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Who died and left YOU in charge?

The famous quotable "Who died and left YOU in charge?" can easily be answered within the leather community... Who died and left YOU in charge? Virtually everyone.

There's been a bit of debate recently in my Yahoo Group "IML" (a group specifically about attending the event in Chicago, IL and having fun while avoiding the beauty pageant and subsequent drama that accompanies it).

Me in the flurry of a debate?? Naw, it couldn't be! ;-)

Someone recently said: "...this year's contest had over 2,000 audience members. A record high!", so I crunched the numbers...

They claim the official statistics indicate that there were 2,000 people watching the leather drag pageant, while at the same time Chuck Renslow (the owner of IML, as quoted per on page 13 of "Leather Boi" magazine, the official IML programme guide) claims there are over 18,000 attending IML in 2008.

So, that works out to an 11% attendance. Which means, from the data provided, that 89% of IML event attendees didn't bother going to the beauty pageant.

I've been asked to compete in contests before and I've said clearly and plainly that I'll have nothing to do with it. I refuse to subject myself to that humiliation. Furthermore, it embarrasses me to watch someone else be subjected to it. There's just something inherently wrong with the "bend over and crack a smile routine" that all persons, top, bottom or whatever are expected to subject themselves to (see the photo of "Mr. L.A. Leather 2002" below). Not to mention the rest of the contest mentality. I get strange visions of a perverted "Ms. America" blended with the movie "Showgirls", envisioning some sash queen tripping his competition down the stairs with his bull whip.

"Mr. Leather's primary service is to pummel you with the self-importance of its subjects. The participants in the Mr. L.A. Leather 2003 pageant all hold lesser titles (Mr. Los Angeles Leather Bear, Faultline Mr. Leather, Mr. Regiment, etc.). 'I'm Mister Sister 2003. I can do a lot with that title,' says one of them. To that, I say: O RLY?

That guy's sentiment is echoed by virtually every other participant in the Mr. L.A. Leather 2003 pageant. As the guys talk about their collective aspiration to take home top prize, there's much ado about how the title would allow them to represent the leather community. But to whom? Each other? Certainly, last I checked my local leather ambassador wasn't doing shit but cruising in the shadows of the Eagle.

Guy Baldwin, who's identified as a 'leather expert' and whose speech is so haughtily affected that he might as well be flogging up and down my spine every time he opens his damn mouth, explains that "being public about diversity encourages growth in our general consciousness about human sexuality." The reasoning behind his point is that fetish-based sexuality gets a bum rap -- some people are into girls, some are into boys, some are into both, and some are into people in leather. This does not make them worthy of derision. I'm not sure exactly what a tiara and a title can do to convince people to be accepting, but I know that if the ultimate function of Mr L.A. Leather is to merely show outsiders that leather fetishists exist, he's then as potentially effective as a guy in the middle of the street saying, 'I'm here. I'm alternatively queer. Get used to it.' Nothing wrong with small-scale nobility, but it's probably not enough to prompt people start sucking each others dicks over the accomplishment.

The worst permutation of self-importance comes from Mr. L.A. Leather 2002, who's totally high and mighty about the title he's about to give up. 'This is not a beauty pageant,' he says. 'Well, it is and it isn't, if you know what I mean.'

For all the civic duty that the winner supposedly assumes, there's a distinct air of superficiality all over the pageant. But of course there is: it's a fucking pageant. The pre-pageant interview session includes questions on which judge the contestant would fuck. During the pageant, one of them is asked about testing rectal freshness. When the contestants are introduced during some round (really: it's alllllll evening wear), a list of their sexual interests is read (example: 'Chris is a top and bottom into rubber, outdoor, tit trips, group sex, P.A.'s, oil and having sex with a hot stud on a military base.'). With things so sexualized, I really don't understand how these people could go on to perform any duty other than oral sex.

Everyone seems so seduced by the importance of it all."

The above text was quoted from Rich Juzwiak, from Brooklyn, NY, but I completely understand where he's coming from!

I run the IML group on Yahoo in order to enable people to do their own thing whilst in Chicago during the IML weekend. I encourage people to push their own envelope. Take a stand. Make a difference. ...and, most importantly, have fun!

I'm amazed to see titleholders say things like: "...none of this would have come to fruition without the support I received as a titleholder as well as from the knowledge and strength I gained during my IML experience". Well, dear, before IML was as well-known as it is today, the leather community depended upon clubs to foster this sort of leadership -- and unlike IML, it was a true grass-roots effort. Leadership developed within the leather club community couldn't be "stripped away" as sashes can be!

