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How did leather contests start?

Social Chaos: Gear Up!

Sir Mike, International Leather Sir 2003 during his title year, photographed by the late Eddie V.

In 1979, Chuck Renslow and his partner Dom Orejudos (Etienne) started the International Mr. Leather contest, which grew from its humble beginnings of Mr. Gold Coast Contest, a bar contest. The contest attracted contestants not only from Chicago, but from surrounding states as well. The contest quickly outgrew the Gold Coast Leather Bar and was moved downtown to one of the Michigan Avenue hotels.

In 1979 David Kloss of San Francisco was sent by the Brigade Bar to compete and he became the first International Mr. Leather (IML). Also at the time San Francisco crowned its first Emperor, the late Mr. Marcus Hernandez. He and the reigning Empress were invited to Chicago to crown the First Emperor and Empress of Chicago. Rumor has it that Emperors would come from the leather community and the Empress was an esteemed drag queen or performer.

Mr. and Ms. San Diego are products of both IML and International Ms. Leather (IMSL).

According to Mr. Marcus, long before IML in 1972, the Phoebe’s bar in San Francisco had the first bar contest to commemorate its tenth anniversary. The bar had its second and last Mr. Phoebe’s contest and the same guy won again.

The now defunct, International Mr. Drummer and International Drummerboy contests were founded in San Francisco around 1979. Both were known as erotic titles. The members wore their sexuality on their sleeves. Drummer is now called LeatherSIR and Leatherboy, and the California edition will be in San Diego the weekend of June 17-19.

That’s pretty much it, in a nut shell, how leather contests got started. They were coined by some as the Ms. America of Leather – a beauty contest, because all of the men who competed and won were very strikingly handsome guys. That can still be pretty much said today, but it’s been hyped a bit more.

The contests of the recent past have been used to raise funds for the gay community. Most of the proceeds go to charities like Mama’s Kitchen, which provides meals for those with AIDS, and Being Alive, which provides services like laundry, moving, peer counseling, case management and housing referrals to those who are HIV positive. The contest also raises money for children’s charities and safe sex education, just to name a few.

The Eagle bars, which are located in most large cities also sponsor bar contests. The winners become spokesmen for the bar. They put on fun events in the bars for entertainment and also to raise money for charities. The bar titleholders also can go on to compete for IML.

Should they win IML, they take on a platform. Their platform can be anything from drug and alcohol abuse awareness to preservation of leather history.

All in all, winners of contests can go on to become our community leaders. As a community leader, one gains the respect of the elders; those who have come before you. They bestow upon you the knowledge that they have gained over the years. With that knowledge, the new and upcoming titleholders are challenged to keep things going, as well as make a name for themselves.

Some titleholders complete their title year and retire from community work. But just as soon as they retire, a new one steps up, takes the reins and can become dynamic, like Anthony Rollar, Mr. San Diego Leather 2010. Anthony has proven himself to the community at large. He’s done the fundraising and he’s made himself visible at home in San Diego and across the country.

Being a titleholder is not all fun, games and sex. As a titleholder, you travel, judge contests, meet many people and then travel back home – all in one weekend. Everyone knows your name; you smile, nod and say, “Nice to meet you, too!” And you hope the next time you’ll remember a few names.

Ask Bryan Teague, American Leather boy 2010 and also Mr. San Diego Leather 2009. Bryan got his feet wet in San Diego, literally. Bryan and his Daddy were living on a boat in the San Diego Harbor when he became Mr. San Diego Leather 2009. And yes, there were challenges!

I hope you see my trend here. What I am saying is that there has been a long list of Mr. San Diego Leathers, who have done great things for our community and they make it look easy, but, “on the contrary.”

As for the current Mr. San Diego Leather 2011, Kurt, he’s already on the go. Since he won Mr. San Diego Leather in March, he’s travelled California, from San Francisco to L.A., and made a pit stop in Utah.

And who pays for these trips, one might ask? Well hopefully there are travel funds raised during the contest, supported by members like you. You, the San Diegan, actually put your representatives on the map! And of course the titleholders, so dedicated to their cause, are always digging deep into their own pockets. You got to look good! You got to represent!

Incidentally, this column was supposed to be about the 2011 California Leather Sir/boy, Bootblack and Puppy Contest (CLSB) coming to San Diego June 17-19, but I got so wrapped up in the leather history of the contests during my research that you will get to read more about CLSB in mid-May. But you can buy tickets now! They are on sale at Pleasures and Treasures, say hi to Anthony, the Crypt on 30th Street, and Mikey and Dutch will sell you tickets at the San Diego Eagle. And if you’d like to compete, email me at contestantsinfo@caleathersir.com.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on May 5, 2011. Filed under Gear Up!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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