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Friday, May 27, 2011

IML and Bear Pride: One from the archives

Again with the warnings… this is not your average post for me, but since it is IML/Bear Pride weekend, I thought I would share one from the archives. Mom, Dad, don’t read this. Actually, no one should read this.
Author’s Note: Back in June of 2002, I wrote for an online journal called “The Midwest Ursine” and we were going to do an entire journal on Bear Pride and International Mr. Leather, which take place in Chicago each Memorial Day weekend. Bear Pride is a silly event with big and furry guys coming in from all over to party and overeat. IML, however, is an epic event that draws THOUSANDS from all over the world. To get an idea, go to their website and see how involved it is.

Warning, it’s not safe for anywhere: http://www.imrl.com/

So, I wrote up this review, mind you, almost ten years ago, and when it was published, I got my butt spanked (pun intended) by the Leather community. Me-ow girls, pull your claws back, it’s called humor, look into it. Here’s the original post:

 A Bear in a strange land, or:
More Vanilla than Vanilla Ice, or:
What I learned at IML

I will admit, I was a virgin, and wasn’t really that interested in going to the Hyatt to see all the hoopla involved with IML.  There were three others in my party though that wanted to, and since I had dragged their asses to much of Bear Pride, I thought it only fair for me to reciprocate.  Our friend remarked that it was “interesting” and that “we wouldn’t be disappointed”. To me, IML is just the Miss America Pageant without; well… there isn’t much of a difference really.  The IML contestants go through the same hoops and public parading about that the eager young lasses in Miss America go through.  Sashes, head gear, talent, eveningwear, etc. 

Same contest, different folks. 

I was shocked when I walked into the Hyatt, as thumping disco music was everywhere, as were the guys decked out in various forms of leather and undress. IML had single-handedly turned the hotel into one big gay bar.  I pitied the poor tourist that stumbled in looking for a room.  They really ought to have warning signs posted around the perimeter. 

WARNING:  Men in butt-less chaps.  Children and Christian conservatives strongly cautioned!

Here is what I took from my afternoon roaming around at the Hyatt.

  1. Leather is just another form of drag, without the makeup.  I walked by a booth in the Leather Market and they were selling black and white feathered wings to wear with leather gear.  Was there a prom included in this weekend?  Did I miss it? 
  2. Leather is HUGE!  The whole freakin’ hotel was filled with guys in harnesses and chaps.  Talk about a gay cash-cow.
  3. Some people take Leather waaaaaaaaaaaay too seriously.  Let’s review: it’s just another form of drag darling… you will have to wake up on Monday, go home, and go back to work.  Relax… we all know you’re a bad ass.
  4. Leather is EXPENSIVE!  (see number 1) Some of the stuff they were selling at the market (which is the entire basement of the hotel) was really pricey.  An un-named very close friend of mine calculates the price-per-wearing of his new chaps… and puts them on whenever he can to goes out.  Somehow this justifies their large price tag.
  5. Wearing Leather does not automatically make you butch… F.Y.I. (see number 3)
  6. Leather can be scary.  Granted, some folks find back hair scary, but some of the things that I saw in Leather Market gave me the willies.  There was a man laced to a table, completely immobile, with a gas mask on.  The evil salesperson kept tickling his feet with a feather.  Okay… this freaks me out on many levels:  the confinement, the lack of oxygen, and the tickling.  There was also a large rubber bag that you could go into and have all the air sucked out.  Think of the info-mercials you see for the Foodsaver.  Same thing, except for this time, you are the pork chop.  And what’s up with the electric wand thing?  I kept hearing this snapping noise, straight out of a mad scientist’s lab, but couldn’t find the source.  I thought that the speakers were finally going to blow at the hotel, after all, how much disco music can they take?  I walked around the corner, and this guy was having his nipples electrocuted with this evil looking wand that had two gold pipe-cleaners on it.  I get enough static pokes in my house in winter; don’t need them on my nipples… or elsewhere god forbid.
  7. Can someone PLEASE tell me when the scarf twirling became so hot?  I don’t ever remember getting a memo from Gay H.Q. saying that this was the new thing to do.  It is decidedly un-butch, and looks pretty silly.  I walked into an area where this rather humpy leather-daddy was doing his best to keep two colored scarves going to some circuit music.  I can’t tell you how stupid he looked.  Are these the guys who secretly wanted to be flag twirlers in high school?  Stop this now.  I insist.
  8. When did fisting become so popular?  Seems EVERYONE is doing it these days. I carry a red handkerchief, but it doesn’t mean I like fisting, it means I have allergies.  Hanky code be dammed… when you have to blow your nose, you have to blow your nose.
  9. I kept seeing guys with yellow shirts, yellow hankies, and other water sports related items.  We had had dim sum for brunch, and I had downed several pots of tea… nature was calling, but I was rather hesitant to go to the bathroom there.  I remember walking into the Cellblock’s back bathroom one night, and saw some activities taking place that I really didn’t need to see.  I was really scared to walk in to the Hyatt’s bathroom and see some water boy at it.  Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and I left the loo without incident.
  10. Can someone explain the violent, degrading aspects of Leather?  For almost four decades we have been fighting for our rights, respect, and dignity. I saw some men at Leather Mart that looked like extras from “Fight Club”, and witnessed some videos that showed all kinds of degradation and humiliation.  How can we ask for respect from the general public if we don’t practice it with our own brothers and sisters?  Granted, a friendly swat on the ass during sex is fun (or as one friend calls “the slap and tickle”), but that’s not what I am talking about here.  I am talking about the extremely violent punching and other physical abuse that I witnessed at the event.  I will gladly discuss this with anyone from the Leather community.  I am very curious and interested to know what folks think about this issue.
  11. I am so very vanilla…  I thought that being gay automatically made you exotic, kinky, and in the know.  I had no idea how wrong I was until that day.   I am as vanilla as The Brady’s.  But who knows, maybe Carol and Mike had a kinky streak in them. 
And Finally……..

  1. Zak Spears is hot.  REALLY hot. I caught him out of the corner of my eye, wearing nothing more than a tight pair of jeans and a pair of chaps.  I collect autographs, and am a HUGE Zak fan.  I finally mustered up the nerve to go and say hi, and he was great.  He gave me a big hug and kissed me on the neck.  I had to bend over while he signed the autograph on a card for me on my back.  His voice is lower and much sexier than James Earl Jones, and sent shivers up my spine.  Zak, you made the trip to IML worth it. 
End note: If you don’t understand anything mentioned in this post, do not contact me, Google it carefully and learn. I have much respect for those that consider the Leather community part of their daily life. Right up the street from us is a Leather Household. These guys don’t just toss on a vest and call themselves Leather Daddies, they are living out the Leather life and all it brings. I have much respect for them and how they are choosing to structure their lives.