IML is a one weekend event per year. IML (and other leather contests) tend to direct focus away from the leather community as a whole and direct it towards specific individuals. We, as a cumulative leather community, have allowed our own power to be taken away from us and have enabled a few people (who in my honest opinion, shouldn't be in charge of the leather community) to be at the top of the food chain. Some of the leather communities best leaders, such as Guy Baldwin, have been socially nurtured when they allowed themselves to be controlled by an oversight committee such as IML/MAL. IML exists pretty much to promote IML and Chuck Renslow's personal beliefs only. (Hey, that might be okay for you -- but it's not for me).

"Consider all the room nights you represent, the restaurant meals, taxi fares … the bottles of (Miller) beer. These days, International Mr. Leather represents millions of dollars in tourism revenues to the City of Chicago — and that’s why we’re here." -- Chuck Renslow, 27 May 2007

Yes, Chuck, we're in Chcago to spend money. You mention the City of Chicago, but fail to mention IML and it's benefactors. Oh, but you might say "it's not about the money?" Watch what happens if you infringe upon any of the contest's revenue or trademarks.

Real leather leadership comes from the leather clubs and organizations that allow everyone to have a say or participate, 52 weeks out of the year! The contest circuit has been devastating to the leather club community, almost as much as AIDS was in the 80s. Good thing there is the Leather Archives & Museum (also in Chicago and a semi-arm of IML) where they can preserve all the unique leather history they have successfully destroyed.

In this "wonderful new age" of manhunt.net, recon.com, bear411.com and others -- everything seems to revolve around instant gratification. Throw into the mix that the new reality-show mentality of the general American public and you have a perfect breeding ground for the contest circuit. You lose the need for the brotherhood, committment, dedication and community that once were the leather clubs and replace it with an online 'quickie' and someone in the "right" leather fashion who was coached with proper answers to say at some contest to make a judge or two happy.

"Hey, we don't need to join a club, show any commitment or do anything to improve the leather lifestyle -- it's being done for us when we give our money to IML, MAL or other contest!" (Or is it?)

I have been active in the leather community for quite some time. I've seen all sorts of threats come and go. I've seen clubs endure break-ups, AIDS, and some pretty horrible things -- but I must admit, the siren song of the contest circuit has me alarmed for the sake of our future generations.

If you want to talk about titleholders, contests and sash queens, please don't bother me.

Where's Chaz?  Find out here!However, if you'd like to talk about making our leather/levi/bear/biker community stronger without the need for contests, where everyone encourages leadership, regardless of appearance or their extensive wardrobe -- come sit beside me and let's chat!

Visit http://leather-links.net/xlinks or http://www.amcc76.org/ for information about local Leather/Levi/Motorcycle Clubs near you! Never forget that Leather Clubs (not Beauty Pageants) are, and have been, the true heart of the real Leather/Levi Community!


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 29th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
And thats one of the reason i am totally against pup contests.
May. 29th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)

You and I are on the same page, brother.

It was nice seeing you in Chicago!

Are you considering doing any puppy parties during the New York Leather Weekend?

May. 29th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
i dont think so. The behind-the-scenes "difficulties" at the start of orginizing this years party (i decided not to do it because i was disgusted with what i saw) was enough to put me off to the entire thing. i have yet to hear any reviews, glowing or otherwise, confirms my suspicions.

pups arent like boys or slaves, no prtocols to follow or need, they just want to help others to make themselves feel good and loved for the most part, and have a alot of to give. This years party was far from that.

i have often thought of trying to organize pup stuff here locally, but i dont want anyone to just get on all 4's and pretend to be a pup. i am waiting for the pup fad to fade a bit. in the meantime i do a lot of mentoring, and have K9pound.com, which is a nice little community. i dont need to have my existance verified by controlling something thats not mine to control, but i'm getting off on a tangent.

GMSMA has asked me to give a talk on pup play, i'm waiting to hear from them. i was asked the same thing last year but they never followed up. if NYLW was more affordable (hotels) i would, but i dont think this is the year to start something new.

May. 29th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
if it help, i do not see pup play as a self gratification. i see it as a way to help myself grow as a person to get over low self esteme, etc. just need a Dom/Handeler to help me with that.
May. 29th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
getting over self esteem issues does lead to self gratification, but a good kind, one where you can take pride of yourself. It's not unusual for a true pup to have these issues, i know i still do (and i have some grey in my snout).
May. 29th, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)

I'm attempting to do some follow-up on this. I'll let you know what I discover (if anything...)

As for hotel cost, let's chat.

Will you be at the Bike Christening at Ty's tomorrow night?

May. 29th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)

This was my first IML, and when Chuck talked, i was moved with emotions at seeing pics, and everyone there and the brotherhood the bootblacks had.

from the limited time i saw of the contest, i can see your point, but i must confess that i am so new to this scene i am afraid i am not qualified to speak on this.

