A Glimpse Into Early Gay Leather Contests

A Glimpse Into Early Gay Leather Contests

 

Mr. Gold coast contest winners

It started in Chicago, as long ago as 1972 (only a few years after the Stonewall revolutionary event), on a pool table at the Gold Coast Bar. The first leather contest. The winner was John Lunning.

Chuck Renslow, now a legendary figure, was the driving force in the development of the whole gay leather culture. After this event, he soon discovered that one way to put a public face on what was going in the backrooms and other shadowy places was by founding what some claim was (and still is) a “leather beauty contest.” Think: kind of a Mr. America take-off but add bdsm-related gear and activities; anything to grab the audience's attention (and cocks). In fact, one anecdotal source claims that at the first contest “slaves” were dragged onto the stage.

Soon the contest became so popular that it outgrew the bar, and in 1979 the first official International Mr. Leather contest occurred at a local hotel.

A dozen candidates in full leather and swimwear (changed to jockstraps in later years), paraded before an audience of about 300 men.

David Kloss, an oil rig worker (now that's once macho occupation!) representing The Brig bar in San Francisco, won the first title.

According to Jack Fritscher in the September 1979 issue of Drummer Magazine:

“The other men, daring to put their pecs and ass on the world’s toughest Chorus Line, were: Terry Hunter, Carol’s Speakeasy, Chicago; Reg Simpson, RR, Miami; Donald Rahn, Foxhole, Denver; Stan Masterson, Landmark, Daytona Beach, FL; Daan [sic] Jefferson, Gold Coast, Chicago; Jim Kazlik, Wreckroom, Milwaukee; Harry Shattuck, South Town Lumber Co., Denver; Bill Maggio, Harder Than Hell Productions, Chicago; Jesse Capello [second IML Runner-up], Café LaFitte in Exile/Coral Bar, New Orleans; Durk Dehner [first IML Runner-up who was a Drummer model from Lou Thomas’ Target Studio, and future founder of Tom of Finland Foundation], American Uniform Association, L. A.; Bruce Wachholder, Touche, Chicago; David Kloss, the Brig, San Francisco. The judges were Chuck Gockenmeyer, General Manager of Leatherman Inc, New York; Robert Dunn, Advertising Director, Drummer magazine; Dom Orejudos (Etienne); Tom Gora, In Touch magazine; and Lou Thomas, Target Studio, New York.”

The list above seems a roll call of both men and organizations who have now become iconic in the leather community.

The contestants, Jack Fritscher wrote in the September 1979 Drummer Magazine, typified “the new homomasculinity.”vintage Gold Coast ad


The seventies were indeed the era of “gay macho,” popularized (and perhaps even satirized in the Village People phenomenon). But rather than just thinking of it as an era of “guys gone wild,” one also needs to understand that also during this time guys into leather/bdsm were establishing their own communities. The seventies saw the foundation of the Chicago Hellfire Club (its first Inferno event took place in September 1976 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Club). Other organizations that began in this period was M.A.F.I.A. (a club for guys into fisting) and Rodeo Riders, a social group for guys who enjoy sex, gear, and each other in a variety of social settings. These three clubs are still going strong now!

Chicago, with is unique mix of Midwestern communal values and gritty individualism, apparently was the ideal place for this movement to take shape.

Thanks to jackfritscher.com and the Leather Archives & Museum for much of the material in this blog.

If you're in or traveling to Chicago for this year's IML, don't miss Men's Room at the Bijou, presented by the Leather Archives, on Saturday May 23!

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A Fun Visit to the Leather Archives & Museum

 

A couple of months ago, I took one of my dearest friends to the Leather Archives & Museum. She is unabashedly heterosexual (and not kinky, I'm pretty sure). She initiated the visit. And it wasn't because of puerile curiosity (my friend is much, much more sophisticated than that). She read about the museum in a mainstream website Chicagoist. She wanted to go with an expert (c'est moi). It also helped (I emphasized this fact in our conversations) that I know the wonderful couple who run the place. 

 

Leather Archives & Museum exterior

Housed in what used to a synagogue in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, and for a nonprofit, in an enviable position (they own their own building and their board is incredibly generous), the museum showcases the history and imagery of two previously taboo subcultures that are now in the vanguard of discovering and also interpreting what used to be their secret, hidden history: LGBT leather and BDSM (both gay and straight). 


The museum regularly exhibits recent work featuring BDSM/fetish-related themes by current artists, but its claim to fame, at least I think, is its stunning collection of original homoerotic art by the legendary artist Etienne, including the murals which once graced the walls of the Gold Coast leather bar. My friend, with her art history background, immediately saw these works as art, and worthy of deep analysis. 
 

