www.boxofficetickets.com and will be sold at The Hyatt throughout IML Weekend. Single ticket prices are as follows: International Mr. Leather Competition ($60), IML Opening Ceremonies ($30), Pecs & Personality ($30), Salute! – Closing Ceremonies ($10) and Black and Blue Ball ($30). Please note: Single tickets to the IML Victory Celebration Party ($50) are only available through the House of Blues, by calling (312) 923-2000.
International Mr. Leather contestants are judged on a variety of criteria including community involvement, speech, presentation and overall presence. The winner of the IML 2008 Contest will receive a prize package consisting of donations from businesses and organizations supporting the leather community. Complete contestant information, including contestant applications, can be found at www.imrl.com.
The 16th Annual International Mr. Bootblack Competition will be held Friday, May 23 through Sunday, May 25 in the Leather Market. The winner will be selected by the vote of IML Weekend Package-Holders. Each paid weekend package includes a ballot for the competition that can be cast for the bootblack of the holder’s choice. The winner will be announced at the International Mr. Leather Competition on Sunday, May 25.
History: About 400 gay leathermen gathered in Chicago in 1979 for the first International Mr. Leather contest. Today, the event has grown to be an annual tradition for the leather and fetish 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. Last year’s event drew more than 15,000 guests from around the world.
For more information on International Mr. Leather 2007 and to get updated event information, log on to the official IML website, www.imrl.com.
Half of our desert leather “family” took off for San Francisco for the last weekend in July for the Dore Alley Fair weekend.
On Friday night, July 27, the 25th annual Leather Daddy contest took place at The Eagle. There were seven contestants for the famous title of SF Daddy. The winner was a former Palm Springs resident Glen Tanking, whose partner is the infamous Snatch, Queen of the Desert, well known for “her” outrageous performances here. The following night was the Northern California Leather Sir and boy contest, also held at The Eagle. It seems to be impossible to get interested contestants for these titles. The contest in April this year at The Barracks had only one contestant for each title, from the whole of Southern California! In SF, there were no contestants at all for the boy title so the producers appointed a boy to compete at the International contest in Dallas in October. The one appointed is well-known in the community, a nice guy called Brian Kurtelo who had been around the block; he was a former Mr. Central California Leather and a contestant at IML.
After the contest there was a get-together for uniform aficionados.
INTERNATIONAL SIR AND boy - OKLAHOMA TAKES DALLAS
Oklahoma won on all fronts in Dallas the first weekend in October. Not too far from where we were (the Crown Plaza Hotel), the Oklahoma/Texas football game took place and the town was full of celebrating Okies. In the hotel near by the stadium, all three titles in the International Leather Sir/boy/Community Bootblack contest went to Okies also. It was a busy weekend that began at the Dallas Eagle with a Bootblack reception and Meet and Greet and all contestants drew their numbers for the order of appearance in the contests. There was a silent auction and the 2006 titleholders gave their step-down speeches, The bar was impossibly crowded and noisy and it was difficult to hear what was going on and even more difficult to get a clear sight-line for photographs. This was a popular event.
Next day was mostly spent on private meetings and discussions among the judges and contestants while the rest of us took the chance to do some sightseeing. I took the opportunity to go to Dealey Plaza and visit the Kennedy Museum. That evening there was a couple of silent auctions and some real bargains were to be found because bidding was much lighter than expected. Some items went for a song. It must have been disappointing to the contestants who expected much more money from the auction. Serious drinking closed out the night in the hotel bar with the Okies and the event participants who stayed right there while some people headed off to the Sanctuary for a play party.
Saturday found the 26 contestants going through their interviews with the nine judges. Many of each category were old friends of mine and of each other so it was a great re-union event also. Some of us took the opportunity to go to Cedar Springs, the gay area and explore the bars there. The judges, by the way, included Randall Kinnear, the stepping down Int. Sir for the last 112 days as he kept reminding us. Others were Blackkat, American Leatherman 2005; Remi Colette, Mr. Leatherman Toronto 2004; Mr. Marcus; the dean of leather columnists; IMsLthr Lauren Ide; Michael di Mugno, the owner of Specter Leather; Benjamin Palmer, Int. Mr. Bootblack 2006 ; Rick Storer, of the Leather Archives and Museum; and Antoin Strachan, the events manager for Recon.com, who probably had the most spectacular butt in the whole crowd!
Saturday evening saw the public portion of the contest and as you can imagine, with so many contestants the evening was a very long drawn-out one and there was no intermission in the almost five hours of continuous stage activity.