What i wanted to speak about is the bootblack contest. i am very shy and nervous around a big group of people expecially if i do not knowthem. Yet i was felt a part of the bootblack community and welcomed in open arms...this included friday after bootblacking when i felt like giving up. For me the contest ended up being about brotherhood, freindships, being with likeminded people. Yes it was about popular vote...and bootdog won....but he deserved it, and i came out a winner. i had many complements, and from what i been told a buzz inthe market place around me. i want to win for my work, not for polularity. David is wantitng to change the format of the contest to be a part judging contest..that would make it more in an even playing field.

anyway, i talked to much, i guess what i am saying, is look at the bootblacks....we are overlooked at times, but have a strong sence of community...is that what you were hopeing to see?
(Deleted comment)
May. 29th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)

Did you see my reply to Boy Matt?

I'd be happy to elaborate if you have additional questions.

May. 29th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)

Simply put: Do not allow the false "importance" of the event be the driving force behind it. Be your own man. Do what you think is best. Live your own life with no apologies.

If you want to compete, I don't have a problem with that, just as long as you understand that the WINNER is never BETTER then you... just different.

I think it's very discouraging to rank people such as the contest circut does, as each person should have their own unique qualities that makes them an individual. Encouraging everyone to dress, act and think alike destroys this unique flair that we, the leather community, have taken for granted.

In addition, there has been a strong push over the past 10 years to discourage old school 'discrimination' of the sexes at events. Although I'm not too bothered with the presence of females at various events, I would be unfomfortable in a playroom with a female present, and I think many womyn would feel the same way. There is a need for "safe (or comfort) zones" in order for many of us to open up and be ourselves. Policicial correctness is another evil that knows no end... be wary of it.

I hope to see you at the Rams Run, Spearhead run, or any of the other dozens of club runs I'm attending this year (without a sash!) You can too!
May. 29th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
"just as long as you understand that the WINNER is never BETTER then you"

That was a difficult lesson to learn...and it is something i needed to learn. The reason i wanted to give up was that i felt like no one was even interested in LOOKING at my work...but i was wrong. What made me very happy and a BOOTBLACK was that i was told by a former Dom of mine that he would only vote for the best bootblack. i got that vote. that one vote made up for how many others had. When i learned the history of Bootdog and personally got to know him....he deserved the title...i am not going to question it. i am not even upset that BlackJack placed as well. He has a community heart, and a great attitude...and i am gratefull to know them.

i want to come back and compete. i want to do this for myself. I AM A BOOTBLACK!!!! this is who i am, this is were i get my spirituality from. There is nothing like this.

i also want to compete for the comunity i represent. From Sir Iain and Sir Scott to Lady Justice and Capt Ahab who opened there arms and accepted me into there circle and presented me my first piece of earned leather.

As for the seperation of sexes, i see both sides of the equation. but for IML, the first pair of boots that we do is actually a form of silent protest. We did some femail bootblack boots to symbolize the issues of the geneder issue in bootblacking.

Thank you for the invitation for the runs....i do not think i can go to Rams this year. Spearhead probably i shouldnt go for some reasons best talked about off line. However, i have been asked to compete at the GLLA bootblacking contest, andi also would like to compete again at the contest at Church Street Fetish fair (i been told the name of the contest may change)

if you would like to talk off line about this, email me at bootblackmatt@yahoo.com

HUGS....i am glad you are in my life, and hope it continues that way
May. 29th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with you for the most part Chaz.
And please don't take offense if I add the word "unfortunately" at the end of that sentence. I really do think that the leather beauty pageants have become far too self-important for their own good. I have seen and heard of too many occasions where they really are nothing but beauty pageants and really do nothing to promote fellowship, leadership and brotherhood in their communities. On occasion there are the real leaders who do get the title, but then are dismissed as "sash-queens" regardless of what they have to say or offer.

That being said there are plenty of winners who actually do serious good with their titles and become people who can help open doors for those who are unsure or afraid to become involved out of fear of rejection.

Again, for the most part you are right that the leather contest "circuit" exists primarily to promote itself. Most event attendees never even go to the contest and would rather spend their time getting drunk or having sex (or attempting to). I feel truly bad for the contestants and winners who are truly sincere about helping the leather community and find that their sash ends up only getting in the way.
May. 29th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: I have to agree with you for the most part Chaz.
Well spoken, Angel!

Right to the point and honest. Sadly, the leather clubs that used to foster and encourage people to be a part of the leather community and take action are vanishing in favour of a glitzy spotlight staged affair that all too often does nothing to better the leather community.