Two Etienne murals on display in the museum

 


One can also learn about the history of and view artifacts from leather motorcycle, commonly known as “patch” clubs, some of which involved into the gay sex/BDSM clubs of today, and also study the diverse contributions of women and transgender persons to this subculture. There's even a room with dungeon equipment (I must admit, my friend was somewhat shocked at the violet wands on display and some of the more fierce-looking whips). 
Leather Archives & Museum dungeon display


What both of us found really enjoyable was the comfortable room where one can watch documentaries on gay and sexual history. I didn't get the title of what we were watching, as we got there in the middle of it, but the documentary seems to be about the sexual revolution of the 1960s and its influence on the stellar growth of the straight and gay porn industries in the 1970s. The documentary showed scenes from and analyzed that controversial film Censorship in Denmark, by Alex de Renzy. It was an explicit documentary that mixed footage of Copenhagen tourist attractions with on-the-street interviews and hardcore scenes from the city's live sex clubs and movies, one of the first of its type to be shown at an art house and reviewed in the mainstream press. 

So much of the way we live, especially our personal relationship dynamics (both healthy and unhealthy, I might add), depends on what happened in the 1960s and the 1970s. But this time of liberation sprung from a rich, hidden history of courageous people living in the shadows but also fighting for basic personal freedoms; the Leather Archives & Museum is now bringing this history to light. 

We didn't get a chance to visit the library, a formidable archive that includes vintage leather/BDSM magazines like Drummer and interviews with notable figures in the various kink cultures, but there's time for that. 

As Lisa White in the Chicagoist article says, “This isn’t the place to take Grandma when she comes up to visit (unless you have the most badass liberal Grandma around). But it is a wonderful look into two vibrant communities and a great resource. “ 

After we concluded our visit, my liberal badass friend and I topped off our visit with lunch in the Mariano's cafe, where I said the word “sex” quite loudly there (gasp!), shocking a tweenish boy who was emptying his tray into the garbage. Hey, after that visit, of course, the topic was on our minds. 

Check out the Leather Archives & Museum website for more information, and of course check out bijouworld's extensive fetish/BDSM product line of DVDs, books, magazines, and sexcessories. 

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The Fascination with "Retro"

 

Lately I've been something of a social media maven for Bijouworld and its ancillaries, Bijou Video and the Bijou Theater. In addition to our Facebook,Twitter, and Tumblr sites, we just started a couple of Pinterest sites, Bijou Vintage Gay History, and Bijou Vintage Gay Erotica. Because we do specialize in vintage (or retro) gay sexuality, I've noticed we seem to be, I guess the term is, “trending.” 

And it's not just the usual older folks sitting on the porch, “I remember when” … I am thinking of the whole Mad Men cult, and even some short-lived show on TLC that featured women trying to live exactly like they were living in the 1950s (kind of like a retro Real Housewives!). 

 

Mad Men


It's like anything retro exudes some kind of fascination that I think goes beyond nostalgia. I wonder if it's because so much of the retro items we've been posting and repinning were lovingly created. It's not like someone just took a picture with a digital camera. These items, ranging from a late nineteenth century tobacco box, or even a magazine cover from a 1940s muscle magazine, show a real attention to detail and design. Imagine trying to create these items without today's technology. 

Here's a couple of images we either posted or repinned: 

 

Victorian Mustache Wax

 

Vim Magazine, November 1940

I'm not saying that art becomes less than great because it's easier to make, but in the social media world, where a post can become ephemeral in one second, our retro images and movies can evoke beauty with a capital B in addition to hot with a small h.

 

Oh, there is a difference! 
 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Check out our pinterest sites for more retro items.

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The World of Gay Personal Ads: Glimpses Then and Now

The World of Gay Personal Ads: Glimpses Then and Now

They were a world all their own in the days before Craiglist and Grindr and Scruff. 


I remember when you had to run print ones in newspapers and magazines, and there was this elaborate procedure involving ad numbers and passwords for calling in to see if you got any messages. If you wanted a picture, you were prepared to pay for it, handsomely.

 

And close to the personal sections there were so many of those 1-800 numbers like “The Leather Line” advertised where you could get a person, I guess, if you didn't want to wait for a response. That was as close to immediate gratification you could get in those days without leaving the house to try and find a hook up at a bar.

 

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The Big Cock Comes Out: The Courage of DSI Sales in the 1960s

The Big Cock Comes Out: The Courage of DSI Sales in the 1960s

DSI acquitted on obscenity charges! 


Who? What? Where? 

Why would this story make the front cover of the then fledgling gay newspaper, The Advocate, in September 1967? 

 

The Advocate, September 1967

 

 

The 1960s may have been swinging and sexually liberating for some heterosexual segments of the population (were there any openly gay hippies?), but a gay person could still get arrested for kissing a member of the same sex in public, could not join the military (which could be a way to avoid the draft, then going on because of the Vietnam War), and could be fired from a job because of his/her orientation. 

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