Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Mister Marcus" - R.I.P.

I'm horribly behind with this blog for all sorts of important reasons, but I must post on this. I'm grieved to learn of the passing of a true leather community legend. On October 8, 2009, Gilbert Hernandez, known better as "Mister Marcus," died from complications resulting from diabetes and arteriosclerosis.

Mister Marcus had a long and distinguished list of accomplishments, too many to recount here. H wrote a weekly column on leather happenings for the Bay Area Reporter for decades. He was a judge at the International Mr. Leather competition every year until recently when they stopped allowing repeat judges, and then he was named "judge-emeritus," after which he was given the honor of announcing the top-twenty finalists, always in his own inimitable style, and often in special costumes designed just for the ocassion. He judged leather contests all across the country year after year, and he mentored literally hundreds of title-holders and contestants. He was immensely generous with his time and contributed inestimable energy to community service. He served six years in the air force, is survived by four sons, had a special day named for him by the mayor of San Francisco ... so many more facts.

But a man's life is more than just facts. I met Mister Marcus on several ocassions and quickly pegged him as a witty, cantankerous, and delightful old gentleman. He was one of the judges at the first leather competion I ever entered - the Mr. Dixie Belle Contest in Kansas City. Yes, the name of that bar always got a laugh, and Mister Marcus made no end of fun. "So why would anybody want to be Mr. Dixie Belle!" Ultimately, I lost the contest by a couple of points, taking first runner-up, instead. I wasn't upset at all; indeed, I was honored. However, Mister Marcus took me aside, said many kind things, and made me promise to compete again someday.

I also discovered that Mister Marcus knew my "San Francisco grandfather" well, and held him in utter disdain. It didn't matter, I told him, I could honor and respect two gentlemen at the same time.

I saw him at other contests a few times and for the last time at the 30th anniversary of the International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago last year. I thought he didn't look well then. Two months later, during San Francisco's gay pride weekend at the end of June, he collapsed and entered the hospital. He got out for only a short time, and then re-entered the hospital just before the Dore Alley Festival. And he remained there until his passing. He was 77 years old.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


The forces of hatred and oppression scored another victory last night as 53% of Maine voters voted in favor of Proposition 1 and to repeal the recently passed law allowing same-sex marriage in that state. The news came on the one-year anniversary of a similar decision in California.

In Washington State where voters responded to Propositin 71, which was dubbed the "Everything but Marriage" law, results are still to be determined, however, things are looking a little better. The law would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples, just not the word "marriage. However, because of Washington's mail-in ballot system, final results may not be known for days. So far, voters are approving Referendum 71 by a margin of 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent. Early results had the referendum being rejected but the tide turned with the infusion of votes from King and Snohomish Counties.

There were a few other bright spots in elections around the country. Kalamazoo voters decided by almost a 2-to-1 margin to retain Gay Rights non-descrimination protections, stunning opponents who had twice previously forced the city council to reconsider those protections and ultimately forced the ballot measure.

In Detroit, openly gay former news reporter Charles Pugh will lead that city's city council.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina elected Mark Kleinschmidt, the city's first openly gay mayor.

And in Houston, Texas, openly gay Houston city controller Annise Parker will face attorney Gene Locke in a run-off election for mayor. In a broad field of candidates, Parker and Locke were the two top vote-getters, with Parker receiving 30%to Locke's 25%.

Still, the loss in Maine stings. It's time to change our political stratgies and divest ourselves of the illusion that Barack Obama is our friend. Friends don't stand silently on the sidelines with their hands in their pockets while civil rights are stripped away. The words, "fierce advocate" are rotten meat in his mouth. Nor should the Democratic Party, as a whole, be let off the hook.

It's time to consider the lessons of history. Without H. Rapp Brown and Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X and Angela Davis, nobody would have given Martin Luthor King teh time of day. Where would the fight against AIDS be without ACT-UP?

It's time to consider open civil disobedience.

Monday, November 2, 2009


On October 30th, my parter and I jumped into his plane and made an impromptu overnight trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to take part in the Friday night festivities of that town's Fall Diversity Weekend. For those who don't know, this tiny bright oasis of tolerance in the middle of Arkansas hosts two events each year - the Spring and Fall Diversity weekends -- to which gay men and lesbians from all over the country flock. It's truly a welcoming environment.