You are right when you say that SOME titleholders have been indeed an inspiration and a benefit to the community -- but I ask the question: Why do they feel they need the validation of a sash? If they're truly leaders, they shouldn't need anyone's "approval" to empower the community.

You don't want to even imagine the amount of money raised at major contest events -- most of which goes where??? To promote itself and other contests? In the pockets of the trademark holders (many of whom aren't even leathermen in the true sense of the word)?

I see the gay leather contest circuit a lot like I see the Catholic Church: A hierarchy of humans (typicially hypocritical ones at that!), making decisions for "sheeple" (my word for people that are blindly led around, as sheep are, without a care in the world), injecting themself(s), their rules and laws between the 'followers' and the followers' potential to be something remarkable (or in the case of the Church, between the parishioners and God).

I left the church when I heard the passage: "No One Comes To the Father, But Through Me" (John 14:6 ) and I understood that the Church was a road block between me and God.

I got a first-hand taste of the secret goings on at a prominent leather contest in Chicago, where I was part of a discussion about who the winner should be over a fancy dinner, before the judges even got to meet the contestants. After some time, I started to understand that I had been slowly sucked into the contest owners and promoters community. I felt very dirty (in a bad way) and left the leather scene (as a leader) for five years.

Someday, I may write a book, but honestly, what's the point? Some guys really do live for this stuff and it's their meaning in life. I don't want to ruin it for them -- I just want them to understand that it's not real and doesn't matter in the long run.

Like I've said before: "Let's give everyone their sash now so we can get on with the work at hand."

May. 29th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for saying what needed to be said.

[~Woof~ Great to see you in Rochester]
May. 29th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Re: ~

You're welcome!

Now kick Buffalo in the ass and get something going!

I miss visiting there.

May. 30th, 2008 12:55 am (UTC)
*stands applauding loudly*

Nice to hear someone call it like it is.........

I so agree with you.


Edited at 2008-05-30 12:55 am (UTC)
May. 30th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
Thanks, Frick!

You and I both know we're not entering any contests and could care less who our "leather ambassador" is. ;-)

We do what we want!

May. 30th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
And have........repeatedly.....
May. 30th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
Chaz, what about the old Drummer contests (taking out the transformation into Leather Sir/boy)?
May. 30th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
In my opinion, when the Mr. Drummer contests were held for fun only and didn't interfere with club operations (i.e. they were simply entertainment) -- I had no problem with them.


The turning point was when Tony DeBlase sold Drummer Magazine to Martijn Bakker Daico Corporation of Holland in 1992. Tony DeBlase was named editor emeritus. Drummer took a nose-dive into the "pretty leather boys", and contests were starting to become 'important' in some people's eyes...

I'm happy to say that Instigator Magazine is very much like what Drummer used to be like... Kinky and sexy!

If you haven't yet seen Instigator Magazine, it's worth checking out. You can pick up a copy of it at these stores, or by going to their website: http://www.instigatormagazine.com/Stores/stores.shtml

Edited at 2008-05-30 02:09 am (UTC)
May. 30th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Just for Fun

i blacked the covermans boots on Sunday. he was my last customer in the copetition.

funny thing is, we talked about german politics and social politics. he is from Germany
May. 30th, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)


May. 30th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
you know, its interesting that i did several porn actors and porn executives....all but one were really nice and pleasant. i enjouyed our conversations....just wished the owner of Hot House would do one....a Hot Muscle Daddy...grrrrrrrrrrr
May. 30th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
I called for the abolition of the contest last year in my blog, you would have thought I was Satam incarnate to want to dismiss such an "obvious" core to what is left of the Leather Community.

These folks are like the Dorian Gray's of the leather community. The leather community withers and dies while they remain a verdant vision of hotness and shills of corporate profit.

It is ironic that they support the Leather Archives, I agree, they are driving the bus to filling the museuem up with whats left of the community they were professing they were so self-important in helping.

If I hadn't loved growing up in the leather community in it's prime, I'd laugh.

Instead I find it all really tragic.
May. 30th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)
If I hadn't loved growing up in the leather community in it's prime, I'd laugh.

Same here, man. The leather community was truly the family that raided me. Even as dysfunctional as it was at times, we were always family in the end.

You couldn't begin to comprehend the utter despair I was in when one by one I buried my mentors thanks to AIDS.

I know I'm not alone in the belief that the contest circuit has been a major player in destroying the leather community, but it's always nice to hear from others that feel as I do in this respect, as I often feel all alone -- as if I was the last 'real' leatherman.
May. 30th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
if it is not presumptious, may i request some time from you so you can tell me about that time period please?
Jun. 2nd, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)

Sure -- we see each other at several events (runs, etc.) if you're coming to the Rams' Run -- come ask me.

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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