Unlike at most contests, there was also no entertainment at this one, apart from the contestants’ fantasies and some of the speeches. One hit speech came from Southern California boy TC who had the crowd howling with his racy speech about his sex life in the navy, a true comedy act in fact, which he later told me he improvised on the spot. There were nine of us there from the Palm Springs area to support and encourage him. When the big moment of decision came, Olivier Pratt was named the new International Sir; he’s originally from France. “Sparky” was named the boy and he’s from a small town in OK called Wellston and is exceptionally handsome. Finally “boy cat,” a local person who identifies as a boi, was named the Community Bootblack. In the main competition our Southern California Sir, Mr. Tom, unfortunately didn’t place but TC was second runner-up in the boy section - a great achievement considering that there were so many highly experienced contestants.
One more comment; as in many contests, the needs of the photographers were not understood. It’s difficult to get good photos when there is a red flood on the stage and no white spot. After the contest there was a Mama’s Family photo on the grand staircase and then people adjourned to the Churchill room of the hotel for chocolate cake and champagne. Apparently this is a tradition. A surprise announcement came at the end of the contest. Mike Zuhl announced that he was retiring from producing the International Sir and boy contest and was turning it over to Mark Frazier, the owner of the Dallas Eagle. Mark has been well-known and respected in the community for many years and it is to be hoped that he finds a better location for the contest than the Crown Plaza. While it is relatively close to the Eagle, about four miles or so, it is far from anything else of interest and people staying there really needed a car if they weren’t to feel trapped in the hotel. A shuttle did run to and from the Eagle but not to anywhere else. The buffet breakfast in the hotel was a good deal and very popular but after the first night hardly anyone returned for dinner, which says something. The last night of the event, an anti climax, found a smaller crowd going to the Eagle for a pizza party while others stayed for an indoor pool party at the hotel. The lone bartender at The Eagle had his work cut out but at least the crowd was nothing like the Friday night crowd. However, all the pizza disappeared within seconds and a second supply had to be ordered.
Many people left on Monday morning but our nine stayed for a fabulous lunch at the Turtle Creek Mansion, one of the world’s finest restaurants.
MEAWHILE, WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING IN THE DESERT
A WET AND WILD WEEKEND
It was both wet and pretty wild the fourteenth of July weekend and by wet I don’t mean it was raining. There was a large gathering of people who are into a certain fetish and apparently they all got wet many times. Not my scene but to each his own.
The weekend began with the Palm Springs boys of Leather celebrating their fourth anniversary with a beverage benefit at The Barracks. Chairman TC and co Chairman Henry hosted and also MC’d a raffle. They had a cut-out figure there, called Spanky, and raffle winners had to insert their hand into a hole cut in a strategic place to clam their prizes. Hey, nobody there claims to be subtle.
The same night at The Toolshed, Jon Lopez, Mr. Toolshed Leather 2007 celebrated his 50th birthday. He was helped by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who ran a party where people could be flogged, restrained and caged; the whole thing being a fund-raiser for the AIDS Assistance Program Holiday Fund.
Next night there was a late night underwear party, Called “RISE UP” at The Oasis, which introduced today’s hottest new DJ, Mark Bisson, to the desert community. His event was sponsored by Elbow Grease and Bootsplus.com. Some of these guys do a lot of sponsoring of events and it is certainly appreciated. And of course on Sunday there was the usual beer bust at The Barracks, even busier than usual, with some people trying to escape the heat by getting wet. Some sick queen made an anonymous call to the police who made an appearance, which effectively put a stop to anything that was going on. What is wrong with these people?
The following weekend was “Pigs in Paradise,” which means that all kinds of gay cops were there in force. You could even get “arrested” by one of them at the Barracks that weekend.
Speaking of uniform get-togethers, as we were earlier, the owners of The Barracks took off on Monday the 6th for Rome, where they presented another one of their now famous leather/uniform parties on a cruise ship. They scored a world first in May with the first leather-fetish party in history on the Queen Mary 2 liner, and then partnered with RSVP Vacations for a party on a Med Cruise that following week and one in early September on a week-long cruise of Alaska.
The parties must have been very successful for the RSVP people otherwise they wouldn’t have kept asking for them to continue.
West Coast Rubber weekend in Palm Springs followed on Labor Day Weekend.
The official weekend start was Friday Aug. 31 but lots of guys rolled in on Thursday. You can find more information about this event at www.westcoastrubber.com. Although the weekend is dedicated to rubber and gear fetishists from around the world, even if you’re not into that particular fetish give it a try next year; there’ll be lots of hot men there all ready to play and it’s a very festive weekend.
