David's Chicago Sexual Underground 9/2/22 & P(r)ick of the Week

Chicago leather history - BijouBlog
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Greetings P(r)icksters!

Been pretty busy at the bar, still training new staff. I have also been hosting regular vax parties for this monkeypox mess. Lots of guys have been coming round getting a shot and thanking me for doing this.

When I came to Chicago back in 1976, I checked out several bars, looking to make new friends in a new town. Then I walked into a leather bar and after a while, I found what I was looking for.

Back then, gay bars were pretty much low key. They didn’t draw attention to themselves, and they were easy targets for police raids and harassment. A gay press was just developing at the time, so finding where bars were in any town wasn’t easy, more word of mouth.

Folks could be friendly in most gay bars but when things went down, a bar raid for example, patrons would dash off and look for another bar to hang out at. The concept of a cohesive community was not quite there yet. One bar getting the spotlight and folks ran to another, being as they were just as much in a closet.

The thing about leather bars back then was the leather clubs that called them home. I’ve talked before about how biker clubs formed up after our GIs returned from Europe and abroad from WWII. These close-knit clubs looked out for their club brothers and, when needed, brothers in other clubs. They were my mentors that brought me to this scene and taught me that we take care of each other as no one else would.

These clubs did a lot of support for members like helping them put a roof over their head or a find job to pay for it. When one got sick, their brothers would take care of them. And a lot of times, when it was serious, say a major accident that had one laid up for a spell, they all stepped up to help. Early fundraisers were just for this, paying someone’s rent or car payment.

As our community grew, so did the leather circle, and our financial support went towards early community efforts. One of my favorite memories from that era was a Toys For Tots Show the various clubs came together and put on. Image a bunch of bearded bikers singing, dancing, some in drag, while raising thousands of dollars for a worthy cause. (Unfortunately, the Salvation Army returned our donation because it came from gay men; why I never put a nickel in one of their kennels)

Most people these days are familiar with Howard Brown Health Center here in Chicago. A huge operation, with clinics across the city providing medical care for LGBTQ+ folks from the northside to the southside and west. But back in 1976, Howard Brown’s focus was on STDs in the gay community. You got a drippy dick, you went to Howard Brown for a swap and a shot. They operated in the basement of a church, one a day a week. There was no charge, just a place to receive care that gay people were fearful to ask for from their doctor or city health clinics. After all, we were just a bunch of queers and because we had sex with other men, we deserved what we caught.

We would host tag nights at the bar where we’d ask for a buck at the door so Howard Brown could get the medical supplies and penicillin to treat us. We did that for Howard Brown and other small groups trying to serve the gay community as it grew.

When HIV/AIDS struck in the 80s, Howard Brown grew from a doctor and nurse in a church to one of the leading efforts to figure out what was causing this unknown disease that was killing gay men. Early on, the leather community put a lot of effort towards support for Howard Brown’s work to help us survive.

Covid came around a couple of years ago and we stepped up to educate and take care of those stricken with this disease. Even during shutdowns, we would check up on each other, get friends to doctors when needed, make soup, shop for others and encourage others to pitch in and get vaccinated.

Now it is monkeypox. Just like HIV/AIDS, this one hit gay people first. It started spreading around before we knew it was here. But, we are leathermen and we take care of our own. That’s why the only gay bars in town hosting vaccination events are the leather bars. Not one other gay bar here has done so.

It is what I have been taught and shown, and as a leatherman we will continue to take care of our own. Even those that have never stepped inside the bar before. Of course, I am making sure they understand Touché is the only bar hosting weekly vax parties, suggesting maybe they should check out what we are all about. More than just hot kinky sex.

So for all my horny bastards out there reading this blog, get a pox vax. It’s two shots, four weeks apart. Once you do that, in another two weeks your body will develop the immunity you need to avoid getting monkeypox. Six weeks and we can put this mess to rest and end the spread.

While you are waiting out those six weeks, grab my P(r)ick and keep it hot.

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

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Pictures from the Black Dance images
Pictures from the Black Dance (DK0047) - On DVD and Streaming

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Mr. Chicago Leather Contest 1988 (D00568) - On DVD and Streaming

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Mars: The First Gay Leather Magazine

 

MARS:
THE FIRST GAY LEATHER MAGAZINE

 
Chuck Renslow

Chuck Renslow, gay activist and a pioneering figure of the gay leather community, founded Mars magazine in May of 1963. Renslow definitely pushed the homoerotic envelope of his time with this cutting-edge vintage gay physique publication that was instrumental in both creating and disseminating the image of the gay leatherman. 

The magazine combines the classic smooth muscle jock physiques of the physique magazines with what became the iconic image of the gay leatherman: a super- or hypermasculine look emphasizing a well-developed physique, oftentimes facial hair, a generous endowment, and motorcycle gear: heavy boots and jacket. 

It featured art by Tom of Finland and Dom Orejudos aka the artist Etienne and Renslow’s partner, among others. Several of the models hailed from Renslow’s photography or “physique house,” Kris Studio. 

Renslow discovered many of his models, such as Ralph Kleiner and Paul Ferguson (one of the murderers of silent film legend Ramon Navarro) at bodybuilding circuit competitions such as Mr. Chicago. 
 

Ralph Kleiner wrestling

Contents of one of the last issues, Issue 21, September 1966: 

Mars magazine, September 1966

 

This issue still offers an article on physical culture entitled “Exercising the Abdomen,” focusing on leg raises: short on text, larger on pics of a naked guy doing them (no posing strap in site, the genitalia deftly covered by the camera angle and the position of the legs; note the hint of pubic hair). Pretty desultory compared to the much more detailed articles that appeared in the more conventional physique magazines of the period. But the point is the picture, really, by this stage of the game! 


The editorial on page three and on pages 42-47 shows the still difficult issues with censorship, despite the MANual vs. O'Day decision in 1962. The text reports that Ralph Ginzburg, producer of the erotic magazines Eros and Liason (the text reads “artistically produced”) another covering term for these types of publications), was convicted on a charge of mailing obscene materials in 1963. The prosecutor was the late great Robert Kennedy; wow! 

The above tidbit shows how one is continually uncovering parts of history that change one's view of a famous personage around which certain myths develop. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction by a 5 to 4 decision. The text also gives detailed analysis of the different judges' reasonings for their decision. The argument's thrust here is the ruling's unconstitutionality, despite the nuances of the judge's interpretation of this First Amendment issue 

Guild Book Services, one of the few openly gay companies during this time period, offers their usual insert in this magazine. The review of the book Homosexual: Personal Case Histories of Homosexuals is most interesting, as it seems to offer, for the reviewer, a really wild gamut of deviations (including BDSM), distasteful but without an overtly moralistic commentary. Though the comments of the psychiatrists that accompany these stories probably endorse the gay equals sick hypothesis prevalent during this period, which one could definitely claim is supported by the unusual evidence here! 

This issue, focusing on a motorcycle theme, contains stunning homoerotic leather/fetish art by Luger, Orsen, and Tom of Finland. On pages 10-11, there is a classic Etienne,which he painted for a local bistro in Chicago (the legendary Gold Coast Bar?). 
 

Gold Coast Bar mural - Etienne

 

Pictures from the movie Motorcycle Hero (take of more of the clothes and one would have a gay porn movie, but then, in this case, the leather gear would stay on). A young man dons his sleeping friend's (what a woofy hunk) leather gear ... and ... much is left to the imagination. 


The magazine ceased publication in 1966 or 1967. 

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