In my last column, I wrote all about preparing for the International Mister Leather Weekend (imrl.com) in Chicago. Despite a bunch of weather-related travel issues that delayed our arrival and changed our return, we’re back. And let me tell you, if you didn’t go you missed an incredible weekend! The IML producers should be very proud of their outstanding work!
At check-in, we were disconcerted to receive a letter from the hotel stating that no bare chests or butts would be tolerated in the lobby, bars or vendor market. Well I can tell you, we were pissed! One of the major reasons we attend IML is for the ability to hang out, socialize and cruise in our bar wear and if that wasn’t going to be allowed anymore, then this would be our last trip for sure.
As it turns out, it was all much ado about nothing. Apparently the letter had been written to appease certain union workers who were protesting against the hotel. Also, we found out that President George Bush, Sr. had been in residence on Tuesday night and the staff didn’t want him to be shocked! On Friday the privacy drapes went up, the rules were dropped and the butts and gear were in full view for all to appreciate
Since we arrived unexpectedly late on Thursday, we spent much of Friday unpacking and setting up our room, catching up with old friends, and hacking the proprietary TV software so we could play the porn that we had brought with us! That night we attended the San Francisco Party and got our first glimpse of the crowds.
Having attended many past IMLs, I have to say that this one was packed with by far the youngest, hottest, and most playful group of kinksters ever! The party was filled with a mind-blowing outpouring of creative fetish gear, from sport kits to neoprene to everything in between, which was really cool to see. DJ DAMnation, aka Folsom Street Events’ Demetri Moshioyannis (facebook.com/djdamnation), spun great tunes and we really enjoyed the evening.
Saturday, after a great brunch, we proceeded to explore the vast Leather Market. With over 110 vendors, it was billed as the one of the largest ones ever. Our first stop is always Nasty Pig to see what’s hot and new. It was exciting to see that because of our great relationship with them, virtually all of this season’s freshest stuff is already available right here in Palm Springs at our store!
All the other big names were also in attendance with their hottest gear. Priape was showing their new leather football pants and shoulder pad harness—so sexy! Rubio Leather had a great reversible harness that my partner just couldn’t resist. We were sad, though, to learn that they’ve just closed their New York store and are now only doing trade shows.
Fort Troff, always a favorite, introduced a cool, new powder-coated sling frame available in multiple colors. (A very similar version is also now available at Gear.) Our friends at Square Peg unveiled several fantastic butt toys for the high end connoisseur, including some new smaller ones for beginners. Later that evening was Woof Camp 2011, an annual party for pups, dogs, Handlers and friends produced by SF K9 Unit (groups.yahoo.com/group/k9_unit/). Such fun!
Sunday morning (after staying up way too late the night before!), we returned to the Leather Market with our friend, Trent Bloom. Trent is a super-sexy, twenty-four year old stud with some very “specialized” talents who had just finished filming his first scene for Raging Stallion Studios (ragingstallion.com). Even the iconic director Chris Ward is calling it “epic!” Look for Trent’s debut with Falcon bodybuilder Eric Rhodes later this year.
After returning to the room and leathering up, we headed out to the contest. This year’s competition was held at the new Harris Theatre, located in and below Chicago’s fantastic Millennium Park (millenniumpark.org). It was a stunning venue, with almost all of its 1300 seats packed with LeatherMen and Women celebrating our diversity and culture.
This year’s top twenty featured lots of international contestants and many Californians too! IML 33 is Paris’ Eric Guttierez, Mr. Leather Europe 2010. The first runner up is Washington, DC’s Douglas “D” Pamplin, Mr. Mid-Atlantic Leather 2011. And the second runner up is our very own Anthony Rollar, Mr. San Diego Leather 2010. (facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000446045503). Anthony is quite the stud and although he professes to be new to the scene, he’s definitely one to watch! Special congratulations also to the sexy Leo Iriarte, Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2011, (facebook.com/profile.php?id=783532640) who took fifth place. Each of these men are wonderful representatives of our lifestyle, values and culture.
After the contest and all of the post-competition celebrations and play, Monday is always a very relaxed day. Half of the attendees start to head for home, so the energy is noticeably different. It’s a day filled with last-minute Leather Market sales and disco naps to try compensate for three days of too-little sleep. It’s also the night of my favorite party, The Black and Blue Ball. Once again, this bash was off the charts! The music was incredible, the crowd was beautiful and the energy was amazing. What a wonderful way to end an incredible weekend.
Upon reflection, what I remember most about this year’s IML is that every time I walked through the lobby or market I was surprised by the vast numbers of younger men who surrounded us. They were friendly, creative, kinky and expressive. We had some delightful conversations and made great new friends. It almost felt like a changing of the guard, and if it was, then I’m quite confident about the future. While they might not always look a lot like our older guard, these kinksters sure know how to celebrate their sexuality.
For a lot more about this year’s IML, including tons of sexy photos, interviews and stories, check out Leatherati (leatherati.com), the online source for leather people, news and events.
Until next time, Play Hard!
Every other week Gear's owner, John McBain, publishes his Generation Fetish column in Pulp Magazine. This article originally appeared on June 10, 2011.