There was a Meat n’ Greet cocktail reception at the Barracks on Friday from 7 to 9 pm. to begin. Anyone could attend that. Events included in the $95 weekend package were the Wet Willie Pool Party, the Dark Piggy Play Party and the Blackout Dive in Party. There was also a full gear dinner at a great Italian restaurant called Boscoso on Saturday night .
The highlight of the weekend was the Mr. West Coast Rubber contest, held this year at Oasis on Saturday the 1st from 9pm to midnight and it was not helped at all by the weather. It’s bad enough wearing leather in high temps but wearing skin-tight rubber at 115 degrees in high humidity can’t have been pleasant, however they all seemed to bear it with a grin. There was a smaller number of participants this year - I guess previous participants found the heat too much for them last year and didn‘t return. Maybe this fun event would be more successful if it were held in late November or early May, for example. The winner of the Mr. West Coast Rubber contest was Christopher Saxon, Mr. Eagle L.A. Rubber. He’ll now go on to the International Mr. Rubber contest.
Something unpleasant is going on in Cathedral City which seems remarkably like harassment of the gay bars. Several police visited The Barracks in early September and they didn’t come for a drink and to cruise! They had received an anonymous phone call about alleged activities going on there. They found nothing to report and left. The following Sunday a whole posse of them arrived, about seven of them, which raises the question - since there are only eight police officers altogether in Cathedral City, was there only one officer available at that time for any other emergency in the entire city? That hardly seems a safe situation.
The seven left, but several of them returned not much later, found nothing to concern them and left again, and then a third group arrived still later, accompanied by paramedics and the Fire Chief. They again found nothing to concern them. They asked to see permits and all was in order and they asked to know the capacity of the bar and fortunately the bar was able to verify exactly how many people were there each time. One officer in The Barracks was heard to say to another that there was “nobody there” at Sidewinders earlier in the afternoon so clearly somebody had checked there also and some kind of inspector had been there recently and required removal of a Microwave. Club W has also been visited. People are wondering what’s causing this. Is one demented queen making lots of anonymous phone calls or is there somebody in the City government somewhere who has decided it’s time to get rid of the gay bars and particularly of the leather and leather-friendly bars? Three police “raids” on one bar in one afternoon seems highly suspicious. Maybe it’s time for a Stonewall-type demonstration!
IT WAS SASH-RASH TIME AGAIN IN THE DESERT.
That’s what insiders call the period when all the bars have their contests to elect their title holder for the year. The first one this year was the Mr. Sidewinders contest. Although owned by a fine leather man, the bar is primarily a country western bar. As is the case with many contests these days, there was minimal interest; only one contestant and only about 25 people in the audience, apart from the judges, who included the current Mr. Palm Springs Leather Eric Mitchell, the stepping down Mr. Sidewinders Casey Cooper and the first Mr. Sidewinders Randy Smith. The contestant was Randy Davis, a genial fellow who’s undeniably suited to that title, being a cowboy type and into C/W dancing. He wasn’t keen to go on to enter the Palm Springs Leather contest; he’s more a C/W guy than a leather man per se.
The second contest was held at the Barracks Bar on Saturday, Sept 15. There were three contestants and a large and enthusiastic crowd in attendance. The contest included a private pre-judging interview before the panel in the morning, and then in the evening event an appearance in cruise wear and a bio introduction, a jock strap appearance to answer a humorous question and a final appearance in formal leather wear to answer a serious question and give a one minute speech. The three contestants, Henry Jordan, Gary Iriza and Todd Bishop were put through their paces and the result was announced around midnight. The two leading contestants’ points were very close indeed and the Olympic Scoring process may have influenced the actual position at the end, which had Gary as the winner and Henry as the close runner-up. Gary is a very attractive young man, originally from Venezuela. He’ll go on to compete for the Mr. Palm Springs Leather title. The judges were two former Mr. Barracks titleholders Don Mentink and Jack Beneville, the new S.F. Leather Daddy Glen Tanking, Thomas Ferrari, the President of the Pride Riders and former PSLOD President Jack Banaszynski. MC Steve Crawford, Mr. Barracks Leather 2005, did a good job of moving things along and the contestant co-ordinator was the stepping-down Mr. Barracks 2007 Rob Hathaway. The celebration continued into the early hours.
The next contest in a leather bar was at the ToolShed on October 14th, the bar’s 14th anniversary celebration. The Mr. Palm Springs Leather contest will be held during the weekend of November 8-11. The event includes the Sunny Dunes Street Fair, a two day leather and fetish vendor market with cocktail service and a DJ, a meet and greet party, a pool party and barbecue, a victory dungeon dance and of course the contest itself on Nov 10 at Oasis. For more details and details of the package and host hotel go to www.desertleatherpride.com.