For the first time, one of the bars in Eureka hosted a Leather Night. The bar is called Henri's and is nestled right in the middle of downtown Eureka Springs. On our previous trips to Diversity Weekend events, neither my partner nor I had ever encountered much going on in the way of leather, so naturally we packed none for this simple overnight trip. When we walked into Henri's in the middle of the afternoon and learned what they had planned for the evening, we rolled our eyes and slapped our heads like extras in a Charlie Chaplin movie.

However, the afternoon visit proved fortuitous. Business was just casual enough to give me a chance to talk with Henri's manager, Lynn Whitley. Lynn explained that she came from a strong leather background, mostly in the Tulsa community. This Friday Leather Night represented the bar's first-time effort, however they plan to continue to offer leather events at all future Diversity Weekends. Lynn was very conversational, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the leather scene, and she urged us to return later that evening.

Of course, we did. With a bare minimum of leather, specifically a motorcycle jacket and my favorite polished combat boots, I returned that evening with Ron to find the bar packed. Because it's called "Diversity Weekend" everyone is welcome, whether in leather or not, but a number of hot leather men and women were present, including the current Mr. Central Plains Leather and Mr. Oklahoma Leather 1997.

In leather or not, the crowd was lively and friendly. It seemed that everyone wanted to chat. "Where are you from?" was a common question. The bar is not huge, but with a spill-over dining area, I never felt crushed. The bar staff, including Lynn on duty that night, was quick and efficient, and the drinks very reasonably priced. Along with the dance music, a little ocassional karaoke (scary-oke) gets mixed in, but not so much as to intrude on the good time.

There is no leather contest associated with Henri's event, nor do they plan to introduce one, according to Lynn. This is for the best, in my opinion, as focusing on contestants and judges would detract from a celebration in which all the guests are the town's focus. A good leather party can thrive on its own, and Henri's hosted a fine leather party.

Good luck, Lynn, and good luck, Henri's. Your Leather Night is a fine addition to Diversity Weekend. Thank you for making our visit so terrific. I'll certainly spread the word.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Thanks to the wonderful Toni Pizanie, columnist for AMBUSH Magazine and one of the judges for the Mr. Louisiana Leather contest, I now have the results. She actually reported them much sooner, but I neglected to check all my email. Anyway, on with the winners!

Five hot men competed for the title in mid-October. Contestant #1 Gray Gibson, 31, 6', 185#, active in the Radical Faeries movement. New to the Leather lifestyle. Won Mr. Phoenix contest and sponsored by Phoenix Bar. Did not place.

#2 Brad Williams, 49, 5'10", 170#, teaches high school, active in church, soup kitchen and S&M. Sponsored by Rawhide. Did not place.

#3 Doug Duke, 44, 6'1", 175#, interested in Leather history and light bondage. Supports and enjoys Lords of Leather activities. Sponsored by Panda Bear. Placed second runner up (3rd).

#4 Toby Lefort, 37, 5'4", 150#, has raised $150,000 over 13 years for the NO/AIDS Task Force, member of the Lords of Leather, and title holder of Mr. Southern Renegades in Mobile, AL. Sponsored by Southern Renegades and B-Bob's Bar in Mobile. Placed 1st and well deserved.

#5 Jose Gonzalez, 34, 6', 205#, volunteers for NO/AIDS Task Force, helps friends rebuild their homes, a worthy cause after several hurricanes. New to the Leather lifestyle and eager to learn and share his experiences with the mainstream Gay community. No sponsor. Placed 2nd (first runner up) and loved by judges for his honesty and openness.

The judges and officials for Mr. Louisiana Leather 2010 included:

Michael Albracht, Mr. Louisiana Leather 2008

Bobby Connell, Owner of the Phoenix Bar

Larry Everett, International Mr. Leather 1995

Tony Pizanie, Political Activist and Contributing Journalist to AMBUSH Magazine.

and Joe Trotta, Manager of Rawhide 2010

John and Paul, owners of John Pauls served as tally masters.

So, congratulations to TOBY LEFORT, the reigning Mr. Louisiana Leather. Toby, I wish you the best of luck and hope you do very well at the International Mr. Leather competition next May.

And to all the competitors, the judges and the LORDS OF LEATHER, who sponsored the contest, thank you for an exciting event. New Orleans is a great city and lucky to have such a vibrant and thriving leather community.

Toby LeFort, Mr. Louisiana Leather 2010

(Note: the photographs used in this article are not mine, but the work of other photographers.)