Saturday, May 16, 2009


CT Interviews -- Peter Schwartz, Mr New York Eagle 2008

Photograph by Dana Rowe

I met Peter Schwartz, Mr. New York Eagle 2008, last fall when he served as one of the judges for the Mr. Bootleggers’ Leather Contest in Kansas City, Mo. When I walked in on Friday evening for the introduction phase of the competition, I discovered that no contestants had stepped forward. I was in full leather, and to my surprise, I found one of the contest organizers on one elbow urging me to enter. Shortly, two judges presented themselves with the same request. One of those was Peter Schwartz. More than just a handsome man, Peter had a charisma and “presence” that caught my attention right away. He was someone I wanted to know. And I don’t mean that in a sexual sense.

Ultimately, I could not finish the competition. Family obligations kept me away from the Saturday night finals. However I did have the opportunity to chat with Peter Friday evening and through the interview portion of the competition the next day. When I decided to begin this series of interviews for, I knew that I wanted to launch it with him.

Storm: Could you speak just a bit about your background? How long have you been active in the leather community? Have you held any titles other than Mr. NY Eagle 2008? What leather clubs are you a member of, if any?

Peter: I was born and raised in Mohegan Lake, NY (about 40 miles north of the city). I went to school upstate, and then proceeded to travel around the country for work for a few years when I graduated. I eventually settled back in NY and have been living in the city since 1990. I’ve been active in the leather community really only since 2002, but I’ve always had a fascination for it from when I first went to The Spike when I moved into the city in the 90s. The re-emergence of my interest really came about when I met my partner as we started to explore this further together. Since then I’ve held the title of Mr. Eagle in 2008. I don’t have any other titles and don’t plan on getting another one. I loved it. It was a lot of work, but it’s time to pass the torch.

As for clubs, I’m an associate member of the NY Boys of Leather, but that’s about it. I don’t know that I would call this a club, but I’m co-captain of Team Eagle ( with my partner.

Storm: Are you partnered? What do you do for a living? What’s life in New York like for Peter Schwartz?

Peter: Yep … about 6 years now. A great guy named Rick, who was Mr. Eagle the year before me actually.

I work in IT and have since I graduated college. I’ve always enjoyed technology and for the last 17-plus years have worked on Wall Street. It’s been a tough year and a half as I was laid off upon my return from IML last year. I’ve been fortunate enough to find another job since then, however.

Life in NYC? That’s a big question that can be answered in so many different ways. I love it. It keeps me busy. I love the diversity and convenience of it all. I think it’s a great place to be. I’m always amazed by the constant discoveries you can have about the place, even after having lived here for most of my life.

Storm: What inspired you to compete for Mr. New York Eagle 2008? What do you feel you accomplished with the title? Is there a single achievement or moment of which you are most proud?

Peter: I guess my partner, Rick, inspired me to be honest. I went through the whole process with him and what he was able to do with it. It seemed like it would be a great experience and I would get a chance to give back a little.

Hmmmm, what did I accomplish? Well, I would like to think that there was a little more focus on the leather community in some of the mainstream local gay press. We did raise a lot of money that year as well. Team Eagle raised just shy of $90K for the HIV/AIDS services of the LGBT Center here in NYC. Other than that, I would like to think that I was at least visible and people knew that the community not only existed, but that it’s one that gives back to others. If I had to pick one moment, it would have to be the exposure that Team Eagle brought to the Braking the Cycle ride ( .

Storm: Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about entering a leather competition? Are competitions good training grounds for leather leadership? Why are competitions still relevant?
Peter: I always have advice, I suppose ;) I would certainly say to know the title and what it entails and what is expected should you win. Also have an idea of what you’d like to do with it. Different titles have different focuses, so just make sure it’s something that suits you.
As to whether or not a title is good training grounds, that largely depends on the title and their producers. Some titles are just simple bar titles and there is nothing expected other than the person maybe getting free drinks for the year. Other producers control virtually every movement the title holder makes, while others send the title holders on their way to make of it what they can. So once again, ask around and know your title. If it suits you, it can be a great way to learn a lot about both yourself and the community you serve.

Are competitions relevant? I would say they are, provided that they in some way serve your community. It doesn’t have to be fundraising, but I have always felt that it should give back to the community in some sort of constructive way.

Storm: With the increasing popularity of the Internet, many leather and kink bars around the country have closed and some competitions have folded. What’s the New York leather scene like? Still vibrant? Retrenching?

Peter: Ah yes, the popular question of what the computer age has done to social life. I don’t know that you can place the blame on the closure of leather bars squarely upon the shoulders of the internet. Leather bars became leather bars because people went there in leather and not because the owner just proclaimed it. There are plenty of bars that are open these days that do just fine. If people wanted to wear leather out to the bars, they would. Some of them just need to be shown that it’s okay to do so.

As for the NYC leather scene, I would say that it’s a good scene. I hear many opposing opinions, but to me it always seems like people think that the grass is always greener somewhere else, or was greener at some other time. I would say that it’s retrenching a bit. No, it’s not the 70’s and early 80’s. No, The Eagle is not The Lure. Times have changed, as have the people, and we just need to adapt and move forward.

Storm: I saw an article on another website a short while back that appeared to put down newcomers to the leather scene who knew nothing of leather “tradition.” Is there any relevance to the whole “Old Guard – New Guard” debate? How do we welcome newcomers into our leather communities?

Peter: I’m so tired of this question. Yes there is an old guard and a new guard, and I think the two sides will never agree. I’m always one for progress. Times have changed and we have to accept that. You can go into the reasons, pros and cons, in a whole other debate. Still, however, if we want the community to survive we have to find a way to bring new people into the fold. I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule as to how to bring new folks in. I do think that it can be done in a way where you can (and should) pay respect to the old guard. People should understand their history. As to how to go about this, I find the best approach is often the personal one. Be willing to extend yourself, meet people, answer questions outside of some classroom setting, be sociable and bring folks out to a bar in a non-threatening way. They will discover what it’s all about. Rick and I did that many times. We would have folks contact us saying that leather interested them and they were curious about the leather scene but had no idea where to start. We’d meet up somewhere and take them out to a bar and introduce them around to our friends. It wasn’t a play date, but just a chance to come hang out and see what it’s like.

Storm: It seems that Gay Rights activism is on the rise again with issues like ENDA, DOMA and “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell,” along with the push for marriage equality so much in the news. Is there a role for the leather community to play in advancing these issues?

Peter: I think there is always a role for every community in things like this. Keeping in mind of course that the leather community is not always a gay community, but there certainly is a lot of overlap. In as much as the individuals are affected, the community is affected. It only takes one voice to stand up and be heard and if we don’t do it, who will do it for us? It always reminds me of a great quote by Martin Niemöller

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then... they came for me... And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

Storm: This is a “wrap-question.” Is there any topic at all you’d like to say something about? Something I’ve missed that you’d like to address?

Peter: I hear so many people bitch about what the community was like, or how much they don’t like this or that, yet they do nothing to change it. If you don’t like it, then do something about it. Gear up, come out, support the community and give back in whatever way you know how. Just complaining about it serves no purpose other than to aggravate those that are trying to make a change.

Storm: Thank you, Peter. I hope that this blog is one way in which I’m giving back. It was a delight meeting you in Kansas City last fall, and it’s very much an honor to kick off this interview series with you. I appreciate your time and wish the best for you and your partner, Rick, in the future.


Redhochipe said...

Great interview and very informative! Nice to hear it from a native NYer. Cheers

Storm Christopher said...

Thanks for the comment on the interview! I hope to have similar conversations with other Leather champions and leaders from around the country as time goes by. Stay tuned.