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.