People who live in big cities probably think that there’s not much going on in what they think is this sleepy backwater but on Saturday Sept 22nd there was so much going on that it was impossible to attend everything. The first event was the Cathedral City Cove Gay Men’s Potluck, which I have the pleasure of producing every month. This time the host was Martin Wass of Ambiente Inn and about 70 people attended and the food was fabulous! They are, after all, gay men trying to impress one another. The venue was clothing optional so of course quite a few exhibitionists were showing off. Those with no clothes had their names written on the arms by magic marker. The theme was Hawaiian so everybody got lei’d.
Simultaneously, Lallapooluzza was taking place at Hotel Zoso, organized by the Desert Pride Center. I understand that almost $75,000 was raised at the sell-out event and since the whole affair was sponsored, that is clear profit for the Center. Good job guys! I’m told that it was quite exciting and that people were turned away at the door.
Finally, that night a leather contest was taking place at Toucans, of all places. By the time I was done with the pot luck (quite late) and after a bottle of wine, I didn’t think it was advisable to drive 7 miles each way along busy Hwy 111 to perhaps miss everything anyway. The winner was Steve Valencia, who is also the co-owner of the Desert Moon Resort. There were no photographers present that I know of but I called Steve and we had a photo session at the hotel a couple of days later. He’s another Hispanic person and another handsome man so we will have quite a photogenic line up for the Mr. Palm Springs contest
The following weekend saw leathermen from all over the world heading to San Francisco for what is the world’s biggest leather event, the Folsom Street Fair, I have the honor to be the only ever person elected as Mr. Folsom Street Fair in 1994, (I think it was!). Folsom Street was closed for many blocks (causing traffic chaos in SF, which is bad enough at the best of times). Hundreds of vendors, non-profits and bike clubs selling beer filled the street and there were demos and exhibitions going on everywhere. There were other events there that weekend also, the most interesting to me and the reason for going up there in the first place, was Roll Call, a big formal dinner for members of the various uniform clubs. This was be held at the Officer’s Club on Treasure Island, a spectacular location, and I was there to enjoy it and to take photos of all the hot men in uniforms for this column.
The Mr. Oasis contest took place on the 6th October but I missed it, since I was in Dallas at the time, however, I was able to attend the Mr. Hunters contest the last weekend in October against the advice of some friends who said that it would be a farce. There has been comment elsewhere about the wisdom or necessity of having leather contests in non-leather bars and I’m not going there because it would just get me into a pissing match with the producer. I’ll just say that the huge audience at Hunters was clearly not there to watch the leather contest; somebody even hollered “What is all this leather crap?” The contest took place in a corner of the bar while everyone else was busy cruising and dancing with music at a high volume, which made it difficult to hear what was going on. The judges included two people in female attire and one of them may very well have actually been a woman. However, Lady Ella Bow, while active in the general gay community, is not a leather aficionado to my knowledge. Judges Herb Hoeltz and Roger Simpson are leathermen however, so I’m sure their input was valuable in the judging process. Photos of four of the bar contest winners are here on this page and four or five judges in each contest considered that these men were appropriate to represent our community and possibly to go on to IML in Chicago. The winner at Hunter’s, the last to be chosen, was Todd Bishop, a member of the bear community. He competed in two other bar contests also but the final one was his lucky one. The fact that he also works at Hunters, (so I’m told), makes him a good choice to represent that bar. I wish all of the contestants the very best of luck and may the best man win!
Gay Pride took place in Palm Springs on Sunday Nov 4th and Surprise! Surprise!
Instead of being treated like poor relations and being forced to march towards the very end of the parade, this year the leather contingent was very close to the beginning. For some reason that was never explained to me, the ToolShed and PSLOD did not participate this year. I would have thought that it was important for the biggest leather club in town to be represented at such a public event but it was not to be. One suggestion made was that they didn’t want to be at the end of the parade yet again, so they missed out this year on the prestigious location. But since I’m neither a frequent patron of the first (too far away to drink and then drive home) nor a member of the second, I don’t know how much truth there is to that statement. However the Barracks Bar rented a truck and festooned with balloons in the leather pride colors and packed it with the South of Market Bare Chest Calendar men and the Boys of Leather and other local leathermen while others walked behind. So they made a very creditable contingent for the leather community. The Barracks beer bust later that afternoon was so impossibly busy that I just looked in and left. Of course the police visited again. Maybe I should run for Cathedral City Council so that I can stir up some stuff about this use of the police. When the seven police officers and paramedics visited on Labor Day they were getting paid double time and a half, that being a holiday. Cathedral City is always crying poverty so can that really be a reasonable use of the taxpayers’ money?