Reprinted With Permission from Cuir Underground
Copyright (c) 1996 Cuir Underground
From Issue 2.6 - June/July 1996
Joe Gallagher is International Mr. Leather 1996
Chicago is a city crying out for leathermen. The decaying factories, rusted smokestacks, and deserted buildings of Chicago are all that's left of its big-shouldered, blue-collar masculinity. So when the hordes of masters and slaves, daddies and boys, and other SM lovers overtook the city for International Mr. Leather weekend (May 23-27), it seemed less an invasion than a homecoming.
One could hear the usual commentary that the men came for the parties and the play, not for the contests, but you would never have known it from the hooting, excited crowd at the International Mr. Leather competition at the Congress Theater on Sunday night. Everybody had their favorite, but in the end New York City took top honors (a first!) when Joe Gallagher was awarded the sash by outgoing IML Larry Everett. The less hirsute runners-up, Mark Norton of Kansas City and Madrid's Antonio Sanchez (Mr. Europe Drummer and Mr. Leather Europe), had hefty cheering sections as well. Forty-nine contestants competed, including Mr. SF Gary Virginia and Mr. South Bay/San Jose Kevin Roche, both among the 20 semi-finalists. On the previous Thursday, San Francisco's own Daniel Sonnenfeld, first runner-up in the Mr. SF Leather contest, captured the International Mr. Deaf Leather title; the new International Ms. Deaf Leather is Cool Cat of Chicago.
Throughout the weekend, from the prime outpost at the Congress Hotel, leathermen quickly organized to do what they do best -- buy and sell. The accoutrements of domination, submission, and consumer culture -- whips, chains, videos, latex and leather, and assorted sex toys -- filled the hotel's Great Hall. The orgy of bargaining and purchasing was followed each night by the legendary hotel parties. Rumor had it that the hotel gave the men the run of the place. Whole floors became high-class bathhouses -- or so the story went -- where the global leather community exchanged names and bodily fluids as they ran from room to room. As night turned into morning, the hot men and boys changed into casual leather and went once more to browse the sex-mart downstairs.
For one weekend, it seemed like the entire gay community turned into perverts. Even the most vanilla establishments threw "black parties," opening their doors to the community usually denied entrance for lack of mousse. Most leathermen refused to attend these opportunistic parties. They stuck to the official schedule touting the annual parties with IML's seal of approval, such as the Eagle's Black and Blue Party -- three stories of dancing, cruising, and whipping, where hundreds of hot boys and men partied the last night of the event away.
You could find some of the "new-guard" pervert fringe at Cruising for a Bruising, an all-genders play party at a fag artspace in Wicker Park, Chicago's answer to the Mission district. Thrown by some of the same queer punks behind Homocore Chicago, Crusing for a Bruising's IML party started the difficult process of building a community of pervert-freaks ready to play with each other; the group will start monthly parties in June.
Leather pants were folded and put away, whips and chains went back into their bags, and long-distance bills started going up Tuesday, when most of the participants left the Windy City. But for one glorious weekend, Chicago was the rough city of men's men that it once was -- and is every year, when IML shows the city what it's made of.
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